b. 14/01/1856 Islington, London. d. 04/07/1915 North Atlantic, off the coast of Ireland.
Frederick Daniel Parslow (1856-1915), the first officer of the Mercantile Marine to be awarded the VC, was born at 16 Salisbury Terrace, Islington, London on 14th April 1856, the son of Charles and Eliza (nee Pizey). He was born barely ten weeks after the institution of the Victoria Cross, which he would later be awarded posthumously.
Little is known of his early life. His father was serving in the Merchant Navy, his profession being given as “oilman”, and it would appear likely that Frederick followed in his father’s footsteps straight from school, just as his own eldest son would do in his turn. Frederick gained his master’s certificate in 1882 and spent the remainder of his working life at sea aboard a succession of ships, culminating in his appointment to the Anglo-Californian in May 1912. Over the course of the next three years, he completed no fewer than twenty voyages, eight of them after war was declared.
Parslow married Frances at St Mary’s, Islington, on 18th November 1885. They had six children, three boys and three girls. The war would take its toll on the Parslows. Their second son, Frank, was killed in action on the Western Front not long after Parslow’s own death in his VC action. More tragedy would happen in March 1938, when the Anglo-Australian, bound for Vancouver out of Cardiff, disappeared off the Azores. After days of searching, the vessel was listed as missing along with its crew and master, Frederick Parslow DSC.
On 4th July 1915 in the Atlantic, south-west of Queenstown, Ireland, HM Horse Transport Anglo-Californian, commanded by Captain Parslow, was attacked by a submarine which made occasional hits although the Captain kept altering course. At last, on the point of abandoning ship in order to save lives, a message was received to hold on as long as possible and Anglo-Californian got under way again, whereupon the U-boat opened a very heavy fire, doing great damage. Captain Parslow remained on the bridge throughout the attack, entirely without protection and was killed when the bridge was wrecked.
He was eventually awarded the VC in 1919. The award was delayed until after World War I because of his civilian status, and no doubt influenced by the execution by the Germans of Mercantile Marine Captain Charles Fryatt of the ss Brussels as a franc-tireur on 27 July 1916. The Royal Navy gave Parslow a posthumous commission as Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, and then awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.
Parslow’s body was recovered and he was brought ashore along with other members of his crew. They were buried in Queenstown (now Cobh) Old Church Cemetery, and he is remembered on the Tower Hill Mercantile Marinee Memorial in London. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Mercantile Marine War Medal 1914-18, Victory Medal 1914-19, and Lloyds Medal for Meritorius Service. They are not publicly held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: COBH OLD CHURCH CEMETERY, COBH, IRELAND. PLOT B-15-8. GRAVE 478.
Thomas Stewart – Image of Parslow VC’s name on the Tower Hill Memorial, London.