Sidney James Parker was born on 26th September 1896, the eighth son in a very large family of at eighteen children, only one of whom died young. His parents were John Parker who had married Emma Mitchell in 1885. John came from one of the Parker families that had resided in Winkleigh for some time. The 1881 census recorded John working as a farm servant at East Heath Farm, Winkleigh. He married Emma Mitchell, who also came from a well established number of families who had lived in Winkleigh for over a century. Emma, who was initially given the name Elizabeth, had worked as a domestic servant in Brushford before she married and returned to Winkleigh. By 1891 the Parker family were living in Queen Street, Winkleigh. However, by 1901 the family were at Fat Park. Interestingly, Emma, who registered Sidney James’ birth on 7th November, did not write her name and for some reason it is recorded as Emily. Names, indeed, as well as the recording of Emma’s age is rather confused in this family. At various times Emma called herself Elizabeth, Eliza, Emma and Emily. There is still a small doubt about Emma’s date of birth, but the best fit is a registration in the March quarter of 1866 when she was given the name of Elizabeth. In 1871 she was known as Eliza and later Emma. Confusion continued with Sidney’s name as well. On the Winkleigh census returns, his birth certificate as well as on the Memorial Cross his name is recorded as ‘Sidney’. However, on his medal roll, and therefore presumably his original attestation papers, his name is written as ‘Sydney’. The Commonwealth War Graves data base also records the name as ‘Sydney’. The official history of the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) records only Parker S.
Leaving school at 13 or 14, Sidney found work as a cattleman at Whitehouse Farm, where in 1911 aged 14 he was working for a Henry Morgan who had come down to the Winkleigh district from Shropshire. Then, on 6th September 1916 Sidney, still only 19 years old, married Elsie Nora Alford by special licence at the Methodist Zion Chapel Churchwater, Ashreigney. Elsie had been born around 1899 and was 18 at the time of her marriage. She was the seventh and youngest child of William and Mary Alford, living in Ashreigney. Sidney and Elsie’s daughter Minnie Lilla was born on 5th December 1916, destined of course never to know her father.
There is some difficulty in attempting to trace the circumstances of Sidney Parker’s war history leading up to his death in 1917, though the battle in which he sadly lost his life has been very well documented. As with the great majority of men who served or died in the Great War, their records were lost in the London blitz, but we do have his medal record. This does not, in this case, give us his date of enlistment, but it does contain an important clue to the story. On the card his army number is prefaced with the letters TF, meaning ‘Territorial Force’. Men who had enlisted (or who had already enlisted pre-war) directly into a Territorial unit, and were therefore not subject to the Military Service Acts (conscription) of 1916 were given new army numbers on 1st March 1917, by an Army Council Instruction published on 23rd December 1916. Each corps of Infantry was allocated a block of numbers starting at 200001. The allocation for each infantry corps was then broken into smaller blocks for each battalion. Those men who had enlisted in a Territorial Army 4th Battalion, for example the 4th Battalion of the Devons (the senior Territorial Battalion in the Devonshire Regiment), were allocated numbers 200001 to 240000, those of the 5th Devons 240001 to 265000, and so on. From Sidney Parker’s number 241244 we can therefore be sure that as shown by the letters ‘TF’, he had joined the Territorials at 17 years old, quite soon after war was declared on 4th August 1914, or possibly even before because 17 was the minimum age for TA recruitment, 19 the minimum age for service overseas. Sidney became 18 on 26th September 1914 but the scramble to join the Devon Territorials in the first months of patriotic enthusiasm meant that in order to get in he would not have waited too long. Almost as soon as war broke out the Devonshire Regiment expanded all three of the original Territorial Battalions, the 4th, 5th and 6th, later even expanding into second line battalions for each. In the wave of patriotism that swept the country in 1914, many Winkleigh men preferred to enlist in the Territorials, which were already known to them and contained many of their friends, rather than respond to the appeal of Lord Kitchener, Minister for War, whose famous poster urged them to join the first hundred thousand of the ‘New Army’. Another factor in their decisions was that nationally the Territorial Force was intended to be used for home defence only, and men were not to be sent overseas. Parents and employers could therefore be assured in these first days of a war that most thought would be over by Christmas, that apart from the risk of invasion the survival of these young men would be certain.
