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Brentford Families - Cole

Richard Taylor (Secretary, Naval Historical Collectors & Research Association) writes about William Charles Cole DSM (Distinguished Service Medal, awarded in WW1), whose medals he has:
Set of 8 medals

The naming on the medals is as follows:

  • DSM - 203157 W C Cole Ldg Sea 'Cudwosin'
  • 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal - 203157 W C Cole LS RN
  • Defence Medal - Un-named as issued
  • Royal Fleet Reserve Long Service & Good Conduct Medal - 203157 (Po B2092) W C Cole, LS RN
  • National Fire Brigades Association Long Service Medal in silver - 4081 William C Cole
  • NFBA Long Service Medal in bronze - 8715 William C Cole

Is William Charles Cole part of your family tree? Please contact if you can help untangle the family trees: the fireman awarded the above medals and the two other local William Coles.

William Charles Cole - fireman, DSM

William Charles COLE served in the Royal Navy in WW1 and became a firemen (possibly a part-time volunteer) at Brentford. He was born in Chiswick on 3 March 1883, according to his RN papers, although I've not been able to trace a birth registered at that time, so he probably lied about his age when he joined as a boy in 1899.

I think I might have found William Cole (no middle name/initial) in the 1891 census, aged 6, born at Chiswick, the son of George and Sarah Cole at Cambridge Cottages, Kew. There were only two children - William and Lucy. The birth of a William Charles Cole was registered at Richmond Registration District, Surrey in the first quarter of 1885; Richmond RD includes Kew but not Chiswick, which is part of Brentford RD.

When he joined the Royal Navy as a lad in 1899 his civilian occupation was given as 'barge boy'.

In 1901 William was in the census as an Ordinary Seaman, serving in HMS Resolution, then at Gibraltar. George, Sarah and their daughter were at 4 The Gateway, London Road, Isleworth.


William left the Navy by purchase in 1907 and married Tina MASON at St Mary's church, Paddington in September that year. The marriage entry names his father as George Henry Cole, a barge builder. William's occupation was 'fireman' and he was living in Cannon Street in the parish of St Antholin's. He was 27, indicating be was born in 1879/80.

William and Tina had a son, William Rex Cole (1910). The 1911 census entry for William Chas Cole and his family - wife Tina and six-month-old son William Rex Cole - shows they were living at 1 St George's Court, Brentford. This looks like 'my' W C Cole but the ages are wildly different to any that might be calculated on the basis of their wedding details - his is given as 26, Tina's as 24. They are said to have been married four years, which checks out. His occupation 'fitter iron work' for the tramways co. (the firemen's job was possibly part-time, so the fact he had another job need not be unusual), birthplace Kew.

Confusingly, William and his sister Lucy are also recorded in their parents home at 12 London Road, Brentford End, both as 'married'. William is recorded as a 'tram cleaner', age 26, born Kew. 1907 and 1914 trade directories confirm George William Cole lived at 12 London Road.

He was recalled from the Reserve on the outbreak of war in August 1914 and served until he was demobbed in February 1919. His DSM was awarded for his work in the Mediterranean on escort work and anti-submarine patrols.

I found the death of a William Charles Cole in 1954, aged 69, at Portland. Wm Rex was an executor; it seems he was a ladies' hairdresser in Portland. All this is frustrating because I still can't be sure this is the family I'm interested in.

William was with the Brentford Brigade when he was awarded the National Fire Brigades Association service medals in 1927 and 1930. William Charles Cole is recorded in 1928, 1933 and 1938 trade directories at 279 High Street, opposite the fire station (but not in the 1940 directory).


Two anomalies
The marriage in 1907 seems likely to be the William Charles Cole later awarded medals for his fire service work as he gave his occupation as 'fireman'. It is also known that he was living in Brentford by 1911, the place associated with his fire service work.

However his father's name 'George Henry Cole and occupation barge builder on the 1907 marriage entry do not tally with the 1911 census and trade directory entries which name him as George William Cole and occupation as carman.

The incorrect middle name may be explained by the previous entry in the marriage register in which the bride's father was George Henry GORDON.

The wrong occupation is more difficult to explain: the marriage took place outside the groom's home so it is unlikely his father was known to the curate. Maybe William Charles was 'bigging-up' his father? Perhaps his father was a barge builder at some point? In 1899 William Charles Cole was a 'barge boy' which fits his father being a barge builder. However censuses show George William Cole was a general labourer in 1881 and a carman in 1891, 1901 and 1911. A generation further back it appears George William's father was Charles P Cole, a lighterman - so there was a connection to barges and an explanation of the grandson William's middle name Charles.


Two more William Coles

To add confusion two more William Cole marriages took place in Brentford Registration District in 1907:

  1. William Charles Cole married Florence PAGE in the Jan/Feb/March quarter
  2. William Cole married Ellen Mary HIGGINS in the July/August/September quarter

William Charles and Florence were living with his Page in-laws at 50 Colville Road South, Acton in 1911. He was a car man for the carrier company, Pickfords, and they had two children Dolly (3) and Henry (1).

William and Ellen Cole were living at 35 Frazer Street, Chiswick in 1911. They had been married four years, he was 26 and a carter for the tramway company. His birthplace was Chiswick and they had a daughter Ivy Lilian (3) and son Edward William (1) born in Shepherds Bush and Chiswick respectively. Boarding with the Cole family were widow Anne BROWN, a laundry assistant, 58 and (presumably her daughter) Jesse Amelia Brown who was a factory assistant at the soap company, age 15.


Page published September 2010