Victor George Parsons

From his mother's reminiscences

Victor was the oldest, and Martin the youngest, of the family of William and Evelyn Parsons. Martin greatly admired his big brother, who always seemed to excel at sports. Victor's death in the Great War affected Martin deeply, and when his own second son was born weakly and unlikely to live, he baptized him Victor. The name seemd to symbolise a life cut short.

Victor's mother wrote about her move to New Cross, where Victor was born:
In the morning we hurried off from Charing Cross by underground (steam and smoke and very dirty in those days) to our little house in New Cross close to our Mission Church and directly opposite a pawn-shop. We were surrounded by railways and railwaymen and very poor people and I used to sit at my window and watch the people on Saturday nights going in and out of pawn shop. I have seen free fighting in the street, once two women. It was an awful sight.

We arrived much too soon and could not even get into our house - no key. So, being very weary - nearly time for my baby - I sat on the doorstep till a kind woman brought a chair, and Willie went off to find the keys. The churchwarden then came, [and] the furniture, and we started work. I brought my maid with me, I must have been strong for I did things that most women would fear to do in my condition. I must have looked funny - no lovely dresses, like girls now; just a large cape.

So we settle in very quickly, put up pretty lace curtains and everything looked very nice. The curtains were black in less than a month. The silver all bright on the sideboard turned yellow.

The birth of Victor, 22 May 1897
And now it was May, and all the walking I could do was round the house and five minutes to the little church. I had a silly old nurse from Birmingham. My doctor was a young man and clever. So arrived May 21st 10 p.m. when I began to wonder. I walked about all night (no nurse arrived till next day). No friend near. All was strange, but nothing mattered. I had my husband.

At 7 o'clock on May 22nd my first darling baby was put into my arms. I am now 68, but I can still remember the thrill of joy - and Willie came in and kissed me and of course I cried. All was well.

The baby thrived, and I quickly got well in one month, but such a hot May we had. Baby Victor got diarrhea and was very ill. No food suited. We struggled on till August, when we were able to go for a holiday. We could not afford to go away alone, so went to Richard's Castle, my old home. My father and mother were very glad to have us; from that time baby improved and soon became a very beautiful, happy baby. We called him Victor George. His godparents were Miss Horton and George Watton.

Our holiday over, we returned to Hatcham. Victor grew fast. He had long fair curls, could walk at 13 months, and at 16 months he would drive about with our doctor.

The family moved to Tulse Hill.
Torrey Alexander Mission 1904. How well I remember when Victor was 7. We lived on Brixton Hill and went many times to Brixton Hall where a great Mission was held. One afternoon it was for children and young people. My darling Victor only listened with great attention, and sang the hymns, especially that one :-

"Oh that will be glory for me"

Charles Alexander Mr Alexander had a lovely voice; he always sang and conducted. A most sincere and holy man. The Mission was a great help to many. Once he and his wife came and had tea with us. We lived in Upper Tulse Hill at that time.
Farewell to Upper Tulse Hill 1905
And that time, July, we now had the offer of Swanage, so when we went in August we left Howard with a trained nurse while we moved. Later Mrs King came with nurse and Howard. Miss Bland was now helping me. She was sent on the Swanage with the three other children to rooms. What a business, but we were still young; I was 34 and Dad was just under 40.

Our people again were very sorry to part with us and they gave us nice presents of money etc. I had a gold chain bracelet, very much used in those days.

1905 August we moved to Swanage, and settled there for three years only - and yet why did we leave? Dad got on so well, and all went happily, but he could not like the winters and feeling himself cut off from London.

The first year we had many calls to pay and people to know. The summer was such a delight to Victor and Winnie, who learnt to swim and used to bathe sometimes twice a day.

Victor was a strong, athletic boy, could swim well. We sent him to Mrs Hickson who had started a mixed school. He learnt music from Mrs Hickson. He loved his life.

Victor goes to boarding school 1907
Victor was now 10 years old. He had been a term at St Lawrence's College, Ramsgate, as boarder, but was now home on holiday. Dear Victor! Had I known the future I would never have let him go from home at 10 years. He loved Swanage, the old barn, the rambling garden with plenty of old trees to climb, lovely old house. He loved us and his home. But he soon got used to school and was made head of the Junior School before he joined the big school. A good cricketer.

