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George Sollitt

On the morning of 22 September, Aboukir and her sisters, Cressy and Hogue, were on patrol without any escorting destroyers as they had been forced to seek shelter from bad weather. The three sisters in line abreast, about 2,000 yards (1,800 m) apart, at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). They were not expecting submarine attack, but they had lookouts posted and had one gun manned on each side to attack any submarines sighted. The weather had moderated earlier that morning and Tyrwhitt was en route to reinforce the cruisers with eight destroyers.

U-9, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Otto Weddigen, had been ordered to attack British transports at Ostend, but had been forced to dive and take shelter from the storm. On surfacing, she spotted the British ships and moved to attack. She fired one torpedo at 06:20 at Aboukir that struck her on the starboard side; Captain John Drummond thought he had struck a mine and ordered the other two ships to close to transfer his wounded men. Aboukir quickly began listing and capsized around 06:55 despite counterflooding compartments on the opposite side to right her. By the time that Drummond ordered "abandon ship" only one boat was available because the others had either been smashed or could not be lowered because no steam was available to power the winches for the boats.

As Hogue approached her sinking sister, the ship's captain, Wilmot Nicholson, realized that it had been a submarine attack and signalled Cressy to look for a periscope although his ship continued to close on Aboukir as her crew threw overboard anything that would float to aid the survivors in the water. Having stopped and lowered all her boats, Hogue was struck by two torpedoes around 06:55. The sudden weight loss of the two torpedoes caused U-9 to broach the surface and Hogue '​s gunners opened fire without effect before the submarine could submerge again. The cruiser capsized about ten minutes after being torpedoed as all of her watertight doors had been open and sank at 07:15.

Cressy attempted to ram the submarine, but did not hit anything and resumed her rescue efforts until she too was torpedoed at 07:20. She too took on a heavy list and then capsized before sinking at 07:55. Several Dutch ships began rescuing survivors at 08:30 and were joined by British fishing trawlers before Tyrwhitt and his ships arrived at 10:45. The combined total from all three ships was 837 men rescued and 62 officers and 1,397 enlisted men lost. Of these, Aboukir lost a total of 527 men.  Among these was George, his body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Naval Memorial at Chatham

The disaster shook public opinion in Britain, and the reputation of the Royal Navy worldwide. The surviving cruisers were withdrawn from patrol duties; Admiral Christian was reprimanded, and Drummond, who did not survive, was criticized by the resulting Inquiry for failing to take the anti-submarine precautions recommended by the Admiralty. He was however praised for his conduct during the actual attack. The 28 officers and 258 men rescued by the Flora were landed at Ymuiden and were repatriated on 26 September.
By contrast, Weddigen and his crew returned to a hero's welcome; Weddigen was awarded the Iron Cross, 1st class, while his crew each received the Iron Cross, second class. The reputation of the U-boat was established as a potent weapon of war. Future First Sea Lord, Dudley Pound, then serving as Commander in the dreadnought battleship St Vincent in the Grand Fleet, wrote in his diary on 24 September, "Much as one regrets the loss of life one cannot help thinking that it is a useful warning to us — we had almost begun to consider the German submarines as no good and our awakening which had to come sooner or later and it might have been accompanied by the loss of some of our Battle Fleet".

In 1954 the British government sold the salvage rights to all three ships to a German company and they were subsequently sold again to a Dutch company which began salvaging the wrecks' metal in 2011. There has been a good deal of diving on the site - a risky task as there is a considerable amount of live ammunition there.

George died on 22nd September 1914 and is commemorated in St Leonard’s Church and on the Town Memorial.

George William Sollit was born on 2nd December 1875 in Norton and his birth was registered in Malton.  He was the eldest son of William and Ruth (nee Sanderson) Sollitt, who married in the Malton area in the last quarter of 1875.

In 1881 the family were living in Gages Lane, off Town Street in Old Malton. William was working as a labourer in a brewery, either at the Crystal Brewery just by County Bridge or Russell’s Brewery which was where Morrison’s now is.

