Date of birth: 27 August 1886
Date of death: 24 May 1915
Killed in action aged 28
No known grave
John Cecil was born at 20 Claremont Road, Child‘s Hill, London, the only son of John, a manufacturer of lace goods, and Helen Elizabeth Stollery (nee Bulleid).
Correspondence from the War Office shows his father as Colonel John Stollery,
First London Brigade, Royal Field Artillery but no other information has been found.
John was educated at Holland House School, Collesmore School in Hove, Brighton College 1901-1902, and came up to Christ Church in 1907. He graduated BA in 1910, was a member of the Inner Temple. and was called to the bar in 1911. In the 1911 census he was living in Hove with his parents, described as a Bar Student.
Having been in the Oxford University Rifle Volunteers Corps (which formed the basis of the Oxford University Officers’ Training Corps) for nearly a year, his papers applying to join the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps on 24 January 1913 explain, “I left on the corps being disbanded for the purpose of re-construction in the Territorial Force“. He was with the ICOTC for two years.
While living at 26 Walpole Street, Chelsea SW, John applied for a commission, stating “I have a good working knowledge of both French and German”. He was commissioned as a Probationary 2nd Lieutenant on 14 August 1914 in 5th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, joining them in Dover.
This was 5th (Reserve) Battalion, it did not see action but was used as a reserve from which officers and men were posted to fighting units - normally the Royal Fusiliers.
With 1st Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, on 22 August 1914, he embarked for France aboard SS Caledonia from Southampton, arriving in Boulogne that evening. He saw action at Le Cateau then joined the retreat to the Marne and the fighting there.
John was invalided home with neurasthenia (nervous exhaustion) on 16 November 1914 (the battalion was based at Houplines). On 4 December 1914 he was assessed as unfit to return, and awarded a further three weeks recovery time. On 17 December the Proceedings of a Medical Board state he was “suffering from nervous breakdown and sleeplessness due to shell fire in the trenches”. Passed fit on 28 December 1914, he immediately returned to France, attached to 3rd Battalion of his own regiment, the Royal Fusiliers. He was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant on 23 December 1914, and promoted to Lieutenant on 2 February 1915.
On 24 May 1915 the 3rd Battalion were to the south of the Ypres-Roulers railway line when the Germans launched a gas attack. The unit on their flank fell back and they were soon swamped, with “small islands of men” holding out. Despite the overwhelming numbers of the enemy they held the third line of defence. By the end of the day they had suffered 16 officer casualties, and total casualties of 536, the worst of any Royal Fusiliers battalion for one day during the entire war. From the Times announcement: "He fell whilst uttering words of encouragement to his men".
A telegram, sent to Mrs Stollery: “Deeply regret to inform you that Lt JC Stollery was killed in action May 25th. Lord Kitchener expresses his sympathy”.
A scrap of paper listed his effects:
1 identity disc
1 bundle of letters
1 Field Message Book and paper
1 pocket case of stationery
1 cheque book
There followed a drawn-out correspondence about his date of death. This was finally agreed as 24th, not 25th, May and “over-issued pay for one day, 8/6d” was taken off the final account settlement.
Probate was granted on 16 August 1915 to a chartered accountant.
John’s address was given as 47 Denmark Villas, Hove [the home of his parents] and 2 Cloisters, Temple. His Estate amounted to £614 9s 7d.
Lt Stollery is commemorated on the Menin Gate Panel 6 and 8. He is also commemorated on the Memorial at Hove Library who kindly allowed us to use the photograph.
Registered Charity Number: 1143423