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Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium
First Name: John William Last Name: PARSONS
Date of Death: 05/09/1917 Lived/Born In: Richmond-upon-Thames
Rank: Corporal Unit: Labour Corps
Memorial Site: Richmond-upon-Thames Memorial

Current Information:


43, Worple Way, Richmond

Formerly-Wiltshire Regiment

Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium


Third Battle of Ypres

This was a campaign fought between July and November 1917 and is often referred to as the Battle of Passchendaele, a village to the north-east of Ypres which was finally captured in November. It was an attempt by the British to break out of the Ypres salient and capture the higher ground to the south and the east, from which the enemy had been able to dominate the salient. It began well but two important factors weighed against them. First was the weather. The summer of 1917 turned out to be one of the wettest on record and soon the battlefield was reduced to a morass of mud which made progress very difficult, if not impossible in places. The second was the defensive arrangements of concrete blockhouses and machine gun posts providing inter-locking fire that the Germans had constructed and which were extremely difficult and costly to counter. For four months this epic struggle continued by the end of which the salient had been greatly expanded in size but the vital break out had not been achieved.

The Labour Corps was formed in February, 1917 and brought under its command the existing labour and pioneer battalions. They operated in many different areas; some units remaining in the United Kingdom, others employed at the various channel ports where all supplies were landed and some worked close to the front line

Their ranks were made up from labourers and skilled and semi-skilled workers and although they were trained to fight as infantrymen, their role was one of trench construction, road making and building. However this did not mean that they were not in danger. Their work often brought them within range of the German artillery and when their division was under extreme pressure, they could be used as fighting battalions as a result of which there were a number of casualties among their ranks. They were not obliged to keep unit diaries so it is often very difficult to trace their movements and activities. John Parsons died from wounds on 5th September, 1917 while serving with the Labour Corps at Ypres.

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