Henry James (Jim) Hollamby 1924 - 2006
The following obituary first appeared in the March 2006 issue of Meldreth Matters.
Jim was born on 1st January 1924 in Croydon, which at that time was very much a part of London and not, as we think today, just another part of Surrey. His early life was spent in that area of London where, sadly, he had an unhappy childhood, little of which is known to the family.
As a teenager Jim and his father lived with another family in Streatham, London until they both joined the army. Jim’s father joined the Royal Army Service Corps in 1939 and Jim joined the Royal Artillery in 1942. Prior to his army life Jim worked mainly as a labourer.
This army career was to bring a new perspective to his life. He served as a gunner in the Royal Artillery and saw active service during the Second World War in Normandy, Belgium and Germany where he remained until the end of the war. From Germany he went on to help liberate Palestine until 1948 and ended his army career in 1953, having left the army for a short while in 1952 and rejoined a few months later. One of his few regrets was that he did not continue with his army career after 1953.
Jim married Audrey in 1950 and they had four children, Pat, Chris, David and Robert. Jim and Audrey started out their married life in Tidworth, Hampshire, moving to London for several months before coming to this area and living in Fowlmere until 1957.
As mentioned earlier, Jim did return to the army but his main occupation was that of a lorry driver, both long-distance and locally, and latterly as a handyman/driver at the Meldreth Manor School where he enjoyed many friendships, especially with the young residents there. Indeed, he made a wonderful and jovial Father Christmas on more than one occasion at the Manor School and Meldreth Primary School.
Jim was an enthusiastic member of the Melbourn and Meldreth Branch of the Royal British Legion, the Ely Branch of the Royal Artillery Association and the St Alban’s Branch of the Normandy Veterans’ Association. Jim was to visit Normandy twice in peace time with other veterans to celebrate the 50th and the 60th anniversaries of the Normandy landings.
With the other veterans he was to take part in parades and collect commemoration medals and certificates. One of the many things the family was surprised to hear at a much later date was that Jim was made a prisoner of war for a short time. This was revealed when he was invited to Meldreth Primary School to discuss his part in the war effort in Normandy with one of the classes – Robbie’s daughter Tiffani was in the class at the time. When I asked him about this during the last trip to Normandy in 2004, he just shrugged his shoulders and said that he was not a prisoner for long, maybe a day or so, and they soon made their escape after their guards were overcome.
Jim held a number of positions whilst a member of the local branch of the Royal British Legion. These were as Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, and for many years as Standard Bearer. In fact one of his proudest occasions was carrying the Standard for the Branch at the Royal Festival of Remembrance in the Albert Hall. It was a proud moment for both Jim and Pat who accompanied him due to Audrey’s ill health at the time. Jim was also very proud that on several occasions both he and Pat carried Royal British Legion Standards alongside each other. One of the many memories of Jim for several of the villagers in Meldreth was to see him leading the parade for a large number of years at the Remembrance Service at the Meldreth War Memorial. It was a bit of a struggle for Jim to attend the Service in 2004 and thankfully our Vicar, Andrew O’Brien, delayed the start until Jim was in place “On Parade”. The Remembrance Service will not seem quite the same without Jim.
Jim was a ‘community’ person. He served on various committees and was a keen member of the Meldreth Sheltered Housing Scheme. Jim was Marion Long’s main contact in getting together that group of the Over 60’s for the little community service which they hold in the Elin Way Community Room. He enjoyed his card and bingo games.
Jim also served the parish church both as a server, a PCC member and a sides-man. Eventually, physical difficulties made it hard for Jim to travel to church on a regular basis.
In 1984 Jim lost his wife Audrey to cancer but he remained positive and loved to have visits from friends and neighbours. He moved twice more within Meldreth to sheltered accommodation. Due to his failing health, he moved to Sawston last April. The move met with mixed feelings but it is a comfort to know that Jim became very settled there and made many friends. He again, took up the role of ‘Bingo Caller’. He still kept in touch with his friends from Meldreth and played cards with Doreen, Lil and June when I was able to take the ‘ladies’ to Sawston on Wednesday evenings once or twice a month. Jim was a friend to all and valued all friendships.
Sadly Jim suffered a severe stroke before last Christmas; one battle he did not really want to fight.
Jim leaves behind his grandchildren Paula, Daniel, Grant, Spencer, Simon, Matthew, Liam, Becky, Peter and Tiffani; and a great-grandchild Harry, son of Liam. He was also very aware that he would be having a second great-grandchild by Paula in June.
One of the lasting thoughts for me about my father will be how proud he was of his military life, not in a gung-ho way but as one of those jobs that had to be done in a correct and dignified manner which is why it was so important to do him justice at his funeral. The military send off is not what he would have expected but definitely something he would have wanted.
I mentioned the war more than once and I think I got away with it!