We are fortunate to have the information that was recorded on Sidney and Elsie’s marriage certificate and Minnie’s birth certificate that his original TA number was 4489, given when he enlisted in the 2nd/5th Battalion of the Devons, a further indication that he joined quite early. On the other hand his name is not recorded alongside that of his brother Henry who, the Chumleigh Deanery Magazine reported in September 1914, had enlisted in the 6th Devons as one of the first in Winkleigh to serve. Unfortunately the recording of these lists was not continued after the first two months. Incidentally, Henry survived the war and in the World War II served in the Winkleigh Home Guard. Another brother, Sam (six years older than Sidney), also served in the Devons, while both Frederick and Elon had joined the Royal Field Artillery, although we don’t know when they enlisted.
By November 1914 the 1st/6th and the 1st/5th Devons were not only full but had already sailed for India, leaving the 2nd/5th Battalion open to receive new Territorial recruits. He was of course much too young in 1914 to serve abroad in any case, and so remained with the 2nd/5th in Exeter, and then Tavistock. Sidney was already serving with the West Kents when he received his new number, TF241334, on March 1st 1917, the number on his medal card after his death. As a double check, it is also the number recorded in the records of the C.W.G.C. which confirms his parentage in Winkleigh, his young marriage and commemoration on the Tyne Cot Memorial.
We must therefore look at an outline of the early days of the 5th Devons. When war was declared all three of the Devons’ Territorial battalions were in camp with the Devon and Cornwall Infantry Brigade on Woodbury Common, near Exmouth, for its annual fortnight’s training, regarded as a paid holiday by these ‘week-end’ soldiers, and indeed a principal reason that many had joined. The 5th and 6th Battalions went straight to Plymouth, the 6th departing the following day for Fort Renay. Meanwhile, streams of would-be recruits were pouring in at Exeter barracks to enlist. On 9th August all three battalions entrained for Salisbury Plain where training continued as part of the Wessex Division. Within a few days, despite the earlier promises, it became clear that the Territorial were certainly going to be needed to fight and all officers and men were invited to volunteer for overseas service. Some, but not many, rejected the offer, or were too young to go overseas, and some failed their medical test, but the majority genuinely looked forward to having a go at the Germans in France before the war ended and they missed the fun. Having volunteered, it was with much disappointment that the three battalions were posted to India, to enable the regular army battalions stationed there to come home and go to France. The remainder were sent back to their Headquarters to serve as a nucleus for the Second Line battalions which each unit was to form. At the end of December two of the Second Line battalions, the 2nd/4th and the 2nd/6th were themselves posted to India. The remainders including the 2nd/5th collected at Tavistock. In February 1915 they received the name ‘The Devon and Cornwall Brigade Provisional Battalion’, becoming in August ‘the 86th Provisional Battalion’. In 1917 they became ‘the 15th Battalion Devonshire Regiment’.
The 2nd/5th Battalion was composed, as we know from the regimental history, mainly of recruits. Just before Sidney’s 18th birthday, it was sent to Egypt to reinforce the ‘Mediterranean Expeditionary Force’ then fully engaged in Gallipoli. Although there were plenty of troops left in Egypt, these were in no way defensive forces, being composed of various units in charge of depots, convalescent homes, transport bases for horses, depots for the horses left behind by dismounted Yeomanry sent to Gallipoli, half-trained Australian reinforcements kicking over the traces in Cairo and so on. The 2nd/ 5th Battalion provided guard duties at hospitals and prisoner of war camps, as well as supplying picquets to assist in keeping law and order in Cairo. With the evacuation of Gallipoli in December 1915 the 2nd/5th was broken up, the majority of men being sent as reinforcements to 1st/5th in India or as drafts to the 1st/4th and 1st/6th in Mesopotamia.
Meanwhile Sidney Parker, still too young to leave the U.K., had remained behind. After the end of 1915 all attempts to keep ‘returners’ (men returning to duty after wounding or sickness) serving in their original regiments had to be abandoned, a major grievance within the army generally, and it is therefore very likely that with the break-up of the 2nd/5th, Sidney was transferred from the Devons to the 2nd/5th Royal West Kents, the Queen’s Own, in about the January of 1916. He was raised to the rank of Lance Corporal sometime between then and his marriage in September 1916. According to the marriage certificate he was stationed at No.3 Hut, Oldpark Camp, Canterbury, Kent. Sidney had been obliged to marry Elsie while he was only 19, but he must have realised the the time was now very near to being posted overseas. They married just twenty days before his 20th birthday on 26 September 1916. It was a sensible move. By 1916 no one at home could have been in any doubt that the infantry were in the greatest danger. Every day in the national press the casualty lists were published, often covering several pages, and with a baby on the way Elsie and her family would have been thinking that if there was a possibility of his being killed, some sort of support for both mother and child would have been vital to their futures.
