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Joe Parkinson

Private Joe Parkinson, 34415, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 8th Battalion

Joe Parkinson was born in Ossett in 1883, the son of James Parkinson and his wife Mary Ann (nee Fox) who married in Spring 1872. In 1880 James was a miner living on Owl Lane, Ossett. Joe was the fourth child of six born to the Parkinsons.

By 1891, James and Mary Ann had moved to Batley with their six children, including Joe. In 1901 James is lodging in Barnsley with his daughter, Eleanor, and son, Joe, aged 17. Father and son were working as coal miners. In 1911 Joe, or for the first time in any census, Joseph, was lodging and working as a labourer in Skipton.

Coal miner Joe Parkinson first enlisted in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at Pontefract on the 10th of June 1904 at the age of 21 years, giving his place of birth as Ossett. He was recorded as being 5ft 9½" in height, weighing 159 lbs with dark hair, hazel eyes and a fair complexion with the service number of 8263.

Joe Parkinson discharge card

However, just four months later, on the 29th October 1904, Private Joe Parkinson, 8263 KOYLI, was discharged from the army as "not likely to become an efficient soldier". His record card can be seen above.

Despite his earlier setback in 1904, Joe Parkinson re-enlisted in the army at Halifax, this time in the 8th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry with service number 34415. Joe was killed in action on the 7th June 1917 and was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals but not the 1914/15 Star indicating that he did not serve overseas before the 31st December 1915.

The 8th Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was raised at Pontefract in September 1914 as part of Kitchener's Third New Army and joined 70th Brigade, 23rd Division. They undertook training in England at Pontefract, Frensham, Aldershot, Hythe and Bordon, before proceeding to France. They landed at Boulogne in August 1915 and transferred with the 70th Brigade to 8th Division on the 18th of October 1915, in an exchange with 24th Brigade allowing the inexperienced troops to learn from those who had battle experience, returning to their original divisions in June 1916.

The 23rd Division were at Bomy beginning a period of intensive training for the Battles of the Somme. They were in action in The Battle of Albert including the capture of Contalmaison, The Battles of Bazentin Ridge, Pozieres, Flers-Courcelette, Morval and The Battle of Le Transloy including the capture of Le Sars. In 1917 they fought in The Battle of Messines, The Battles of the Menin Road, Polygon Wood and the The First and Second Battles of Passchendaele.

Private Joe Parkinson was killed in action during the Battle of Messines in what was called The Flanders Offensive, or the Third Battle of Ypres, which started on June 7th 1917 with The Battle of Messines. It became associated with Passchendaele, but the First Battle of Passchendaele did not start until the 12th October 1917.

"In the first days of June 1917, from the camp near Ouderdom, the 8/K.O.Y.L.I moved up to battalion concentration area for the Messines offensive. The 70th Infantry Brigade was allotted the part of pivot brigade on the extreme left of X Corps. The directions issued to the brigade were, to bring its right shoulder up until its lines should be facing north-east, and to form a defensive flank for the general line of operations. There were five days of bombardment prior to the attack. Mines at Hill 60 and the Caterpillar were fired at 'Zero' hour and were the signal for the assault.

The 8/K.O.Y.L.I was the right support battalion of the brigade, with orders to capture and consolidate the second objective. The first objective was Image trench and part of Illusive trench in the enemy's front line, the second being Image crescent. The 8/K.O.Y.L.I moved in rear along a tunnel towards Hedge street, with 'B' Company in advance. This company was responsible for seeing that the front line was fairly clear before the battalion emerged from the Winnipeg exit. The battalion then moved down the front line trench into Living trench, where it came in touch with the 8/Y and L.

Two hours after 'Zero', 'B' and 'A' companies advanced in line of sections in file to their assembly positions in Image reserve, followed by 'C' company. Three hours and forty minutes after 'Zero' the battalion advanced to capture its objectives. When that was successfully accomplished Image crescent was consolidated under the protection of the Lewis-guns, while bombing parties were immediately pushed forward up the communicating trenches. The 8/Y and L combined in the attack. From June 8-10 the battalion remained in the front line trenches. It was relieved on the night of the 10th and proceeded to camp near Meteren til the night of the 27th, when it went back into the front line again. In the four days June 7-10th the battalion had 250 casualties in other ranks" 1

Joe Parkinson is not remembered on any Ossett Memorial or Roll of Honour most probably because he and his family left Ossett in the late 1890s. He is remembered in this 2014 biography and Roll of Honour because the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and/or the "U.K. Soldiers who Died in the Great War 1914-1918" listing records him as born or residing in Ossett.

Battle of Messines Map

Private Joe Parkinson, died on the 7th June 1917 and is remembered on Panel 47 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial,2 Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Ypres (now Ieper) is a town in the Province of West Flanders. The Memorial is situated at the eastern side of the town on the road to Menin (Menen) and Courtrai (Kortrijk).

The Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war.

The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence.

There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele.

The German offensive of March 1918 met with some initial success, but was eventually checked and repulsed in a combined effort by the Allies in September. The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives on both sides and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites.

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates casualties from the forces of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and United Kingdom who died in the Salient. In the case of United Kingdom casualties, only those prior 16 August 1917 (with some exceptions). United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war. New Zealand casualties that died prior to 16 August 1917 are commemorated on memorials at Buttes New British Cemetery and Messines Ridge British Cemetery.

The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial now bears the names of more than 54,000 officers and men whose graves are not known.


1. "King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the Great War 1914-1918" by R.C. Bond, Naval & Military Press Ltd, ISBN: 9781843427636

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site