Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

Qualifying for a Dockyard apprenticeship has long been a highly valued achievement, not solely because of the security associated with working for the government but because it opened so many doors. In the case of George Edwin's father it led to academic success, a doctorate and appointment as Headmaster at the Secondary School.
George John Parks was born on Portsea Island in 1870, the son of John G. Parks, who was born in Landport in 1846 and who spent most of his working life as a shipwright in HM Dockyard. John G. had married Fanny Rosina Street at Portsea in 1869 and George John seems to have been their only child. Fanny died in 1885 and the following year John G. married Louisa Whittington, native of Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

Dr. George John Parks

George John Parks appears in the 1891 census with his parents at 75 St. Mary's Road; he is listed as an apprentice in the Dockyard. Records show that the following year he married Helen Julia Hammond and together they had three children, all born on Portsea Island - Elsie Rosina (b. 1893), George Edwin (b. 1895) and Charles Frederick (b. 1899). Although the family do not appear in the 1901 census we know, from a book on the history of the Secondary School, that after five years as an apprentice George John transferred to the Admiralty Experimental Station at Haslar and two years later gained first place in a Civil Service examination for appointment as an Assistant Master at the Dockyard School. He remained there twelve years working in his spare time for his B.Sc. which he obtained with First Class Honours. This put him in a prime position to take on a role as headmaster of the Secondary School, his tenure running from 1904 until 1931.
With his father as Headmaster it is not surprising that George Edwin should attend the Secondary School, as he did, from 1906 to 1910. It may have been during this period that the family moved to 18 Cavendish Road, a well-appointed house just off Victoria Road South in Southsea.
After completing the Fourth Year's Course of the Secondary School and passing both the Oxford Senior Local Examination with First Class Honours and London University Matriculation by direct examination in 1910, George Edwin continued his connection with the school until 1912 as a Student Teacher, and passed the Intermediate Science Examination of London University in 1911 as a Student of the Municipal College. He won the Badge for First Team Football and also the Cap awarded for First Team Cricket, and assisted as violinist in the School Orchestra.

George Edwin Parks

Early in 1913, after a few months' study at St. George's College, London, Mr. Parks obtained a clerkship in the Estate Duty Office and studied Law at King's College for the Intermediate L.L.B. He was a member of the London University Officers' Training Corps, and obtained the "A Certificate" in August, 1914, just as war broke out. He immediately applied for a commission, and when released from his official duties in 1915, he was gazetted to the Manchester Regiment, and specialised in signalling.
All through the memorable month of July, 1916, he served with the 19th Manchesters in the Battle of the Somme and in the costly attacks on Guillemont. In August, 1916, he was wounded in leading a night raid on the German trenches near La Bassee but recovered within three months and went to France again, where he specialised as an Instructor in Bombing, with intervals of service in every part of the front in France and Belgium.
In early 1918 George Parks was given leave to return to England in order to marry Winifred Winsor in Portsmouth, but it couldn't have been much of a honeymoon as he soon joined the great advance with the 12th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. It was on October 12th, 1918, that he was mortally wounded whilst leading his men across the River Selle at Neuvilly, near Le Cateau. He was buried in the Communal Cemetery at Montigny, near Le Cateau. His Colonel wrote:- "He had shown himself to be a most capable officer and a splendid Instructor, and he died carrying out what he had taught. He did magnificent work, plunging into the river and leading his men over with the very greatest courage and determination. All his men had the utmost confidence in him. We have all lost a very gallant gentleman, a brave and noble comrade."
The photographs above are taken from "Portsmouth Southern Grammar School 1888-1904-1954" by A.C. Hitchins and a WW1 memorial booklet published by Southern Grammar School. Extracts from both also appear above.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists Lieutenant George Edwin Harold Parks, Manchester Regiment, died on 12/10/1918, aged 24. Remembered on the Theipval Memorial. Son of Dr. G. J. Parks and Mrs. Parks, of 29, Malvern Rd. Southsea, Portsmouth, husband of Winifred Parks.
George Parks is also remembered on the Southern Grammar School WW1 Memorial and on the Cenotaph. He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Tim Backhouse
June 2014