Sorry to leave Swanage
We stayed on one year more at Swanage, and then Dad had the opportunity to change to Tunbridge Wells with Mr Eardley. I hated moving, and leaving so pretty a vicarage and garden for a much smaller house and town garden - no apples or much fruit. At Swanage we had a huge walnut tree, under which we often had tea, mulberry tree, apples in abundance, heaps of vegetables, a good gardener, quince tree, all the old-fashioned trees, medlar tree, tennis court. There Dad had three curates, three churches and a district some miles off. Also he was patron of one living. I was happy there and disliked the idea of making new friends all over again. But it was Dad's work and he must choose. So in 1908, Martin one year old, we went to Tunbridge Wells.

St John's Tunbridge Wells
Tunbridge Wells vicarage was much smaller than Swanage but we had a very nice drawing room very sunny with three windows looking out on garden. We made a large nursery for the babies upstairs and there were 5 bedrooms and 2 attics. I had three maids, nurse, housemaid, cook, all very good; and a good thing, too; for when we first went we had nearly 400 callers, mostly our congregations, nearly all well-to-do people, and all these had to be returned at least once. We had a curate.

The children at school
In October 1908, our first year, Victor was a St Lawrence's College, Ramsgate; Stanley went to a little boys' school (Miss Griffiths - two old ladies) and Winnie came at Christmas and went in January to Miss Goldies - Hamilton House. Gradually Howard got old enough for Miss Griffiths. They wore little striped blue and white blazers and caps. Martin too went for a little while and them to Skinners till he was old enough for Tonbridge, where he did very well and at 18 he went to Cambridge.

And so life went on. Soon Stanley joined Victor at St Lawrence Junior School. Howard went to Rose Hill - Mr H.H.H. Hockey - very good too. Winnie stayed at Hamilton House till 15 years. Then she went to St Mary's Hall for 2 years and then to Hamilton House domestic side and learned dress-making, cooking and so on. This brought us to the year of the Great War, 1914. And now began a very difficult time.

The First World War
The war time from 1914 was terrible. Victor thinking he must join up. Winnie 17 and susceptible, and all the present surrounding crowds of soldiers and officers coming to the town, and we parents not at all ready for all the pitfalls coming to our young ones. Stanley still at school at St Lawrence College, Ramsgate, which soon had to move because of bad air raids - children killed in the streets. When the school moved we put Stanley at Tonbridge and later he had a tutor to coach for army; but 1918 saw the end of war; he did not go on. Howard and Martin were little boys.

Victor's war
1915 We kept on hearing of boys killed whom we knew. Geoff Ward was one. Victor left school and went to Sandhurst. Only a short period was allowed then. I don't think he really liked it, and I am sure he never wanted to fight. He was only 18. He joined Royal Irish (a great mistake, so General Hay said) and he was very, very homesick in Ireland. He lost his nerve and came out of it and home and for a time rest on account of ill health. Then he found a nice job in a private school. Here he was greatly loved. I wish he had stayed, but he thought he ought to be in army, so joined motor cyclists in Dover. How my heart ached. Win and I went and spent a few days in Dover to see him in 1916, and when I left him I was more sad than ever in my life. I never saw him again. Is there not some instinct in a mother that foretells sorrow?

The death of Victor
In May 1916 an air raid was over Dover, and returning after to the Castle my dear Victor came in contact with a motor lorry and he was thrown. His friends took him to hospital, unconscious and bleeding from ears and nose. Shall I ever forget? Poor Dad! The shock was awful to him. He had to go at once to Dover, having received a telegram in early morning of May 21st. I was in bed with an illness. (Victor's life written by his father in separate book) Miscarriage; I was 46. Poor Dad. He arrived only to hear that Victor was dead. He had to identify him at the hospital mortuary.

He came home after making arrangements, and he came at once to me in bed. Oh that meeting! We could not speak. My head was very bad. Something seemed to snap. For a long time Dad could not speak to people he met. Victor was his eldest and more a companion to him. When I had the others to look after, they would go holidays together too.

The funeral was at Tunbridge Wells. He was laid in our church all night. I had to forget my illness. I got up, no doctor could stop me. My poor children looked so miserable to see me sad, so God gave me strength to forget myself and help them. Jess [her sister] came over. She was always with me in trouble; a good sort, say what people may.

From the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
In Memory of

31795, Royal Engineers
who died age 19
on 20 May 1916
Son of the Rev. William Henry and Evelyn Parsons, of St. John's Vicarage, Tunbridge Wells.
Remembered with honour

Evelyn collected photographs of Victor into an album. Those pictures are reproduced on this page.

Martin remembered how his mother would sometimes run through the names of all her sons before alighting on his name - calling out "Victor - Stanley - Howard - Martin!" After Victor's death she never made the mistake of mentioning his name. Thereafter Martin was "Stanley - Howard - Martin!"