Three soldiers, two legacies, one name

A composite image of three generations of the Holten family who have served in the Army, from left, Private Fred Holten, Private Michael Bernard Devery and Private Richard Frederick Holten.

Three soldiers, two legacies, one name

Private Frederick Charles Devery Holten, currently deployed to the Middle East region, is the legacy of two world wars and his name a tribute to both.

Private Holten’s great-great uncle, Private Richard Frederick Holten, served in World War I and his grandfather, Private Michael Devery, served in World War II.

Together the three soldiers have now deployed to Gallipoli, Egypt, the Western Front, New Guinea, Borneo and now, the Middle East. Private Holten said he would be thinking about the two men whose names were the origins of his name this Anzac Day.

“Both men are a huge source of pride for me and my family,” he said.

“To be over here as a member of the Defence Force on Anzac Day is about the greatest honour you can receive. I will be thinking about them.”

His maternal grandad, Private Michael Bernard Devery, joined the Army at 19, the same age as Private Holten, and served in the 2/3rd Independent company during World War II.

“He died before I was born but there was always a photo of him in his greens and his slouch hat on a table in the hall. My grandma always used to remark that I was a dead ringer for him,” Private Holten said.

“I think seeing that photo growing up and having taken on their names was a strong reason I ended up joining the Army.

“His unit was operating ahead of the main Australian advance in New Guinea so they could cut off the Japanese withdrawal. Of the 350 commandos who went into that operation, only 34 came back alive or ininjured.

“He was one of those 34 and continued fighting through the New Guinea campaign. Due to the losses they had they were amalgamated into the 7th Cavalry commandos and were shipped off to fight in the Borneo campaign where they finished off the war.

“Grandad then came home to Wangaratta and Beechworth where he worked as a prison warden and owned a pub called The Nicholas.”

Decades earlier, during World War 1, Private Holten’s great-great uncle wasn’t as fortunate as his grandfather, his body never returning home to Australia.

“My great-great uncle’s full name was Richard Frederick Holten, everyone just called him Fred, though.

“At 20 he deployed to Gallipoli as an infantryman, prior to the evacuation. Due to injury he was sent to Egypt and then onto the Western Front in France. He died at the Battle of Fromelles, where 5500 other Australians became casualties in 24 hours.

“I went to France in August of last year, 103 years later, to find his grave. It hits you pretty hard when you go there in person, seeing all the headstones and knowing how many Australians were buried there, so far from home.” 

Private Holten is a unit storeman deployed on Force Support Element Rotation 12 at Australia’s main operating base in the Middle East region.

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