We do not as yet know when Sidney was posted in a draft to join the 1st Battalion RWK on active service. As a junior NCO, and originally below overseas age, we can guess that he had found employment in one of the battalion offices - as a battalion or company clerk, a store man perhaps or some other administrative job in the Canterbury depot that was hosting the training battalion, continually passing conscripted men through to join drafts of those posted to the various West Kent active service units. However, the battles of 1916 were consuming men at an appalling rate, and therefore it became inevitable that as soon as he was old enough to go Sidney would himself be sent to one or other of the RWK battalions at the front. Sidney’s period of leave in which the marriage took place on 6th September could have been his last, or perhaps he was retained at Canterbury for a few more months into 1917.
We know from Minnie herself that her father never had the chance to see his little daughter after she was born on 6th December 1916, but his medal record does not give us the date of his arrival in France. We can therefore surmise that he was posted as part of a draft to France sometime between his marriage at the end of September and Minnie's birth in early December 1916. It is likely that the marriage took place during his embarkation leave itself, in which case he would have been in France by mid-September 1916. He would have survived the battle of Arras in April 1917, only to be killed in October of the same year at Passchendaele. Certainly we know, from the gallery of Parker photos in the 'Western Times' December 1st 1917 that Sidney was in France at that date.
The end of the year and the first part of 1917 was a relatively quiet time for the 1st Battalion R.W.K., though an extremely uncomfortable one. Following the Somme the 5th Division had been moved into First Army, and the Battalion took over trenches north of the La Bassee Canal, an area divided into three sectors - Givenchy on the right, Festubert in the centre and Ferme du Bois on the left. The low-lying ground was waterlogged, the ‘trenches’ merely breastworks of sandbags and isolated posts. It was a very quiet area of ‘live and let live’, the Germans as fully occupied as the British with the basic problems of survival and the unceasing labour of trench maintenance in such a horrible terrain. Here the Battalion stayed until the end of March. April, however, saw an end to this phase. The battle of Arras opened on April 9th with the Canadian assault on Vimy Ridge. The 13th Brigade were in reserve, and passing through the Canadians who had secured their first objective, the Brigade secured all its objectives and from the high ground that was gained a magnificent view opened up of the landscape beyond. In the West Kents, only 13 men were killed and 12 missing, while 111 men were wounded, mostly lightly. In the second phase of the battle, which opened on April 23rd, the 1st Battalion took virtually no part. Small drafts of reinforcements made up the losses and on May 2nd a move was made to Roclincourt for the 5th Division’s next attack. Again the 13th Brigade were in the Corps reserve. The West Kents had suffered only 60 casualties for the whole of May.
For the 1st Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment, the story of the Battle of Passchendaele is the story of their worst and most terrible experience of the war, the 26th October 1917, the date of Sidney Parker’s death. The 1917 battles of Ypres, which collectively are known as the Passchendaele Campaign comprised a whole series of attempts in the second half of the year to break out of the Ypres salient and up and on to the Passchendaele Ridge, preparatory to a drive towards the Belgian coast from where it was feared that the German North Sea submarine campaign would be intensified. During the five months July to November our casualties in the salient amounted to 244,897 killed, wounded or missing. For comparison, the total estimated numbers of casualties on the Western Front in 1917 totalled British 817,790, French 569,000 and German 883,979. The British army paid a terrible price for the lessons that were learnt in the Passchendaele campaign, but these led eventually in 1918 to vastly improved communications, better coordination of artillery, new battle tactics. Although Haig clearly made mistakes, some of which he covered up in his diaries and despatches, he really had no alternative but to attack in the salient, once it was clear that after Nivelle’s debacle and the French army mutiny, the only force left capable of defeating the German army was the British.
