SIR GEORGE & LADY MAY HOLLAND
1. THE EARLY YEARS
Sir George William Frederick Holland (b. 5/1/1897, d. 14/6/1962) was educated at Marong State School after continually jumping over the Holland family back fence into the school yard to be with his brother Vernon who was old enough to attend school, unlike George. It is said the headmaster eventually got sick of marching young George back home and eventually let him stay.
George then went to Bendigo High School (now Bendigo Senior Secondary College) which has Sir George’s photograph and a number of awards named in his honor. These awards are particularly aimed at those students who have displayed courage and commitment despite suffering hardship throughout the year.
From an early age it was clear George had a heart for helping others and on 22 August 1913 George turned his passion for helping into a lifelong career by joining the Office of the Curator of Estates of Deceased Persons, assisting those suffering through grief and loss.
Then the war intervened.
2. THE TRAGEDY OF WAR
On 19 August 1914 (the day after his older brother Vernon enlisted) George joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), and was allotted to the original “E” company of the highly regarded 7th Battalion.
George embarked for the Middle East on October 19, 1914 and landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. He was wounded the same day and was initially listed missing in action but returned to his unit on 4 May 1915. His beloved older brother Vernon was killed on May 8, 1915 during the battle of Krithia. George was again wounded in action on August 8, 1915.
After Gallipoli he went to camp El Kebir, Egypt in January 1916, then to France and Flanders. He was yet again wounded in action at Pozieres on July, 1916 and was in hospital from 15 December 1916 to 15 January 1917. Wounded in action yet again in September 1917, but as always, returned to action help his mates and those whom he knew “needed help”.
Finally, George returned to Australia on November 23, 1918 and married his childhood sweetheart May Hollingworth (b. 26/5/1899 – d. 15/5/1981) who was to become an instrumental partner in supporting and promoting George’s work as well as developing her own range of programs and services for the needy, focusing particularly on the widows, wives and children of ex-servicemen who were all affected by the war.
George’s military service awards include; the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal and Military Medal, the recommendation for which reads;
“During the operations near Polygon de Zillebeke east of Yprres (Belgium) on 20-22 September 1917, Sgt Holland rendered invaluable service to his company by his courage and coolness. On the CSM becoming a casualty this Non-Commissioned Officer took over the duties and materially assisted in constructing strong points and maintaining supplies. He was wounded whilst making an important reconnaissance.”
This epitomized the way George conducted his life – sacrifice of self to assist others in need.
But his most important work was yet to come.
3. THE R.S.S.I.L.A. (The R.S.L.)
Upon return from the war George was devastated by the misery and destruction of war. He channeled his despair into action. He resumed his job in the Office of the Curator of Estates of Deceased Persons, but became actively involved as a volunteer in the development of the Returned Sailors and Servicemen Imperial League Australia (RSSILA) from 1919 to 1960. George worked at his job until 3 pm each day then voluntarily at Anzac House everyday including weekends. George’s only other brother “Roy” died in 1921, just a teenager.
Despite personal tragedies George focused on helping others and was elected President of the Victorian branch of the RSSILA in 1929, a position he was to hold for 21 years until 1950. He was elected Federal President from 1950-1960.
George’s and May’s main concerns were to help ex-servicemen find employment, provide practical assistance to those in need, to promote the welfare of ex-service personnel and that of their families, and to develop the league into a strong organization committed to the welfare of those who had suffered at the hands of war.
The principle legacy of his commitment to the R.S.L. and May’s work for widows and children was the establishment of a network of small and large residential facilities and homes for war veterans and servicemen’s widows in Victoria, a scheme which they planned and set on a sound financial base. Many are still in operation today.
George and May also developed a range of other programs to assist needy families and their children.
Since those formative years, the R.S.L. has grown to become a major philanthropic organization in Australia with much credit for it’s sound humanitarian and economical base stemming from George’s leadership of the organization.
George was appointed a C.B.E. (Commander of the British Empire) on June 9, 1938, listed in Who’s Who 1941, Knighted in 1953, then appointed K.B.E. in 1961. He retired from RSSLA in October 1960.
On the eve of his retirement the Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies asked him what he most wanted for the RSSILA and he replied;
“Free medical and hospital treatment for service pensioners…”
Menzies granted the request.
4. MORE VOLUNTEER WORK
An example of some of George’s other charitable work includes a list of Committees he served on in 1955, as well as his work at the RSSILA. Some of these include;
Chairman War Veterans Homes Trust;
Chairman of the Discharged Servicemen’s Employment Board;
Deputy Chairman War Widows and Widowed Mothers Trust Fund;
Deputy Chairman Florence Nightingale Trust;
Trustee Shrine of Remembrance Victoria;
Lord Mayors Fund for Hospitals and Charities;
Royal Automobile Club Victoria;
Royal Automobile Club Australia; and
Commissioner of the State Savings Bank of Victoria.
He died June 14, 1962 and was buried in Springvale cemetery. At his request the grave is unmarked. May Holland died in 1981 aged 82.
George and May left their descendants and those who had been involved with their life and work a powerful message on the value of families and the duty to assist those in need.
5. THE LEGACY
In 2004, George and May’s descendants, in conjunction with a range of well regarded welfare, business and community minded citizens set up the Holland Foundation in memory of Sir George and Lady May Holland with a view to continuing their great philanthropic work.
Both National and State R.S.L. President’s have endorsed the Foundation’s work and written to the Foundation acknowledging the great achievements of Sir George and his work with the RSL and disadvantaged people.
In particular the Holland Foundation will;
– Provide practical and creative solutions to children, adolescents, adults and their families who are in need of support due to poverty, sickness, grief & loss, abuse, suffering, distress, homelessness, misfortune, disability, helplessness and trauma.
– Provide innovative, best practice and quality services using solution focused strategies that empowers people, strengthens their connections to local community resources, and builds confidence in their own problem solving skills.