|Date of birth:||1893|
|Place of birth:||Southampton|
|Regiment / Division:||Hampshire Regiment|
|Battalion:||2nd battalion HQ convoy|
|Died:||6th November 1918 aged 25 years|
The enlistment and service documents for Bertie Sonley have not survived. In WW1 he served as a Lance Corporal in the Hampshire Regiment (service number: 29574).
He entered a theatre of war with 2nd Battalion, Hampshire Regiment at some point after the beginning of 1916. The 2nd battalion had transferred to the Western Front from Gallipoli in March 1916. They served on the Somme, in the Ypres Salient and Arras, Cambrai, Lys and the advance on the Rhine.
The 2nd battalion Hampshire Regiment War Diary has the following entry for 26th March 1918:
‘A quiet day on the whole. battalion HQ at MUIR LODGE was shelled for two hours with 8 inch, 5.9 inch and 4.2 inch howitzers. No direct hit was obtained but hits were registered all round and the pill box was made to rock. At 10.55pm, just as we were being relieved by the 1st Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the enemy dropped a light barrage behind our front and support lines and there was some gas shelling round battalion headquarters resulting in 4 casualties sick to hospital.’
According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Private Sonley was serving with HQ Company when he died. The incident on this day (March 26th 1918) seems to fit in with the other evidence.
According to The Hampshire Regimental Journal of June 1918 Pte B Sonley is at home ‘sick’ at the War General Hospital, Manchester. It is likely that he would have been sent to any hospital that would take him, they would not necessarily be sent to one near home. The Casualty Ledger states that he was ‘shell gassed’ and arrived at the hospital on 4th April 1918.
Bertie Sonley died on 6th November 1918, aged 25. He is buried in Southampton old Cemetery in plot 109.
He was posthumously awarded the Victory medal and the British War medal in recognition of his services to his country and is inscribed on the cenotaph at Southampton “lest we forget”.
The silver British War Medal was awarded for service in World War One. Also called the British Empire campaign medal, it was sometimes irreverently referred to as ‘Squeak’. The bronze Victory medal, also called the Inter Allied Victory Medal was awarded to those who received the British War Medal. This medal was sometimes irreverently referred to as ‘Wilfred’.
Life before the war
Bertie Sonley was born in the winter of 1873 in Southampton, (GRO registration q4 volume 2c page 34), the 10th child of Robert Sonley (born in 1841 in Yorkshire) and his second wife Emily Charlotte nee Monger (born 1871) whom had married on 16th June 1889. Their marriage was registered in Southampton volume 2c page 79.
Robert Sonley married his first wife Mary Ann Munday (born in 1841 Longstock Hampshire) in 1871. They started their family immediately. The following 7children of Robert and Mary Ann are confirmed from parish records:
1. Robert William Charles Sonley was born on 18th December 1871. He died aged 17 months and was buried in Southampton Old Cemetery on 31st May 1873.
2. Robert and Mary had a still born child who was buried in Southampton Old Cemetery on 21st November 1872.
3. Ada Olive Sonley was born in 1875. In 1911 she was employed as a servant to a widow in Southampton. Ada Sonley died aged 78 years and was buried in Southampton Holybrook Cemetery on 26th June 1953.
4. George Henry Sonley was born on 18th March 1876. He died aged 79 in 1955.
5. Bertha Ann Sonley was born on 17th April 1878 and died aged 1 month. She was buried in Southampton Old Cemetery on 25th May 1878.
6. Thomas Richard Sonley was born on 30th August 1879 and died aged 69. He was buried in Southampton Holybrook Cemetery on 11th March 1949.
7. William Alfred Sonley was born in 1882. He died aged 68 years and was buried in Southampton South Stoneham Cemetery on 10th January 1950.
Mary Ann Sonley died aged 47 on 30th September 1887. She was buried in the family grave in Southampton Old Cemetery. Widowed with half a dozen young children Robert Sonley married 17 year old Emily Lucy Moger ‘the girl next door’ at Southampton Registry office on 16th June 1889. The residence at the time was 122 Bevois Street, Southampton. On the marriage certificate Emily stated she was 20 years old! The marriage was witnessed by Emily’s sister and Brother-in-law Thomas and Elizabeth Forbes nee Moger.
The following 7 children of Robert and Emily are confirmed from parish records:
8. Mabel Emily Louisa Sonley was born on 28th September 1889. She was indentured as a dressmaker in Above Bar in 1903 aged 14 for two years. In 1914 she married Arthur Anteney (known as George). Mabel Anteney died in 1992 aged 102.
9. Edith Louisa Sonley (known as Dora) was born on 13th February 1891. In 1915 she married Claude Masterson. Edith Masterson died aged 100 in 1992.
10. Bertie Robert Sonley was born in 1893.
11. Leslie Charles Sonley was born 26th December 1895. He served in the war and recuperated in Manchester hospital. In 1947 he married Olive (Strugnell nee Moore) whose previous marriage in 1922 to Frederick T Strugnell had been annulled. Although Olive had two sons with Frederick the Sonleys had no children of their own. Leslie died aged 74 in 1970.
12. Winifred Lena Marion Sonley was born 23rd March 1900. She remained a spinster (her intent to marry a Catholic man was refused by her mother Emily). Winifred died aged 88 in 1988.
13. Gladys Maud Sonley was born on 8th December 1902. In 1928 she married John Leonard Moore. Gladys Moore died aged 69 on 12th July 1972.
14. Gordon John Hoole Sonley was born in 1906. He never married and lived with his two older sisters Winifred and ‘Dora’ in Athelstan Road. He died aged 76 and was cremated on 9th March 1983. His ashes are interred in Southampton Old Cemetery.
In 1881 Robert Sonley a harness maker, his wife Mary and three young children lived at 122 Bevois Street, Southampton. In 1891 Robert Sonley (still a harness maker) and his young wife Emily were living at 16 Coleman Street. Next door were Emily’s parents and siblings. In 1901 the family lived at 90 Bevois Street. Robert was still employed as a harness maker. In 1911 the family still lived at 90 Bevois Street. Robert was employed as saddler. Aged 17 Bertie was employed a junior clerk.
His father Robert Sonley died aged 78 on 21st February 1919. His mother Emily Sonley died aged 69 on 25th January 1948 and is also buried in Southampton Old Cemetery with her husband, son Bertie and Robert’s first wife Mary Ann.
The family grave marker in Southampton Old Cemetery is inscribed:
In ever loving memory of Cpl Bertie R Sonley Hants Regiment son of Robert and Emily Sonley died from gas poisoning November 6th 1918 aged 25
also Ann Sonley died September 30th 1887
also Robert beloved husband of Emily Sonley died February 21st 1919
also Emily Lucy wife of Robert Sonley died January 25th 1948.
Researched by DHW – 28th July 2013. With grateful thanks for family information and treasured photographs from Katherine Anteney.
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