Leonard Ernest Dolley and Herbert George Dolley were brothers who had the misfortune to be the first and second Hertfordshire Police Officers to make the ultimate sacrifice in the Great War.
They were both born in Hertingfordbury. Herbert, also known as Bertie, was the eldest of the two and was born in 1887, Leonard was born six years later in 1893.
Their father was Frederick Thomas Dolley, who was employed as a gardener, and their mother was Mary Ann and they had eight children. They were Frederick Charles, Emily Ann who died aged 5 in 1882, Nahum, Rose Ellen, Thomas, Herbert, Alice Caroline who died aged 4 in 1894 and Leonard.
At the time of the 1891 census the whole family were living at Cole Green. In 1900, at the young age of 49, their mother Mary Ann died. During the 1901 census their father was still living in a cottage at Cole Green and looking after the surviving 6 children. However, on 8th September 1903 he re-married to a Sarah Jane Pellet at Hertingfordbury. By the time of the 1911 census Frederick and Sarah were living at 27, Keyfield Terrace, St Albans with Thomas.
Herbert George Dolley – Early Military Service.
In the 1901 census Herbert was recorded as being aged 13 and working as a Cow Boy so it is perhaps surprising that he was Attested on 10th December 1902 as Private 4415 in the Hertfordshire Militia serving with the Bedfordshire Regiment. On enlistment he supplied the following information:
He gave his correct name and address and stated that his employers name was a Mr Tart of Hertford and his occupation was a Milkman. He gave his age as being 17 years 1 month whereas he was in fact only just 15. He went on to say that he was not an apprentice, that he was not married, had never been sentenced to imprisonment and was not already a member of the military or had previously served in the military.
Lied About His Age.
In answer to the question, “Have you ever been rejected as unfit for the military?” he replied, “Yes under age for the Army”. Clearly this indicates that this was at least his second attempt at enlisting and, having been rejected for being under age on a previous occasion, he had learned his lesson and this time he had lied about his age.
He had been medically examined at Bedford on the 8th December 1902 and found to be fit for Military Service. The following was recorded:
Apparent age: 17 years 1 month. Height: 5 feet 8 8/10 inches. Weight 131lbs. Minimum Chest measurement: 32 inches. Maximum chest measurement: 35½ inches. Complexion: Fresh. Eyes; Grey. Hair: Flaxen. Religion: Church of England. Marks: Round scar inside right forearm and linear scar behind left elbow.
He gave details of his next of kin as being his father Frederick and older brother also named Frederick both of Cole Green, Herts.
Under his Statement of Service, the following is recorded:
On being Attested he was Posted to the 4th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment and completed 49 days of drill. Then on 4th May 1903 he was marked absent and then on 5th July 1903 he was struck off as a deserter. The next entry on the 15th March 1904 shows that he had been apprehended and taken on the strength. However, on 19th March his Court Martial Trial was suspended by the order of the General Officer Commanding 10th Division, 4th Army Corps. He was then Discharged as totally unfit for further service on 22nd March 1904.
This coincides with the time that it is believed that he enlisted into the Royal Garrison Artillery which might explain why his trial was suspended but, as his Army Service Record has not survived, it remains only a possibility.
The Royal Garrison Artillery.
At the end of the 19th century the Royal Garrison Artillery, which was part of the Royal Artillery, was divided into 3 Divisions;
The Eastern Division, HQ at Dover. Depot companies at Dover and Great Yarmouth.
The Southern Division, HQ at Portsmouth. Depot companies at Gosport and Seaforth (near Liverpool).
The Western Division, HQ at Devonport. Depot companies at Plymouth and Scarborough.
The family understand when he enlisted, he was posted to Great Yarmouth. However, it would seem likely that he was at some time posted to the Western Division at Plymouth which could explain how he met his future wife who was born and lived in Devon. After 3 years’ service he transferred to the Reserve for a further 9 years.
Herbert George Dolley – Police Service.
His Police Service record has not survived but the following is known from General Orders. In General Order 34 of 18th December 1907 it was announced that PC 29 E Dolley was appointed on 23/11 per week from the 21st November 1907. It did not state where in E Division he was stationed but most new probationary Constables would be posted to a Divisional Station, which in the case of E Division would have been Hitchin, so they could be closely monitored during their first few months.
General Order 17 of 29th May 1908 announced that PC Dolley 29 E would receive an increased rate of pay with effect from 7th May 1908 from 23/11 to 25/8 per week.
On the 15th April 1909 at Hertingfordbury, Bertie George Dolley, shown as a Police Constable, married Emma Cocks born in Weston Mills, Devon.
