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  Joseph Parsons  

Private G/1285, B Company 1st Bn The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment
Killed in Action 25/09/1915, aged 23
(1)

 

No Known Grave, but Remembered on :
Ewhurst War Memorial,  Memorial Plaque and Book of Remembrance
Cranleigh War Memorial
The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment Roll of Honour, Holy Trinity Church, Guildford
Loos Memorial, Dud Corner Cemetery, France


 

 

 

Joseph Parsons was born in Cranleigh in 1892, the fourth child of eight born to Joseph, a labourer, woodcutter and maker, and Isabella. He lived in Lower Canfold with his siblings Isaac (b1887), Fanny (b1889), Frederick (b1891), Emily (b1895), Charley (b1896), Maud (b1897), Percy (b1899) and Albert (b1900).

He enlisted in Cranleigh and attested on 2nd September 1914, aged 22, and became Private 1285 of the 1st Bn The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment. Also serving in this battalion with him at this time were Victor Lawrence, Victor Baker, T W Denyer, Albert Killick

The 1st Bn Queen’s had arrived in France from its home base of Bordon Camp in August 1914. It remained on the Western Front throughout the First World War. Following his basic training in England, Joseph moved overseas to join the battalion in France at the start of 1915.

On 25th September 1915, the battalion was destined to form part of the first wave in action on the first day of the Battle of Loos. Their frontage was to be to the north of the Lens/ La Bassee Canal, in front of the village of Givenchy.   The Battalion War Diary details how in the lead up to the attack, the battalion had moved, on 22nd September, from billets near Essars to a section of trench referred to as B2 in front of Givenchy. They relieved the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry and remained in the line until 5pm the following day, when the Highlanders once again took the line and the Queen's retired to Le Quesnoy to prepare for the forthcoming attack. This short period had cost the battalion 2 men killed and 6 wounded.

Just 24 hours later, at 5pm on 24th, the battalion had reoccupied a reduced frontage in the B2 sector in readiness for the attack and also received a draft of 40 men. One can only imagine the thoughts of these young replacements as they joined their new battalion from England on the eve of a full scale attack.

THE BATTLE OF LOOS, 25TH SEPTEMBER 1915

The morning of 25th September 1915 dawned with light and variable winds, which hampered the deployment of gas by the British forces to the south of the Queen's (its first offensive use by7 British forces) and the smoke screen that the Queen's were planning to advance behind.

The War Diary reports:

"Our leading line advanced at 6.30am and reached the German 3rd line without great opposition. The attack was evidently a complete surprise. The battalion advanced on a frontage of two platoons, D Company (Maj Bunbury) on the right and B Company (Capt Brooke) on the left. The advance was necessarily slow to keep behind the smoke, B & D Companies reached the German line and gained touch with 2/ Oxford Light Infantry and the 2/Highland light Infantry on the left and right respectively.

The support company (C Company) under Capt Weeding held our front line trenches and, at about 8.15am two platoons of this company reinforced B & D Companies taking up a supply of bombs with them. Lt E D Drew commanded this party. The enemy developed a strong bombing attack on both flanks of the regiment, and our men were unable to reply effectively owing to a lack of bombs.

At about 9.45am the two and a half companies were obliged to fall back into our own lines, under very heavy machine gun fire from our right flank.

Casualties: Lts A W A Bradshaw (KIA), C D M Fowler (KIA), M I  B Howell (KIA), F G Plant (MIA, later confirmed KIA), Maj J K N Bunbury(WIA & MIA), Capt C B Brooke (WIA & MIA), Lts E D Drew (WIA), H P Foster (WIA), 2Lt R C Joynson Hicks (WIA).

Other Ranks: 19 Killed in Action, 21 Missing believed Killed, 138 Wounded in Action, 80 Missing in Action or Wounded and Missing in Action, 7 Suffering from Gas, 1 Died of Wounds, Total 266

The remainder of the day was spent regaining the line and in collecting the wounded, burying dead etc."

At 3.30pm the following day the battalion was relieved by the Highland Light Infantry and retired to billets in Le Preol.

Joseph and the men of B company had therefore advanced well into the German lines before being forced to retire to their starting positions. Over the following weeks news of the battle and its casualties was to gradually filter back to Ewhurst, and with it more information as to Joseph's death. An article in the Surrey Advertiser on 2nd October 1915 reported that:

"Although the parents have received no official information from the War Office, news from other sources points to the sad conclusion that the following have also fallen: J Parsons, 1st Queen's, son of Mr J. Parsons, of Canfold Copse; Victor Lawrence, 1st Queen's, son of Mr William Lawrence, Heath House, Ewhurst. The following are also unofficially reported wounded; Victor Baker, of the Queen's, who was a butchers assistant in Ewhurst; Frank Selling, of the Queen's, son of Mr and Mrs B Sellings, The Bungalow; W Thompson, 8th Queen's, son of Mr and Mrs Thompson, Ewhurst Green; and Harvey Field, son of Mr. Edward Field, of Winterfold Farm."

Surrey Advertiser 2/10/15

On 16th October 1915, the Surrey Advertiser included mention of:

"Pte T W Denyer of 1st Bn RWSR, son of Mr and Mrs Denyer of Ewhurst, wrote home on 29th September 1915 reporting that Victor Baker had been badly wounded, and J Parsons was hit through the head and killed."

Then, on 4th December 1915, a letter from Joseph's mother published in the Surrey Advertiser confirmed his death:

"The Late Private Parsons.
Mrs Parsons of Canfold, has received the following letter from Pte S Pyke, B Company, Queen's Regiment, respecting her son, Pte J Parsons, of the Queen's, who was killed in France; "I was next to your son on the morning of 25th September, when we made the charge, and your son was killed when we reached the second line of  German trenches. He suffered no pain, as it was instantaneous death. I was one of his chums for the past eight months, and we all miss him very much, as he was such a nice fellow, and was well liked in B Company by the officers and men.""

Surrey Advertiser 2/10/15

Joseph's grave is unknown, probably due to his body not being recovered from the German second line when the battalion was forced to withdraw. He is remembered on the Loos Memorial, at Dud Corner Cemetery near Loos-en-Gohele, which commemorates over 20,000 officers and men who fell in the area from the River Lys to the old southern boundary of the First Army, east and west of Grenay (5). His name appears with those of Ewhurst men Private Victor Lawrence  who fell whilst in action with 1st Bn The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment on the first day of the Battle of Loos, 25th September 1915 and Private Frederick Killick, also of 1st Bn Queens, who was killed in action on 3rd July 1916 in the same area as the men advanced from on the first day of the Battle of Loos.

Joseph was posthumously awarded 1914-15 Star, the British war Medal and the Victory Medal.

90th Anniversary of the Battle of Loos

 

 

Follow this Link to details about First World War Medals
 

 

Notes:
 

 

Other sources:

  • Book of Remembrance

  • Soldiers Died in the Great War

  • 1901 Census
     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Andrew Bailey, Ewhurst, Surrey
andy@ewhurstfallen.co.uk
Copyright©2005