Samuel Holt Lomax. Died 1915
Samuel was born in 1855 to Thomas and Ann Lomax, he was their 3rd child one of 6 siblings. He was born in Kensington and spent his childhood there. He joined the Army as a young man and served in the Zulu war. In 1904 he was made a Brigadier and a Major-General in 1910, in charge of the 1st division. He was about to retire in 1914 when the war started and he thus commanded the 1st Division in Belgium and France under Sir John French.
He was attending a high level meeting on 31st October 1914 at a chateau near Ypres when shells exploded in the garden and he was seriously injured along with several other senior officers were killed. He was evacuated to England but sadly died on 10th April 1915, never having recovered from his wounds. He was cremated and his remains buried in Aldershot military cemetery. He was 59.
He and his wife Mary had one daughter, Norah who was born in 1890. In 1911 they lived in a quarter in the Aldershot area. In 1912, Norah married a respected Army officer, Gladwyn Dundas Jebb and their two sons Michael and David followed in their grandfather’s and father’s military footsteps. David reached the rank of Brigadier and Michael was killed in action during the Second World War, whilst serving as an RAF officer. (source Burke’s Peerage)
Samuel’s address in the probate register is given as Froghall, Wokingham, though he did not die here. Froghall House today is divided into flats.
Lieutenant General Samuel Holt Lomax (August 1855 – 10 April 1915) was a senior and highly respected British general who served in the opening months of World War I and was the first (and one of only three) British Lieutenant Generals to be killed on active service during the entire war.
Born in August 1855 to Thomas and Mary Helen Lomax in South-East England, Samuel joined the Scottish 90th Regiment of Foot as a junior officer aged eighteen in June 1874. In 1877 he travelled with his regiment to South Africa and participated in the 9th Cape Frontier War of the same year and the latter stages of the Zulu War in 1878, seeing action at Kambula and Ulundi, battles which secured British victory in the campaign. Returning to Britain with his regiment, Lomax was promoted captain following the Cardwell Reforms which amalgamated his regiment into the Scottish Rifles in 1881. His unit was not called on for service in India or the Boer War and he did not see further action for 36 years. In 1904 he was made a Brigadier and in 1910 became Major General in charge of the 1st Division. In late July 1914 he received notice that he would not be further employed due to his advanced age and lack of military experience.
First World War
The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 put all plans of retirement on hold, and General Lomax was commissioned to command the 1st Division as part of the Expeditionary Force under Sir John French. Arriving in the aftermath of the battle of Mons, the Fourth Division was immediately engaged in the battle of Le Cateau where the advancing German Army was held up long enough to allow the outnumbered BEF to escape. Lomax also led his division at the battle of the Marne and the counter-attack at the battle of the Aisne. His operations were so successful that it has been said that he was “the best Divisional General of those early days of the war”. On the 19 October, he received notice that he was to be promoted to Lieutenant General and would gain promotion to Corps Command when one became available.
During October 1914, the First Division was engaged in the First Battle of Ypres in the salient around the Belgian town of Ypres, with its headquarters based in a large stately home named Hooge Chateau, recently vacated by General Douglas Haig. On the 31 October 1914, a meeting took place at the Chateau between Lomax and his Second Division counterpart, Major-General C. C. Monro. An observer noted that the officers’ staff cars were parked along the roadsides and provided an obvious target to German artillery. An aerial spotter soon noticed the gathering and reported the situation to artillery officers on the ground, who fired three 5.9″ shells at the Chateau. Both sides had been targeting chateaux on either side of the line in an effort to kill senior officers and gain some advantage in the developing stalemate.
The first shell exploded in the garden, causing the officers at the meeting to go to the windows of the garden room to see the fall of the shell. Thus they were in the worst possible position for the second shell which exploded right in the window frame of the room. The explosion killed six officers and mortally wounded two others. The third shell impacted an empty part of the house, although the owner, Baron de Vinck, narrowly escaped injury.
Monro had stepped into another room for a conference with his Chief of Staff and so survived with minor injuries, but Lomax was seriously wounded and evacuated back to England, being placed in a nursing home in London where he received palliative care for the next five months.
General Lomax died on the 10 April 1915 never having recovered from his wounds. He was cremated at Golders Green and buried in a plot at Aldershot Military Cemetery, where he was later joined by his wife under a private headstone. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle later wrote that his death “was a brain injury to the Army and a desperately serious one.”
Name: LOMAX, SAMUEL HOLT
Initials: S H
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Lieutenant General
Regiment/Service: General Staff
Unit Text: Commanded 1st Division
Date of Death: 10/04/1915
Awards: C B
Additional information: Son of Thomas Lomax, of Grove Park, Yoxford, Suffolk; husband of Mary Helen Lomax (nee Alston), of The Ivy House, Corsham, Wilts.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: AH. 355.
Cemetery: ALDERSHOT MILITARY CEMETERY
Froghall, Wokingham, Berkshire