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Eric Edward SOLLEY


Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Warrant Officer 2613 19y7m 30/03/15 27/09/19 1

Warrant Officer Eric Edward Solley  (1895 - 1964)   

Booklet

Family background

Eric Edward Solley was born in Toowoomba on 3 September 1895, the second son of William, a grocer, and Emma née Martin.   Eric had two brothers - the older named William, the younger named Owen.  The family worshipped at Saint Stephen's Presbyterian Church in Toowoomba and Eric's father was involved in church groups, South Boys' State School committee and lodges in the city.  

Schooling and early life

Eric attended Toowoomba Grammar School and in 1910 passed English, German, Latin, Arithmetic and Organic Chemistry in the Junior Public Examination conducted in those days by the University of Sydney.   On leaving school, Eric gained employment in the Toowoomba office of the AMP Society and trained in the senior cadets gaining non-commissioned rank in the Citizen Forces and the Toowoomba Rifle Club. 

Enlistment

He was only 19 years 7 months old when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 30 March 1915 to serve overseas in the Great War.   At a farewell function in his honour at the AMP Society office, the Manager and other senior officers made speeches and presented him with a wristlet watch.   A farewell social was also arranged by the Saint Stephen's Sunday School teachers when a gold-mounted fountain pen was given to him.  

Six feet (183 cm) in height, Eric Solley was a popular and well-known young man, even attracting comment in a Brisbane newspaper: 

"Eric Solley is another of the large batch of Toowoombaites seized with the desire to have a hand in the routing of Barmy Bill of Berlin.   Eric who is on the staff of the AMP at Toowoomba has been accepted at Enoggera". 

Service

He was appointed to the 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance at Enoggera Camp on 2 June 1915, given regimental number 2613 and rank of corporal wagon orderly.  Corporal Solley's unit embarked from Brisbane on His Majesty's Australian Transport Borda on 16 June 1915.  

School chums

While camped in Egypt, a Private Cochrane (who was an TGS old boy) sent news to friends at home in a letter dated 30 July 1915 saying:  "I am thankful to say I am back in the old Toowoomba tent once more, amongst my old chums."  He wrote on behalf of TGS old boys, mentioning in particular Eric Solley who had received a school magazine containing a list of all the old boys who had enlisted.  

Some of them were together at Tel-el-Kebir.  "The Egyptian climate seems to be alright.  The heat is nothing out of the ordinary although we would feel it a bit if we had to drill in the heat of the day.   We rise at 4.30 am, drill from 5.30 am till 8.20, then breakfast then off duty till 4.30 pm and drill from 4.30 till 6.30 pm.  We are waiting anxiously for our new uniforms, khaki shirt, short khaki trousers and puttees and a helmet."

Eric Solley's military service record notes he spent a short time in hospital with influenza at Heliopolis in mid-September 1915.  

Eric's diaries

Eric kept five small diaries relating to his AIF service in World War 1.   Most of the entries were written in pencil and were quite difficult to decipher after so many years but his son Keith Solley transcribed the diaries in 1975.  

His service in Egypt with the 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance was short. On 18 April 1916, Eric Solley noted in his diary: 

"Received word of vacancy in Divisional HQ staff"

and on 19 April he wrote,

"Had a typewriting test and was selected (2 competing).   Started mid-day in 5th Aust. Divisional Headquarters".

Posting to France

He was later posted to France arriving in Marseilles on 23 June 1916. While serving in France, he was promoted to sergeant in July 1916, to staff sergeant the following December and to temporary warrant officer class 1 in April 1917.  He then served as the Chief Clerk at 5th Australian Divisional Headquarters for 18 months when he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.  

The citation read: 

"For meritorious service and devotion to duty.  This N.C.O. has been with 5th Australian Divisional headquarters for 18 months and has carried out his responsible duties as Chief Clerk in a painstaking and thorough manner.  He has shown marked ability and powers of organisation and his work has been of exceptional value."

Eric Solley noted in his diary on 23 January 1918 that he was presented with his MSM ribbon by General Sir W. R. Birdwood. 

News of award reaches home

News of this honour was sent by letter to Eric's mother at her home in Herries Street, Toowoomba.  The letter referred to the publication of her son's award in the London Gazette dated 28 December saying that Regimental Sergeant Major EE Solley was awarded a meritorious service medal,

"... in recognition of valuable service rendered with the armies in the field during the present war".  

How proud she would have been to read of her son's conspicuous services as a member of the Australian Imperial Force!  At her son's request the medal was sent to her "for safe keeping against the time of his return."  Major McLean added, "and I trust he will be spared to wear it for many years to come."

Mrs Emma Solley acknowledged the receipt for the consignment from the Defence Department of one meritorious service medal as requested, adding beside her signature, "with many thanks".

Transfer to HQ in France

Warrant Officer Eric Solley was transferred to Australian Corps Headquarters in France after the Armistice in 1918.  On 14 December 1918 he wrote in his diary: 

"I am at present working with General Staff Clerks to learn the job." 

He also mentioned his accommodation

"in a large and beautifully furnished chateau"

and a visit to Headquarters by the Prince of Wales.  

Preparation for return to Australia

He moved to  Sutton Veny and Folkstone in England in April 1919 in preparation for his return to Australia per troopship Bremen on 5 June 1919.  His diary noted the departure had been postponed twice.  Other medals awarded to him were the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Post war

Eric Solley returned to his Herries Street home in Toowoomba where his parents still lived and resumed his career in the AMP Society as an assurance clerk. 

On 23 April 1921 at Saint Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Sydney he married Jessie Louise Thomson, fourth daughter of Mr and Mrs John Thomson of Chatswood.  Rev Alex Clark officiated.  

The couple returned to Queensland and settled at Garthleigh in Bowley Street, Clayfield which was to be their home for the rest of their lives.  Their children were Keith Eric and Margaret.  

Passing

Mrs Jessie Solley died on 8 February 1962 and  Eric Edward Solley died on 31 January 1964, aged 68 years.  He is honoured on one of the Rolls of  Honour in the old hall at Toowoomba Grammar School, St Stephen's Presbyterian Church Toowoomba and on one of the honour boards in the Merrington Anzac Memorial Peace Chapel at Saint Andrew's Uniting Church in Brisbane. 


References  
• National Archives of Australia, World War 1 military records   
• Australian War Memorial    
o embarkation rolls   
o honours and awards   
o unit histories  
• Darling Downs Gazette, 7 Feb 1914, page 6;  1 April 1915, page 4;  7 Sept  1915, page 5   
• Daily Standard, 6 May 1915, page 6 
• Truth, Brisbane, 11 April 1915, page 4 
• Sydney Morning Herald, 23 April, 1921  
• The Toowoomba Chronicle, 5 August 1915  

 

The author acknowledges the kind assistance of W. O. Solley's granddaughter, Ailsa Solley, who lives in Canberra.  


Compiled by Noel E. Adsett, Brisbane, March 2016.

 

 

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