New Chief of the Armed Forces and Secretary of Defense, Ben Wallace, were among the dignitaries who attended the funeral of the former chief of the Royal Marines who was found hanged in his home.
Maj. Gen. Matthew Holmes, 54, was found October 2 in a bedroom of his home in Winchester, Hants, after “worries about his marriage and his service career,” an investigation heard this week.
Before his death, the decorated war hero who had served in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan had separated from his wife Lea and lost his job as general commander.
His funeral at Winchester Cathedral was attended today by the new Chief of the Armed Forces, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, current Chief General Sir Nicholas Carter and Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.
Marines from the Commando Training Center at Lympstone, Devon, lined the walkway leading to the cathedral when Major General Holmes’ coffin – wrapped in a Union Jack – was driven through, followed by his wife and two children, William, 11, and Eleanor, 15 ).
Mrs. Lea was wearing a long black coat and was holding hands with William, who was wearing a black suit, and Eleanor, who was wearing a black top and pants, as they got out of a car and went into the cathedral.
It was reported that Maj Gen Holmes had fallen out with the new Chief of the Armed Forces, Sir Tony, over changes in the Marines.
The dispute reportedly resulted in Major General Holmes leaving his post as commandant general in April this year – in the middle of a three-year term – after feeling that Sir Tony, 55, had “undermined” him.
Today’s funeral was attended by more than 700 mourners and members of the public who gathered outside to pay their respects to the war hero.
Every unit of the Royal Marines was represented on the service, which also included Assistant Chief of Defense Sir Timothy Fraser and representatives of the US Marine Corps.
The Royal Marines band played before the coffin was driven to the historic cathedral, which was awaited by the Dean of Winchester, Catherine Ogle, to conduct the service.
The coffin was carried by pallbearers, all of whom had a close relationship with Maj Gen Holmes, four of whom accompanied him as pallbearers at Prince Phillip’s funeral and helped carry the Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin to Windsor Castle.
Maj Gen Holmes’s coffin was covered with a Union Jack, Royal Marines cap, military medals and a flower reef. A squad of Royal Marines training squads gathered to launch a volley of three shots after duty. Maj Gen Holmes commanded 42 Commando Royal Marines from 2006 to 2008.
The father of two was also awarded a CBE in 2019 – and was named the Companion of the Distinguished Service Order in 2007 for his leadership in operations in Afghanistan.
At the opening of the investigation, it was heard that Maj Gen Holmes’s wife officially identified his body and police were involved in another incident at his home on September 22nd.
After his death, his estranged wife Lea said: “He was brave and had dedicated his life to serving the Royal Marines; he was so selfless that it was more important than his own career.
“He was extremely proud to have served as General Commandant.”
Boris Johnson also paid tribute to Major General Holmes, saying he was “very sad” to hear the news. He added, “My thoughts during this difficult time are with Matt’s family and friends, as well as the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy, who I know will feel this loss deeply.”
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Across defense we mourn the tragic loss of one of our own. Maj. Gen. Matt Holmes embodied the spirit of our armed forces and served with distinction and rigor for over 30 years.
“I will always be grateful to Matt’s help in guiding the Marines through reforming the Future Commando Force.”
First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, described him as “a devoted former commander-general who served the nation, the Royal Navy and his beloved corps with distinction”.
He added, “Matt was a dear friend to many and a close friend of mine for over 20 years.” A memorial page has been created in honor of Maj Gen Holmes, with donations made to the Royal Marines Charity and the RNLI. An investigation into his death is due to take place on February 10 next year.
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