Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJuly 16, 1894
Place of BirthExeter
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinWilliam Parsons (father), Exeter, England
Trade / CallingLocomotive fireman
ReligionChurch of England
Service Details
Regimental Number71509
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion27th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentOctober 28, 1914
Age at Enlistment20
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathOctober 1, 1970
Age at Death76
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotPeaceful Hollow, 22E-2-3

Parsons, Henry William

Private Henry William Parsons enlisted in Winnipeg in October 1914, just a few months after the start of the war. He served overseas for three years, returning to Canada in the spring of 1918.

Henry was born in Exeter, a river port city in the county of Devon in southwest England. His parents, William Thomas Parsons and Rebecca Soper Rice, were both born in Exeter. William worked for a chemist as a porter and warehouseman. They were married in 1892 and they had at least five children but three of them died young. Henry, their oldest son, was born on 16 July 1894. At the time of the 1911 census he was 17 years old, living at home and working as an engine cleaner for the Great Western Railway. Also in the household were his parents, his brother Edward John, age 15, and another brother, just two weeks old and not yet named. The baby boy, Bertie James, died in May 1911, a few weeks after the census was taken. Two years later the Parsons family immigrated to Canada. Edward and his father arrived in June 1913 on the SS Laurentic, their destination Kenora, Ontario. Henry and his mother came the following month, arriving on 13 July on the SS Megantic and going to Kenora to join William and Edward. In Kenora Henry found work as a fireman with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).   A year later, when the war started, his parents and brother Edward returned to England and Edward enlisted in the British army.

Henry stayed in Canada and enlisted with the 27th Battalion on 28 October 1914 in Winnipeg. He was single, 20 years old, a locomotive fireman, and next of kin was his father William in Exeter. The 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion had just been organized that month and it was recruited in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. Over the winter the battalion trained in Winnipeg and the following spring they left for England, embarking from Quebec on 17 May 1915 on the SS Carpathia. The men spent several months training at Shorncliffe and Otterpool Camps in southeast England and on 17 September they marched to Folkestone where they boarded the Marguerite. They disembarked at Boulogne, France on 18 September and four days later the battalion was in Belgium.

Not long after arriving Henry developed problems with his feet that made it very difficult for him to march. After a short stint in the hospital he was transferred to the Canadian Base Depot and classified as Permanent Base. By November 1915 he was back in England where he spent more time in the hospital. Following his recovery he served with the 45th and 11th Reserve Battalions. In October 1916 he was returned to France to rejoin the 27th Battalion but this time his stay lasted only about a week before he was invalided back to England. He served for another 17 months, spending some of that time in the hospital and at the Canadian Convalescent Depot. Henry returned to Canada in the spring of 1918, arriving in Halifax on 16 March on the SS Canada, listed as medically unfit for further war service. He was discharged on 2 April in Winnipeg, with his intended address being the YMCA in Kenora.

On 20 August 1918 Henry married Mildred Bush (née Yeomans) at Christ Church in Winnipeg. Mildred and Henry were both living in Kenora at the time, Henry at the Railway YMCA and Mildred at 513 First Avenue South. Mildred was a widow; her first husband William Jabez Bush had been killed in France in May 1917 while serving with the 10th Battalion. She already had one child, William Bush Jr, and with Henry she had another son, Robert. They made their home in Kenora and after Henry left the CPR he was self-employed as an electrician for many years. He passed away on 1 October 1970, at age 76, survived by his wife, their son Robert and his stepson William Bush. His cremains are buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Mildred died in 1974.

Henry’s brother Edward John Parsons returned to England in August 1914 and enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery a month later. He served until May 1919, spending four years in India and South Arabia. After the war he lived in England and he passed away in 1974.

By Becky Johnson

baj-YMCA-image Parsons-Henry-William-90 Parsons-Henry-William-91

Photos of Henry with the 27th Battalion are from the commemorative book of the 27th Battalion, Military District No. 10, 1915.

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