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Major General Holmes found hanged at home after losing his job and marriage ‘dissolved by email’

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By Jacob Thorburn for MailOnline

The new head of the Royal Marines has written to senior colleagues that his predecessor’s death “drives a wedge” between the Royal Navy and its armed forces.

Lieutenant General Rob Magowan (above) warned senior colleagues that his predecessor’s death ‘drives a wedge’ between the Royal Navy and its armed forces

An inquest heard yesterday that Major General Matthew Holmes was found hanged on October 2 at his home in Winchester, Hampshire, after he was ‘concerned’ about his career and his marriage.

Major General Holmes, 54, who had served in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, was Commander General of the Royal Marines from 2019 to April this year.

He commanded 42 Commando Royal Marines from 2006 to 2008 and was named a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership in operations in Afghanistan in 2007.

The father of two was also awarded a CBE in 2019 and is described as ‘one of our most senior and highly decorated Royal Marines’.

It comes after a war of words raged over the Navy’s copper mud-slinging around his death, with relatives reportedly angered by Navy officials rushing to “settle the bills and shift responsibility” over his mental health.

The 54-year-old’s funeral will be held today at Winchester Cathedral. It will be attended by his widow, Lea, and a gathering of 600 people, including senior naval officers.

In a letter first published in the Daily Telegraph, Lieutenant General Rob Magowan, Commander General Royal Marines (CGRM), wrote that Major General Holmes, who was a pall bearer at the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh, was in a ‘bad place’ after losing his ‘dream job’.

Referring to the colors of the shirts worn by the Navy and Marines, Lieutenant General Magowan said, “The ‘dispute’ serves to drive a wedge between white shirts and lovat, which helps no one.

‘It makes my job as CGRM more difficult. I’ll take care of that, but it also affects the serving corps, just as we develop an integrated relationship within the Navy as we pursue the future command force.”

He added: “The focus this coming week is to celebrate Matt’s great career and support his family. Everything else is an outright distraction. So I’m asking all of us to work together for Matt, his family and the force.”

It is clear that disputes with the Senior Service took place between October last year and February as the organization went through a management restructuring that resulted in Major General Holmes being replaced.

A naval source said: “The CGRM wrote to say that changes have been made in the public interest of the naval service and we all need to stand behind them to ensure the naval service continues to provide a fantastic service to the country.”

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

After his death, Maj Gen Holmes’s widow released a statement paying tribute.

She said, “My husband Matt was a kind, generous man. He was courageous and had devoted his life to serving in the Royal Marines; he was so selfless that this was more important than his own career advancement.

“He was extremely 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.

Major General Matthew Holmes welcomes Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the Royal Albert Hall in London in March 2020

Major General Matthew Holmes welcomes Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the Royal Albert Hall in London in March 2020

“Matt took very seriously the immense responsibility for the lives of those with whom he served alongside him; not a day went by that he did not think of the men under his command who were lost or wounded; and of course their families.

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

“Matt was an avid 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 recognized their vital role in supporting operations within the Royal Navy.

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

“I want to express my sincere thanks to all those friends and colleagues who took the time to honor Matt, it will bring comfort to all our family to know how respected he was.”

Hampshire coroner Jason Pegg opened the investigation into Maj. Gen.’s death.

He added: ‘I lead the Royal Navy and issue a statement very briefly outlining Matthew Holmes’ career and his career management after his position as Commander General Royal Marines and the well-known response to it by Major General Matthew Holmes. ‘

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

For confidential support, call Samaritans at 116123 or visit a Samaritans branch

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