Percy Dolph Parker came to Chelmsford from Bradwell-on-Sea to serve an apprenticeship at Marconi’s. He joined the Territorials in 1913. Too young to go overseas, he gained a commission into the Royal Flying Corps in May 1917 and obtained his ‘wings’ that December. He was killed in a flying accident in Norfolk in January 1918. His father was the landlord of the Golden Lion in Chelmsford.
PARKER, PERCY DOLPH,
Second Lieutenant, Royal Flying Corps and 4th Reserve Cavalry Regiment
(formerly Essex Regiment, Essex Yeomanry and Royal Engineers)
The same day’s Essex Weekly News also carried news of Percy’s death:
“Essex Airman Killed While Flying - Sec.-Lieut P. D. Parker buried at Bradwell. In a fatal flying accident which occurred in Norfolk on Friday one of the victims was Second Lieutenant Percy Dolph Parker, Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays), attached R.F.C., son of Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Parker, of the Golden Lion Hotel, Chelmsford, and nephew of Mr. Clement W. Parker, C.C., of Peakes, Bradwell-on-Sea, The deceased officer was 21 years of age. Prior to the war he was in the Essex Yeomanry, and was mobilised with the Territorial Force, but being at the time under 18 he was not sent abroad. Last year he was recommended for a commission by Colonel the Hon. Alwyne Greville and proceeded to an O.T.C in Ireland, where he came out third among 240 candidates, his percentage of marks being 84. Posted to the Queen’s Bays, deceased subsequently responded to the call for volunteers for the Royal Flying Corps, began flying last August, and obtained his pilot’s certificate the following month, in which he attained his 21st birthday. He had just received the certificate entitling him to his wings. Prior to the outbreak of war Sec.-Lieut Parker was engaged at the Marconi Works at Chelmsford, having almost completed his apprenticeship as an instrument-maker. A keen sportsman, he was particularly good at boating and riding; and he was a clever musician.
Percy was born at Bradwell-on-Sea on 14th September 1896, the son of Adolphus Butcher Parker and Harriet Adelaide Parker (nee Green). His father had been born at Bradwell-on-Sea in 1866; his mother at Tollesbury in 1871. The couple had married on 1st January 1895 at St Mary the Virgin, Tollesbury. His father was aged 28 and a merchant; his mother aged 23; both lived in Tollesbury.
Percy was baptised at Bradwell-on-Sea on 18th October 1896. At the time his father was a ship’s carpenter living at Bradwell-on-Sea.
The couple had five children, three of whom were to die before 1911. Those that were to die in infancy were: Dorothy Adelaide Parker (1895 – 1897), Roland Oliver Parker (1897 – 1898), and Muriel Parker (1901 – 1901).
The 1901 census found four year-old Percy living with his parents at Bradwell House, Bradwell on Sea. Percy’s father was a coal
merchant and boat builder. In 1906 Percy was awarded a£30 scholarship from Dr. Buckeridge’s Charity, enabling him attend either Chelmsford or Maldon Grammar School. The prize was open to candidates who had attended Bradwell School for at least a year. In the event Percy continued his education at Maldon Grammar School, and later at Brentwood High School.
In 1911 the census recorded 14 year-old Percy living with his mother and surviving sibling, sister Nita Adelaide Parker, at Bradwell-on-Sea. Nita had been born in 1904 at Bradwell-on-Sea. Meanwhile Percy’s father was on the ship Lord Nelson at Greenhithe in Kent, enroute to Millwall in London. He was serving as mate onboard the vessel.
In 1912 Percy was apprenticed at Marconi’s works in Chelmsford as a scientific instrument maker.
On 3rd May 1912 Percy’s father was granted the licence for the Golden Lion Hotel in Tindal Square Chelmsford (pictured), in succession to John A. Hemmant. Percy assisted his father at the premises.
