Who was Head of Royal Marines Maj Gen Matt Holmes? Cause of death

A former head of the Royal Marines killed himself after becoming angry and frustrated at losing his role and was struggling to cope with the breakdown of his marriage, a coroner has concluded.

According to testimony at his inquest, Maj Gen Matt Holmes, 54, was “awash with tension” when his position was eliminated as part of a management reorganisation and worried that the UK’s military exit from Afghanistan may endanger former allies.

Coroner Jason Pegg said Holmes was unhappy that he was being “superseded” by a colleague and about the way in which his old role would be carried out.

Pegg said: “The role of commandant general being taken away from him caused him much frustration and anger. It was quite clear that he was in a dark place and under stress and his world was upside-down.”

Pegg said he thought the chain of command had done what it could but added: “He was certainly awash with stress. No doubt preying on his mind was the need to leave his home [as his marriage had broken down].”

Holmes’s body was found in Winchester, Hampshire, on 2 October 2021.

His wife, Lea Holmes, told the inquest he loved his children and was devoted to the Royal Marines.

She said that in the spring of 2021 he was told he had to agree to a restructure or resign, which he found humiliating. “He was hugely upset. With these huge stresses, he was very unhappy at home and so that was very difficult for myself and the children. He had a short fuse.”

She told the inquest they took a family holiday in the summer of 2021, which coincided with the UK and US withdrawal from Afghanistan. “He was very preoccupied with that. He was getting messages from really distressed people.”

On September 14, she saw him sitting on their bed with a shotgun nearby while their marriage was crumbling. The next week, the weapon was taken by authorities.
Holmes was worried for the security of Afghan officers who were left behind after the UK and US withdrew from the country, according to Jonathan Ball, the chief executive of the Royal Marines Association.

“He feared for their lives and the lives of their families. He felt somehow he had personally failed them by failing to help get them out.”

Ball said there was a “rivalry” between Holmes and the man who took over as commandant general, Lt Gen Rob Magowan. “Him taking over was a difficult place to be … Matt perceived it as salt being rubbed in the wounds.”

Adm Sir Tony Radakin, the head of the UK’s armed forces, said he had “no inkling” Holmes was “suffering so severely”.

He texted him on 22 September 2021 to say: “I’m really sorry to hear about what’s going on. We will lean in and help … let’s look at getting a pint next week.”

Magowan told the inquest Holmes had said to him his life was “spinning out of control” but it did not cross his mind that Holmes might kill himself.

In a statement after the inquest, Lea Holmes said: “Matt was coming to terms with the end of this stage of his career and facing personal struggles.”

From April 2019 to April 2021, Holmes held the position of commandant general of the Royal Marines and served in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. At the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in April 2021, he served as a pallbearer.