Henry Louis Selley was born in 1876, one of nine children to Richard and Mary Ann Selley. His father was an agricultural labourer and the family lived in Exminster, Devon.
Initially, Henry followed his father in becoming an agricultural labourer, but the military life seems to have sparked an interest. While Henry’s military records no longer exist, he is recorded as having completed 24 years’ service with the Royal Engineers at the time of his death. He would have enlisted, therefore, in around 1897, when he was about 21 years of age.
As to his duties while in the military, these can only be guessed at. He is intriguingly noted as Musician, although there is no documentation to expand on Henry’s role any further. There were many professional musicians in the army, and they performed table music, serenades, and home concerts, mainly for high-ranking officers.
Musician Selley’s role may also have to be set timing for marches, etc, although, again, this is purely speculation on my part, as there is no evidence to suggest this was the case.
Henry married a woman called Constance in 1905; she had been born in Devon, but there is no further information on her. The 1911 census records the young couple as living in a terraced house not far from the Royal Engineers Barracks, where Henry would have been based. The couple did not go on to have any children.
And there, Musician Selley’s trail goes cold. The next that he appears in any documentation is in 1921, when his army pension record confirms that he passed away. He had been admitted to the Royal Herbert Hospital in Woolwich with pulmonary tuberculosis, and succumbed to the disease on 26th May 1921. He was 45 years old.
Henry Louis Selley lies at rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent.