Somme hero is finally laid to rest

He sacrificed his life for his country in what the remains the bloodiest episode British military history - The Battle of the Somme.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 18th May 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:40 pm
The bearer party from the Yorkshire Regiment carrying the coffin of PrivateHenry  Parker in view of senior dignitaries.
The bearer party from the Yorkshire Regiment carrying the coffin of PrivateHenry Parker in view of senior dignitaries.

Now, Private Henry Parker has finally been laid to rest after his body was found a century later in a farmer’s field in France.

The soldier, who was a member of the 5th Batallion The Yorkshire Regiment, was killed in action on September 26, 1916, just three days before his 23rd birthday.

Yesterday, he was given a burial with full military honours at the Warlencourt British Cemetery, near the French city of Arras, which was attended by 20 members of his family, including his great niece, Pat Burton.

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Speaking at the ceremony, which saw soldiers from the Yorkshire Regiment provide a bearer party and fire a salute, she said: “It is a great honour for us to be here today to pay our respects to a great uncle, Private Henry Parker. We would like to thank the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) of the Ministry of Defence for inviting us to the burial ceremony here in Warlencourt, and feel very humble to be part of this occasion and extremely proud of our great uncle.”

Margaret Parker, niece of Private Parker, added: “Since the news that Uncle Henry has been found, I have had the honour and privilege to not only catch up with relatives I did know, but also to meet others for the first time. We have been brought together through the brave actions of Uncle Henry, who, 100 years ago, gave his life for us and all that we hold dear. I would like to thank all who have been involved, having given time and unstinting efforts to reunite uncle Henry with us, his family, and bring us some closure.”

The service, organised by the JCCC, was conducted by The Reverend Jonathan Wylie CF, chaplain to the 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment. Beverley Simon, from the JCCC, said: “It has been an honour to organise today’s ceremony and to ensure this brave soldier has been buried with the dignity and respect he deserves. It has been a privilege to have met Private Parker’s family and to personally involve them with the planning of his burial.”

Private Parker was born in the small hamlet of Weaverthorpe, in the Yorkshire Wolds. The greater part of his service was holding the frontline with his Battalion in the Ypres Salient area. It was not until August 1916 that his Battalion was redeployed from Flanders, along with the other units of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division, to the Somme. Private Parker was killed during an incremental advance towards the ‘Flers’ enemy trench from the ‘Starfish’ line. Private Parker’s brothers, James and Thomas Parker, who had both seen active service during the Great War, returned home safely.

In 2014, the remains of Private Parker were discovered in a farmer’s field on the outskirts of Matinpuich, Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The military insignia recovered with the remains was key to the eventual identification of the soldier.

A new headstone has been provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.