Charity searches for relatives of first British casualty


The Barnet War Memorials Initiative Trust is looking to install a memorial to private John Parr, of 4th Battalion the Middlesex Regiment, who was the first British soldier to be killed in World War I. It is also hoping to track down relatives of the soldier.

Parr was born in 1897. The son of a milkman, he spent most of his life living in Lodge Lane, Finchley, with his six older brothers and sisters.

He worked as a golf caddie at the North Middlesex Golf Club before joining the Middlesex Regiment aged 15 in 1912, having told his recruiting officer he was 17.

Private Parr was sent out on reconnaissance on 21 August 1918, but encountered a German patrol near the village of Obourg and was shot dead.

He is buried in the St Symphorien Military Cemetery, just south of Mons, in Belgium, where his headstone mistakenly gives his age as 20.

The trust’s secretary, Stephen Sowerby, said: ‘We had in Barnet the first casualty of so many in that conflict, so we thought it would be fitting when commemorating this event to commemorate this individual.

‘The family seem to have disappeared from history. It would be so nice for us to speak to them and see how he is remembered.

‘It would also be nice to have a family member involved in the erection of the plaque next year.

“We know private Parr had a big family from Barnet as well as Haringey, so there may still be some members around.’

Anyone with any information about private Parr is invited to email Mr Sowerby at

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