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2nd Lieutenant Harold Parry


17th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 117th Infantry Brigade, 39th Division, Age 20, Killed 6 May 1917. Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, Grave VI.L.12. He was born one of twins to  David Ebenezer and Sarah Parry, Bloxwich, near Walsall. He had two brothers and a sister. He was educated at Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall becoming Head of his House, Captain of the School, and Captain of the School football and cricket eleven, and until the summer of 1915 a member of the school’s Officer Training Corps (OTC). In December 1914, he was awarded the prestigious Queens Mary’s Prize for History, an Open Scholarship and went up to Exeter College, Oxford in the autumn of 1915. 

 

In January 1916 while at Oxford he volunteered for army service and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and was posted to the 11th (Reserve) Battalion, 90th Infantry Brigade, 30th Division. After four months training at Rugeley, just a few miles from his home at Bloxwich, he transferred to the King's Royal Rifle Corps on 26 May 1916. He went to France in September 1916 spending a few days at Etaples Base Camp before joining the 17th Battalion at Hebuterne. While the Battalion was in rest billets at Bertrancourt he wrote to an old friend John Mundy in which he shared his thoughts on how did not wish to die: ‘....Death itself I do not fear, but I have rather a dread of the manner of death. I don’t want to be mangled badly and to be left out in no man’s land until I do die, and I don’t want to die at all – yet. It seems so difficult to face the prospect with so little done in life and so much to do

 

On the 14 November 1916 the Battalion moved to rest billets in Merckeghem and trained there until 12 December when they moved to the Ypres Salient spending two short spells in the trenches before moving back into reserve. The War Diary recording:


War Diary

In a letter to his sister who he called ‘Kiddie’ he wrote: ‘The weather has been bad and the trenches are feet thick in muddy water with a thick layer of watery mud underlying. I have a very rotten cold – everyone has – it can’t be avoided out here in these conditions.’ He later wrote to an old friend: ‘We have had a terrific combat with the water, and even now I ca hear (when the guns are quiet for a while) its sweet and gentle murmur as it flops down into the dugout step by step… What it’ll be like if the rain keeps on till morning I don’t know for it’s simply pouring in now. Why did Tennyson write 'The Brook'? And why shouldn’t I write a lyric to the 'River that runs into everyone's dugout'?

 

I come from trenches deep in slime,

Soft slime so sweet and yellow

And rumble down the steps in time

To souse 'some shivering fellow'.

 

I trickle in and trickle out

Of every nook and corner,

And rushing like some waterspout,

Make many a rat a mourner.

 

I gather in from near and far

A thousand brooklets swelling,

And laugh aloud a great ‘Ha, ha!'

To flood poor Tommy's dwelling.

 

The Salient was relatively quiet during the four months that Parry was to be spend there. In January 1917, he went on a ‘General Course’ for four weeks which he described in a letter to an old friend as consisting largely of horsemanship: ‘We have laughed our way through life for the last month; after all it is somewhat funny to see a man clinging affectionately to his steed's neck after the aforesaid steed has taken a jump all too unwillingly. We have had a great time riding the countryside, so, for myself, this last month has been a pleasant interlude in the ghastly drama.’

 

He returned to the Battalion which was in the Wieltje or Zillebeke sectors and occasionally spent time in the line at Potijze. They undertook working parties or carried up supplies to the front line in addition to holding the line. They also assisted the 9th Battalion Canadian Railway Troops on railway construction. On the 29 April he wrote to his father: ‘I'm having a whole day's "mike" - the company's out on a working party - and two officers only have gone with it, so I've nothing to do, a state of affairs which agree with me entirely...' On 6th May the Battalion was still engaged in railway construction work and Harold had not yet left his billet, he was in a house that overlooked the main square in Ypres. The Germans were shelling Ypres and as he left his billet to take cover in the cellar a few yards away he was struck by a shell and killed instantly. The War Diary recording his death.


War Diary

Harold Parry’s WW1 poetry collection 'In Memoriam Harold Parry' - Parry's Poems and Letters, with a Foreword by Geoffrey P. Dennis, was published by W.H. Smith in 1918.


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