This week has been a very moving one for our family. A “Memorial Scroll” commemorating the sacrifice of the life of my great uncle, LIONEL EUSTACE PARKINSON (aged 20 years) at the Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October 1917 has finally found it’s way back home.
The scroll has lain buried behind a print in a picture frame belonging to the Harvey family of Australia since the 1940’s, as far as we can tell. When moving the picture recently, the frame fell apart and the scroll was revealed. Unsure of how the scroll got there, the Harvey’s felt obliged to return it to the family of the slain soldier, and my mother received a call (via another cousin) from a staff member at the Auckland Museum, trying to find links to the family of the soldier, Rifleman L. E. Parkinson.
After a quick browse through our family “bible”, “Parkinson of Opotiki”, we realised that Lionel Eustace Parkinson was the brother of my great-grandfather, Bert Parkinson. My mother remembers her grandfather always referring to him as “Uncle Dud”, and knew only that he was said to have been “very tall, very good-looking” and had “been killed in the war”. When we received the scroll this week, enclosed was a copy of the research that the Auckland Museum had done on Uncle Dud, stating that he had been killed at the Battle of Passchendaele, Belgium and that his name was noted on the Tyne Cot Memorial, near Ypres, Belgium. They even provided us with details of where in the memorial we could find his name.
As it seemed the fitting thing to do, seeing as the Parkinson family are so huge and far-flung, Mum decided to donate the scroll to the Opotiki Museum, so that it shall be able to be viewed by all of the family for years to come. If you are descended from the Parkinsons of Opotiki, you may view this and other Parkinson family memoribilia at the Opotiki Museum, Church St, Opotiki (opposite the Hiona St Stephens Church).
Today, April 25th, is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand. On 25 April 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed at what is now Anzac Cove in Gallipolli, Turkey. It is not celebrated as a military victory as it was certainly not that, rather a date to remember the thousands of New Zealand and Australian soldiers who were killed both at Gallipoli and in subsequent campaigns in later wars. CLICK HERE to read all about 25 April 1915 and see the horrific statistics. It is always celebrated somberly in our family as my grandfather fought at Monte Cassino and at El Alamein. We were lucky, as he survived both battles, and indeed 4 years of military duty, to return home and marry my grandmother. He rarely spoke of his time fighting, and he returned to Cassino in Italy for the 60th anniversary, accompanied by my mother. It was a very special trip.
Today is the day we commemorate those who laid down their lives for their country so that we who have followed may have the freedom we enjoy as a nation today. Today we thank them for their sacrifice.
THE BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE – 12 OCTOBER 1917
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row… “
“90 years ago New Zealanders took part in the Battle of Passchendaele in Flanders, Belgium. In fact, 12 October 1917 represents the worst military disaster in our nation’s history when more than 2,800 New Zealanders were either killed, wounded, or listed as missing. Some of them are buried in war cemeteries row on row but many have no known grave — they simply lie in Flanders fields where the poppies still blow.
This online exhibition is the RSA’s commitment to ensure that New Zealanders who lie half a world away in the fields of Flanders are never forgotten. By remembering on 12 October – whether in Belgium or at home – you are keeping faith with that solemn request in the final lines of that most famous poem:
“If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
in Flanders fields”.
We will remember them.”
– courtesy of www.rsa.org.nz