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

Kenneth George Solly 1907-1994

An Eventful Life, Part 1

By George Solly

This article was originally published in the December 2001 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.

My father, Kenneth Gorge Solly was born 7 February 1907 in Ilford, Essex the last child of three (all sons) to Albert and Daisy May.

Albert's father, John, described as 'gent' on his marriage certificate (17 September 1866) married Frances Ann daughter of Samuel Cowlin, 'mechanic' with their residence at that time recorded as 3 John Street North, Marylebone. My branch of the 'Ash Sollys' left Thanet sometime in the early 1700's to move to Faversham through it appears Thomas (1703 - 1748 and nephew of Richard, three times mayor of Sandwich). John's father Richard (1793-1877) lived at both Faversham and Mundon, near Maldon, Essex where they stayed for three generations (Mundon and Mayland). My grandfather's generation started the move to Greater London. Albert and his brother Jack/John worked at Billingsgate Fish market as did their sons John Henry Renwick Solly and Reginald Gilbert Solly and Donald Roberts Solly, the latter being my father's middle brother.

Anecdotal evidence that my family's move was prompted by drainage of marshlands that they favoured to farm: firstly Ash and district, then Faversham, Kent and finally south Essex. All had been marshy land with my ancestors finally favouring the land between the rivers Crouch and Blackwater in Essex.

My father's house was apparently damaged by a Zeppelin (!) in the First World War so the family moved to Acton (W London). In those days without radio or TV entertainment was home grown and all three brothers played something. The first picture shows my father at age 19 (1926) complete with violin, something he was to continue semi-professionally playing in dance bands in central London. At this time his main job was as an engineer at the HO & WD Wills cigarette factory. He was also a volunteer bus driver in the General Strike of the same year, and later drove taxis in Romford (I still have his enamelled cabby's badge). In 1931 he married Phyllis Quick and Ian my stepbrother was born 18 months later. Ian didn't survive infancy. His two sisters Shirley Ann (1934) and Felicity (Kim: 1937) were then born and live in Devon and Cornwall respectively.

Kenneth George Solly in 1926 age 19

Kenneth George Solly in 1926 age 19

Although beyond initial call up age, my father volunteered and joined the Royal Army Services Corps as a driver in the Second World War. In the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) he was captured in France right at the beginning of the British involvement and was incarcerated in Poland for 6 years by the Germans loosing half his body weight and going blind temporarily. At the end of the conflict, with the Russians advancing from the east and the British from the west, his German captors now very few in number embarked on the 'Great March' which killed off several hundreds more (solders and prisoners alike). Back in the UK in 1946 my father took a while to recover, but in '47 he joined NAAFI and was involved in the Berlin Airlift. Phyllis and he divorced

Subsequently he became manager of the Officers' Club at Schloss Buckeburg near Minden in northern Germany. Many grand occasions were held during his time there including a ball for Princess Mary of Tec. At this event my German mother was called in from nearby Hameln (Hamelin) in Lower Saxony to sculpt the fountain made out of pure ice and flowing with champagne.

My mother's war had been entirely different: joining the Hitler Youth at a young age then drafted into the Land army in Friesen Islands in the North Sea and finally conscripted to work at a Messerschmitt aircraft factory. My mother, Ingeborg Dora Minna Anna Augusta (each forename representing a godparent) was the daughter of hotelier Friedrich August Oberheide who bought the Hotel zur Krone in 1910 and which only recently went out of family ownership.

Back in England, the family firm of Alfred Howe and Solly Ltd at Billingsgate was in trouble due to the death of my English grandfather Albert who was running it. This necessitated the quick return of my father from Germany (1956).

The rest of the story - well that will be the subject of another article soon.

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