1881 Census – resident at Town Street, Gages Lane, Old Malton
SOLLITT, William, Head, Married, M, 29, Brewers Labourer, Norton Yorkshire,
SOLLITT, Ruth, Wife, Married, F, 22, , Old Malton Yorkshire,
SOLLITT, George W, Son, Single, M, 5, , Norton Yorkshire,
SOLLITT, Alice, Daughter, Single, F, 3, , Norton Yorkshire,
SOLLITT, Charlotte, Daughter, Single, F, 1, , Norton Yorkshire,

By 1891 the family had moved to Great Ouseburn and George had been promoted to Foreman Brewster, but George had left home.  

1891 Census – Resident at Langthorpe, Great Ouseburn, Yorkshire, England

William, Sollett, Head, Married, Male, 39, Foreman Maltster, Malton, Yorkshire, England

Ruth, Sollett, Wife, Married, Female, 31, -, Malton, Yorkshire, England

Alice, Sollett, Daughter, -, Female, 13, -, Malton, Yorkshire, England

Alfred, Sollett, Son, -, Male, 7, -, Malton, Yorkshire, England

Maud, Sollett, Daughter, -, Female, 2, -, Malton, Yorkshire, England

Rose, Sollett, Daughter, -, Female, 2, -, Malton, Yorkshire, England

Mary, Sollett, Daughter, -, Female, 1, -, Malton, Yorkshire, England

He was presumably on his way south to Chatham where he started his service in the Royal Navy on 24th June 1891 as Boy (2nd Class) on HMS Caledonia, a second-rate ship of the line built as HMS Impregnable in 1810, and re-named as Caledonia in 1891 when she was converted to a boys training / school ship moored at Queensferry in the Firth of Forth. During the ensuing two years his conduct is described as “Very Good” and he was promoted to Boy (1st Class), and on his eighteenth birthday, George signed on for a 12 year term in the Navy at Chatham. His record describes him as 5 foot 3 and three-quarter inches in height with light brown hair, light blue eyes and a ruddy complexion and sporting a tattoo on his left forearm. For the next year or so he served on HMS Sans Pareil as an Ordinary Sailor, achieving the rank of Able-Bodied Sailor in March 1895. HMS Sans Pareil was a Victoria-class battleship commissioned at Chatham on 8 July 1891 to take part in manoeuvres, and then went into reserve. She was posted to the Mediterranean Fleet in February 1892, serving on this station until April 1895 when she paid off and was named as port guard ship at Sheerness.

After a while ashore at shore bases Pembroke and Wildfire, George joined HMS Blenheim, a cruiser on the Channel Station in January 1896. During his time on her, HMS Blenheim was sent to the Canary Islands to re-patriate the body of  His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Battenberg , the son-in-law of Queen Victoria, who died from malaria while on active duty onboard HMS Blonde off Sierra Leone in 1896. Her Majesty Queen Victoria appointed the commanding officer Captain Edmund Poe to the fourth class of the Royal Victorian Order as a mark of appreciation for this service.  George served on HMS Blenheim until June 1898, and after a week ashore joined HMS Furious (shown in the photograph), an Arrogant-Class Protected Cruiser built in 1896 and on the Channel Station where he served until 1901.

From 1901 to 1904 he served on HMS Pegasus, a Pelorus Class protected cruiser commissioned in 1901 for the Mediterranean Station. The class proved thoroughly unsatisfactory and they were all condemned in 1904, presumably why George left her at that time, but they were reprieved and Pegasus finally was sunk during World War 1.

In 1905 having served his twelve year contract he joined the Royal Fleet Reserve at Chatham, and in the first quarter of 1908 he married Annie Watson in the Malton area.

However he re-enrolled in the Navy some five years later in 1910 when he joined HMS Aboukir. HMS Aboukir was built in 1900 and was assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet upon commissioning making two deployments there, 1902–05 and 1907–12. She was reduced to reserve when she returned home in 1912 and was assigned to the 7th Cruiser Squadron shortly after the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914. The squadron was tasked with patrolling the Broad Fourteens of the North Sea in support of a force of destroyers and submarines based at Harwich which protected the eastern end of the English Channel from German warships. During the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28 August, the ship was part of Cruiser Force 'C', in reserve off the Dutch coast, and saw no action.