Plea to find relatives of fallen Great War soldier commemorated on candlesticks at Hoe church

Two brass candlesticks inscribed in the memory of Cpl Thomas Parker will go on display at Hoe Church. Pictured Sue Malt and church warden Charles Carey with the candlesticks. Picture: Matthew Usher. Two brass candlesticks inscribed in the memory of Cpl Thomas Parker will go on display at Hoe Church. Pictured Sue Malt and church warden Charles Carey with the candlesticks. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Sunday, February 9, 2014
6:14 PM

A pair of memorial candlesticks inscribed in honour of Cpl Thomas Parker, a 21-year-old Dereham soldier who died in the First World War, are set to go on display in Hoe church.

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Loss of a hero: Cpl Thomas Parker

Here’s how the Dereham and Fakenham Times reported the loss of Cpl Thomas Parker, in an article dated September 22, 1917, under the headline: “DEREHAM HERO MISSING”.

The sad news has just been received that Corporal Thos. Alexander Parker (Norfolk Regt.) is missing.

He is the eldest son of Mr. J.F. Parker of East Dereham and grandson of the late Capt. Thomas Cranmer.

It was only a few months ago that Corporal Parker was awarded the D.C.M. as stated in the official report, “for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. Firing his Lewis gun from the hip he advanced with the leading wave of our attack upon a strongly held enemy position and drove the enemy into an emplacement where they were all either killed or captured.”

After that heroic achievement he was given his second stripe and he was expected home this week on leave.

Their simple inscription is a heartfelt testimony to the grief felt for one fallen soldier, in one tiny Norfolk village.

But left unnoticed in the corner of a church vestry, these two brass candlesticks were unable to shine a light on this tale of heroism and sacrifice, during a conflict which shrouded the whole of Europe in darkness.

Now these rediscovered relics are going back on display in honour of the young soldier from Dereham whose death on the bloody battlefields of Flanders in the First World War was felt so deeply in the church community in Hoe.

The impressive candlesticks stand two feet tall and bear the inscription: “In memory of Corporal T. A. Parker DCM, killed Passchendaele 1917. Server.”

They were found under a table at Hoe church by Sue Malt, who was looking for items from the village archive which could be used in a display planned for the opening of the refurbished parish room in May.

When she spotted the wording engraved on the base, she resolved to find out more about the serviceman – and now hopes to share the discovery with any of Cpl Parker’s surviving relatives.

Mrs Malt said: “The candlesticks were not neglected, they were being stored – but nobody was aware of their significance. I felt a frisson of excitement about having found this memorial to this young man, which increased when I found out more about him.

“It sends shivers down the spine. You can imagine the parents choosing these candlesticks, and the grief they must have felt, bringing them here and thinking about them being lit every week for their heroic son. It is tangible grief, and a celebration of the courage for which he got his DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal).”

Thomas Alexander Parker was born in 1896, and the 1911 census records him living at 9 Norwich Street, Dereham with his father John, a watch and clock repairer, his mother Maria and brothers Robert and John.

He fought with the 1st Battalion, Norfolk Regiment in the Battle of Passchendaele, and was killed in action during the Battle of Poelcappelle on October 9, 1917. He was 21 years old.

Parish registers dating back to 1733 show many Parkers buried in the churchyard at Hoe, so Mrs Malt said it could have been a family link which brought Cpl Parker to the village to carry out the role of server, assisting the vicar with Holy Communion.

“The place is teeming with Parkers, who may be connected with this young soldier,” she said. “We want to do a proper celebration of Cpl Parker and if there are any members of his family still in the area it would be lovely if they knew about it.”

Cpl Parker’s memorial candlesticks will form the centrepiece of a display about the soldier – along with others from the neighbouring village of Worthing – planned for a celebratory flower festival at the church on May 3.

The event will mark the formal opening of the parish room, which was refurbished with new kitchen and toilet facilities to mark its centenary in 2012.

Are you a relative of Cpl Thomas Parker? Contact Sue Malt on 01362 860237 or email susan.malt@icloud.com.

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