The Holland Family
Between the wars, the Royal Navy was much more in the minds of the population than is the case today. British naval presence was on a global scale. British warships were based semi permanently overseas and operated in the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the South Atlantic and the Mediterranean; while others were based on the south coast or in Scotland and operated in the North Atlantic and home waters. Common to all naval families was the reality of extended separation and it is probably true to say that, by modern standards, not much regard was had for the effect on family life.
One such was the family of Lancelot Ernest Holland. Holland was born near Banbury in 1887 and joined the Navy in 1902. As a young officer he served in a succession of ships before being appointed to the Naval Gunnery School at Whale Island in 1910 where he spent a number of years under training and, later, on the staff. In 1929 he was appointed captain of HMS Hawkins cruiser based in Chatham; in 1931 he became Head of the British Naval Mission to Greece. These appointments were interspersed with courses at the War Course (1926), Naval Staff College (1927) and the Imperial Defence College (1933). In 1934 he became captain of HMS Revenge battleship in the Mediterranean Fleet; in 1935 he was appointed Commodore of RN Barracks Portsmouth; and in 1937 became Assistant Chief of Naval Staff in London. In January 1938 he was promoted to Rear Admiral and took command of the 2nd Battle Squadron flying his flag from HMS Resolution battleship in the Mediterranean Fleet. In 1939 he served briefly as the Admiralty's representative to the Air Ministry before being appointed to command successively the 7th Cruiser Squadron (in HMS Manchester) and 18th Cruiser Squadron (in HMS Edinburgh). In August 1940 he was promoted to Vice Admiral and, on 12 May 1941, he joined HMS Hood.
On the domestic side, he married Phyllis Wales-Smith at St Jude’s Church Portsea in 1913. Initially they lived in Alverstoke where their only son John was born in 1917. Later they bought 36 Grosvenor Square, London which was their home at the outbreak of war when Holland was serving at the Admiralty.
It can be imagined that Phyllis Holland, like many service wives, had to learn to make a life for her family in which her husband was perhaps only an occasional participant. Phyllis’ mother Margaret Childe had, in 1927, bought The Brackens in Captain's Row, Lymington to provide a home for herself, her son Douglas Wales-Smith and his wife, and their sons Patrick and Anthony. Phyllis came to regard The Brackens as her family base (although the Hollands never actually lived there) and, during visits to her family, they chose to worship at St John’s Church in Boldre. So it was that they turned to St John’s in 1936 when their son John died of polio in Split aged 19, for his burial and to create the memorial to him in the form of the inner porch doors which they donated.
It cannot be said with certainty how many families from Boldre and its neighbouring area had men serving in the Royal Navy - or specifically in HMS Hood. But it is not unreasonable to suppose that there were some. It is certainly the case that many other naval families made similar arrangements and it is a fair assumption that many were based in or near Lymington - like the Hollands and Wales-Smiths. It is a fact that, following the war, there were a number of retired naval servicemen and their families living in the area - many of whom worshipped at Boldre.