Private 17542 William Charles Parkes

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Photograph courtesy of Doreen Panico.         Further photograph at bottom.

Killed in Action on Tuesday, 7th May 1918, age 30.
Buried in Grave XVI. C. 4. at Bienvillers Military Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France.

2nd Bn., Coldstream Guards. 1 (Gds) Brigade of Guards Division.

Ward of Mrs Taunton, of 20, Medhurst Rd., Grove Rd., Bow, London.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: West Bromwich, Resident: Bow, London.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/266205/

Genealogical Data

Birth of William Charles Parkes registered June quarter 1887 in Dudley.

1901 Census
52 New Road, Great Bridge, Tipton, Staffs.
George Parkes (39, Iron Roller, born Tipton), his wife Mary (39, born Bloxwich), and their 2 children: Harry (18, House painter, born Bloxwich), and William (13, born Tipton).

1911 Census
47 New Road, Great Bridge, Tipton, Staffs.
George Parkes (49, Ironworker, born Tipton), his wife Mary (50, born Bloxwich), and 1 of their 2 surviving children of 4: William Charles (23, Butcher, born Tipton).

Marriage of William C. Parkes and Annie E. Taunton registered June quarter 1916 at Bethnal Green, London. A son, William George Parkes, was born 27th September 1916 at 20 Medhurst Road, Bow, London. Annie E. Parkes died from Spanish Flu on 3rd November 1918, her death being registered at Bethnal Green, London. William George was now an orphan but was raised by his grandmother, he lived for a large proportion of his life at 20 Medway Road, Bow, and he died in 2001.

Personal Data

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission shows W.C. Parkes as "Ward of Mrs Taunton". This is because his wife Annie E. Parkes (nee Taunton) had died in late 1918, and her mother (William's mother-in-law) had replied to the Imperial War Graves Commission's enquiry about his next-of-kin, and described him as her Ward. William's real next-of-kin were his parents in Tipton.

After William's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £5/11/10d (5 pounds, 11 shillings and 10 pence); this was paid to his widow, Annie E., in September 1918. His War Gratuity was £11/0/0d (11 pounds exactly), as his widow had died in 1919 this was paid to his "grandmother", Sarah Taunton, in December 1919. Sarah Taunton was in fact his mother-in-law. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that William had enlisted in approximately December 1915.

Action resulting in his death

As the German Spring Offensive began on 21st March 1918, the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards (2/CG), were in reserve near Arras. In the early weeks of the offensive, the 2/CG escaped relatively lightly in comparison to many other battalions.

Their first move was to Boisleux-au-Mont, about 5 miles south of Arras, and then moving generally westwards through Boiry-St.-Martin and Moyenville to Ayette. Early April saw 2/CG alternating between front line duties and being in Reserve at Hendecourt. In the middle of April the 2/CG were withdrawn to Bavincourt for 10 days training, before returning to front line duties near Ayette, about 8 miles south-east of Arras.

After a few days out of the line near Monchy-au-Bois, they returned to the front line trenches near Ayette during the evening of 1st May, and remained there until relieved on the 7th May. According to the War Diary, casualties were relatively low during this period in the front line.

The War Diary for 7th May 1918 records:
"Front Line Trenches - AYETTE.
The battalion was relieved by the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, and marched back to the trenches near MONCHY, becoming the Battalion in Reserve.
Casualties: 3 Killed, 2 Wounded."

William Parkes was one of the 3 men killed on the 7th May, the day they were being relieved, no further detail of the incident is recorded. The other 2 men killed were Frank Noyes and Richard Pound, the 3 men are buried side-by-side in Bienvillers Military Cemetery.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 15th June 1918 & 22nd June 1918
News has reached Mr and Mrs Parkes, old residents of Aston Street, Toll End, of the death of their son, Private W.C. Parkes, caused by the bursting of a shell.
They have received the following letter:- "Dear Mrs Parkes, I am exceedingly sorry to tell you that the news about your son is true, and that he was killed on May 7th. I have already written to his wife, and you may have heard from her since. I assure you that you have my sincerest sympathy in the loss of so good a son. His burial took place on May 9th in the British Military Cemetery and a cross erected at the head of his grave. I trust that it may be some consolation to you to feel that he died a noble death as a soldier for his country. In true sympathy, yours sincerely, L.N. Hodges (Chaplain)."
Pte. Parkes, who was attached to the Coldstream Guards, was highly respected in the neighbourhood, and for years was a devoted member of the Great Bridge Wesleyan Adult Bible Class. He was for a number of years employed by Mr H. Hipkins, butcher of Great Bridge.

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Another picture of William Parkes, and also of his wife Annie.