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A family update on Arthur Harold Parsons


Naomi Thorp writes: A short time ago I received an e-mail from a gentleman in Canada who is the great-great nephew of Arthur Harold Parsons.  He had seen Pte Parsons' story on the Milborne Port website and contacted me with additional information and a photograph.  He is thrilled to know that present generations here in the village know his uncle's story over 100 years since his death. Here is Arthur’s story.

Arthur Harold PARSONS died 25.05.1915
3rd Battalion Canadian Infantry
(Toronto Regiment)

Arthur Harold Parsons was born in 1889, the seventh of Samuel and Ellen Parsons' nine children. The family lived first at 32 Baunton's Orchard, by the time of Arthur's birth had moved further along the street to No.39, but by the 1901 Census were living at 1 Church Lane, just off the High Street, Milborne Port.

The 1911 Census shows Arthur working as a bricklayer on the Ven Estate but in 1912, following the death of his father and his mother's move to St Michael's Avenue, Yeovil, he emigrated to Canada. From copy documents held by Arthur's great great nephew, Robert McFetridge, and information recently obtained, it seems that on the outbreak of war he signed-up in Toronto. His formal attestation (papers dated 22nd September 1914) and army medical were completed at Val Cartier, Quebec Province and on 25th September he embarked on the SS Tunisian, in Quebec city, with the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Infantry, for his return to England.

The Battalion spent the winter training on Salisbury Plain and embarked for France in February 1915. After a period in reserve near Hazebrouck, they relieved British forces in the Fleurbaix sector. In April they moved to the Ypres Salient and faced action during the defence of St Julien from 22nd April until 4th May (2nd Battle of Ypres). Two weeks later they were in action again at Festubert where Canadian forces lost 2,204 men for the gain of only 600yds.

In a letter, published in the Western Gazette in June 1915, from Arthur's friend, Pte David Sloan to Mrs Parsons, he tells her that:

'Arthur was off duty behind the front line trench when a shell exploded, killing him instantly. We feel his loss very keenly as he was a general favourite among us. I knew and valued his friendship since first meeting him when we both enlisted in Toronto. We were comrades from the start and have come through many tight corners together and have shared many a good time. He led a good, wholesome life, placed his trust in God and gave his life for the cause of humanity.'

Arthur Parsons familyPte Sloan and some friends buried him near to where he died but sadly, his grave was destroyed by subsequent fighting. His name, however, is listed on the Vimy Memorial which commemorates 60,000 Canadians who died on the Western Front. Of that number, 11,000, like Pte Arthur Harold Parsons, have no known grave.    

Of Arthur's three brothers, Frank and Shirley (in those days Shirley was quite commonly a man's name) both returned from South Africa at the outbreak of war, to enlist. Shirley was serving at the Front with the King's Royal Rifle Corps when he lost his foot whilst pinned down by enemy machine guns. Frank served with the Somerset Light Infantry, and when he returned home at the end of the war, was so changed that his mother did not recognize him and thought he was a tramp. Edgar, the third brother, served with the Royal Army Medical Corps and also survived the war.

Pte David Sloan returned to Canada in 1918 and became a fruit farmer, near St Catharines, on the south shore of Lake Ontario.

After returning to England and before embarking for France, Arthur was photographed with members of his family: The picture shows back row: Unidentified man, Edna (Elizabeth's daughter), Arthur in uniform

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