Wednesday 29 April 2015

WW1 - John George Parfitt

John George Parfitt was born in Binsted in 1898, the oldest son of James and Louisa Parfitt. The family lived at 1 or 2 Rose Cottages on The Straits which was in the Civil Parish of Binsted though the children (John had two younger sisters, Alice Louisa and Dorothy and one brother, Henry James) would have walked from there to Kingsley School.

In the 1901 census his father is identified as a nursery labourer so he probably worked at the nearby Kingsley Fruit Farm.

John Parfitt enlisted as a private in November 1914 with the Dorset Regiment at Winchester (No. 5297), but was later transferred to the 8th (Service) Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment (No. 33832). It appears that he was only sixteen when he signed up and so would still have been under-age when he went to France in 1916. Recruits were supposed to be 18 before they could enlist and 19 before they could be sent overseas.

He wrote and signed an “informal will” on 2nd August 1917 in which he left all his property and his effects to his mother, Louisa Parfitt and he was killed in action, probably at the Battle of Passchendaele, on 4th October 1917, aged only 19. The regiment’s war diary refers to “Atrocious conditions : untold odds, very heavy shelling, appalling mud. A battle against pill-boxes and machine guns, with very heavy casualties.”

John George Parfitt is one of only nine men who are named on the Birr Cross Roads Cemetery at Ieper, West- Vlaanderen in Belgium which was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens (Sp.Mem.4).
The cemetery contains “special memorials” which means he was known or believed to be buried amongst the 336 unidentified burials.

He is remembered on the Binsted War Memorial which was dedicated in November 1921 – but his name was not initially inscribed. His mother, Louisa, wrote a very poignant letter to Mrs Lucy Ogilvy, who was the treasurer of the War Memorial Committee :
I feel I must say how much it touched me…..and found my dear boy’s name wasn’t mentioned…….we made a lovely cross to put on for our son you can imagine how my feelings were hurt….”

The Parfitt family continued to live on The Straits until the 1920s when they moved to Wheatley and John Parfitt still has descendents who live locally.

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