General Order 37 of 14th December 1909 announced that with effect from 18th November 1909 PC Dolley 29 B would receive a pay increase from 25/8 to 26/10 per week. The important fact to note here is that Herbert has now been posted to B Division, but it does not state in which town. The reason for his transfer may be connected with his marriage in that as a single man he would either have been living at a Police Station or in lodgings, where as a married man he would have been provided with a Police house.
Herbert and Emma had 4 children of which the first three were all born in Bishops Stortford. They were Herbert George born 07/02/1910, Thomas James born 1911 and Phyllis Mary born 1913.
In General Order 2 of 13th January 1910 instructions are given to dozens of Police officers in connection with the General Election of January 1910. Voting was carried out over several days and schedules were drawn up detailing where and when officers would perform duty. The following excerpt refers to Herbert.
Return of Officers and Men detailed for duty in the Eastern or Hertford Division on Wednesday 19th January 1910.
Div. Rank No. Name Station Place for Duty
B PC 29 Dolley B.G. Bishops Stortford Gilston
Return of Officers and Men detailed for duty in the Northern or Hitchin Division on Friday 21st January 1910.
Div. Rank No. Name Station Place for Duty
B PC 29 Dolley B.G. Bishops Stortford Hitchin
Return of Officers and Men detailed for duty in the Western or Watford Division 27th January 1910.
Div. Rank No. Name Station Place for Duty
B PC 29 Dolley B.G. Bishops Stortford Watford
This Order confirms for the first time that Herbert was stationed at Bishops Stortford.
The 1911census shows Bertie Dolley, a Police Constable, his wife Emma with sons Herbert and Thomas living at 140, South Street, Bishops Stortford. The Electoral Rolls from 1912 to 1914 also list Bertie George Dolley as living at the same address.
Published on the 24th May 1913 in the Hertfordshire Mercury was the following story of local interest in Bishops Stortford.
“An Airedale terrier belonging to PC Dolley became mad on Saturday afternoon and for over half an hour caused much excitement in South Street and New Path. Foaming at the mouth it snapped at every person it met, but fortunately did not bite anyone, and flew at several windows. It ran into Mr Dixon’s grocery shop and stampeded the customers and eventually entered a stable at the Jolly Brewers beer house. The door was promptly shut, and Mr. H.P. Matthews of the Graperies mounted to the roof and after removing some tiles shot the animal through the opening.”
Although the Electoral Rolls still show Herbert living in Bishops Stortford in 1913 and 1914 his youngest child Ivy May was born at Hitchin on 4th April 1914. There is no suggestion that the incident with his dog resulted in him being transferred but the fact that Ivy was born in Hitchin indicates that he had indeed been moved, possibly to Kings Walden as can be seen from the following newspaper article.
Asleep In Charge.
Published on 13th September 1913 in the Hertfordshire Mercury.
“At the Hitchin Petty Sessions on Tuesday, Harry Clark, drayman, of Ashwell, was summoned by PC Dolley for riding asleep while in charge of a horse and cart at Kings Walden on August 27. Defendant pleaded guilty, and in reply to the Bench said that he did not finish work the night before the offence until 12 o’clock, and was out again at 4.30 – PC Dolley deposed that in consequence of complaints from cyclists he cycled after the defendant finding him fast asleep on the top of the brewer’s dray. The offence occurred at 4.20 in the afternoon. Defendant was fined including costs, the Chairman warning him of the seriousness of the offence.”
Being an Army reservist when War was declared, Herbert was re-called back to his regiment on 4th August 1914. Strangely his name does not appear on a list of Constables who were recalled to the Colours which was published in General Order 118 of 21st July 1915.
Herbert George Dolley – War Service.
Herbert was a gunner with the 48th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery which were stationed near Brighton prior to embarkation from Southampton.
As Gunner 19963 he was in France as part of the 3rd Division of the British Expeditionary Force supporting the French Army around Mons. His battery consisted of four of only sixteen heavy guns (sixty pounders) the British Expeditionary Force had in France at that time.
Herbert Saves A Comrade’s Life.
Included in the Army Service Record of Gunner 25890 Maurice James Peck, Royal Garrison Artillery, is a report which includes evidence given by Herbert:
“About 9.30 a.m. on the morning of August 3rd, 1915 I was at work in the cook house of the battery position when I heard someone shout “Come on man Peck has cut his throat” or words to that effect. I immediately ran to where Gunner Peck was lying. He was lying face downwards and bleeding very much from the throat. I at once turned him on his back and applied digital pressure to the carotid artery to stop the bleeding. I told the medical orderly to get bandages and I bandaged his throat up and kept pressure on the arteries till the Medical Officer arrived. While I was bandaging him up, he said, “You are doing me a bloody bad turn get a rifle and shoot me,” or words to that effect. He appeared to me quite sober, there was no smell of drink about him and the evening before he was quite sober and was kicking a football about with the rest of us.” Signed B.G. Dolley.
