Harry Davis Parkin
Rifleman, London Regiment (City of London Rifles)
Harry was born at 105 Anerley Road on 31st May 1898 as one of four children to Henry Parkin and his wife Minnie. His father worked as a club steward and later as a ship’s steward, while his mother worked as a school teacher for the London County Council. By 1911 the family was living at 60 Casewick Road in West Norwood. Harry’s father does not appear to have been around at this point. Harry’s mother described herself as married in the 1911 census rather than as a widow, but in Harry’s school enrolment record she is listed as Harry’s guardian. Harry was enrolled at Alleyn’s in September 1912 and left only a few months later in April 1913 to take up a place at Clark’s College in Brixton.
He joined the war effort early on as part of the London Regiment (City of London Rifles) and served as a Rifleman overseas on the Western Front. He landed in France in March 1915, he was serving during the Battle of Loos when he was killed in action on September 25th 1915, at the age of 17. He is buried at Maroc British Cemetery, Grenay, Departement du Pas-de-Calais, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, Plot: Special Memorial 38.
The Unit War Diary shows that on the day Harry was killed his Battalion was attacking the German front line at 6am under the cover of gas and smoke. “Punctually at 5.50[am] the gas attack commenced followed by the smoke cloud. Immediately the smoke became visible the enemy open an intense machine gun, rifle and artillery fire on our trenches” At 6.28am the gas was turned off and at precisely 6.30am the Battalion began its advance. “The smoke cloud was dense, the sight was magnificent, the men were absolutely steady moving forward in quick time exactly as if they were on parade.”
The Battalion’s four companies (A, B, C and D) advanced towards the enemy one after the other in line abreast, “all ranks behaving with the utmost steadiness in the face of destructive rifle and machine gun fire in addition to the artillery barrage which was now intense.” Although much of the enemy’s barbed wire defences had been cut, much of it remained untouched and hampered the Londoners’ progress.
The machine guns kept firing until the last safe moment. When the 6th Battalion’s forward company reached the front trench many of the enemy ran across country into the cover of the smoke to their rear. The Battalion continued its advance to the second trench line. The Battalion had reached its objective but at the cost of three Captains, four subalterns [Second Lieutenants] and nearly three hundred other ranks killed or wounded. “The dead numbered about one hundred as far as can be ascertained.” One of those men was Rifleman Harry Davis Parkin.