The Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names

Arthur Norbury Solly

by Bob Solly

This article was originally published in the August 2002 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.

Arthur Norbury Solly was born in Cheshire on 16 February 1894, the son of Ernest and Mary Alice Solly. Ernest himself was descended from one of the wealthiest and well documented of our family trees, dating back to the 1400’s starting with Peter Soly. The line remains in Kent until the early 1700’s when Richard Solly moved to Walthamstow (now in Middlesex) to marry Ann Hollis. Their son Isaac Solly moved to London in 1765 to start a mercantile business in Baltic timber. Later generations lived in London, but Ernest was born in Congleton, Cheshire.

Ernest had attended Rugby School between 1878 and 1881 and his son Arthur followed in his footsteps, being admitted in Sep 1908 and leaving in 1913.

The records show that he was a Michell. Scholar VI. Exhibitioner 1913, R VIII, 1912,1913. Exhibitioner of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Following this distinguished academic career he enlisted in the armed forces when the First World War started. This is the story of what followed:

A fitting epitaph

Capt. A.N. Solly & Lt. D.Y. Hay, R.F.C.

On Saturday August 11th 1917 at 10:50 am a Bristol F.2B (serial number A.7108) of No. 20 Squadron, RFC took of from its airfield near St. Omer for a training flight. The pilot of the Bristol was Capt. Arthur Norbury Solly (age 23); the observer was Lt. Donald Yalden Hay (age 24). Shortly after take-off the right wing of the aircraft collapsed and the aircraft crashed, killing both pilot and observer. As can be read below both were experienced pilots.

The two men who flew together and died together were buried together at Longuenesse Souvenir Cemetery (France), sharing the same headstone. Although two epitaphs would have been permitted there is only one, and a very fitting one indeed:

"Brothers in Arms"  - They truly are

Nick Forder provided the information. We gratefully acknowledge his contribution.  The information is compiled from the following books: Above the Trenches, Airmen Died, RFC/RAF Communiqués and Jasta War Chronology.

Solly came from Harrogate. He enlisted in the UPS (University & Public Schools Brigade), later 18=21 Battalions, Royal Fusiliers. He was commissioned in the 4th (City), later 19 (Service) Battalion, Manchester Regiment as one of their original officers. He commanded XIII Platoon of D Company. His photo appears in the 'Manchester City Battalions Book of Honour'. He transfered to the RFC and served with 23 and 20 Squadrons as an observer. He flew with 23 Sqn in 1916, sharing with his pilot 2 victories. After training as a pilot, he joined 20 Squadron on FE 2Ds during Spring 1917; here he claimed seven further victories.

30.4.1916 Lt Solly was the observer in 23 Sqn FE2b 6345 when it was hit by AA fire over Ayette. The pilot, Lt SHB Harris, was wounded. Harris & Solly had been on a photo recce.

13.5.1916 Lt Solly was the observer in 23 Sqn FE2b 5215 on an escorted recce (with 6? other 23 Sqn aircraft) Cambrai-Arras Road-Marquion-Adinfer Wood when , at 9:15 am, the formation was attacked by 3 Fokkers at 6-7000 feet near Marquion. The 23 Sqn aircraft were saved by keeping tight formation.

31.5.1916  Enemy aircraft claimed out of control at 9:20 over Marquion in 23 Sqn FE2b 5215 (Pilot : Captain H Wyllie; shared with 2Lt D Cloete/2Lt CE Pither in 6354, 2Lt AT Watson/2Lt CL Blake in 5249, 2Lt EF Allen/Lt LC Powell in 5235, and a Martinsyde, AM1 DR Chapman in 7280).

1.7.1916 Lt Solly was the observer in 23 Sqn FE2b 5213 which was in combat with 5 'B' type German aircraft at 7000 feet over Vaulx at 5:10 pm. The FE2 was shot up and then hit by AA fire. Solly was wounded by 2 bullets hitting his thigh.

2.8.1916 D Type claimed out of control  over Douai at 20:00 in 23 Sqn FE2B 5213 (Pilot : Lt JC Griffiths).

6.5.1917 Solly sent down an  enemy aircraft in a spinning nose dive, as the third  enemy aircraft to be claimed by the 20 Sqn formation. No corresponding German losses noted (ref. RFC Communiqués). 

13.5.1917 Solly was pilot of 20 Sqn FE2d A6354 which claimed an Albatros out of control over Menin at 11 am. Observer was AM2 C Beminster.

15.5.1917 Albatros DIII claimed out of control at 7:00 over Quesnoy. Solly was pilot of 20 Sqn FE2d A6354 with AM2 C Beminster as observer.

12.6.1917 Albatros DIII claimed out of control over Zandvoorde at 12:15 by Solly and his observer, 2Lt FJ Kydd, in 20 Sqn FE2d A6354.

18.6.1917 Lt Solly was the pilot of a 20 Sqn FE2 A6516 which claimed an Albatros DIII destroyed between Frelinghem and Ypres. Observer was 2Lt WC Cambray. The RFC Communiqué noted that the wings of the EA broke off in the air.

9.8.1917 Albatros DIII claimed out of control at 18:15 over Polygon Wood by Solly and his observer, Lt CA Hoy, in 20 Sqn FE2d A5147.

10.8.1917 C Type claimed out of control at 08;45 over Becelaere, by Solly and his obs, 2Lt J Cawley, in 20 Sqn FE2d A5147.

10.8.1917 20 Sqn engaged 8 enemy aircraft near Polygon Wood. Captain Solly and Lt C Hoy claimed 1 enemy aircraft driven down out of control. Later on in the day, Captain Solly and 2Lt Cawley claimed a German 2-seater.

This information has been copied from a very interesting web site www.unfortunate-region.org and our thanks go to Peter van den Heuvel & Marco Hoveling for allowing us to reprint. If you are looking for information about the Great War, please visit their site.

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