Charles William "Will" Parker 1896-1916
The Salvation Army helped families with no future in England to immigrate to places throughout Canada and other countries. The Parker family were the first of two families to arrive. They had Lot #2. The family received about 22 acres. 2 1/2 acres was cleared with a modest dwelling, well, outhouse & fruit trees on it, 2 ½ acres partially cleared and the remainder not. Will’s mother, Sarah burst into tears upon discovery she would have to fit her family of 9 into a tiny house consisting of one large room and 2 small bedrooms.
An old log cabin was donated behind Lots 5 & 6 for the Coombs Colonist children to attend school in. Will at age 14 did not attend. He immediately went to work alongside his father farming their land and farming for other Colonists as well. His father was also logging in the area, helping to build the railway linking Parksville to Port Alberni and Will would work with him. Will also hunted and fished to help feed the family.
Will’s father, John found it difficult to find the money to make the low repayments the Salvation Army required. After about 1 1/2 years on the property in Coombs, he could not see continued employment to care for his family. A golf course and hotel were being planned for Qualicum Beach and move to there seemed a good choice. In early
1912 John Parker bought 40 acres from the E&N Railway, located on present day Parker Road. This original home burned down August 4, 1914 - the day the Great War started. The family lived in 3 tents provided by the Jones Family of Arrowsmith Farms while their log house was being rebuilt. The house remained in the family until 1956.
Will's attestation papers were signed January 17, 1915 in Quebec. He had actually signed up September 11, 1914 in Vancouver. He sailed with the 23rd Battalion, Canadian Infantry, Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force on the SS Missanabie February 23, 1915. From there he was stationed at Shorncliffe for further training and was transferred to the 14th Battalion in May 1915.
From Shorncliffe Will was sent to the “theatre of war” June 15, 1915. In April he was wounded slightly in the hand, caused by a premature explosion of rifle grenade.
In his letter home to his younger brother Ted, dated August 4, 1916 Will mentions ordinary things like dreaming of venison dinner, friends, and wished that Frank , his younger brother had not signed up and been sent overseas. He also mentioned that the front is not a very healthy place at the best of time. He
thought the war might be over soon. The letter was written in the trenches somewhere in France, near Courcellette, in one of the earlier Battles of the Somme on September 9, 1916 where Will was KILLED IN ACTION. His body was not recovered.
Charles W. Parker 1915
John and Sarah Parker and children 1914
In 2005 I happened to meet a gentleman named Bert Topliffe. Bert’s family had arrived in the Coombs Colony in 1911 and took up Lot #11. Bert told me he knew Will’s father, John, very well. He remembers being at John's house on Parker Road and seeing a gun hanging over the door. John told him the gun belonged to Will, who had died in the war in 1916. John said he hung the gun over the door the day he was notified Will had died and it had stayed there ever since.
If you attend the Remembrance Day Service at the Parksville Cenotaph this year, please pause a moment to remember Will whose name you will see there. Will's youngest brother was my grandfather, Fred Parker.
Submitted by Kerry Parker
Information submitted by Kerry Parker