The main area of attack was north-east from Ypres towards Pilkhem Ridge, Westhoek and Langemarck, all of which took place between 31st July and 18th August 1917. In order to make further progress it was necessary to secure the right-hand flank of the attacks, on a line on and north of the Menin Road. The battle of the Menin Road lasted five days, 20th – 25th September, and resulted in an advance to reach Polygon Wood, but had not yet resulted in the capture of Gheluvelt, a key point on the rising ground. On 26th September a further attack was made, the Battle of Polygon Wood, which lasted till the 3rd October, the third “bite and hold” battle of the Passchendaele campaign, with the intention of capturing the Gheluvelt Plateau which ran along the southern edge of the Ypres Salient and formed a formidable barrier to further eastward attacks. Haig believed that the Germans were now on the edge of collapse but considering the German counterattacks (nine were conducted immediately after the Battle of Menin Road, as well as more on 30th September and 1st October) it should have been apparent that German morale was still strong. Still unable to break out to the north-east, the Battle of Broodseinde opened on 4th October. It was a stunning success, in contrast to the almost total failure to make progress in the Battle of the Menin Road.
But in spite of the success at Broodseinde the breakthrough at Gheluvelt on the Menin road proved impossible to achieve. The German defences consisted mainly of mutually supporting pillboxes, protected by barbed wire entanglements. They were scattered across the terrain, with large numbers of them concentrated along the crest of the Gheluvelt Plateau as well as part of the ‘Flandern’ line on the forward slope of the Passchendaele Ridge. In addition to the pillboxes, there were numerous artillery positions behind the Gheluvelt Plateau, where (protected from direct observation) they could fire in support of their defensive troops. The year was now far advanced, but Haig determined to continue the attacks, believing the Germans were near to collapse. He believed that two further attacks, planned for 10 October (the Battle of Poelcappelle, moved forward to 9 October) and 13 October (the First Battle of Passchendaele, moved forward to 12 October) would result in a breakthrough. Diversionary attacks in the area just beyond Polygon Wood, north of the Menin Road, were ordered to continue in an attempt to capture Gheluvelt village.
In a welter of mud and blood the First Battle of Passchendaele made little significant progress. The Second battle, 26th October enabled the Canadians to reach some sort of dry ground, and on 6th November the Canadians finally captured the ridge, by which time the village of Passchendaele itself had completely disappeared. On 10th operations were closed down. Meanwhile, attacks in the Southern area East of Polygon Wood had continued to support the Passchendaele battles, but still failed to capture Gheluvelt. Haig’s Passchendaele dispatch gave no more than a passing reference to this area, dismissing the failures to make any further progress in a single sentence:
‘South of the main attack, the British X Corp (5th and 7th Divisions) made minor gains on Gheluvelt Plateau’.
It is with this background that we now turn to the part played by the 1st Battalion Royal West Kents on 26th October in their attempt to break through to Gheluvelt.
The 1st Battalion had taken a small part in the Battle of Broodseinde. The British advance had, by the 4th October, reached through Polygon Wood and into Zonnebeke, while just North of the Menin Road it had got as far as the ruins of Veldhoek, just in reach of Polderhoek Chateau and Gheluvelt. The 1st Battalion had just enjoyed three weeks of rest and training at Berlencourt where a draft of about 250 men had brought the battalion up to full strength, so that when by September 25th it had moved back towards the line as far as Brandhoek, numbers were up to around 800 men. The usual ‘battle surplus’ remained behind in case of a complete destruction of the battalion, as the main body moved up to a place named as ‘Goldfish Chateau’. The battalion was in reserve for the attack, along with the 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borders (K.O.S.B.), but neither battalion was used as the action was a complete success. Their turn came when on the night of October 2nd/3rd the West Kents took over the right of the 5th Division’s new frontage South-East of Veldhoek, with the Battalion’s right resting on the Menin Road. The ‘road’ of course had by now been completely destroyed and was marked by little more than a route of duckboards winding across an area of deep mud and slime in which it was quite possible for men to fall and drown. On the morning of 3rd a heavy German counter-attack was repulsed in mist and bad light. The front trenches were penetrated by the enemy, particularly in the area of ‘C’ Company, but they were ejected after serious hand-to-hand fighting. A second wave of the attack began half-an-hour later but the Germans were stopped 50 yards short of our wire and British snipers continued to pick off survivors who attempted to crawl back wounded to their own lines. Relatively light British casualty numbers grew alarmingly during the day as shell fire attempted to dislodge the battalion after the frontal infantry attacks had failed to do so, bringing the total losses for the day to over 100.
