Coles, Cecil Frederick Gottlieb

7 October 1888 to 26 April 1918.

War Service:
Sergeant (Bandmaster) 390653 CECIL FREDERICK GOTTLIEB COLES of 9th battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles) died of wounds on 26 April 1918.

He is buried in Crouy British Cemetery, Crouy-sur-Somme. His headstone bears the inscription ‘He was a genius before anything else and a hero of the first water’.

Location of Memorial:
He is remembered in the Book of Remembrance in St Saviour’s church, Forest Hill and on the QVR war memorial at its HQ in Davies St. w1.

He was born in Kirkudbright on 7 October 1888 the son of Frederick Renius and Margaret Neilson Coles. He was educated at Daniel Stewart College in Edinburgh and in 1905 won a music scholarship from Edinburgh University to study at London University. At this time he became a member of the Morley College Orchestra where he became friends with the composer Gustav Holst. Later both Holst and Coles were to teach at Morley College.

In 1908 another scholarship took Coles to Stuttgart and in 1911 he became assistant conductor of the Stuttgart Royal Opera House. He married his wife Phoebe in 1912 and after a short spell back in Stuttgart they returned to London to live at 11 Vancouver Road, Catford.

He enlisted in September 1914 but continued to compose while moving up the ranks to sergeant. In 1917 the officers of the battalion subscribed to buy instruments and as a practising musician and composer gave Coles the job of creating a band even though there were only two other members of the battalion who could play an instrument.

At this time he was working on an orchestral suite entitled ‘Behind the Lines.’ He sent the first movement, (spattered with mud - some say blood) to his friend Gustav Holst and with a shortened version of the third movement, these are the only parts of the score to survive. They were given a world premiere by the Scottish Symphony Orchestra in 1991.

In March and April 1918 the German army launched its last final push to try to drive the Allies into the sea before the newly arrived Americans could influence the war. The battalion came under heavy shellfire and the Battalion HQ and nearby Regimental Aid Post were badly hit, losing many of the stretcher bearers. It was while assisting here that Cecil Coles was mortally wounded.

The Scotsman

Contributed By: Andy Pepper

Do you have more information on this person or the memorial they are commemorated on? If so click here to contribute information.


by Local History and Archives Centre, Lewisham and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License