JOSHUA PARKER 1899 – 1918
S/17599 Private J. Parker, 6th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders was killed in action 25 March 1918 aged 19. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial and the Witton Park War Memorial.
Joshua Parker was born c.1899 the son of William and Elizabeth Parker. There were at least 6 children, all born at Witton Park:
- Annie bc.1893
- Jane bc.1895
- John William bc.1897
- Joshua bc.1899
- Elizabeth bc.1900
- Eva bc.1906
In 1901, 41-year old William was recorded as “a dealer in china and earthenware – own account” and the family lived at Viaduct Terrace. By 1911, William was recorded as “licensed hawker” and the family lived at 10 John Street, Witton Park. John William [14-year old] worked as a “colliery driver”, Joshua and Eva were at school.
The service details of Private J. Parker have not been traced therefore the date he enlisted, mobilized, posted to a battalion and entered France remains unknown.
It is likely that Joshua enlisted at Bishop Auckland and was placed on the Army Reserve until such time as he was mobilized. He was posted to the Gordon Highlanders and given the service number S/17599, joining the 6th Battalion. It is likely that Private J. Parker entered France at the age of 18, say sometime during 1917.
The 1/6th [Banff and Donside] Battalion was part of the Territorial Force.
- 10 November 1914: It landed in France, joining the 20th Brigade 7th Division.
- 5 January 1916: It left to join the Lines of Communication providing guard and escort detachments around Le Havre, Rouen, Abbeville and Dieppe.
- 1 June 1916: It was transferred to the 152nd Brigade, 51st [Highland] Division.
At that time the following units came under the orders of the 152nd [1st Highland] Brigade, 51st [Highland] Division:
- 1/5th Bn., the Seaforth Highlanders
- 1/6th Bn., the Seaforth Highlanders
- 1/8th the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders left February 1918
- 1/6th Bn., Gordon Highlanders joined June 1916
- 152nd Machine Gun Company formed 16 January 1916 moved to 51st Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 19 February 1918
- 152nd Trench Mortar Battery formed July 1916
This research will only deal with the German spring Offensive of 1918 since the service history of Private J. Parker before this date is unknown.
The 51st [Highland] Division was part of 4th Corps, Third Army. It remained in the Cambrai area near Flesquieres until 21 March 1918 when the Germans launched a huge and overwhelming attack on the Fifth and Third British Army fronts. The defensive front around Flesquieres formed a salient and was strongly held by the British forces. The enemy decided not to attack frontally but drenched it with gas and attacked on either side. The pressure grew during the day [21 March] and from the evening the Division began a fighting withdrawal which took it back several miles over the next few days, through Beaumetz, towards Bapaume. In fighting a number of rear-guard actions, the Division lost a total of over 4,900 men.  These engagements were later to be known as: 
- 21 – 23 March: The Battle of St. Quentin
- 24 – 25 March: The First Battle of Bapaume
The 6/Gordon Highlanders’ War Diary for March 1918 confirms that the battalion were at the following positions: 
- 1 March: Remicourt
- 2 – 7 March: in trenches
- 8 – 18 March: O’Shea Camp
- 19 – 20 March: in trenches
- 21 – 26 March: see Appendix 
- 27 March: the battalion marched 8 miles to NEUVILLETTE.
The War Diary Appendix for the 25th March records:
“Orders were received that the 19th Division were to withdraw through our front. Except for a slight shelling the morning was quiet and at mid-day the enemy could be seen on the skyline 2 miles away. About this time orders were received that the 62nd Division was on its way up to reinforce our line and that we must hold out till it arrived.
At 12.45pm O.C. 7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders asked me if I could hang on and I informed him that there was nothing on my front to prevent my staying there. At 1pm O.C 7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders came to me and informed me that he must withdraw as the enemy were in great numbers on his right flank. I informed my right company – “A” Company – to try and keep in touch with 7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders but they came back so quickly that he could not and withdrew.
“C” & “D” Companies remained in their positions for another quarter of an hour and engaged the enemy on their left front at about 600 yards then they withdrew through “B” Company and suffered many casualties during this withdrawal. “B” Company remained till “C” & “D” Companies had gone across the ravine behind and then withdrew being engaged with the enemy who were in the sunken road on our front.
I tried to form a line with my battalion on the high ground East of IRLES and “B”, “C” & “ D” Companies got into position but the other troops would not remain, so whole line came back to IRLES.
Ammunition was getting short at about 5pm and shortly afterwards, a general retirement took place to COLIN CAMPS. This battalion was engaged with the enemy at the time of the withdrawal. A mixed force, including “B” and some of “A” Company and 4 officers of this battalion got in touch with the 62nd Division and held a line to the right of the railway by PUSIEUX till orders were received to withdraw at midnight.
When the 152nd Infantry Brigade got to SAILLY-AU-ROIS there were only 2 officers and 120 men. This party bivouacked in FRONTVILLERS and got a hot meal at 4am from the cookers.”
The War Diary summary records that the battalion suffered the following casualties:
- Killed………………………2 Officers; 35 Other Ranks
- Wounded………………11 Officers; 159 Other Ranks
- Unaccounted for……..3 Officers; 74 Other Ranks
- Died of Wounds……….0 Officers; 6 Other Ranks
Total……………………………………16 Officers 274 Other Ranks
Later research records that 6/GH lost 2 Officers and 64 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds, as follows:
- 23 March: Acting Major C.T.A. Robertson died of wounds
- 31 March: Captain J. Archibald MC & Bar died of wounds 
Other Ranks: 
- 21 March: 27
- 22 March: 8
- 23 March: 8
- 24 March: 4
- 25 March: 15 including Private J. Parker
- 26 March: 3
- 27 March: 2
- 28 March: 1
- 29 March: 3
- 30 March: 0
- 31 March: 1
Private J. Parker was awarded the British War and Victory medals.
Private J. Parker is commemorated on the Arras Memorial together 35,000 soldiers of the British, South African and New Zealand forces with no known grave and locally, on the Witton Park War Memorial.
 Commonwealth War Graves Commission
 1901 & 1911 census
 1901 census
 1911 census
 1/6 Bn., Gordon Highlanders War Diary March 1918 Vol.41
 Appendix to War Diary: Account of operations near Boursies on 21st March 1918 and lasting till 26th March 1918
 Check IRLES or IRDES
 Officers Died in the Great War
 Soldiers Died in the Great War
 Medal Roll card index Note: he was not awarded the 1914-15 Star therefore he did not enter France [or overseas] before 31 March 1915
With thanks to Alan Sewell.