Arthur John PARKER. Regimental Number: 1687A- WW1.
UTAS Families at War Assignment HAA 007 April 2017. Marg Hope.
This photo was taken overseas about 1917. Arthur Parker centre.
Arthur John Parker was born in March 1896 at Carcoar, New South Wales. He went to war as a young adventurous boy. He seized the opportunity to see the world and gain a lifetime experience he would never be able to afford.
Just hours after Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 The Sydney Morning Herald told their readers that Australia would support the British. The headlines read; “Australia’s Offer. 20,000 Men. An Expeditionary Force.”i Arthur knew where his future was to unfold. He was just eighteen years old, and his parents were prepared to sign his enlistment papers, but he was too short to enlist. He was a country boy born in Carcoar, New South Wales. Arthur craved adventure and yearned excitement of the unknown. He had a mission, but he did not meet the height regulations, yet.
Finally, during June 1916 height restrictions came within his limits. Aged nineteen years and nine months he had reached five feet two inches. Arthur’s dream had come true; he lost no time with enlisting on December 16, 1915, at Lithgow, New South Wales. ii
Arthur’s enlistment papers were signed by both parents, giving him permission to join the Army. He marched off to Bathurst, New South Wales for training and was later assigned to 45th Battalion, 2nd Reinforcement unit.
After six weeks of training, the excitement was aroused in Arthur when news came of his embarkation for active service abroad. He was on board the HMAT A40 Ceramic when it sailed from Sydney on 14 April 1916 with 2,096 comrades iii. As per his records, Arthur disembarked at Alexandria, Egypt to join the British Expeditionary Forces on 6 June 1916. It is here he would have trained in preparation of active service.
It appears that Arthur had a setback when he reported sick from the 12th Training Battalion to Codford Hospital, suffering from scabies. For the next eight months, Arthur was in and out of hospital fighting his infectious disease. iv.
He celebrated Christmas 1917 in England and two days later Arthur proceeded overseas to France. The next day he marched into Havre, France.
“Australian soldiers arriving in France, whether reinforcements or “casuals” (those returning from hospitals), went to Base Depots before deployment to the front. All drafts, although they had already passed in England as fully trained, were subjected to further tests, a strict medical check, and at least ten days of additional training.”v
On New Year’s Eve Arthur was taken on strength with 56th Battalion and marched into camp at Panehem, Tigry, France. Here the troops were trained and lectured while entertaining themselves with games of football and other competitive sports until they received their move orders on 28 January 1918. They proceeded to Hollebeke Sector, Belgium where they relieved the 3rd Battalion on 31 January. Here, they stayed in the trenches until they were relieved on 20 February by the 53rd Battalion. Two days later Arthur was admitted to an Australian Dermatological Hospital Station with Trench Fever.
He re-joined his battalion on 8th May at Villers-Bretonneux Sector. On 20 May, his Battalion relieved 54th Battalion in the trenches at the Hamel Sector. On 26 June 1918 Arthur was appointed to Water Point Duty.
On 10 July Arthur’s Battalion was involved in the successful action against the enemy around the Somme as per the 56th Battalion war diaries. The next entry in his dossier states he re-joined the 56th Battalion on 17 July at Bray Sector where there was enemy action taking place. By the end of July, the Battalion was on the move again and on 1 August they were at Poulainville where the men were being allowed to rest as much as possible when; “During the evening warning order was received to the effect that the brigade would move forward on the 4/5 August. On 6 August, they arrived at their destination in dug-outs and shelters in a bank along the east of the river Somme near Daours at 1.30 a.m.” vi
On the morning of September 1, they were at Peronne. The order came to attack. They gained ground on the Germans until 7 a.m. the next morning, September 2, when machine-gun fire barraged the advance. They suffered heavy casualties. Arthur was ‘WOUNDED IN ACTION’. vii.
He suffered shrapnel wounds to his arms, legs, head and right foot. The following day he was transferred to the 6th General Hospital, Rouen in France. From here, he was transported to England via the hospital ship H.M. Grantully Castle. The next day he was admitted to the War Hospital, Exeter, England where he stayed for approximately three months recuperating.
It is while he was in the hospital he sent a postcard, viii, to his youngest sister, my grandmother, showing a photo of ‘Knightshayes Court’, Tiverton, a stately home taken over by the Military to accommodate the wounded. In part, his correspondence read;
“the photo on the front of this card is the house I am in the hospital and it is a lovely house too, I have been enjoying myself since I came here, the town is about a mile and a half away but I walk it nearly every day. I am getting quite well now, those bad Germans wounded me, but I will go back and give them some more.”
Mid-December 1918, he was ready for discharge and transferred to the Third Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford. Here, he was granted furlough on 17 December 1918 and was to report to No. 1 Command Depot, Sutton Veny on 2 January 1919.
It is apparent that he overstayed his leave and was listed AWL, in Bristol.
He forfeited three days pay.
i. ‘Australia’s Offer’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 August 1914, p. 9.
ii. Service Record of Arthur John Parker, p. 1, B2455, National Archives of Australia.
iii. Australian War Memorial, ‘WW1 Embarkation Rolls’. https://www.awm.gov.au/people/roll-search/nominal_rolls/first_world_war_embarkation/, Accessed 26 April 2017.
iv. Service Record of Arthur John Parker, p. 25.
v. Springfield College Digital Collections, ‘Australian General Base Depot in Havre, France’, http://cdm16122.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15370coll2/id/2931 Accessed 29 April 2017.
vi. Australian War Memorial, Australian Imperial Force Unit War Diaries, 1914-18 War, 56th Infantry Battalion August 1918, Item number: 23/73/31, p. 2. https://www.awm.gov.au/images/collection/bundled/RCDIG1007063.pdf
vii. Service Record of Arthur Parker, p. 14.
viii. Arthur J Parker to Margaret J Parker, postcard, October 1918, Margaret Hope, Private Collection, Tasmania.
Arthur left England to return to Melbourne, Australia per H.M.T. Delta on 24 January 1919. On 9 May 1919 Arthur was discharged from the A.I.F., medically unfit.
There is no paper trail, like his war records, that traces his life from then on, but it appears he becomes restless. He married Ruth Williams in October 1920. They later separated, but evidence has not been found indicating they divorced. He then lived with Rhoda Green, who was a local girl from his childhood town in Leadville, New South Wales. Arthur adopted two boys who lived in this relationship. One of these boys was also named Arthur. He enlisted in World War 2 aged 18 years old. He did his service in New Guinea, and when the Montevideo Maru sunk, he was listed on board and drowned.
Arthur found out about his death in September 1945. The family believe he died of a broken heart on 12 April 1946.
Lest We Forget!
AIF Project, ‘Australian ANZACS in the Great War 1914-18’, https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/index.html
Australian War Memorial, Australian Imperial Force Unit War Diaries, 1914-18 War, Infantry, Item No: 23/73/25 Title: 56th Battalion. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/RCDIG1000545/
Fitzsimons, Peter, Fromelles & Pozieres, North Sydney, Random House Australia Pty. Ltd, 2015.
Service Record, B2455, National Archives of Australia.
Springfield College Digital Collections, ‘Australian General Base Depot in Havre, France’, http://cdm16122.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15370coll2/id/2931 Accessed 29 April 2017.
The Sydney Morning Herald.
Times Books, Atlas of the World, London, Times Books, 2001.