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

Solley WW1 Records

By Ian Sewell

This article was originally published in the December 2005 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society

With the completion of Solley the society has now copies of all the W363 & WO364 records available at the National Archives, Kew.


As in previous names there is a large number of Artillery and Royal Engineer records which again leads us to the thought that these records survived whilst those of the infantry did not. In fact my current project of recording all the WW1 Campaign medals has made it apparent that this is the case. However having said that there are a number of infantry records notably that of the Royal East Kent regiment or “The Buffs” of which there are 10 records out of the 90 total. This is of course natural given the concentration of the Solley name in Kent. Even more impressive is that of the 48 records where a birth place was given 12 were from Ramsgate and another 16 from other sites in Kent. In fact William Edward Benjamin Solley born and bred in Ramsgate was recorded as a Master Mariner and although over 40 years of age on enlistment went on to serve in the Royal Engineers – Inland Waterway Division, presumably in a similar capacity. One who was not born in Kent was Martin Solly who gives his birth place as Poland, Russia! Whilst he was in Kent when he joined Charles George Solly was living in New York, USA when he joined the Middlesex Regiment.


The soldiers served in all theatres of the war including Herbert Frank Solley who served in Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq. We know this as we have details of an inquiry that was held into a wound he received whilst opening a can of bully beef. The fact that this is recorded presumably means that he could not use his rifle and so an investigation would have been held to see if the wound was self-inflicted. Frederick Solley, a regular soldier of the Border regiment served over two years at the British mission in Vladivostock, Russia. Henry Hercules Solley was also regular soldier who served in South Africa but was discharged unfit on 12th October 1914. The cause was a disorder of the lungs which was attributed to his smoking five packets of cigarettes every week since he was a child.


Only 5 of the 90 records record the death of the soldier, the most touching was Albert George Solly who was killed in action on 11th February 1915. There are letters from his widow asking for the return of his effects especially a gold ring he wore and a Gladstone bag which held special meaning to her. Unfortunately the records do not say whether she obtained these items. Harold George Solley died on 2nd February 1919 from bronchitis and influenza, part of the great 1919 flu pandemic and although he was court martialled at least twice in his career he also performed a very brave act. On disembarking from his ship into France he noticed that a civilian woman had fallen from a pontoon into the water and he dived into the water fully clothed to save her. Luckily she was rescued by local fishermen but his courage was duly noted on his conduct sheet. The locals also seem to have remembered his actions because on 21st December 1929 a Silver Life Medal was awarded to his mother in honour of his actions.


Percy Solly’s request for campaign medals for his time in the Labour Corp was turned down as it was decided that digging graves did not constitute war service. George Frederick Morton Sooley also worked for the Labour Corps but was transferred there as an agricultural specialist – his civilian occupation being given as a labourer in a fruit garden.


Other noted individuals include William Solley from Edinburgh who was given 28 days field punishment for leaving the guardroom un-attended. This would not have bee too bad but this allowed one of the prisoners, who was about to be court martialled, to escape. Charles Wilfred Solly was captured in the last great German offensive and then spent the next 9 months in a POW camp before being re-patriated back to England.   


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