207 Squadron RAF Association Visit - Monday May 9th 2005
CWGC Cemetery Leopoldsburg - Mike Solly - EM-M LL973

Pilot Officer Charles John 'Mike' Solly 173799 RAF(VR) was the pilot of Lancaster EM-M LL973, in which he was killed on the night of 21-22 June 1944, aged 22, in the attack on Wesseling, near Cologne. The CWGC record that he was initially buried at Dorne (near the crash site) and was re-buried in Leopoldsburg CWGC Cemetery, Belgium, grave VI.E.5 on 13 August 1946.

Charles, as he was known to his family - they presume Mike is a nickname he picked up in the RAF - was the son of Frederick Arthur and Charlotte Mary Solly; husband of Dorothy Jean Solly (known as Jean), of Romford, Essex.

He was the father of Janet, who sadly died before contact could be made with her when researching the crew. He had been in the insurance business, we think.

Further images of Charles Solly and his family can be seen via a Charles Solly photo Album, courtesy of his nephew Peter Charles Fagg. We are now (September 2006) in touch with Mike's son-in-law, grandchildren and some of his nephews and nieces. Mike's widow Jean remarried and had two children, with whom we are now in touch.

CJS age 21: source - Fagg

The Wireless Operator in the Solly crew, Frank R Haslam, wrote this recollection of Mike Solly towards the end of the war, after his return from evading capture in Belgium:

Pilot - Mike Solly

I first met Mike in an ablution (RAF for bathroom). I looked at him and thought 'what an intrepid type'. He looked really ill, but I found afterwards that his looks, which were always the same, were no advertisement for the courage and determination underneath. He stood about five feet six, of medium build and was crowned by a mop of long, lank blonde hair. He was an intellectual type, having had a good education, which was finished off by two years at Fairfax.

Being only twenty two, he hadn't had much time to establish himself in civvy street. He had been in the insurance business, but seemed to have no ardour for it as he never talked about it. Matrimony had crossed his path and he had a local girl (he lived in Romford) for a wife and as far as I could make out, he was perfectly contented.

By nature he was a 'Red' and very often he would expound his views most emphatically to the rest of us. He always said he'd make a lot of money one day and in obtaining it he'd have no scruples. Usually he was of a very quiet nature but he would spring to life occasionally and amuse us by his wit. No-one has so far explained why CJ was called 'Mike'.

Mike's niece, Val Harbridge has provided these snapshots:

Charles Solly when training (white flash in cap) at right,
next to Jean: others L-R Jean Solly snr (wife of CJ's brother Fred),
her mother and sister, then Charles' parents

L-R: brother Fred, parents, Charles Solly when
training (white flash in cap)

1963 Wedding of Janet, daughter of Jean and Charles
L-R: Ken Palmer (stepfather), Jennifer (step-sister), Jean, Roger Palmer

Jean Palmer (Charles' widow) some years
ago when in Great Chesterford)

Mr Al Smith, emailing from his home in Greece in 2003, as a boy listened to the stories told by Charles, the pilot whose parents lived next door:

"I was aged 11 in 1944. During some of the war years I lived with my Aunt Doll and Uncle Arthur in Larchwood Close, Collier Row, Romford. Our next door neighbours were Mr and Mrs Solly, together with their son, Charles. If the numbering followed the usual pattern it [their house] would have been number 21.

Charles was in the RAF and would visit us during his home leave and I would listen (we were squeezed around the Morrison shelter which dominated the living room) as he talked about his exploits and life in the service. I have a clear memory of him spending time with me in our back garden as we competed to see who could hurl lumps of clay the furthest with the aid of long sticks. Then I remember the awful sadness when he was reported missing ..."

Al contacted his cousin Pauline: "My cousin, Pauline, as I mentioned, she was born just before the end of the war while I was living with my aunt and uncle next door to Charles's parents. She just about remembers Mr and Mrs Solly, although they moved on when she was still very young. The main reason for remembering them was that her Mum - my Aunt Doll - often talked, even quite recently before she died last year, about Charlie the young boy next door who was in the RAF and went missing.

She remembers her describing how, over the period of several home leaves he went from a carefree youngster to a worried, chain-smoking, nervous man. And one incident which Aunt Doll often talked about was how she and Uncle Arthur had told Charles that something they really missed because of the war was bananas. On his next leave Charles presented them with a great hand of bananas and they were never able to discover where he had got them from. One thing that Pauline was sure about was that there was never a mention of a wife or children.

I can just about remember snatches of conversations that I eavesdropped on during Charles's leaves. Once he likened flying the aircraft to driving a bus and this had a great impact upon my young imagination. Another time he told the story of a crew member of a returning raid wrapping the wire of a damaged radio antenna around his leg and suffering the consequences when the trailing wire hooked on a tree on landing approach, which had an even greater impact on my imagination! Whether this occurred at Spilsby or elsewhere was not clear."

please click for larger image please click on the headstone image for a larger image (and when that comes up, put your cursor on it to activate the expansion button for an even larger one)

see Solly EM-M field for more information or click Solly crew link

the Navigator, John Shaw and Mid-Upper, Jacky Jewell, are buried in Heverlee CWGC

SOLLY, CHARLES JOHN Pilot Officer (Pilot) RAFVR 207 Sqdn. Age: 22 died 22/06/1944
Service No: 173799
Son of Frederick Arthur and Charlotte Mary Solly; husband of Dorothy Jean Solly, of Romford,
Grave/Memorial Reference: VI.E.5.
Lancaster EM-M LL973

Eddie Chapman, Bomb Aimer, addresses us before laying the wreath, held by Frank Haslam snr, the Wireless Operator.

Jill Chapman has a poppy cross ready to place at the grave.

Eddie lays Mike's wreath

Remembering with sadness and pride

The Chapmans and senior Haslams at Mike's grave

lingering, Eddie and Frank - a last goodbye to Mike?

The dedication on the wreath laid at 'Mike' Solly's grave

last update 29 July 2008
images unless otherwise stated: Haslam, Alkins