Eric Martin (Dick) SOLLING

Poppy

SOLLING, Eric Martin

Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 3 September 1914, Kensington, New South Wales
Last Rank: Second Lieutenant
Last Unit: 2nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Hexham, New South Wales, 21 August 1893
Home Town: Maitland, Maitland Municipality, New South Wales
Schooling: West Maitland Superior Public School
Occupation: Optician
Died: Killed in Action, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, aged 21 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
No known grave
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Lone Pine Memorial to the Missing, Wallalong War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

3 Sep 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, SN Officer, Kensington, New South Wales
18 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 2nd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
18 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 2nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Suffolk, Sydney
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli

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Biography contributed by Yvonne Fletcher

2nd Lieutenant Eric Solling

 

Born:                               21 August 1893

Age

(Enlistment):               21years

 Age

(Death):                       21years 8 months

Occupation:                   Optician

Description:                   5’ 9” 175cm

                                     139lbs 63kg

                                      Fresh complexion, brown eyes and hair

Religion:                        Church of England

 Enlisted:                       17 August 1914

 Unit:                           2nd Battalion

Departed Australia:     18 October 1914

KIA                             25 April 1915

Medals:                       1914-15 Star

                                   British War Medal

                                    Victory Medal

 Eric was also known to his family as Richard or Dick, and was the youngest of nine children born to John and Jane Solling (nee West) in August 1893 The family previously resided in the Orange district of Central NSW before moving to the Newcastle/Maitland area, where he attended West Maitland Superior Public School

 At 21 years of age in 1914 Eric Solling had an established family life and a career.  He listed his occupation as optician and had undertaken a three year apprenticeship with Stewart Mitchell in Newcastle.

 Eric married Veronica Mary Wilkinson (Vera) of Lorn, West Maitland prior to enlisting in 1914.  The pair already had a child, a son known as Bert, who had been registered under his maternal grandmother’s name Agnes Wilkinson.

 Once war was declared, Eric was quick to enlist signing his attestation papers on the 17th August 1914 at Kensington in Sydney.  He had already undertaken six years of military training with the Citizen forces, four as an NCO and the last two as a commissioned officer with the 14th Infantry in Maitland.  Eric was not the only member of the family to join the call to serve.  His sister Wilhemina (Minnie) joined the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service Reserve and in 1915 his older brother Reginald also enlisted.

 Upon enlistment Eric was placed with the 2nd Battalion, he made application for a commission and based on his previous military experience received the rank of 2nd Lieutenant on the 3rd September 1914.  Also serving with the 2nd battalion were local men Major Scobie and Lieutenant Heugh.

The battalion sailed on the 18th October 1914 aboard A23 ‘Suffolk’ arriving Egypt on the 8th December 1914.  Eric completed the sea journey and the training in the dessert without mishap.

On the evening of the 24th April 1914 sleep came to very few.  Eric as part of C Company 2nd Battalion was on board the ‘Derfflinger’. Crowded together just before dawn the men of the 2nd saw a sudden flash of light.  Then came the rifle shots, followed by bursts of machine-gun fire, which finally developed into sustained fire all along the line.  Little did these men realise they were witnessing history being made and that soon they would write themselves and their new country into that history. 

Orders had arrived the previous evening that the 1st Brigade were to be held as Divisional Reserve. They would be committed as required, by the circumstances of the 3rd Brigade.

 The 2nd Battalion would land with a strength of 31 officers and 937 other ranks.  Orders were given that every man would carry a full pack, supplemented by a bundle of sticks or boards for firewood.  Packs by this time weighed about 70 pounds (approx 32kg).

 A and D companies were the first to disembark followed by B and C.  They clambered awkwardly down the rope ladders to the waiting destroyer ‘Usk’. They were under continuous fire from the heavy batteries on shore the whole time.

 About 500 yards (457m) from the shore, in face of heavy shell, and machine-gun fire, the 2nd battalion were transferred to small boats which had been drawn alongside.  The small craft were now towed by naval pinnacles, three boats to a tow, and forty men to each boat.  The small boats became slow moving targets to the heavy shrapnel and machine-gun fire.  Fortunately, most of the boats reached the beach with few casualties.

 As soon as the boats grounded men jumped into the water and waded ashore, forming up under the lee of the hills.  Once there they sat down to await orders.  It is here that Eric and the rest of the men of the 2nd Battalion would have their first grim glimpse into the horrors of warfare, as they witnessed the dead and injured of the 3rd Brigade lying around them. 

 The whole of the 2nd battalion were landed by 09.30.  However, they waited on the beach until 11.00 for their orders to arrive.  During this period of inactivity they had to endure the constant shelling and sniper fire crashing and zinging around them.  Details of what happened as they moved up the hills from the beach are sketchy.

 The official unit history records that by 16.00 on the afternoon of the 25th many of the officers of 2nd Battalion were either dead or wounded.  C company sustained 2 officers killed and one wounded.  The history does not record the circumstances of Eric Solling’s death.  Unfortunately, due to the ferocious fighting that day his body lay were he fell and it was never recovered.

Back in Lorn, twenty one year old Vera Solling was informed of her husband’s death in a telegram on the 5th May 1915 from the Secretary of Defence Melbourne. 

 At around the same time, Eric’s sister Minnie cabled Vera with news that Eric was not dead but had a leg wound[12].  How Minnie obtained her information is uncertain.  Vera immediately cabled the defence department for confirmation stating that “uncertainty dreadful.” 

 What ensued was an agonising wait for the family as cables were sent back and forth between Vera, Nurse Solling and the Army.  However on the 2nd June 1915 Vera’s worse fears were realised, the Army had made no mistake and her Eric was confirmed dead.

 It is interesting to note that Reg his older brother enlisted on the 19th May 1915 just 14 days after the news of Eric’s death.  Was it this news that pushed him towards enlistment?  We will never know. 

Reg served with the 5th Field Artillery Brigade in France and returned in 1919, he was discharged medically unfit. 

 Sister Solling, known as 'Minnie', served during the entire First World War with Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Reserve, gaining a Mention in Despatches in 1916 and the Royal Red Cross for her bravery.

Vera moved to Sydney at the end of the war and married William O’Toole in 1929 at the age of 36.

Little is known of their son Bert.  Hopefully, he wore his father’s medals proudly and marched in remembrance each ANZAC day.  No doubt he would have reflected on his and his family’s loss every time he did.

Eric Sollings name was inscribed on the Lone Pine Memorial.  His name is also found on Memorial Panel 34 at the Australian War Memorial.  Locally his name was recorded along with his sisters on the Bowthorne - Wallalong war memorial, the Maitland Citizen Memorial and St Mary’s Church of England Honour Roll Maitland.

 


Information relating to the movement of the 2nd Battalion taken from Frederick William Taylor and Timothy Arthur Cusack Nulli secundus: a history of the Second Battalion, A.I.F., 1914-1919

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