World War 1

Search the known records to date of those lost from the wider Alnwick area in World War 1

Generally showing where they are commemorated, when they died and some basic facts about each person. There are gaps, however, so if you can fill in any missing details do please contact us.

John Edward (N.B. Real forename, William) Grey (N.B. Alias, real name Cole)

John Edward (N.B. Real forename, William)

Grey (N.B. Alias, real name Cole)


Service Number:


Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 6th (Caernarvonshire & Anglesey) Battalion Territorial Force



Embleton (Spitalford) Cemetery, Northumberland

Service History:
As John Edward Grey, Cole enlisted in the Border Regiment at Carlisle in August 1915 when he was 38.

In September 1916 the 6th Garrison Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers was raised at Aintree, Liverpool. Such battalions were usually formed with men too old or too unfit for front-line service. It can only be assumed Cole / Grey met the criteria & was transferred to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

In October 1916 it's known he visited Embleton, staying for 3 nights with a William Robert (a Quarryman). At about 20:45 on the evening of 13 October he left intending to catch a train to Liverpool where his battalion was stationed.

On the following Saturday (17/10) a John Robertson found the body of Cole / Grey hanging beside a hay stack at Stamford Farm. By some means the Police established his next-of-kin & his wife, Sarah, identified the body as Cole / Grey as she recognised the verses of poetry found on the body as his. An inquest held in Embleton on 27 October found that he committed suicide.
(Source: 'The Fallen of Embleton 1914-1919'; Written & researched by Terry Howells, Mary Kibble, & Monica Cornall; pp. 19-21)

The grave of William Cole is situated in the graveyard at Spitalford, Embleton. As far as is known Cole was not born in Embleton nor was he educated there, nor did he live there. The headstone was erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

After the First World War ended, the relevant service authorities supplied the CWGC with all their casualty information including next of kin, etc. A 'Final Verification Form' was sent to next-of-kin to confirm the casualty's personal details, fill in any blanks &, where applicable, provide a personal inscription for the headstone. Due to the sheer size of the task this took many years to complete & was still underway in the 1930's. By the end, over 1 million forms had been sent out.

In the case of William Cole, it would appear the CWGC did not manage to contact his next-of-kin & his details were provided by the military authorities who were aware of his use of John Edward Grey as an alias. The authorities were often aware of men signing up & using assumed names. They had a procedure in place to amend a man's service documents, & it was his choice as to which name, he continued to be known by.

William Cole was born in 1876 at Moor House, Durham. His father, Matthew, was, in 1871, a Foreman with the North East Railway Company, living in Railway Terrace, York, with his wife Elizabeth (née Turnbull) but later (1881) was employed as a Steam Boats' Engineer, & in 1891 he was a Grocer in York.

Cole had an older sister, Kate (b. about 1872), who eventually became a Dressmaker.

In 1901 Cole (known as Willie) was boarding at Stockton-on-Tees & working as a Joiner's Labourer. Later that year he married Sarah Elizabeth Wilkinson in York where they set up house. They had four children - Kathleen; William; Harold; & Charles, the last being born in 1908. Cole left his wife in 1909. In 1911 she was living with their children in York & working as a Domestic Laundress.

There is no sign of Cole in the 1911 Census. It appears he adopted the name John Edward Grey to avoid his wife & creditors.
(Source: 'The Fallen of Embleton 1914-1919'; Written & researched by Terry Howells, Mary Kibble, & Monica Cornall; pp. 19-21)

Local Memorial:
Embleton, Spitalford Cemetery (headstone)