On 23rd August 1915 Peck was admitted to the Napsbury War Hospital for treatment for neurasthenia with depression. He recovered and survived the war.
As previously stated, Herbert’s Army Service Record has not survived, but his Medal Rolls and Medal Rolls Index Card show that he landed in France on 7th August 1914 and later died of wounds. He was awarded the 1914 Star and the British War medal and Victory medal. An application was made on 1st December 1933 by his son Herbert of The Green, Higher St. Budeaux, Plymouth for his medals and his Clasp and Roses.
The UK Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 shows that Herbert George Dolley authorised that his effects were to go to his widow Emma.
From his entry in Soldiers died in the Great War 1914-1919 we know Herbert George Dolley, was born at Hertingfordbury, was living at Hertford and enlisted in London as Gunner 19963 in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He died of wounds on 25th December 1915 in France and Flanders.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records: In Memory of Gunner H. G. Dolley 19963, 48th Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery who died on 25 December 1915 Age 29. Son of Frederick Thomas and the late Mary Ann Dolley, of Cole Green, Hertford, Herts. Husband of Emma Dolley, of The Green, St. Budeaux, Devonport, Devon. Remembered with Honour Louvencourt Military Cemetery Plot 1, Row C, Grave 24.
On 25th February 1916 Superintendent Richard Taylor Foster, of the Constabulary Office, Bishops Stortford wrote to Bertie’s widow Emma:
Mrs Dolley, 6, North Prospect, Ford near Devonport.
Dear Madam, The Sergeants and Constables of the ‘B’ Division and myself wish to express our deepest sympathy in the sad loss of your dear husband, at the same time we are all proud to think he died a brave man fighting for his country. During the time he was stationed at Bishops Stortford I always found him to be a most reliable, trustworthy officer, and was one who had gained the greatest respect by the inhabitants generally. We all hope you may have good health and strength to bear up your sad trouble and may you have success in life with regard to your children.
I am, Madam, yours most respectfully R.T. Foster Superintendent.
Published in February 1916 in the Hertingfordbury War Record was an article which included copies of two letters that a Mrs Leslie had received.
We learn with great regret that Gunner Herbert Dolley was killed on Christmas Day last. He died the death of a brave and noble hearted man. Mrs Leslie has received the following letter from him, written the day before.
Dear Madam, I am writing to thank you and the school children of Hertingfordbury for the parcel which I received quite safely. I was greatly touched when I opened it and saw who it was from, and I shall treasure that little card very much; it brought back to my mind the many happy days I spent at Birch Green Schools with my school chums, some of whom, I know have given their lives for their country.
Mrs Leslie has also received the following letter dated January 4, 1916 from Captain Rupert B. Peters R.A. 48th Heavy Battery.
Dear Mrs Leslie, I am enclosing a letter and card from Gunner Dolley. The latter was, I think, meant for you. I am exceedingly sorry to say that he was killed by a shell on Christmas Day. He was my groom and one of the best of fellows, besides being a good soldier, and I thought you would probably care to have the card back.
Gunner Dolley gave his life in trying to save two men who were asleep in a barn. He left the cellar in which he had taken cover to wake these men up, but a shell hit the building while he was there and killed all three. I am exceptionally sorry about it because he was a man I liked immensely, and I understand he has a wife and four children.
When Herbert died his wife Emma and their four young children were living in Plymouth. His two sons were sent to The Duke of York’s Royal Military school as the sons of a fallen soldier and his two daughters went into service as soon as they were old enough. Emma married again and went on to have three more children.
Death of Two Herts Constables In The War.
Published on 23rd January 1916 in the Hertfordshire Mercury.
Two members of the Herts Constabulary both brothers, PC Bertie George Dolley who was stationed at Bishops Stortford, and PC Leonard Dolley who had been stationed at Hatfield, have both gallantly laid down their lives for their country’s cause. Both were reservists and were called up at the outbreak of the war. Leonard, who was in the Scots Guards, was
killed in France soon after reaching the front, and Bertie belonging to the RGA was wounded on Christmas Day and died on Boxing Day. Both were natives of Cole Green, and have died in the prime of manhood, being under the age of 30. Leonard was unmarried but Bertie leaves a widow and four young children under the age of 7. The death of the latter was recorded in last week’s obituary notices.