M2/031929, Private Ernest Charles Parsons
Army Service Corps, Mechanical Transport.
Died of wounds, 31 March 1917, Bailleulval, France
Buried in the Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension, near Albert.
Ernest Parsons was not a native of Ham, and a reasonably thorough search for every Parsons who had appeared on any record as a resident of Ham, did not reveal why he was on our War Memorial. The discovery that Lourd Frank Newis’s mother’s maiden name had been Parsons, led to a detour to ‘reconstitute’ her family, in case a relative had followed her to Ham. This appears not to have been the case.
The first problem was to ascertain which he might be of the 40 men with the initial E and surname PARSONS, serving in the British Army, and killed in the First World War.
Between the wars, the inscriptions on the Parish War Memorial contained additional information about the men but, following the parish’s losses in the Second World War, it was decided to remove those details and to record, for those in both wars, only their initials and surname. More information on this is provided in the post Ham’s War Memorial as it was between the Wars.
Fortunately, we then discovered a list in the Parish Magazine for 1915, of Inhabitants of the Parish of Ham, Surrey, serving in H.M. Forces, 1915 where he is recorded as Ernest Parsons, Oak Lodge, Army Service (M.T.) ‘M.T.’ usually represents Mechanical or Mechanised Transport.
With this information, just one possible match is generated in a search of the CWGC database for Ernest Parsons, WW1, Army, UK Forces, Mechanical Transport—with the same single result, when searching for E. Parsons. On the assumption that we were not likely to find another candidate, we focused on identifying records relating to this man, whose full name turned out to be Ernest Charles Parsons. All did not go smoothly, as considerable time was spent in ‘killing off’ other possible Ernest Charles Parsons, including an Ernest Charles Marley Parsons. In addition, when we contacted people who had him on their public family trees, they turned out to know even less about him than we did.
The birth of our War Memorial’s Ernest Charles Parsons was registered in the fourth quarter of 1889, in the Highworth Registration District, which includes Gorse Hill, Swindon, where he was born. His parents were Charles Parsons, and his wife Emily Ann Lupton. The couple were married in the Parish Church of St Pancras in 1878; Ernest was the seventh of their ten surviving children. Their first child, a daughter, Beatrice, was born in about 1880 in the hamlet of Bushton, in the parish of Clyffe Pypard, where her father was a Police Constable. By the time Ernest was born, the family were in Swindon, where several of the younger members of the family were born, before the family moved once again. By 1901, they were living at the Police Station in Standlynch with Charlton, southwest of Salisbury, where Ernest’s father was the local Police Constable .
The only clue we have to Ernest’s possible occupation in Ham is provided by the 1911 Census, in which he is working as a footman, one of nine servants attending to the needs of just two people—Roger William Gifford Tyringham, and his wife—at Trevethoe, Lelant, Cornwall. The household included a butler and another (younger) footman. We know from the Parish Magazine’s list that Ernest was connected with Oak Lodge, so we can surmise that he may have been working as a footman, or butler, during his time there.
In 1911, Oak Lodge was occupied by Susannah Hayward, described as the head of the household, and a hospital nurse. The staff consisted of two mental nurses, Rose Prescott and Annie Tibbot, the cook, Ellen Chunn, a housemaid, Mary Ann Lawrence and a patient, Edith Dorothy Clerk. At this point, Ernest was working in Cornwall.
We then found, on the Electoral Roll for 1913, a Raymond Livesey at Oak Lodge. Our next ‘sighting’ of Oak Lodge was in the Electoral Roll for 1918, when the occupant was Alexander Mackenzie Hay, who was recorded as a Newspaper Proprietor in the 1911 Census, when he living in Warlingham. Elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1922–1923, he was described, in their list of Fellows, as “The Editor of The Statist Magazine”. We have not yet been able to discover whether he was employed by either of these men, or by a tenant who may have lived at Oak Lodge between Messrs Livesey and Hay.
Work in the service units of the army, was often more dangerous than that of a fighting soldier. The service units worked for long, uninterrupted periods close to the fighting lines, without the respite, which the infantry enjoyed, of a break from the trenches. Their vital work, conducted in the open, providing support and essential supplies for the troops, made them easy targets for enemy guns.
Ernest’s service record has not survived so we do not know when he was posted to France, or anything about the incident in which he lost his life. We can however establish, from the Army’s Register of Soldiers’ Effects, that Ernest was attached to A.A. “Q” Bty. This appears to have been an Anti-Aircraft Battery, and the Q suggests it was, at least originally, a Battery of the Royal Horse Artillery. The work of the gunners in an anti-aircraft battery and of those involved in transporting the guns was extremely dangerous, given the advances in aeroplane design during that war, particularly in the increased manoeuvrability and flying height of the gunners’ key targets.
The Effects Register also records that Ernest died at [Number] 45 Casualty Clearing Station (C.C.S.) in France. That he reached a C.C.S., suggests that he may have survived for more than a few hours. A C.C.S., the final stage in the chain of evacuation from the battlefield, was the point from where wounded soldiers would be transferred to a larger and better equipped Base Hospital, usually well beyond the range of enemy guns.
At the time of Ernest’s death, the No. 45 C.C.S was based at Bailleulval. He is buried in the Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension, south of the town of Albert.
For the photo of Oak Lodge, I am indebted to Matthew Rees, connoisseur and photographer of Ham, who posted it on his blog, Ham Photos. [http://hamphotos.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html]
I follow Matthew’s blog, and recommend it with enthusiasm.
For the location of [Number] 45 Casualty Clearing Station on 31 May 1917:
‘The Casualty Clearing Stations’, The Long, Long Trail, http://www.1914-1918.net/ccs.htm, accessed 24/2/2016.