The Roll of Honour
Nationality:  Australian  
Rank:  Second Leiutenant
Unit:  30th Battalion
Age at Death:  21
Date of Death:  20 July 1916
Service Number:  572
Memorial Reference: III.3.11


John’s Military Service papers:

Online Memorial:


‘Jack’ was born on 21 August 1896 in Kiama, a township 120 kilometres south of Sydney, New South Wales in Australia.  His parents, Edwin Parker and Sarah Hayward, were married in Hastings, Sussex in November 1883 and emmigrated to Australia sometime between 1884 and 1888.  Jack was one of eight children born to Edwin and Sarah.

Jack was an assurance collector, single and living at 36 Parkes Street, Lismore in NSW, when he enlisted in May 1915.


His service record shows that he boarded the HMAT (His Majesty’s Australian Troop ship) Beltana in Sydney on 9 November 1915, arriving at Suez on 11 December that year and within three months had been promoted to 2nd Leiutenant. After three weeks of training at Imperial School of Instruction at Zeitoun in Cairo, Egypt he rejoined his unit on 23 April 1916.

He boarded HMAT Hororata in Alexandria on 16 June and joined the British Expeditionary Force in Marseilles on 23 June 1916.


An official document amongst John’s service papers states the following circumstances surrounding his death:
‘This officer was killed in enemy front line during the attack on Fromelles on 19/20.7.16.  His body was not brought to our lines for burial owing to the enemy counter attack. Nature of wounds that caused death is unknown.
Probably because of these circumstances, the only personal possessions which were returned to John’s parents were his commission papers and a tin trunk ‘covered with hession’ containing the items listed below,  but nothing of his field kit was ever recovered.


However, it took many month of repeated letters from John’s father – and intervention from the New South Wales House of Representatives – before this trunk finally reached John’s parents.
In a letter from John’s father, Edwin, dated 17 January 1917 (six months after his son’s death) to the Base Records Office in Melbourne, he writes:

On July 20th 1916 my son Lieut John Parker was killed in action in France & so far I have received no word of his effects or pay due to him in France his trunk was left with Cook & S0ns Cairo and paid for as per receipt dated June 1st 1916 no 19283 on which £1-0-6 was paid.  I shall be pleased to receive information re these matters which will greatly oblige.  Your faithfully…

Finally, in a letter from Edwin Parker dated May 25th 1918 (almost two year’s after his son’s death) he writes:
Dear sirs
The tin trunk left by my late son Lieut John Parker C Company 30th Battalion in Egypt duly to hand with contents as per inventory sent with many thanks for same these were paid for to Messrs Cook & Son at Cairo for transmission to us and we thank you for this much…
The official inventory of the contents of the trunk lists the following:
kit bag, Testament, books, 1 compass, 1 fountain pen, 1 hair brush, 1 flute, 1 “Sam Browne” belt, 1 Balaclava helmet, 2 Pairs of Knee pads, 1 pair of pyjama pants, 2 shirts, 1 towel, 5 pairs of socks, 2 collars. 2 ties, 7 handkerchiefs, 2 pairs of slacks, 2 khaki drill tunics, 1 pair of breeches, 2 SD Tunic, postcards & photos.

The delays in returning John’s posessions to his loved ones were mirrored in the length of time they had to wait for him to be given a proper grave.

Due to the chaotic circumstances surrounding John’s death, the exact whereabouts of his remains were unknown. In the aftermath of the Battle of Fromelles 1,900 Australian men lay dead and 3,100 were injured or missing. Outnumbered two to one, the men were ordered to cross a 400-metre patch of ground to reach the German lines — fields already covered by the bodies of English soldiers killed in a similar battle the year before. A few made it through, only to be cut off, captured or killed as they tried desperately to return to the Allied trenches. It was high summer. During the next few days, German forces dragged hundreds of bodies from the fields to avoid disease and buried them in graves near the village. Most were recovered but one mass grave — at Pheasant Wood — remained undiscovered for 90 years

In 2009, archaeologists excavated several mass burial pits at Pheasant Wood near Fromelles. The remains of 250 British and Australian soldiers were recovered from these pits and considerable efforts have been made to identify these men. This has been a labour involving both the authorities and also many dedicated amateurs, working hard to try and make sure that as many graves in the new cemetery as possible bear a name, and as many families will finally know the exact resting place of their relative.


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