b. 1815 Wigginton, Staffordshire. d. 15/11/1864 Hyde Park, London.
Samuel Parkes (1815-1864) was born in Wigginton, Tamworth, Staffordshire probably in later 1815, he was baptised at the Church of St Editha, Tamworth, on 24 December 1815, the son of Thomas Parks/Parkes and Lydia Fearn/Fern/Fearns; no exact date of birth has been established. Within the family, it is said that he was known as “George”. He had two sisters, Elizabeth (baptised 1812) and Mary (baptised 1819); no other siblings are recorded in St Editha’s baptismal register.
Described as a labourer, he enlisted in the 4th Queens Own Light Dragoons on 30 July 1831 and was discharged on 1 December 1857 with four good conduct badges, as an out-pensioner of Chelsea Hospital. He served 11 years with the 4th Light Dragoons in India, including the First Afghan War (Ghuznee Medal), and in the Crimean War. Peacetime service with the 4th saw Parkes in Wales and Ireland as well as in England. At Balaklava, he was serving as an orderly to the regimental commanding officer, Colonel Lord George Paget.
On 25th October 1854, during the Battle of Balaklava, Trumpet-Major Crawford’s horse fell, and dismounted him, and he lost his sword. He was then attacked by two Cossacks, when Private Samuel Parkes (whose own horse was shot), saved his life by placing himself between them and the Trumpet-Major, and drove them away with his sword. In attempting to follow the Light Cavalry Brigade in the retreat, they were attacked by six Russians, whom Parkes kept at bay, and retired slowly, fighting and defending the Trumpet-Major for some time, until deprived of his sword by a shot.
When he was disarmed, he was taken prisoner by the Russians and remained a POW for over a year. On his release, he was initially court-martialled but it was found he was not taken prisoner by the enemy through his own wilful neglect of duty. It was recommended he receive all the whole arrears of pay that was owed to him. On 24th February 1857, he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions, and he proudly received the medal from Queen Victoria at Hyde Park on 26th June 1857.
He then obtained a warrant to serve in Hampton Court Palace as a warden. He married Anne Jeffry at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, London on 13th February 1858. Following his appointment as a warden at Hampton Court, he took up residence in a cottage at Stanhope Gate, Hyde Park. He then became a member of the Hyde Park Constabulary and rose to the rank of Inspector. Parkes passed away on 15th November 1864 at his home in Hyde Park. He was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Brompton Cemetery. His grave is now marked by a memorial stone.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
BURIAL PLACE: BROMPTON CEMETERY, LONDON.
COMPARTMENT R 80’X109′, NO 39265
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.