Who was William Quero and why does his name appear on the WW1 plaque in Fabrica? Why does a William Quero suddenly appear in Brighton, running a Ship Street hairdressing salon within sight of the former Holy Trinity Church, only to disappear just as suddenly?
Researching Mr Quero has proved to be quite a challenge and required a leap of faith to realise that ‘William’ was in fact Joseph Marie Quero, born in rue Garengeot in Vitré in the department of Ille-et- Vilaine, Brittany at 11.35am on 5 October 1879 (yes, French birth records are that detailed!). He seems to have adopted the name ‘William’ when he settled in Brighton around 1902, sometimes calling himself William Quero, sometimes William Joseph Marie Quero, reverting to his birth name around the early 1930s.
It was possible to find a sketchy outline of William’s life through websites such as Ancestry, Find My Past and some hard to use French sources – facts about his marriage in 1904 to Bessie Ethel May Wilkins, the birth of his children (Eugene William, Maria Marcelle, Lucette May and Yvonne), his naturalization in 1926, his long career as a ‘coiffeur pour dames’, and his death in 1956 at the age of 76. But my research really came to life when I contacted two living relatives. His granddaughter was able to provide information that resolved many of the gaps in my research and also provided several family photos as well as a press cutting outlining his hairdressing and military careers on the occasion of his 50th wedding anniversary. I knew I had the right man when she told me that her grandmother always called her husband ‘William’ – much to the bemusement of other family members.
William’s granddaughter was able to put some flesh on the only fact I had found about his military career – just a note in the 1939 Register which stated that he was in the French Army 1914 and attached to the British Army 1915-18. In particular, she provided a photograph of his five medals from WW1 (the British Military Medal and four medals awarded in France) as well as a photograph showing Joseph Marie receiving the Croix de Guerre in France.
Joseph Marie’s son, Eugene, was also a hairdresser (in Worthing) and, like his father, he acted as an interpreter during the war (WW2). His passion, though, was for motor sports and for many years, he played a prominent role in the Brighton & Hove Motor Club, most notably in the Brighton National Speed Trials which take place every year along Madeira Drive. Even today, forty years after his death in 1976, the Eugene Quero Trophy is awarded in these trials. So the Quero name lives on in Brighton, not only on the WW1 plaque but also in the world of motor sport.
Lyn Turpin, Boys on the Plaque Research Volunteer
Featured image: Joseph Marie Quero receiving the Croix de Guerre in France.
Photographs provided with the kind permission of Jane Midgley