Graham Leslie Parish GC (Direct Recipient)

b. 29/08/1912 Sheffield, Yorkshire. d. 16/09/1942 Sudan.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 16/09/1942 Khartoum, Sudan.

Graham Leslie Parish (1912-1942) was born on 29th August 1912 in Ecclesall Bierlow, Sheffield, Yorkshire, the second son of Stephen Owbridge and Ethel May Parish (nee Mundy-Knight). He had an older brother, Roland and a younger sister named Joan. At the time of his birth, his father was a Provision Stores Manager but was called up as Private M/303166 at the outbreak of World War I. Sadly, Stephen Parish died of malaria whilst serving with 10/11th Mechanical Transport Company, Army Service Corps, on the 4th November 1918, just one week before the Armistice. He was buried in Alexandria (Hadra) War Cemetery in Egypt. At the time of his death, his family were living in St Ronan’s Road, Sheffield, and Ethel was making a living as a milliner.

Graham L Parish GC

Graham attended Abbeydale School and then Firth Park Grammar School where he passed his Matriculation at the age of 15 but as he was too young to start work at the Library, he went to work at Bertram Hosier, a bookshop near the old Empire Theatre. As a young man he joined the Boys Brigade at St Peter’s Church, Sheffield, which honoured him after his death.

As soon as he was old enough, in 1929, aged 17, he joined Sheffield Central Library and worked his way through all the examinations until in 1939 he was promoted to the post of Borough Librarian at Lytham St Annes, Lancashire. On the outbreak of World War II, Graham didn’t immediately enlist, and in fact, he received a white feather in the post. As a result, and to prove doubters wrong, he enlisted with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in February 1941.

He took part in Operation Millenium, the first 1,000 bomber raid on Cologne on 30th May 1942. On 16th September 1942, he was navigator of a Wellington bomber being delivered to the Middle East Command. Shortly after take off, the port engine failed and the pilot attempted to return to the airfield, but the Wellington struck a building and burst into flames. All of the crew except Sergeant Parish and a passenger named Flowers, whose legs were broken, succeeded in getting free from the burning aircraft. At the time of the crash Parish was in the astro-hatch and Flowers was by the emergency door in the floor of the bomber. When the blazer subsided, Parish’s body was found leaning against the rear gun turret; Flowers was beside him with his arms over the navigator’s shoulders. It was clear that Parish had carried him from the emergency door to the rear turret, a distance of 8 yards, presumably in the hope that they could both escape through the turret. Sergeant Parish could have made his escape through the astro-hatch but his unselfish desire to assist Flowers cost him his life.

Parish was initially interred in El Fasher Fort with full military honours, then reburied in a different part of the cemetery. He was then moved a third time to Khartoum War Cemetery, Khartoum, Sudan. Graham’s posthumous GC was announced on 30th March 1943, and the GC was presented to his mother at Buckingham Palace by King George VI. His medals including his GC, 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, and War Medal 1939-45 are privately held.