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Like a lot of WWI soldiers Fred Parkinson’s military service records have not survived. His Medal Index Card confirms his service number and that he claimed both the British War Medal and Victory medals after the war.

The 1901 census shows 13 yrs old Fred beginning his early career in the local cotton mills employed as a little piecer.

The following census for the year 1911 shows the Parkinson family as living at 41 Roxalina Street, Great Lever, Bolton, a mid- terrace two up two down red brick house, still standing today. The father Harry Parkinson 48yrs is a Labourer in a safe works and wife Elizabeth  49yrs with their children, Fred 23yrs now a side piecer in a Cotton spinning mill,  Elizabeth 21yrs, Marie 19yrs, Eliza Alice 16yrs, Harry 13yrs and Albert 11yrs.

A marriage certificate dated 28th June 1913 provides evidence that, Fred now 25yrs, of 41 Roxalina Street and his wife was Mary Alice nee Horrocks who was 27yrs. His younger sister Marie signed as a witness, when they married at St Marks Parish Church, Bolton.

Fred was now a minder in the Atlas cotton mills of Messrs James Marsden & Sons Ltd, Great Lever. His name appears in The Fine Cotton Spinners & Doublers Association Ltd, Great War Roll of Honour.

In the Bolton Chronicle of 1st May 1915 is an entry confirming his enlistment with other men into the Bolton ‘Pals Battalion’, this being the 5th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, with his address now shown as 10 Norman Street, Great Lever, Bolton.  Using his pre 1917 four digit regimental number (4358) as reference, no other Fred Parkinson’s of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment have been found in the enlistments section of the local press, or indeed an existing photograph of the soldier.

He was also awarded the Military Medal, [Regd paper 68/121/390 – Schedule No: 140981] his M.M. card states the award was in the French theatre and appeared in the London Gazette of 23rd February 1918. This gazette covered events of the last battle of Passchendaele Ridge 26th October 1917.

The battle took place in the Ypres salient around the village of Passchendaele and was the culminating attack of the third battle of Ypres. The battalion had moved up to Poelcapelle on the 24th October 1917 ready for the attack on the 26th. Taken from the War Diary of the 2/5th Bn: At 05.40am that day the battalion moved off from the tape line towards the enemy positions in atrocious weather conditions, the ground was heavy with mud after much rain, the conditions being described as dreadful. The battalion hadn’t moved 50 yards before they were met by intense enemy machine gun fire causing many casualties. The enemy machine guns had been placed in strengthened shell holes, they and accurate sniping accounted for the casualties including all the company officers. The advance was continued by the NCO’s and small pockets of soldiers had managed to find safety in shell holes 500 yds in advance. Their rifles and Lewis guns for the most part could not be fired back at the enemy due to the mud and shell holes filled half full of water. Attacks were carried out at the point of the bayonet. After a day full of fighting it was decided for the attack to cease and to retire and consolidate their initial positions from whence they started.

His citation for the award did not survive and searches of the local newspapers fail to include the event that Parkinson was involved in during the battle, but whatever he did that day earned him the medal ‘For Bravery In The Field’.

The post-war Electoral Roll for Spring 1919 for his address at Norman St, still shows the householder as Fred Parkinson with his wife Mary Alice. His Military Medal is still extant, but has been separated from his missing WWI pair.

Garry Farmer
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