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Henry Lilley, the son of Henry and Sarah Lilley, was apparently born in Wolverhampton. According to his military records, his date of birth was 4 March 1882, but the only birth entry for that name registered in Wolverhampton was in June 1878. In 1881 the family were living at 42 Merridale Street, Wolverhampton, together with Henry’s sister, Ellen Louisa. In 1898 he married Lily Williams in West Derby.

He enlisted with the Royal Navy and became a Stoker 1st Class on the HMS Good Hope (service number SS/100753). He served as Harry Poultney; it appears that his mother, Sarah Lilley, remarried an Edward Reuben Poultney in 1884, following the death of Henry’s father in 1881. The Good Hope was an armoured cruiser, serving off the coast of South America during the First World War. During the Battle of Coronel on 1 November 1914, the Good Hope was sunk, killing all on board. Henry Lilley is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.