Private, 5396, 11th Royal Fusiliers
Died of disease in hospital at Abbeville, France, 12 January 1917, aged c.33
Buried at Abbeville Communal Cemetery, Plot 11, Row B, Grave 12

The Badge of the Royal Fusiliers

Edward John Parker was born in Hartfield, and baptised at the church there on 29 April 1883, the son of William and Harriet Parker. By 1891 the family was living in Forest Row, at Gilliam's Lane, near the cemetery. William was a cowman. There were three children in the family at this time: William George - listed as William, Edward John - recorded as John, and Helen Mary - known as Helen. By 1901 they had moved to Parkside Cottages, Forest Row, and another daughter, Edie, or Edith Annie, had been born. Edward, or John as he seems to have always been known, was working as a gardener. The 1911 census shows that the parents were now living at Birchgrove, but John, still working as a gardener, was boarding with John and Sarah Jenner at Morris's Cottages, Forest Row.

In early 1913, John married Lydia Mary Brooks, somewhere in the East Grinstead Registration District. She was born in Brampford Speke in Devon, but had been working as a servant in the household of Sir Lewis Dibdin (an ecclesiastical lawyer) in Dormansland (near East Grinstead), Surrey. A son, Cecil, was born to John and Lydia later in the year.

According to Ancestry's Soldiers died in the Great War, John Parker enlisted at 'Grimstead', but I suspect this is a mis-transcription for East Grinstead. The year is not given, and no attestation papers survive. However, the Royal Fusiliers 11th Battalion (London Regiment) formed on 6 September 1914 at Hounslow, and John may well have joined up in the early days of the war. In July 1915, the battalion was mobilised and subsequently landed at Boulogne. During 1916, John may well have seen action at the battles of Albert, Bazetin Ridge, Delville Wood, Thiepval Ridge and Ancre Heights. The battalion was also involved in the capture of Regina Trench and the Battle of the Ancre.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission Graves Registration Register

Sources differ as to the cause of his death. Edward John Parker either died of wounds or disease, but he did die in hospital at Abbeville, which, for much of the war was headquarters for the Commonwealth lines of communication. There were a number of hospitals serving the troops, but the most likely one to have nursed John was either No. 5 British Red Cross B section or No. 2 Stationary Hospital. Both of these were operational in the right time frame. These base hospitals were part of the casualty evacuation chain, further back from the front line than the Casualty Clearing Stations. Presumably Private Parker was considered suitable for repatriation, but didn't survive to return to 'Blighty'. The Communal Cemetery at Abbeville where he was buried was in use from November 1914 until September 1916 when an extension was begun.

Lydia signed the Hartfield Memorial Book as Lydia Parker (widow), Rose Hill Cottage, Forest Row. In 1920, she married again, to Frederick Gurr. She didn't forget John though and his headstone bears the following inscription:

Thy memory shall never fade Lydia and Cecil

The Graves Registration Report form refers to her as Mrs L.M. Gurr, Lavender Platt, Forest Row, Sussex.

Pam Griffiths