The following day, October 4th, the British attack was renewed, although in a landscape devoid of any features there was no ‘line’ to attack, only pill-boxes and shell-holes. On their left the K.O.S.B. were attacking the final ruins of Polderhoek Chateau and the West Kents were supposed to advance in order to keep in touch with them. The Germans kept up enfilade fire from pill-boxes south of the Menin Road and a very nasty battle took place, with the Battalion just managing to advance a few yards and hold its ground against the waves of counter attacks launched under heavy shell-fire. ‘D’ Company was now reduced to two officers and twenty-eight men, while two-thirds of ‘B’ Company had become casualties. Only the Lewis-gun teams, or rather in some cases the sole survivors of teams, were just able to hold the ground so sacrificially won. ‘A’ Company was now commanded by a Corporal, ‘C’ was now reduced to two officers and twenty men. Another battalion brought up ammunition and rifle-grenades and the maximum support was given to the K.O.S.B. who having failed to take Polderhoek Chateau had dug in 200 yards to the West of their objective. The survivors of the West Kents were finally relieved during the night. Of the 670 men (including the battle surplus) who had gone into action only 7 officers and 283 men remained. Apart from a few yards of useless mud nothing of any note had been gained by the slaughter, but within a short time the West Kents had yet to face an even more terrible disaster.
Out of the line for the next two weeks fresh drafts arrived amounting to 12 officers and 400 men. The definitive history of the West Kents in the war (Col. C.T.Atkinson) gives us this important information:
These men came mostly from the 2nd/5th R.W.K. whose Division was being utilized for drafts. This reinforcement was a remarkably fine set. One of the officers of the battalion wrote of them: ‘They went straight into one of the nastiest battles anyone could have chosen for them and the other men commented on their spirit.’
This information is quite possibly the final clue to the story. Lance-Corporal Sidney Parker might have been one of that draft that arrived on the Menin Road only a few days before being killed. After waiting for many months to be sent to France the draft might well arrived in good heart, to take their turn at last in a battle for which they had trained so long. They could have had very little idea of the appalling conditions they would have to face.
To the North of the Menin Road the ground in front of Broodseinde was lower and even worse than on the main ridge. The whole countryside was a wilderness of shell-holes, slime and bog made ever more horrible by the constant rain of one of the wettest summers on record. Attacks could not be closed down because of the likelihood that the enemy, much more secure than British in their pill-box defences, would re-take the ridge so very expensively gained and with it the only worth-while objective gain of the campaign. It was in this sector that the 7th Battalion R.W.K. met their nemesis on October 12th when men, unable to move in the mud, stuck fast and were killed where they stood. 600 men had gone ‘over the top’, 300 of whom survived. The area of the Menin Road itself was in an equally indescribable state.
Meanwhile the 1st Battalion, now renewed, returned to the line just North-West of Gheluvelt on October 24th to find itself in almost the same positions it had left twenty days earlier. On October 26th they were ordered to attack just north of the village in support of the 7th Division that had the task of taking Gheluvelt itself. In the past twenty days the ground had become even worse, and moving up through the bog to the assembly line was exhausting enough. One platoon of ‘A’ Company had never even received the orders to move. There was worse news than this: in order to get a satisfactory barrage line it was thought necessary by Brigade headquarters staff to form the attackers up 400 yards in the rear of the line gained on October 4th, thus wasting everything that had been gained by the earlier destruction of the battalion. The enemy immediately moved forward to re-occupy the abandoned ground, so that when ‘D’ and ‘B’ went forward at ‘zero’ they had to lose more men in regaining it. They got no further than their original front line. ‘A’ came forward in support, suffering severely even in managing to reach this far. ‘C’ managed to get a little further and the hopeful news arrived that the 7th Division had managed to get into Gheluvelt. However, they were dislodged by a German counter-attack which led to a further disaster. The survivors of ‘B’ and ‘D’ were rolled up from their right flank and were killed or taken almost to a man. ‘C’ did its best to destroy the pill-boxes that were doing such terrible damage, but little could be done except to cling on to the original October 4th defensive line by collecting and organising as many stragglers of the 5th and 7th Divisions as possible to hold the line, with the help of our own artillery adding to the German casualties. The remnants of the 1st R.W.K. were relieved that night back to Ridge Wood Camp. Colonel Atkinson’s account tells the story:
It was a scanty remnant indeed which reached Ridge Wood Camp. Except for the few who fell wounded near enough to our line to drag themselves back or be fetched in by stretcher-bearers, practically none of B or D Companies ever got back. Those who were wounded any distance from our line had no chance of extricating themselves from the awful mud which was the dominating feature of the day; it checked the advance of the attack, it impeded and almost prevented communication between front and rear, it choked rifles and Lewis guns so that at critical moments they were out of action. To its all-pervading influence it is chiefly to be ascribed that October 26th 1917 was the worst day in the battalion’s experiences in the war. To lose 12 officers and 348 men out of the 16 officers and 548 men who went into action, 225 of the men killed and missing, and to gain not a yard of ground, was a depressing result even if the left and centre of the attack ground was won and the line advanced appreciably towards Passchendaele.
