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Martin, Sir Douglas Eric [Deric] Holland-locked


Martin, Sir Douglas Eric [Deric] Holland- (1906–1977), naval officer, was born in London on 10 April 1906, the fourth of six sons (there were no daughters) of Robert Martin Holland, banker and later a director and chairman of the Southern Railway, and his wife, Eleanor Mary, daughter of George Edward Bromley-Martin, of Ham Court, Upton upon Severn. From the early 1920s their home was Overbury Court, Tewkesbury. The family name was changed to Holland-Martin in 1923. He entered the Royal Naval College, Osborne, in 1920 and was promoted midshipman and went to sea in 1924. From then until 1939 he held a series of increasingly responsible junior appointments in which he showed great promise and that he had in abundance all the qualities required of an officer. He was an outstanding all-round games player, playing cricket for the navy between 1928 and 1933.

At the outbreak of war Holland-Martin was executive officer of the Tartar, based at Scapa Flow. When his captain was taken ill in October his superiors had sufficient confidence in his ability to appoint him in command, and he commanded her in North Sea operations until January 1940. Later that month he was awarded one of the earliest DSCs of the war. He was promoted to commander in 1940. Subsequently during the war he commanded Holderness off the east coast and in the channel, Nubian in the Mediterranean, and Faulknor in home waters as part of an international flotilla. These arduous commands were interspersed with short spells ashore, when he distinguished himself as a staff officer.

It was in Nubian that Holland-Martin enhanced his reputation as a dashing and effective destroyer captain. In December 1942 she joined force K in Malta to interrupt supplies to Rommel and was constantly in action for the next six months. Holland-Martin was appointed to the DSO (1943) for his skilful leadership and enterprise during this period. Nubian then participated in the capture of the central Mediterranean islands and the landings on Sicily and at Salerno. The latter landings won him a bar to his DSC. He left Nubian in December 1943.

Promoted to captain in 1946, Holland-Martin distinguished himself in a series of important posts—as naval attaché in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay (1947–9); captain D4 in the Agincourt (1949–50); director of plans in the Admiralty (1952–3); and in command of the Eagle (1954). On 9 September 1951 Holland-Martin married Rosamund Mary Hornby [see Martin, Dame Rosamund Mary Holland- (1914-2001)], daughter of Charles Henry St John Hornby [see Hornby, (Charles Harold) St John] of Dorchester, Dorset, printer and director of W. H. Smith; they had one son and one daughter. It was a happy marriage and his stable family life contributed to the success of his career.

Promoted to rear-admiral in July 1955 Holland-Martin was flag officer flotillas, Mediterranean, for the next eighteen months, during which he trained and commanded the assault forces in the landings of the Royal Marine commandos at Port Said in November 1956. He commanded a British contribution of over 100 ships to this force, probably the last flag officer to command such a large number of British ships.

In May 1957 he was appointed deputy chief of naval personnel (officers). Five months later he was promoted to be second sea lord with the acting rank of vice-admiral and assumed responsibility for the whole of the Royal Navy's personnel at a time of great change. He was the youngest and most junior second sea lord in the history of this post and his distinguished service was rewarded by promotion to vice-admiral and his appointment as CB in January 1958. In January 1960 he was appointed flag officer air (home) and promoted to KCB. In 1961 he became admiral and took up the appointment of commander-in-chief, Mediterranean, and commander-in-chief, allied forces Mediterranean, a post he held with great distinction at a time of stress when the government was imposing reductions on the British forces there and running down the Malta base. In 1964 he was promoted to GCB. Finally in April 1964 he became commandant of the Imperial Defence College.

In 1962 Holland-Martin was a strong contender to relieve Admiral Sir Caspar John as first sea lord, but his outspoken support for a strategy which emphasized the importance of the Mediterranean at a time when oil was just being discovered in north Africa, and the British bases in Malta, Cyprus, and Gibraltar were being run down led him to clash with his political and service masters at home. In addition he had a well voiced belief that the United Kingdom could not afford to continue with an independent nuclear deterrent, and he had seen the abandonment of the Blue Streak project as an excellent opportunity for the United Kingdom to bow out of this commitment instead of adopting the Polaris submarine programme. Once the latter had been accepted he was a strong advocate of funding any strategic nuclear deterrent force outside the normal defence budget in order that conventional forces of the service carrying out this function should not suffer, for he foresaw that funding the strategic nuclear submarine force could seriously affect the size of the conventional fleet. His outspoken support for these views probably ensured that he did not become first sea lord in the summer of 1963.

On his retirement in 1966 Holland-Martin's services were in great demand. He was a trustee of the Imperial War Museum and its vice-president and chairman (1967–77). He was chairman of the Severn region of the National Trust (1967–77) and of the governors of Malvern School (1967–76). In 1968 he was appointed chairman of the committee of inquiry into trawler safety after three trawlers had been lost with all hands in gales. His speedy and thorough inquiry gained the confidence of the industry. As a result he joined the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board in 1969. In 1973–6 he was vice-admiral of the United Kingdom and lieutenant of the Admiralty. Holland-Martin died on 6 January 1977 at his home, Bell's Castle, Kemerton, Tewkesbury.


  • The Times (10 Jan 1977)
  • personal knowledge (1986)
  • S. W. Roskill, The war at sea, 1939–1945, 3 vols. in 4 (1954–61)



  • IWM FVA, actuality footage

Wealth at Death

£107,778: probate, 10 Feb 1977, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]