Royal Marines and Armed Forces chiefs at funeral of Major General Matthew Holmes



The new head of the Armed Forces and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace were today among dignitaries attending the funeral of the former head of the Royal Marines who was found hanging at his home.

Major General Matthew Holmes, 54, was found in a bedroom of his house in Winchester, Hants, on October 2 after having ‘concerns about his marriage and service career’, an inquest heard this week.

Before his death, the decorated war hero – who had served in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan – had split from his wife, Lea, and lost his job as Commandant General.

Today, his funeral in Winchester Cathedral was attended by incoming head of the Armed Forces, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the current head General Sir Nicholas Carter and Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace.

Marines from the Commando Training Centre at Lympstone in Devon lined the walkway leading up to the Cathedral as Maj Gen Holmes’s coffin – draped in a Union Jack – was driven through, followed by his wife and two children William, 11 and Eleanor, 15.

Wife Lea wore a long black coat and held hands with William, wearing a black suit, and Eleanor, dressed in a black top and trousers as they got out of a car and walked into the Cathedral.

It has been reported that Maj Gen Holmes had fallen out with the new head of the Armed Forces, Sir Tony, over changes to the Marines.

The dispute reportedly led to Maj Gen Holmes leaving his post as Commandant General in April this year – halfway through a three year appointment – after he felt Sir Tony, 55, ‘undermined’ him.

Today’s funeral was attended by more than 700 mourners and members of the public gathered outside to pay their respects to war hero.

Every unit of the Royal Marines was represented at the service which was also attended by the Vice Chief of Defence Staff Sir Timothy Fraser and representatives from the US Marine Corps.

The Royal Marines band played before the coffin was driven to the historic cathedral, awaited by the Dean of Winchester, Catherine Ogle, who led the service.

The coffin was carried by pall bearers who all had a close connection to Maj Gen Holmes, four of which accompanied him as pall bearers at Prince Phillip’s funeral, helping to carry the Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin at Windsor Castle.

Maj Gen Holmes’ coffin was draped with a Union Jack, his Royal Marines cap, his military medals and a reef of flowers. A squad of Royal Marines training commandos assembled to do a volley of three shots after the service. Maj Gen Holmes had commanded 42 Commando Royal Marines from 2006 to 2008.

The father of two was also awarded a CBE in 2019 – and was appointed as a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership on operations in Afghanistan in 2007.

At the inquest opening, it was heard Maj Gen Holmes’ wife formally identified his body and police attended another incident at him home on September 22.

After his death, his estranged wife Lea said: “He was courageous and had committed his life to serving in the Royal Marines; he was selfless to such an extent that this was more important than his own career progression.

“He was exceptionally proud to have served as commandant general.”

Boris Johnson also paid tribute to Maj Gen Holmes, saying he was “very saddened” to hear of the news. He added: “My thoughts are with Matt’s family and friends at this difficult time, as well as the Royal Marines and Royal Navy, who I know will feel this loss keenly.”

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Across defence, we mourn the tragic loss of one of our own. Major General Matt Holmes embodied the spirit of our armed forces, serving with distinction and rigour for over 30 years.

“I shall always be grateful for Matt’s assistance in leading the Marines through the reforms of the Future Commando Force.”

First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, described him as a ‘devoted former Commandant General who had served the nation, the Royal Navy and his beloved Corps with distinction’.

He added: “Matt was also a dear friend to many, and a close friend of mine for over 20 years.” A memorial page has been created in tribute to Maj Gen Holmes with donations in his memory going to The Royal Marines Charity and the RNLI. An inquest into his death is set to take place on February 10 next year.

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