Truly, it can be said of these men of 1917, in the epitaph written by Siegfried Sassoon:
I died in Hell. (They called it Passchendaele).
It is impossible to know exactly how Sidney Parker was killed, by shell or bullet, or perhaps by being wounded he simply drowned in the mud. Perhaps something of his remains might have been found after the war, but if so they would have been buried as one of the thousands of ‘unknowns’, only ‘Known unto God’. Instead, Sidney is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, panels 106-8. The Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing forms the north-eastern boundary of Tyne Cot Cemetery, which is located 9 kilometers north east of Ypres town centre. The names of those from United Kingdom units are inscribed on Panels arranged by Regiment under their respective Ranks.
The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed so many lives on both sides that after the war it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites. The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates those of all Commonwealth nations, except New Zealand, who died in the Salient, in the case of United Kingdom casualties before 16 August 1917. Those United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war. The Tyne Cot Memorial now bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The memorial forms the north-eastern boundary of Tyne Cot Cemetery which was established around a captured German blockhouse or pill-box used as an advanced dressing station. At the suggestion of King George V, who visited the cemetery in 1922, the Cross of Sacrifice was placed on the original large pill-box. There are three other pill-boxes in the cemetery.
Married, as it could well have been, during his embarkation leave, Sydney’s young wife Elsie was left to to care for her baby Minnie with the support and help of her family and friends in the closely-knit world that was both Winkleigh and Ashreigney. Elsie remained in the family home at Riddlecombe in Ashreigney until her death in 1942, bringing up Minnie in the full knowledge of what had happened to her daddy. Today, 94 years old and still living in her own house in the Eggesford Road, Winkleigh, Minnie remains a last living link of the village to the First World War. She remembers so much, her childhood in Ashreigney, the village school and of course, her own marriage and life during and after the Second World War. To this day at the foot of her bed hangs the photograph of her father taken just before he left for France, destined Neither to enjoy a full married life nor ever to see his little daughter. Elsie never remarried. To the end of her life, her love for Sydney never wavered and a locket that she wore containing two photographs of him is still one of Minnie’s most precious possessions. Cherished too, is an embroidered birthday card that Sydney purchased in France in time for Minnie’s first birthday, with the words ‘to my dear daughter’. Written for her in advance, it might have been kept in his pack in case he was killed, to be returned home with his possessions, or as I think more likely it was probably posted home just before going into action in which he knew that survival was simply a matter of chance. The ‘Goodbye’ says it all:
My Dear Minnie
Just a PC. to let you know that Daddy is alright and is coming home to see you some day. Goodbye Dear
In this way, too young to know it at the time, Minnie came to understand how much her father had loved her mother and herself.
With Minnie’s kind permission photographs of the locket and the card can be viewed by clicking on the thumbnails on the right. An assortment of family photographs including some of Minnie with Sydney’s framed photogragh and another with her father’s medals, his commemorative scroll and his memorial plaque will be available here soon. Minnie’s daughter Pat and her husband Roy preserve these memories and keep the family history, including photographs of the marriage of Sydney’s sister Elsie to Henry Mitchell, a Winkleigh blacksmith who had himself served in the Devons. Sydney’s name is not only on the Winkleigh Memorial Cross and Roll of Honour, but is also preserved on the Ashreigney war memorial, so that in these many ways Sydney is truely remembered ‘at the going down of the sun and in the morning’.
It was not until 27th September 1918 that the 'Western Times' reported : 'Official news has been reported that Sidney Parker of Royal West Kent regiment is dead. He had been missing since October last 1917. He was only 21 years old. His parents, Mr and Mrs Parker of Lute House, Winkleigh have four others serving.' The prolonged delay in reporting the news is testimony to the wholesale slaughter of the Passchendaele campaign, the atrocious conditions in which the fighting took place and the impossibility of recording how the men died. As a result, Sidney's young wife, Elsie, the two sets of parents and Sidney's brothers and sisters would all have lived for just under a year hoping and praying that Sidney was a prisoner, and that one day a letter would arrive saying that all was well. The news would have amounted to a double loss.
8 November 2017