error code: 1003
13 October 2021

Death of ex-head of Royal Marines ‘driving wedge’ between elite troops and Navy

13 October 2021

The new head of the Royal Marines has written to senior colleagues warning that the death of his predecessor is “driving a wedge” between the Royal Navy and its fighting troops.

An inquest heard yesterday that Major General Matthew Holmes was found hanged at his home in Winchester, Hampshire, on October 2 after having “concerns” about his career and his marriage.

Maj Gen Holmes, who had served in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, was Commandant General Royal Marines from 2019 until April this year.

The funeral for the 54-year-old is being held on Wednesday at Winchester Cathedral. It will be attended by his widow, Lea, and a gathering of 600 people, including senior naval officers.

Matt Holmes in Helmand province (MoD/PA) (PA Media)

In a letter first reported in the Daily Telegraph, Lieutenant General Rob Magowan, Commandant General Royal Marines (CGRM), wrote that Maj Gen Holmes, who was a pall-bearer at the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, was in a “bad place” following the loss of his “dream job”.

Referring to the colours of the shirts worn by the Navy and the Marines, Lt Gen Magowan said: “The ‘dispute’ is serving to drive a wedge between white shirts and lovat, which helps nobody.

“It is making my job harder as CGRM. I’ll manage that but it is also impacting the serving Corps, just as we mature an integrated relationship across the Navy in pursuit of the Future Commando Force.”

He added: “The focus this coming week is to celebrate Matt’s amazing career, and to support his family. Anything else is a straight distraction. So I am asking all of us to work together, for Matt, his family and the Corps.”

It is understood that disputes with the Senior Service occurred between October last year and February while the organisation went through a management restructure which lead to Maj Gen Holmes being superseded.

A naval source told the PA news agency: “The CGRM wrote to say that changes were made for the greater good of the naval service and we must all get behind them to ensure the naval service continues to provide a fantastic service to the country.”

A Royal Navy spokesman said the service would not comment on the letter and said it was focusing on providing support to Maj Gen Holmes’ family at the time of his funeral.

Following his death, Maj Gen Holmes’ widow released a statement paying tribute to him.

She said: “My husband Matt was a kind, generous man. 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. His entire family and I have felt very privileged to play our part in supporting Matt and the Corps family throughout his career.

“Matt took the immense responsibility for the lives of those he served alongside very seriously; not a day would go by without him thinking of the men under his command who were lost or injured; and of course, their families.

“Matt was a proud and loving father to his two children: his son a former cathedral chorister and his daughter a talented violinist.

“Matt was a keen drummer and we had many happy times as a family enjoying the music and camaraderie of the Royal Marines Band Service.

“At the same time Matt recognised their vital role supporting operations within the Royal Navy.

“For me as Matt’s wife, it has been a privilege over many years to receive the support, camaraderie and friendship from the Royal Marines and Royal Navy family.

“I would like to express my sincere thanks to all those friends and colleagues who have taken the time to pay tribute to Matt, it will bring comfort to all our family to know how respected he was.”

Opening the inquest into Maj Gen Holmes’ death, Hampshire coroner Jason Pegg said: “It’s suspected that Matthew Holmes had a number of concerns at the time of his death including matters relating to his marriage and his service career.”

He added: “I direct the Royal Navy provides a statement setting out very briefly Matthew Holmes’ career and his career management post-supersession from his post as Commandant General Royal Marines and the known response to that from Maj Gen Matthew Holmes.”

The inquest, which also heard that police were called to the family home before Maj Gen Holmes’ death, was adjourned for a full hearing on February 10 2022.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox