gunner_parfett_mmK I A 29 October 1918, Valenciennes, France

One of the most evocative images related to the Titanic disaster is that showing 14-year-old Ned Parfett, selling the London Evening News, bearing news of the disaster, outside Oceanic House, the White Star Line offices in Cockspur Street, close to Trafalgar Square, London.

Tragically, Ned was to become a casualty of The Great War when he was killed, aged 22, during a German bombardment while serving in France, just days before the Armistice. Ned had enlisted in 1916, serving first as a dispatch rider before being re-assigned to reconnaissance duties with The Royal Artillery. He was mentioned in dispatches and later awarded the Military Medal for his gallant action during a series of missions he undertook in the front line.

He was due for home leave and was collecting some new issue clothing from the quartermaster's store when a shell scored a direct hit on that facility. Ned was killed outright. Had he survived this attack, he would have been home on leave in Blighty when the Armistice was signed. He is buried in Verchain British Military Cemetery, at Verchain-Maugre, France. Ned was one of four brothers who served in the War and he was the only one to make the supreme sacrifice.

Today, the haunting image of young Ned, selling papers on that street corner is etched firmly in our minds. Oceanic House still stands there, but now houses a lively Mexican food restaurant named: ‘the Texas Embassy Cantina'.

Article submitted by David Taylor.

(Information courtesy of Encyclopedia Titanica and the March/April edition of: ‘If You Want The Old Battalion', newsletter of the Essex Branch of The Western Front Association)

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