Private, 60759, 8th Royal Fusiliers
Killed in Action at Monchy-le-Preux, France, 31 August 1917, aged 36
Buried at Monchy British Cemetery, Plot 1, Row L, Grave 4

William George Parker

William George Parker was born in Hartfield where he was baptised on 30th October 1881. His parents, William Parker and Harriet Tidy, had married the year before. In 1891 the family was living in Forest Row, at Gilliam's Lane, near the cemetery. William was a cowman and there were three children: 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, but by this time, William had left home and was living as a boarder with a family named Morris at Carterhayes Road in Enfield. He was working as a gardener in a Nurseries.

By the time of the next census he was lodging at Cedars Cottage, Harrow Weald, but working as a domestic gardener. In June that year he married Adelaide Turner, a local girl and daughter of a church cleaner. William's brother Edward was one of the witnesses to the wedding at All Saints Harrow Weald. Two children were born in London — William John in 1912 and Helen May in 1913, but by the time twins Joyce and Joan were born, in November 1914, the family was living near Tonbridge, probably at Riding Close in Hildenborough, which is the address on one of the postcards he sent to his son William John, known as Jack.

William enlisted at Tonbridge initially as Private 15604 in the Royal West Kent Regiment but, according to Soldiers who died in the Great War, was later transferred to the 8th Battalion London Regiment, also known as the Royal Fusiliers; neither the date of his first enlistment or transfer are known, but given that he had four children by November 1914, he may well have been a 1916 conscript rather than an early volunteer. A second Military Service Act in May that year made even married men between the ages of 18 and 41 liable for service.

William George Parker in military dress

The 8th Battalion Royal Fusiliers was part of the New Armies, and saw action on the Western Front, landing first in France in May 1915. In 1917 they were part of the Arras offensive in the 1st Battle of the Scarpe. William's battalion stayed in the Arras area until the end of October that year. Between May and October they were based near Monchy-le-Preux, mounting a number of small scale attacks and raids. In between, they repaired trenches and cleared shell damage. It was probably during these more relaxed periods that William found time to write home. There don't seem to have been any major battles for his battalion at the time of William's death in August 1917, so presumably he was killed in one of the minor skirmishes which took place.

He was buried at the British Cemetery at Monchy-le Preux in Pas de Calais, a relatively small site (with 523 casualties interred there) a short distance east of Arras. William George Parker was 36 when he died. His wife was left with four children under the age of five. In 1924 she married Ernest T. Wingrove, but she clearly kept much memorabilia which has been passed down the family. I am indebted to his descendant for allowing me to publish the following.

William George Parker is commemorated on the war memorials at Forest Row and Hildenborough.

Pam Griffiths