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Bombadier

First Soldier to die in the War

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The BBC Radio programme "Making History" has just had an item on Bicycles in the Boer war. It carried on with some snippets of later use.

The throwaway comment was made that the first soldier to die in WW1 was on a bicycle. Does anyone have more infomation on this man or even know whether this is true?

The programme should be available for the next week on the BBC website (BBC.co.uk/radio4)

Nigel

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Is this the man in question?

Private JOHN PARR

L/14196, 4th Bn., Middlesex Regiment

who died age 20

on 21 August 1914

Son of Edward Thomas and Alice Rosina Parr of 52 Lodge Lane, North Finchley. Believed to be the first British battle casualty of the war.

Remembered with honour

ST. SYMPHORIEN MILITARY CEMETERY

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Is this the man in question?

Private JOHN PARR

L/14196, 4th Bn., Middlesex Regiment

who died age 20

on 21 August 1914

Son of Edward Thomas and Alice Rosina Parr of 52 Lodge Lane, North Finchley. Believed to be the first British battle casualty of the war.

Remembered with honour

ST. SYMPHORIEN MILITARY CEMETERY

Sorry, but Parr was the first to die in action.

The candiadate for the first person to die in the war was one of the few who died on the day that war was declared

:)

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The item on Making History concerned the British Army's use of cyclists in the Boer War. The historian from the NAM inferred that the first Britsh soldier to die in action in WW1 was a cyclist - hence my putting Parr's name forward as the most likely candidate.

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The item on Making History concerned the British Army's use of cyclists in the Boer War. The historian from the NAM inferred that the first Britsh soldier to die in action was a cyclist - hence my putting Parr's name forward as the most likely candidate.

I didn't listen to the programme. But it's not quite what Nigel said in his post is it?

A Bristol soldier who died on the day that war was declared was killed in a traffic accident......

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It was indeed Private Parr.

As I recall reading, he was sent off cycling down a lane to check on German positions and never came back.

SN

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There was an article about the 'first' soldier to die in WW1 about 5 or 6 years ago in the Armourer Magazine and since then plaques have popped up from time to time purporting to be from the first 5 - none of whom went overseas but were killed in accidents or died of natural causes - there is in fact a plaque to 3rd official casualty on a dealers website at the present time - been there a longtime though.

Parr was certainly the first battle casualty and there was an interesting documentary shown on the History Channel not so long ago.

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Is this the man in question?

Private JOHN PARR

How odd... the first combat death in the US Civil War was John Marr!

Andy

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Again, it is a question of definitions...

PARR was the first British soldier killed by enemy action on the Western Front 21.08.14

but

The first British servicemen to die by enemy action were a number of sailors who died when HMS Amphion was sunk by a mine on 06.08.14

The first British soldier to die by enemy action was Pte BAI of the Gold Coast Regiment who was killed in action on 15.08.14 during the actions to take the German colonies.

But, as has been said above, the first official British casualties were on 04.08.14 through accident/illness.

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The first British Soldier to die as a result of "Friendly Fire" in the UK must be Corporal 915 Arthur Rawson,Aged 25,Corporal 1/1st Cambridgeshire Regiment TF,Who died @ Romford,Essex. on the 8th of August 1914,Whilst Resting,following a turn @ Guard Duty,His Guard including a Private 1547 Alfred Davis,Returned to their billet,Corporal Dawson,"Told off "the Guard to rest & check the Rifles were not Loaded ,The Men laid down in their Bunks,including Davis & Rawson,Somehow{The Court of enquiry could not establish quite how,but it was thought a Button on Davis's Great Coat snagged on his Trigger,which unfortunately had a Round up the spout{Even though the C of E established that Rawson had purportedly checked the Guards Rifles} @ Stand down} & A Bullet was discharged entering Corporal Rawson's Thigh,presumably shredding his Artery as he apparently Bled to death extremely Rapidly.Corporal Rawson was Buried @ Whittlesey Town Cemetery,Cambridgeshire.

