Posted by: sommecourt | 02/05/2011

RIP Richard Holmes

Professor Richard Holmes, the well known military historian and broadcaster, died on 30th April aged 65. Although Holmes was not always my cup of tea as an historian – it was often very difficult to tell where he stood on certain issues – there is no doubting either his enthusiasm for history or the massive contribution he made both in print and on the screen. While his ‘War Walks’ dates back more than a dozen years, it is still fondly remembered and well overdue due for a repeat.

Holmes inspired more than one generation to take up the mantle of mlitary history; over the years guiding battlefield tours I have had the privilege to meet many young men who wanted to be ‘the next professor Holmes’; without exception all of them went on to do history at University or make a career out of it.

Where Richard Holmes ranked above his many imitators was in his breadth of knowledge over many periods; he was admirably comfortable talking about Cromwell, Wellington and Haig all in the same sentence. His talks, especially for Western Front Association branches, were legendary and inspiring, and he was not shy of mixing and talking to his public.

Although we worked in the same sphere, I never really knew Richard. My longest conversation with him was back in the early 90s when we shared a billing at the same WW1 conference. He was amazed that someone in their 20s was so passionate about military history, and was genuinely supportive. It is a shame that our professional relationship never went any further but his position as arguably the country’s greatest living military historian must sadly now pass to another. Whether they will be able to convey such enthusiasm to the next generation remains to be seen.



  1. Richard Holmes was generous with his expertise too-and on my website I’ve added an exchange with him which shows a much lighter hearted side of familiar historian and author.

  2. What a great story! Thanks for that link.

  3. T’is a shame. I once passed him in Kew, wondering (and asking) where I had met him before (Telly, obviously), but only recognised later who I had talked to.

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