Chief Petty Officer Harold Parfitt

Aside from British decorations and gallantry medals, one subject thats always interested me is that of foreign awards to British servicemen. I have come across quite a few Portsmouth who were awarded a foreign decoration – French, Belgian, even Russian. But I have never come across somebody who was awarded British, Russian and Italian decorations – until now.

Harold Poole Parfitt was born in Bedminster Bristol, on 1 June 1875, the son of a Steam Engine Driver. Parfitt seems to have joined the Royal Navy some time prior to 1891, as in that year’s census he was a 15 year-old Boy Seaman serving on HMS Impregnable in Devonport – a training hulk.

Harold Parfitt married his wife Emmie (nee Walker) in late 1908 in Portsmouth, and in the 1911 he was a Petty Officer, living at Mayhall Road in Copnor. His daughter Elsie Parfitt was just one year old, and his wife’s Brother, seven year old Frederick Walker, was also living with them.

I’m not sure exactly where Harold Parfitt served during the First World War, but he was mentioned in despatches, awarded the Italian Bronze Medal and the Russian Silver Medal of the Order of St Stanislas. One would imagine that CPO Parfitt must have seen some serious action, and even if not he must have given sterling service to be considered for so many awards.

Immediately after the war Parfitt was serving at HMS Excellent, the naval gunnery school on Whale Island. Sadly, after an operation he died on 26 February 1920. He was 44, and is buried in Kingston Cemetery in Portsmouth.




Filed under Navy, portsmouth heroes, World War One

2 responses to “Chief Petty Officer Harold Parfitt

  1. John Erickson

    I can see the British awards (obviously) and the Italian ones, but the Russian? I don’t recall too many convoys going beyond England in WW1, but could he have served up north and somehow gotten involved around Murmansk? Either that, or down in the east of the Mediterranean – Black or Red Sea, possibly. I’d say Russian east coast ports, but that would make awards from Italy unlikely.
    An interesting story – I look forward to whatever info you can dig up! 🙂

  2. James Daly

    As far as I can see, during WW1 the allies awarded each other batches of medals, almost on an automatic basis. And for diplomatic reasons it usually had to be reciprocal. ie, if Britain wanted to award 50 MM’s to French Soldiers, France would then award 50 Croix de Guerre (or whatever the equivalent is) to British soldiers. The BEF would then need to find 50 deserving cases to balance things out. Hence foreign awards werent always awarded on a case by case basis, but in terms of diplomacy. Which doesn’t devalue them, as they must have done something to be thought worthy of receiving them. Often they were used as a consolation for not receiving a british award.

    He’s by no means the first man I have found awarded a Russian decoration – I have come across a few sailors awarded the Cross of St George, but never a St Stanislas. And reciprocal decorations didn’t have to make sense – Parfitt might never have been anywhere near Russia. In fact, in the 2nd Portsmouth Pals war diary I have just transcribed a section where a representative company attended a parade where officers were awarded Montenegrin decorations – Montenegro, of all places!

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