Victoria Cross memorial stones
Discover more about Islington’s heroes, awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in the First World War, who are being commemorated 100 years on.
Mercantile Marine Master Frederick Parslow was a civilian when his ship, the unarmed SS Anglo-Californian, was ambushed by a German U-boat on 4 July, 1915.
He was killed in the attack, but not before managing to weave his ship back and forth across the North Atlantic, evading the attacking submarine.
The SS Anglo-Californian
At times during the battle the submarine came close enough for the Germans to fire rifles at the stricken ship. After Master Parslow was killed, his son, also called Frederick, took over the bridge as his father lay dead beside him on the deck, and continued the battle to save his ship.
Frederick Parslow Jnr
After an hour-and-a-half, two armed vessels reached the ship and rescued its surviving crew and its cargo of 927 horses bound for the Western Front.
Following the action, the Royal Navy gave Master Parslow a nominal rank of Lieutenant in the Navy Reserves after his death so that they could bestow upon him the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military honour.
Master Parslow, who was born in Balls Pond Road, N1, was 59 when he was killed. He was the First World War’s oldest Victoria Cross recipient, and one of just two civilians to be given the honour during the conflict.
Frederick Booth (copyright IWM)
Frederick Booth was born at 7 Davenant Road, Islington, on 6 March 1890. In February 1917 he was a sergeant in the South African Police, attached to the Rhodesia Native Regiment.
On 12 February 1917 he was involved in an attack on an enemy position in thick bush at Johannes Bruck, German East Africa, for which he would later be awarded the Victoria Cross.
Under very heavy rifle fire, he went forward alone to help a man who was badly wounded, and brought him back. He also rallied troops from his regiment who had become badly disorganised, and brought them back into combat.
A supplement to the London Gazette on 8 June 1917, announcing his Victoria Cross award, said: “This NCO has on many occasions displayed the greatest bravery, coolness and resource in action, and has a splendid example of pluck, endurance and determination.”
Frederick Booth, who later attained the rank of captain, was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for further bravery in the First World War. He was later commissioned into the Middlesex Regiment and in 1939 served in the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps. He died in Brighton in 1960, aged 70, and is buried in Bear Road Cemetery, Brighton.
A total of five memorial stones will be laid in Islington as part of the national Victoria Cross Paving Stones project, funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Across the UK, paving stones are being laid in honour of each of the 627 men who were awarded Victoria Crosses between 1914 and 1918. Each stone is laid in the town where the recipient was born.
King George V investing Charles William Train with the Victoria Cross at the Second Army Headquarters. Blendecques, northern France, 6 August 1918 (IWM: Q9222)
Charles William Train was born at 58 Chatterton Road, Islington in 1890. He was educated at Gillespie Road LCC school, attended St Thomas’s Church and played in the church’s football team. He was later employed as a solicitor’s clerk at Gray’s Inn.
Train joined the London Scottish in 1909 aged 18 years and, following the outbreak of the First World War, arrived in France in September 1914, seeing action the following month. By 1917 he had become a corporal in the 2/14th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (London Scottish), of the British Army. Train later achieved the rank of sergeant.
Train was 27 years old when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for decisive action on 8 December 1917 at Ein Kerem, near Jerusalem, in Ottoman controlled Palestine. His citation read:
“For most conspicuous, bravery, dash and initiative displayed under heavy fire when his company was unexpectedly engaged at close range by a party of the enemy with two machine guns and brought to a standstill.
Sergeant Charles Train (seated far right) with colleagues, 1918 (‘London Scottish Regimental Gazette’, Summer 1997)
Corporal Train on his own initiative rushed forward and engaged the enemy with rifle grenades, and succeeded in putting some of the team out of action with a direct hit. He then shot at and wounded an officer in command, and with bomb and rifle killed and wounded the remainder of the team. After this he went to the assistance of a comrade who was bombing the enemy from their front and shot at and killed one of the enemy who was carrying the second gun out of action.
His courage and devotion to duty undoubtedly saved his battalion heavy casualties and enabled them to advance to their objective at a time when the situation seemed critical.”
Charles Train emigrated to Canada in 1919 to work as a farmer. He died in 1965 and is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Burnaby, British Columbia.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at the London Scottish Regimental Museum in London.
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- Victoria Cross memorial stones
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- Islington during the First World War