As a 16 year-old Percy enlisted as Sapper 301 in the Essex (Fortress) Royal Engineers, a Territorial unit, on 3rd June 1913 at Chelmsford. His home address was the Golden Lion and he worked for Marconi’s. He was five feet eight and a half inches tall, with a chest of 34 and a half inches. He had good vison and good physical development. On 2nd August 1913 Percy started two weeks’ annual training with his unit. He transferred to B Company of a fellow Territorial unit, the Essex Yeomanry, later that year on 10th December 1913 and was given the service number 978.
The day after the declaration of the First World War Percy was mobilised. He was posted as a Private to the 2/1st Essex Yeomanry on 3rd October 1914.
On 9th July 1916 Percy’s application for officer cadet training was supported by his commanding officer (Lieutenant Colonel A Greville) while Percy was stationed at Great Bentley. He passed his medical examination the same day which showed
that he had grown to five feet nine inches tall, weighed 150 pounds and had a chest of 35 inches.
While he awaited news of his application Percy was transferred to the 3/1st Essex Regiment on 16th September 1916. On 15th December 1916 he signed his final will, giving over his entire estate to his father in the event of his death.
His application was successful as in late December 1916 Percy was posted for officer training at 2 Cavalry Cadet Squadron in Kildare, Ireland, commencing on 5th January 1917.
He was commissioned on 1st May 1917 as a 2nd Lieutenant, in the 4th Reserve Regiment of Dragoons ar Aldershot, joing them on 19th May 1917. He was subsequently posted to the Queen’s Bays, and then volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps. He started flying in August 1917 and gained his pilot’s certificate on 14th September 1917.
Percy was killed, along with a comrade, in a flying accident in Norwich, Norfolk on 4th January 1918 while serving as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps. He was aged 21 and had served only in the United Kingdom. Percy is buried
at Bradwell-on-Sea (St. Thomas The Apostle) Church Cemetery.
On 11th January 1918 the Essex County Chronicle included the following family announcement:
“Parker. - On Jan. 4, 1918, Percy Dolph Parker, 2nd-Lieut., 2nd Dragoon Gds., and R.F.C., only son of Mr. and Mrs. A.B. Parker, Chelmsford, late of Bradwell-on-Sea, killed in an accident while flying, aged 21 years.”
The same edition also reported:
“Sec.-Lt. Percy Dolph Parker......[illegible] ......Deceased, who was 21 years of age, was in the Essex Yeomanry before the war, and was mobilized with the Territorial Force. Owing to his age, he being under 18, he was not sent abroad, and early in 1917 he was recommended by Col the Hon. Arwyn Greville for a commission. He went to an O.T.C. in Ireland, and came out third among his candidates, with a percentage of 84 marks. He was posted to the Queen’s Bays, and in July answered a call for volunteers for the R.F.C. He began flying in August, and received his pilot's certificate on his 21st birthday in September. Two days before his fatal accident he gained his certificate entitling him to his wings. He was a most promising young officer. Before the war he was at the Marconi Works at Chelmsford, and had all but completed his apprenticeship as an instrument maker, He was fond of all sport, and excelled at riding and boxing. He was educated at Maldon Grammar School and Brentwood High School and was a clever musician. On the day of of the accident he had been for a flight in the morning, and went up later with Lt. Knox, another first class pilot. He had engine trouble after rising to a height of 300 or 400 feet, and in endeavouring to return to his aerodrome the engine stopped and the machine nose-dived to the ground. Both airmen were killed instantaneously, The petrol tank burst and the ‘plane was destroyed. - At the inquest on Saturday a verdict of accidental death was returned, and sympathy was expressed with the relatives.”
The inquest was held on Saturday, when evidence was given showing that on Friday morning deceased had been for a flight and he went up again in the afternoon with Lieut. Knox, another first-class pilot. After rising to a height of 300 or 400 feet engine trouble was experienced, and an effort was made to return to the aerodrome. The engine stopped, however, and the machine nose-dived to the ground, both airmen being killed instantaneously, The petrol tank burst and the plane was destroyed. - The Jury returned a verdict of Accidental death and expressed sympathy with the relatives.
