WILLIAM PARKER

Second Lieutenant, 10th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own)

Died of Wounds 31st December 1917 aged 24

Buried in Rocquigny-Equaricourt Road British Cemetery, Manancourt, France

Son of Hiram and Annie Parker

Lived 20, Francis Street, Heckmondwike


William was born in Heckmondwike on 4 July 1893, the eldest child of Hiram and Annie Parker (née Hirst).  By 1911 the parents had a daughter Madge, aged 14 and a son Eric, aged 13.  The family lived at 20 Francis Street, Heckmondwike and William worked as an Apprentice in the local chemist shop of F Mallinson.  In 1915 William was employed as a Dispenser at Needham’s Chemists in Huddersfield and he enlisted there on 4 March 1915 as Private 56939 in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

His experience earned him a higher rate of pay from 23 April 1915 and on 4 June 1915 he went to France to work at the 23rd General Hospital in Etaples, near Le Touquet on the Channel coast.  Swift promotion to Sergeant followed on 8 July 1915.

On 30 June 1916 William applied for a Commission as an officer.  The form he had to complete was tailored to those already serving in the ranks and included such questions as ‘Whether able to ride’ and ‘Whether of pure European descent’.  William answered yes to both.  He expressed an interest in joining the Artillery.  As part of the selection process written confirmation of ‘good moral character’ was provided by W Clarke JP of Heckmondwike and R S Cahill, the long serving Headmaster of Heckmondwike School (later Grammar School), confirmed that William had a ‘good standard of Education’.  His application was successful and William received a rail warrant in early November to return home from France to await a posting.

A telegram to Francis Street followed on 10 November 1916 ordering him to report to the War Office in London on the morning of Monday 13 November 1916.  He then joined the Royal Artillery Officer Cadet Unit, St John’s Wood, London on 7 December 1916.  His hopes of joining the Artillery were not to be, and on 12 February 1917 Cadet Parker was told to report to No 1 Officer Cadet Battalion, Membland Hall, Newton Ferrers, Devon ‘with a view to a temporary commission in the Infantry’.  This commission came into force on 9 July 1917 and was listed in the London Gazette of 14 July 1917.

Second Lieutenant Parker joined the 10th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment in Northern France on 14 August 1917.  At some later point he was attached to 78 Field Company Royal Engineers.  Both the Battalion and 78 Field Company were in the trenches opposite the German Hindenburg line South West of Cambrai when on 30 December 1917 at 6.40am a heavy barrage of high explosive and gas shells fell on their front line position.  This barrage was a diversionary element of the main German attack on British trenches some distance away to the South.  2nd Lt Parker and many others from the Battalion were ‘gassed’ and wounded.  He was moved to 48 Casualty Clearing Station near the village of Ytres but died there on Monday 31 December 1917.

Mr and Mrs Parker received a telegram on the evening of Tuesday, New Year’s Day 1918 with the news of their son’s death ‘as a result of gas’.  Mr Parker wrote to the War Office on 11 January 1918 asking that, because of ‘urgent family matters’ could he have official documents confirming his son’s death.  On 15 January 1918 the War Office sent Mr Parker a Certificate of Death confirming that according to the records 2nd Lt Parker had died on 31 December 1917, though mistakenly the place of death was given as Belgium, not France.  2nd Lt Parker’s personal effects were sent to Heckmondwike in early January 1918.

Then followed a lengthy correspondence between a number of Army pay and records offices and their agents about the sums due to Mrs Parker as the beneficiary of her son’s soldier’s will which he had completed on 14 August 1917.  Various items were taken into consideration including: Mr Parker’s discovery from his son’s bank account that he had been underpaid – 7s 6d a day rather than 10s 6d a day - for a time in 1917; an overpayment of £11 12s 6d because 2nd Lt Parker had been paid to the end of January 1918, and a claim from a Regimental Pay Office in Dover for 3s owed by 2nd Lt Parker on his mess bill from his time training in Devon.  Mrs Parker was sent £88 8s 2d in May 1918.

In November 1919 the War Office wrote to Mrs Parker about the War Gratuity, a sum payable to the families of those killed in the War.  The gratuity in respect of 2nd Lt Parker would be £15 10s.  But the letter explained that this sum, together with the money paid in May 1918, took the total over £100, and that meant they could not make payment without the full Probate process being actioned by Mrs Parker.  Though ‘in the circumstances of the late officer’s death’, the War Office would recommend to the Inland Revenue that the usual tax deductions (death duties) should not be applied to this payment.  To put this in context, Field Marshal Haig was given a tax free sum of £100,000 on his retirement.

Mitcheson and Wharton, Solicitors of Heckmondwike completed the necessary paperwork and Probate was granted to Mr and Mrs Parker on 22 June 1920.  Total effects were £103 18s 2d.

2nd Lt Parker’s medals, memorial scroll and plaque were sent to Mrs Parker.
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