This is the story of Adjutant William Avery, told by his grandson J.A. Gilman.
In the 1880s young William Avery, a fisherman from Mevagissey in Cornwall, broke his leg out at sea and as a consequence had to seek another, land-based career. Being a Salvationist, William decided to apply to become a Salvation Army officer and submitted an application to their Training College in London, only to be told that, as a disabled man, he could not be admitted. Undeterred, he packed his possessions into a suitcase, bought a one-way ticket to London, deliberately left his walking stick on the train, and presented himself to the Commandant of the Training College. On being reminded that he’d already been rejected, William told the Commandant: “God has called me to be a Salvation Army officer; who are you to defy His command?” The Commandant, apparently, felt quite up to this task, and told William to return home.
Instead, he camped out on the floor of one of the rooms in the College, each day confronting the Commandant with the same request until finally, perhaps out of exhaustion, he was given permission to enrol as a student officer. After being commissioned as a Lieutenant, William Avery met and married a young lady from East Anglia, Julia Redding. In the course of his subsequent career, spent mainly in the North East of England in towns including Spennymoor, Consett, Tow Law, and Gateshead, he fathered a family of 6 children (one of whom, sadly, died in infancy). In 1914, now with the rank of Adjutant, William was given command of the East Hartlepool Salvation Army Corps together with accommodation in an ‘Army’ house at no. 7 Victoria Place, on Hartlepool’s Headland. It was to prove a fateful move.