This biography was written by Victoria Doran, but most of the research was done by Heather Chapman.
John was a farmer’s son who is notable for being one of only 2 former pupils of West Kirby Primary school who are recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as dying from a cause related to the First World War.
John Parkinson was normally known as ‘Jack’ so that is how this biography will refer to him.
Jack was born on 16 August 1899 at Carr Farm, Saughall Massie the 3rd of the 4 sons of John Price Parkinson (1860-1934) and Charlotte Ann Rimmer (1864-1936). He also had 3 sisters.
As far back as can be traced (at least to the early 18th century) his ancestors had nearly all been born and worked the land in North Wirral, mainly in the Moreton and Bidston areas. His father was one of the exceptions having been born in Liverpool. However his grandfather was actually farming in Liverpool at the time, at the, today, unlikely location of Scotland Road. Occasional ancestors branched out into inn keeping, but generally farmed at some stage of their lives.
John Price Parkinson was the first member of the family to farm in West Kirby, only moving there with his family sometime after 1903 after the birth of Jack’s youngest sibling William. They lived at 3 Lang Lane.
Jack attended West Kirby Council School (now known as West Kirby Primary School) in Orrysdale Road. The school only opened in 1908, so he presumably spent a short time at St Bridget’s School beforehand.
West Kirby Primary School as it is now
After leaving school Jack worked for Totty’s Grange Hill Nurseries, but it is not known in what capacity.
In October 1917 Jack joined the army and served as Private 75223 in the 6th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers. By that stage of the war recruits were being assigned to whichever regiment most needed reinforcements, rather than to a regiment with local associations.
Northumberland Fusiliers cap badge
Jack’s military record has not survived, so we do not know much about his time in the army.
On 27 May 1918 he was taken prisoner by the Germans at Pontavert in the Picardy region of France. This was the first day of the 3rd Battle of the Aisne, when the German Army launched a major offensive, and many Allied positions were overrun. It was in the same action on the same day nearby that Edwin Prytherch was injured and subsequently taken prisoner.
Jack was not wounded, and eventually by 14 September 1918 he is recorded as being in a prisoner of war camp in Thuringia in Central Germany.
His parents only found out that he had been taken prisoner at about the same time. Nearly 4 months of uncertainty about his fate.
from the Red Cross information to be found at http://grandeguerre.icrc.org
It is not known exactly were he was held as ‘Cassel’ was the responsibility of the German IX Army Corps. There were 2 camps for other ranks in the area – Langensalza (10,000 men) and Ohrduf (15,000 men). However, although he will have been registered at one of these camps, he was probably at a smaller satellite camp, where conditions depended very much on the local Kommandant. The Red Cross only ever visited the main camps.
In January 1919 Jack returned to West Kirby. However his health was poor and in late March 1919 he was admitted to Birkenhead Borough Hospital. He died there of tuberculosis 7 weeks later on 14 April 1919.
This photo dates from after it was renamed Birkenhead General Hospital in 1926
Jack is buried in the graveyard at St Bridget, West Kirby aged 19. The current headstone is a standard Commonwealth War Graves Commission one. The original headstone was a family one which over the years deteriorated. It was replaced by the CWGC in 2006.
He was duly awarded both the British War and Victory medals, which his parents will have received a few years later. In 1919 his father was also paid the sum of £32/19/10. This will have been Jack’s back pay together with his £8 War Gratuity. This is equivalent to more than £1,600 at today’s values, so represented quite a considerable sum for a 19 year old.
As well as being commemorated on Grange Hill War Memorial, Jack and another West Kirby Council School former pupil, John Alfred Pownall (known as Alfred) were also commemorated at their old school.
According to the School Log book, on 29 November 1919 when Mr Gershom Stewart, the local MP, visited the school to give every child their peace souvenir of a Royal Doulton mug, two apple trees were planted in the school allotment in memory of Jack and Alfred.
Unfortunately by the late 1960s the trees were deemed to be unsafe and their roots causing damage in the playground and so they were removed.
Birth: 16 Aug 1899 in Saughall Massie or Moreton
Death: 14 Apr 1919; Birkenhead Borough Hospital; tuberculosis
Addresses: Carr Farm, Saughall Massie (01), 3 Lang Lane, West Kirby (11)
Occupation: worked for Totty’s Grange Hill Nurseries
Unit: 6th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers
Number and Rank: 75223; Private
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: St Bridget Graveyard (1360); Grange Hill, – both in West Kirby
Sources: GH, CWGC, MC, BR, PR, DA, Census: 01, 11, ICRC, West Kirby Council School log book, Probate, RSE, family