A message from Commandant General Royal Marines, Lieutenant General R A Magowan CB CBE

To the Corps Family,

It is with profound sadness that I am writing to you following the death of our recent Commandant General. Major General Matt Holmes was a Royal Marine to his core. He served our Corps Family and our Nation with distinction for 33 years. He was tireless in his professionalism and drive to improve our organisation.

I knew him well and always said – ‘Matt stands up’. It was not a reference to his height! It is because he had moral fortitude, and courage. He was determined not to let his people down, neither serving nor retired. He felt the weight of office but he did not duck that responsibility. He embraced it and challenged with a passion and conviction. I will forever remember shaking his hand in 2007, congratulating him on winning the DSO. His expression was one of humility, remarking that it was 42 Commando Group that had delivered, not him.

Many of you will personally know his military record. On operations in Afghanistan as Commanding Officer, 42 Commando he was audacious and courageous. As Commandant General he championed the evolution of the Corps through the Future Commando Force concept. What he achieved with his energy, passion and drive is remarkable and all the more reason why his death will leave such a significant hole in his family and in our Corps.

Major General Matt Holmes above all was a considerate and highly principled man. That he was a General is secondary, and his rank should not distract from the human tragedy that sits behind his early death. He cared profoundly and deeply for the Royal Marines and everyone who served beside us; he cared just as deeply about our families and our veterans. These responsibilities were not merely platitudes; he backed up his words with decisive action. He was after all, a man of action – “fortune favours the brave” his favourite saying. He lived this mantra, every day.

Command for him was never to be regarded as a right, but a profound privilege and responsibility. As Commandant General he knew that he was the temporary custodian of the Royal Marines. He understood that the decisions made were not his personal legacy, but a basis that future generations of Marines could build upon. Through his professionalism and dedication he lay very solid foundations. It is our duty to continue to build on these and evolve the Royal Marines so we are fit for the future, just as he would have expected us to do.

I am sure you will all be thinking of Matt: the man, a husband, son, father and brother. He was our friend, colleague, confidante and mentor. As we do when any of our own falls, we will be thinking of, praying for and supporting his family. Our serving, veteran and charity networks are there ready to support when or if required. Matt’s family are, and always will be, part of our families too.

On behalf of the Corps Family, Matt, I salute you, my friend. We will always be striving to reach the standards you attained.

Lieutenant R A Magowan CB CBE
Commandant General Royal Marines