Researched and written by Anne Wright
Pte W Parsons
2/22nd Battalion, London Regiment
Died of wounds, 30.7.1916
William Parsons was the fourth of the seven surviving children born to John Crispin and Rose (nee Knight) Parsons. Both parents were natives of Sussex; John came from a long established family in Ditchling and Rose from Hurstpierpoint. They married on 25 October 1885 at Hurstpierpoint in their home county, one of their sons died before 1911 and William’s siblings in that year were: Harry, James, Joseph, the twins Frank and Nellie and Rose. Their father, in 1901, was head gardener at Ivy House, North Road in Ditchling where the family also lived. Ten years later they resided at New Lodge, Old Avenue in Weybridge; John was still a gardener, Joseph had followed in his father’s footsteps and William who had been born in 1897 was still a pupil at St James’ School (Baker Street).
He enlisted at Kingston, when he did so is not known. William was posted initially to the East Surrey Regiment (27896) but subsequently transferred to the 2/22nd Battalion, London Regiment. He did not serve in France before 1916 as he did not receive the 1914-1915 Campaign Medal. William’s battalion was based at St Albans in March 1915, Braintree in May 1915 and finally Sutton Veny in January 1916. They spent a rather miserable month in December 1915 desperately trying to train but constantly being interrupted by heavy rainfall. Their mobilisation orders did not come until six months later on 14 June 1916.
William’s unit disembarked at Le Havre on 25 June. They went into the trenches at Ecurie (3 miles north of Arras) five days later. Their position was north of the Somme battlefield. The battalion’s first experience of the front line saw them come under enemy trench mortar fire and bad weather conditions which made the trenches extremely uncomfortable. After a break they were back at the Ecurie defences working on improving the state of the trenches. On 16 July they shot and captured a German and were praised highly for the valuable information they gathered about which units were opposite them. William must have been glad of a further week’s respite from the front line from the 20th to 27th July. His battalion went back to the trenches at Post Lille on 28 July. On the following day they endured trench mortar attacks, especially in the late afternoon. Two patrols were sent out. Their total casualties for 29 July were 3 killed and 2 wounded. William was most likely one of those wounded as he died from his injuries on 30 July.
He is buried in the Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension (1. D. 52) which is located 15 km north-west of Arras. William’s father returned to Sussex, probably before the end of the war as he does not appear on Surrey’s Electoral Register in 1918. His new home was at Mount Pleasant, Tower Hill in Horsham. William is commemorated on Southwater War Memorial, 1914-1918, a village just outside Horsham. However, his brother Harry, who was born in Ditchling in 1888 and died of wounds on 14 May 1915, does not feature on the Memorial. He served with the 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade.
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long, Long Trail – London Regiment, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973, www.ancestry.co.uk
Parsons and Edwards Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk
St James’ School War Memorial Board 1914-1918, St James’ Church, Weybridge
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, www.ancestry.co.uk