The former head of the Royal Marines died by suicide after experiencing "substantial stress", an inquest has concluded.

Major General Matthew Holmes was found dead in Winchester, Hampshire, on 2 October 2021.

The inquest heard that in the months before his death, Major General Holmes had lost his position as leader of the Royal Marines as part of a restructuring, faced the collapse of his marriage, and had been left "angry" at the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

He served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Northern Ireland, and was a pallbearer at Prince Philip’s funeral in 2021.

Giving evidence, his widow Lea said he was told to agree to the restructuring in which he would lose his role, or resign.

She said her husband "was told he had to sign or agree to resign", adding he found the experience "hugely humiliating".

She explained the family had taken a holiday in August 2021, coinciding with the British and American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"This holiday was worse than any other family holiday, and there was the Afghanistan withdrawal – he was very preoccupied with that," she told the inquest.

"He was getting messages from really distressed people and trying to do something about that.

"We decided to leave the holiday slightly early. On the last morning Matt said to me, ‘that’s it, we’re done’."

On their return, she said her husband became reluctant to discuss their separation.

Shotgun incident

The inquest heard that weeks before he died, Hampshire police took away a shotgun from his home, which, according to Major General Holmes’ sister, prompted his family to discuss his mental health.

"He said he did not think it was necessary that the gun was removed as he wasn’t a threat to anyone else," Sarah Adkins said.

"He deeply loved his children," she added.

"He said the main thing that was on the front burner of his mind was the way in which his career had been brought to conclusion."

She said her brother was "awash with stress" in the final months of his life.

‘He felt he had personally failed them’

Jonathan Ball, chief executive of the Royal Marines Association, told the inquest he spoke to Major General Holmes in the weeks before his death.

He said the former Royal Marines chief had feared for the "close personal friends" in the Afghan army who had been left behind following the withdrawal.

"He felt that somehow he had personally failed them by failing to help get them out," said Mr Ball.

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Tributes paid to former head of Royal Marines

Coroner Jason Pegg concluded that Major General Holmes died by suicide, adding: "Matthew Holmes was suffering from substantial stress which contributed to his death."

Major General Holmes commanded 42 Commando Royal Marines from 2006 to 2008 and was appointed as a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership on operations in Afghanistan in 2007.

From 2019 to 2021 he was Commandant General Royal Marines and he was made a CBE in 2019.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email [email protected] in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK

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