Alexander William Poll – cricketing headmaster

Alexander William Poll, Private 15/750, 1st Leeds Pals

Alexander William, who was known as Billy or Willie, was born in Huddersfield on July 1st 1892 to Edward Poll (described on the birth certificate as a commission agent) and his wife Mary Hannah (formerly Stephenson).  He had a sister Lillian born in 1885 in Morley and two brothers, John Stephenson Poll born in 1889, who only survived for two months and George Clifford, born in 1895 in Huddersfield. In the 1901 census Edward, Hannah, Billy and Clifford were living at 7 Ely Street in Armley. Edward is described in this census as a brush traveller.  It is probable that the family moved to Armley so that Lillian who was a registered blind person could attend Blenheim Walk Deaf and Dumb School.  Tragedy struck the family in 1901 when in November Hannah died.  She possibly suffered a stroke which caused her to collapse into the open fire and to be burned to death.  Billy was nine years old.  Further losses followed when Billy’s brother George Clifford died in 1904 and his sister Lillian in 1905. So in the 1911 census only Edward (now described as draper out of work) and Alexander William aged 18 and described as “at school” are listed. Alexander would have trained at the City of Leeds Training College then in temporary accommodation on Woodhouse Lane in buildings which had been the Leeds Girls’ High School.  In 1912 Alexander William passed the final examination of Students in Training Colleges and became a fully certificated Elementary School Teacher.  He was appointed to an elementary school in on May 22nd 1912 at a salary of £80 per annum.  Billy was also a member of Armley Cricket Club and later of Adel Cricket Club.

He was one of the early volunteers for the Pals, joining at the Town Hall on 5th September 1914.

Billy is wearing the white cricket shoes in both these photos taken at Colsterdale.



At Colsterdale during training he was in the camp guard.

alexander-on-guard-dutyDuring the war Willie/Billy sent home postcards to his sweetheart Hilda.  One posted on 10th February 1916 with a view of Marseille reads;


This is the second PC sent whilst on the train, in the hope that one will reach you.  We set off from E Tuesday Feb.28th.  Landed at Marsalles this Wed and have been on this train since, cattle trucks, Not very luxurious, We are going, to the first Base at “Abbeville” and expect to get off the train tomorrow.  All best Love always Willie

The second surviving card sent from France, dated 10.3.16 and picturing the S.S. Ascania, the ship on which the Pals had travelled back from Egypt, reads


Still another: in the hope that one at least will reach you.  This is the boat we came across in. Only a small one but a floating palace compared with the other ship.  We were not crowded, had good grub and decent voyage without incident.  Didn’t stop anywhere so I couldn’t write on board ship.  Give my best love to all sorry.  Love always Willie.

This voyage was in marked contrast to the journey to Egypt aboard HMT Empress of Britain.

Alexander William transferred from the Pals to The Machine Gun Corps with service number 22736 and was discharged with the rank of Sergeant in Belgium on February 26th 1919.

He married Hilda (Wilson) on August 19th 1919.  Hilda’s father was Forge Master Foreman at Leeds Forge in Armley, and a Special Constable.


After the war Alexander William returned to his life as a school master and between 1920 and 1928 was a master at Bennett Road School and lived in Adel (from “Our School -stories and memories of Bennett Road School, Headingley, 1882-2006 “).  He then took up headships in at least three different Elementary schools and by the 1939 Register is listed as a Headmaster of an Elementary School.  Also on the register and living with their parents at 5 The Crescent are Bruce Alexander born in 1923 in Bramley, an Apprentice Wholesale Clothier and Edward Wilson born in 1930 who died in 1942.


Alexander continued to be a keen cricketer.  The photograph is of his last match played at Chapel Allerton Cricket Club in 1954.  Both he and his son Bruce were recorded as opening batsmen – Alexander made 70 plus runs and Bruce 50 plus.  Regrettably they still lost the match!  The small boy is Alexander’s grandson, David Poll.

When he retired Alexander William moved to Bolton -Le-Sands near to one of his friends from the Pals, Bert Smith.  He died in April 1966 and is commemorated in the Garden of Remembrance at Lawnswood Cemetery.

Researcher: Jane Luxton with information from David Poll, Alexander’s grandson.

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.

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