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



by Peter Saul


 This article was originally published in the August 2009 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society


I just clicked on the photo of my father on the web page, Henry Saul.


I have him listed as Second Battalion, Coldstream Guards, and indicated 1939. I had assumed the photo was taken as he joined the Guards in mid-1939 - he was regular army before the war started.


Since sending the photo, I have learned a lot more. The badge on his sleeve is the eye symbol of the Guards Armoured Division, which was formed in 1943. From 1941 he was in the Corps of Military Police, returning to the Guards in 1943, to the Fifth Battalion. Therefore, the photo was taken in late 1943 or any time in 1944 or 1945, but not later as Guards Armoured was disbanded in late 1945. The fifth battalion was always infantry, supporting the other battalions in their tanks.


A newspaper article last year, sadly about an ex-guardsman who died recently from a hospital acquired infection, said that he was in the second battalion, one of only 3 in his company of 100 to survive the war. My dad was almost certainly one of the other two.


So, it's a minor detail, but is it possible to update the caption to something like: Henry Saul, 1919 - 1986, Coldstream Guards, second battalion 1939, later 5th battalion, shown here in about 1944 wearing the insignia of the Guards Armoured Division.


If you see the film "Dunkirk", or read the book of the film by Simon Sebag-Montefiore, there are a number of previously unpublicised events, such as the shooting of an officer who, with at least some authorisation, retreated. I had a first hand account of that and other incidents 30 years ago. The Guards were ordered to fight to the last man and last bullet. However, eventually, they were given the order every man for himself. All the boats had gone. Dad and a friend started running down the beach towards Calais, which they wrongly believed was still held. The friend decided to go inland to surrender, and was never heard of again. Dad, with what appeared to be a Jewish name, started swimming, and was picked up 3 miles off. He landed in England with his army trousers, two odd boots, and a seaman's jersey. He was given a pre-Boer war single shot rifle, and ordered to get down to the beach and dig in.


Incidentally, he always believed that we had Jewish ancestry somewhere, but I have never found any. Very recently I have corresponded with someone who knows a Jewish family called Saul, in this country, so maybe I dismissed it too easily in my article.


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