03 May 2011

My favourite Historian

I was sad to hear the news yesterday of the death of Richard Holmes, a prominent war historian who used to work for the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham; a part of Cranfield University.

I first heard of him when the BBC commissioned War Walks, Richard had all the love of the various different aspects of the battles and was able to demonstrate that to the audience. Richard rode his grey gelding Thatch to scenes of battles in both the UK and France and gave us the viewpoint from the enemy positions.

Some of the battles he covered, were : The Somme, Crecy, Hastings etc. I loved it, brought the books, planned my visits (which never happened) but my imagination was challenged by his delightful delivery and unassuming manner.

I had the pleasure of meeting Richard a number of times, both for work and pleasure. He gave talks around the country, and was an old boy of Bedford School where he presented a lecture on Churchill, from his early army days up until late in life and one day when I have the money I will get the book. My second lecture attendance was to the Bedford Historical Society and he delivered a riveting lecture on the First World War. You could have heard a pin drop while he was talking such was his impact on the audience, and the applause afterwards was long and avid.

Richard would always sign books at these events, and would willing chat to one and all about his love of history of warfare.. wanting others also to be enthused.

I met Richard professionally, while I worked for Cranfield University. We were involved in the Research Exercise of 2008 and Richard's works were included in the assessment package so I had to contact his office and arrange to collect the volumes required. He was a charming person, and lent us his personal copies of books where we couldn't acquire them through other means such as the University Libraries. He even offered to sign all my books I had, although I never quite managed to get them down before I decided to leave.

The world has lost a great man, and a great historian far too early for Richard was only sixty-five when he died and my sympathies go to his family for although the world mourns we cannot imagine their loss of a husband, father, and grandfather.

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