John Henry Parr was born in Church End (Barnet) on 19 July 1897, the son of Edward and Alice Parr. He died in Obourg on 21 August 1914 (at age 17) and is recognised as the first soldier of the Commonwealth to be killed by the enemy during the First World War.

His father worked as a milkman. He is the youngest of eleven children of whom many died before their fourth birthday. On leaving school, he takes a job as a butcher’s boy, then is a golf caddie at the North Middlesex Golf Club. John Parr joined the 4th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment in 1912, aged only 15, but claiming to be more than 18 years old, the minimum age to enrol.

As a soldier, Parr is a reconnaissance cyclist, with the mission to search for intelligence on the enemy and then to report to the Commander. At the beginning of the First World War, in August 1914, his battalion is sent from Southampton to Boulogne-sur-Mer, France. While the German army invades Belgium, the 4th Middlesex arrives in Taisnières on 15th August and leaves it on 21st August at 10:00 am.

Death of John Parr

On 21 August, Parr and another cyclist scout are sent to the northeast of Mons, to Obourg, a village near the French-Belgian border, with mission to locate the enemy. It is likely that they encounter a cavalry patrol of the first German army, Parr remains in position to contain the enemy while his companion returned to report. It is then he is killed by a gunshot. Parr is buried in the German- British Saint-Symphorien military cemetery, Southeast of Mons. The age noted on his tombstone is twenty years, as the army did not know his real age of seventeen.