Ironically Davis went on to win the DCM for rescuing a Wounded Officer @ Ypres in April 1915,which resulted in him losing his Leg,which was smashed by Shellfire,He was discharged in 1916 after extensive Hospitalization @ Roehampton, And returned to his Prewar Occupation with GWR @ March & Whittlesey

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I believe Pvt John Parr was a cyclist. He and a colleague were advance scouts. They ran into a detachment of Jaegers if I recall. Parr stayed to hold them off while his colleague high-tailed back with the information. Parr was dismounted from his bicycle when he was left.

Robert

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I thought the first casualties of the war were in Hartlepool in the bombings there - am I thinking of civilian casualties or something

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I thought the first casualties of the war were in Hartlepool in the bombings there - am I thinking of civilian casualties or something

You are thinking of the first casualties (civilian and military) who were killed on mainland Britain, by enemy fire - when the German Navy shelled the Hartlepools, Scarborough and Whitby in December 1914.

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I don't understand why, but everyone forgets that actually the first British casualties of the war (2 of them) died when Fort Loncin blew up outside Liege. Their fathers were Belgian, but they had British mothers and both lived in Britain - one, I think in Gravesend.

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It would seem the 'Fog of War' was evident right from the start.

The first casualty for the 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt was Pte Lionel Beare, killed in action on 22nd August 1914. However the Battalion's first recorded engagement with the enemy was not until 24th August during the retreat from Mons. Indeed they held a church service on Sunday! There is a very detailed account of this period written by non-other than the Adjutant at the time, so one would have thought such an event would not have gone unnoticed and would warrant a mention? Could the first casualty simply 'disappear' from the records like that, especially as subsequently his death is given as killed in action and on a precise date?

Steve

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The first soldier recorded on CWGC register is 7297 Pte Joseph Viles of the 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry. He is listed as Died on 4th August 1914 and is buried in Bath St James Cemetery. Could this be the Bristol man killed in a road traffic accident.

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The first soldier recorded on CWGC register is 7297 Pte Joseph Viles of the 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry. He is listed as Died on 4th August 1914 and is buried in Bath St James Cemetery. Could this be the Bristol man killed in a road traffic accident.

Yep. I managed to trace some distant relatives of Joseph Viles who were able to confirm the story of his death when he was knocked off his bicycle.

His brother, Charles, was also killed in the war:

Name: VILES, CHARLES

Initials: C

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Corporal

Regiment: Somerset Light Infantry

Unit Text: 1st Bn.

Age: 22

Date of Death: 20/04/1918

Service No: 3/6594

Additional information: Son of Joseph and Sarah Viles, of Bath.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: IX. C. 15.

Cemetery: LAPUGNOY MILITARY CEMETERY

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Changing the tack slightly, but not the thread, am I right in thinking Captain J E Knowles of the Middlesex Regt was the first officer killed?

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Now there's a plaque to own! ;)

I was hoping that the family would have the plaque for Joseph Viles. It would have been great to have seen it.

It is yet to be found.....

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I don't understand why, but everyone forgets that actually the first British casualties of the war (2 of them) died when Fort Loncin blew up outside Liege. Their fathers were Belgian, but they had British mothers and both lived in Britain - one, I think in Gravesend.

Even with British mothers they would have been Belgian, otherwise they wouldn't have served in Belgian Army.

Erwin

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Matt,

According to Rose Coombes Major William Henry Abell of the 4th Middlesex was the first officer to die, J E Knowles was his second in command and was killed soon after.

Bob.

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Matt,

According to Rose Coombes Major William Henry Abell of the 4th Middlesex was the first officer to die, J E Knowles was his second in command and was killed soon after.

Bob.

Again, I think this is open to debate. Isn't it more accurate to say that these infantry officers were the first to be killed in action on the Western Front.

There were RFC officers who were killed before these two men.....

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Pete,

Thanks for the info, I suppose I should have been more clear, and specified "On the western front" as opposed to "above it".

Where is the OC buried out of interest? I have a picture of Knowles' headstone.

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Again a question of definition as RT said.

The usual candidate quoted for the first British army officer to die in action anywhere on land was Lt George Masterman THOMPSON Croix de Guerre with Palms. 1 Bn Royal Scots attd Gold Coast Regt. Died in action 22.08.14 in Togo.

However, 2/Lt Vincent WATERFALL and Lt Charles George Gordon BAYLY, both RFC, were both killed in action together on 22.08.14 on the Western Front - and so it seems to come down to time of day to find the first!

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