New headstone for Yorkshire soldier after relative’s battle

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LEEDS man Chris Mallinson discovered that one of his great uncles was killed on the first day of the Somme and that his brother survived the war but carried the scars.

His great uncles, Robert and James Hoolan were both born in Leeds and served on the Western Front.

James served with the Green Howards and was injured at Loos in August 1916 and was taken prisoner in July 1917.

“James spent the rest of the war as a prisoner, somewhere 
in Prussia, where he was forced to work in what I believe was 
a salt mine. Working there left him with permanent red marks on his face for the rest of his life. He never married and died in 1962.”

His brother Robert Hoolan joined the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in August 1914 in the first weeks of the war.

“Within two weeks of his joining the battalion in Belgium, and just after his 19th birthday, he was to suffer the effect of gas poisoning when the Germans attacked Hill 60 near Ypres, on May 5 1915.”

“When the battalion left Hill 60 at 2.30am the following morning there were only three officers and 150 men left from around 600 to 650 men.”

In June 1916 he returned home on leave and was devastated when he saw his fiancee in a pub with another man.

He told his sister he was broken-hearted.

“He returned to his battalion in France, which was preparing for the Somme offensive.

“Robert never came home. He was killed in action on the morning of the first day of the Somme when he went over the top opposite a strong German position.”

Robert Hoolan is buried at Euston Road cemetery, near Colincamps, northern France.

Mr Mallinson visited his grave and discovered that the inscription was incorrect, bearing the wrong name of ‘Hoonan’.

After years of research, he recently convinced the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to have another headstone carved.

The final piece of evidence was a cutting from the Yorkshire Evening Post on July 1916.

“My grandmother placed a notice in the YEP announcing his death. I finally managed to persuade the CWGC in April this year and it was the notice in the YEP that did the trick. I went to France to see the new headstone being made and put into place.”

A spokesman for the CWGC said Mr Mallinson had presented a “thoroughly researched case assembled over several years”.

“The Commission accepted that the casualty had served under an alias identity and that the headstone commemoration needed altering to reflect the casualty’s true name and the alias under which he served and died.”

The headstone now reads: R Hoolan served as 3/10645 Private R Hoonan.