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.
Military has seen two sad passings in the past few days.
Image by Tram Painter via Flickr
Claude Choules (1901-2011)
The last known veteran of the First World War died last week. A former Tommy, Claude Choules later emigrated to Australia. Claude Choules was born in 1901, and joined the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman in 1915. He served in the G
rand Fleet, and witnessed the scuttling of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow in 1919. In 1926 he emigrated to Australia, and then joined the Royal Australian Navy during the Second World War. In the event of a Japanese invasion Choules would have been responsible for destroying ports in Western Australia. Later in life Choules became a pacifist, shunning celebrations which he saw as glorifying war.
Professor Richard Holmes CBE TD JP (1946-2011)
Out of all of the modern TV Historians, I have found Richard Holmes to be the most impressive. A former TA Officer who commanded a Battalion and finished up a Brigadier, he was ideally placed to write and present the popular War Walks series. I particularly enjoyed the programmes on Waterloo, Hastings and the Boyne – which led to my family calling me ‘Seamus a caca’, or in english, ‘James the shithead’. Later Holmes went on to write acclaimed Biographies of Wellington and Marlborough, the two men widely regarded as Britain’s best ever Generals. Both books were eminently readable and enjoyable. On BBC TV‘s Great Briton’s programme he championed Oliver Cromwell, not an easy task, and acquited himself rather well. Military History is a lesser field for his passing.