yeovil at War

Henry parsons

Drowned alongside Lord Kitchener

 

Henry Parsons, known as Harry or Harrie, was born in 1897 in Yeovil, the son of coal carter John James Read Parsons (1859-1927) and Melena Ann née White, known as Annie, (b 1867). They were to have seven children; John (b 1885), Charlotte Ann (b 1888), Charlie (b 1894), Henry (b 1897), William James (b 1900), Violet Kate (b 1904) and Melena (b 1907).

In the 1901 census John and Melena were listed living at 2 Charlotte Place, Sherborne Road, with children John, Charlotte, Charlie, Henry and William as well as two lodgers. They were still at the same address in 1911 at which time 14-year old Harry was working as a bricklayer's labourer.

It is not known when Harry enlisted, but he was probably under age since he gave his birth date as 20 November 1895, making him a year or two older than he actually was. He became an Officer's Steward 3rd Class and after training he served on board HMS Hampshire.

HMS Hampshire was one of six Devonshire-class armoured cruisers built for the Royal Navy in the first decade of the 20th century. She was assigned to the China Station in 1912 and remained there until the start of World War I in August 1914. The ship hunted for German commerce raiders until she was transferred to the Grand Fleet at the end of 1914. She was assigned to the 7th Cruiser Squadron upon her return home. She was transferred to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron in 1916 and was present at the Battle of Jutland.

The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle fought by the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet against the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only full-scale clash of battleships in the war. Fourteen British and eleven German ships were sunk with 6,094 killed and 674 wounded on the Allied side and 2,551 Germans killed and 507 wounded.

Several days later HMS Hampshire was sailing to Russia, carrying the Secretary of State for War, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, when she is believed to have struck a mine laid by a German submarine. She sank with heavy loss of life, including Harry Parsons, Lord Kitchener and his staff. Harry was aged just 19. Another Yeovil lad who went down with the Hampshire was 17-year old Walter Adams.

On 23 June 1916 the Western Gazette reported "Harry Parsons, officer’s cook, third son of Mr and Mrs Parsons, Queen Street, Yeovil, lost on HMS Hampshire, aged 19 years."

Harry Parsons is commemorated on Panel 17 of the Plymouth Naval Memorial and his name is recorded on the Yeovil War Memorial in the Borough.

 

gallery

 

HMS Hampshire at anchor.

 

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Harry Parsons.

 

Plymouth Naval Memorial

After the First World War, an appropriate way had to be found of commemorating those members of the Royal Navy who had no known grave, the majority of deaths having occurred at sea where no permanent memorial could be provided. An Admiralty committee recommended that the three manning ports in Great Britain - Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth - should each have an identical memorial of unmistakable naval form, an obelisk, which would serve as a leading mark for shipping. The memorials were designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, who had already carried out a considerable amount of work for the Commission, with sculpture by Henry Poole. The Plymouth Naval Memorial was unveiled by HRH Prince George on 29 July 1924.