The remains of the deceased officer were conveyed to Chelmsford n Monday, and yesterday they were removed by motor hearse to Bradwell-on-Sea (or interment in the family grave. Rev. J. R. B. Owen, rector of Bradwell officiated, and there was a large attendance of military and local residents. A detachment of the Devon Regt. provided a military escort and firing party. the chief mourners were: - Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Parker, father and mother; Miss Parker, sister; Mrs. Edgcumbe, aunt; Sergt.-Major and Mrs. Hamilton, Mrs. Steward, Mrs. Etheridge, Mr. Cattle, Mr. J. Frost, Mr. C. Germain, Mr. W. S. Markham (Maldon), and Mr. H. Pigg (Chelmsford). Deceased’s Squadron R.F.C., was represented by Lieuts. Burns and Lupton; and six other R.F.C. officers from an Essex station attended. Those also present at the graveside included members of the Welcome Home Lodge of Oddfellows, Bradwell, of which deceased was a member, his father a former secretary, and his grandfather a founder. The floral tributes included one in the shape of wings bearing the monogram and crest of the R.F.C. in red flowers on a white
ground; and wreaths from a Yeomanry comrade on active service; members of the Chelmsford Licensed Victuallers’ Association; ‘His old chums at Marconi’s’, and the Committee and members of the Chelmsford Conservative Club.”
A week later the Essex County Chronicle included a message of thanks from Percy’s parents:
“Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Parker beg to return their heartfelt thanks to the many kind friends for the expressions of sympathy they have received regarding the loss they have sustained by the death of their only son, 2nd-Lieut. P. D. Parker. It is with regret they cannot reply individually to the numerous letters received. Chelmsford, Jan. 17th, 1918.”
Percy is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, the Essex Yeomanry Memorial at Chelmsford Cathedral, and by the Chelmsford Parish Great War Memorial
in Chelmsford Cathedral. He left am estate valued at £308 18s. 2d.
The 1918 register of electors showed Percy’s parents at the Golden Lion Inn in Tindal Square, Chelmsford (now the site of Bairstow Eves’ offices), where his father was licencee. After the war he ran The Cherry Tree at the junction of Cherry Garden Lane and Writtle Road, Chelmsford.
Percy’s father died on 4th April 1934, aged 68, leaving an estate then valued at £14,377 17s. and 8d. His death was reported in Chelmsford as follows:
“DEATH OF MR. A. B. PARKER OF CHELMSFORD We regret to report the death, which occurred on Wednesday after long illness. of Mr. Adolphus Butcher Parker, of Granvilie House, Baddow Road, at the age of 68. Mr. Parker was a member of old and respected Bradwell-on-Sea family, being the second son of the late Mr. John Parker, and brother of the late Ald. Clement W. Parker, J.P.
Mr. A. B. Parker had resided at Chelmsford for 22 years and had taken a keen and active part in public affairs. He was a member of the Town Council for many years, being first elected in March, 1921. Owing to ill-health he did not seek re-election last November. He was also a useful member of the Chelmsford Area Guardians' Committee, Assessment Committee, and the local War Pensions Committee.
He was very well known in the licensing trade, having for many years held the licence the Golden Lion Inn, Chelmsford, and later the Cherry Tree Inn, Chelmsford. For 18 years he was the respected hon. sec. the local Licensed Victuallers' Association, giving up the office only last year owing to his failing health. He was formerly a well-known barge-owner, and in his younger days travelled widely. He was shipwrecked three times. He was a Freemason, a Buffalo, and an Oddfellow, having been secretary of the Welcome Home Lodge of Oddfellows at Tillingham.
He was friend to many, and his passing is regretted by a wide circle. A widow and one daughter (Mrs. R. E. Claydon, of Kelvedon) survive. The only son lost his life during the Great War while an officer in the Flying Corps. The funeral will take place at Bradwell-on-Sea on Monday, the interment being in the family grave.
Percy’s mother died on 8th March 1955. Both she and her husband are buried beside their son at Bradwell-on-Sea. Percy’s sister died in 2000.
Acknowledgements to Ian Miller