Charles Edward Haydon Parker VC

b. 10/03/1870 St Johns, London. d. 09/08/1918 Coventry, Warwickshire.

Charles Edward Haydon Parker (1870-1918) was born in St John’s, Kent on 11th March 1870, the son of George Parker, a veteran of the Crimean War. He entered the Royal Horse Artillery in February 1885, serving in India from 1889 to 1895. He then took part in the South African War from 1899-1900, receiving the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps for Kimberley, Dreifontein, Diamond Hill and Wittebergen. He was also promoted to Sergeant by Lord Roberts VC on 1st April 1900, and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Korn Spruit (26th June 1900, London Gazette).

Charles E H Parker VC

On the occasion of the action at Korn Spruit on the 31st March, 1900, a British force, including two batteries of the Royal Horse Artillery, was retiring from Thabanchu towards Bloemfontein. The enemy had formed an ambush at Korn Spruit, and before their presence was discovered by the main body had captured the greater portion of the baggage column and five out of the six guns of the leading battery. When the alarm was given Q Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, was within 300 yards of the Spruit. Major Phipps-Hornby, who commanded it, at once wheeled about and moved off at a gallop under a very heavy fire. One gun upset when a wheel horse was shot, and had to be abandoned, together with a waggon, the horses of which were killed. The remainder of the battery reached a position close to some unfinished railway buildings and came into action 1,150 yards from the Spruit, remaining in action until ordered to retire. When the order to retire was received Major Phipps-Hornby ordered the guns and their limbers to be run back by hand to where the teams of uninjured horses stood behind the unfinished buildings.

The few remaining gunners, assisted by a number of Officers and men of a party of Mounted Infantry, and directed by Major Phipps-Hornby and Captain Humphreys, the only remaining Officers of the battery, succeeded in running back four of the guns under shelter. One or two of the limbers were similarly withdrawn by hand, but the work was most severe and the distance considerable. In consequence all concerned were so exhausted that they were unable to drag in the remaining limbers or the fifth gun. It now became necessary to risk the horses, and volunteers were called for from among the drivers, who readily responded. Several horses were killed and men wounded, but at length only one gun and one limber were left exposed. Four separate attempts were made to rescue these, but when no more hordes were available the attempt had to be given up and the gun and limber were abandoned. Meanwhile the other guns had been sent on, one at a time, and after passing within 700 or 800 yards of the enemy, in rounding the head of a donga and crossing two spruits they eventually reached a place of safety, where the battery was re-formed.

After full consideration of the circumstances of the case the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-chief in South Africa formed the opinion that the conduct of all ranks of Q Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, was conspicuously gallant and daring, but that all were equally brave and devoted in their behaviour. He therefore decided to treat the case of the battery as one of collective gallantry under Rule 13 of the Victoria Cross Warrant, and directed that one Officer should be selected for the decoration of the Victoria Cross by the Officers, one non-commissioned officer by the non-commissioned officers, and two gunners or drivers by the gunners and drivers. A difficulty arose with regard to the Officer because there were only two unwounded Officers — Major Phipps-Hornby and Captain Humphreys — available for the work of saving the guns, and both of these had been conspicuous by their gallantry and by the fearless manner in which they exposed themselves, and each of them nominated the other for the decoration.

Parker was presented with his medal on 25th July 1901 by King Edward VII at St James’ Palace. After 21 years of service in the Royal Field Artillery, he retired and settled in Coventry. On the outbreak of the Great War, he initially worked in a munitions factory, but soon decided to rejoin and was posted to France. In 1918, the father of two was badly wounded and forced to return home. Sadly, he never recovered from his wounds, and died aged just 49 on 9th August 1918. He was buried in London Road Cemetery, Coventry and now has a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone. His medals are held by the Royal Artillery though following the closure of the museum in Woolwich, they are now in storage.