Unknown NZ Army officer buried in Belgium 103 years ago finally identified

The final resting place of Captain Ernest Charles Parry. Photo: Supplied / NZDF
The final resting place of Captain Ernest Charles Parry. Photo: Supplied / NZDF
An unknown New Zealand Army officer buried in Belgium 103 years ago has finally been identified.

The grave, number I.E.20 at the Dochy Farm New British Cemetery, has now been confirmed as the final resting place of Captain Ernest Charles Parry of the first Battalion Auckland Infantry Regiment.

Captain Ernest Charles Parry of the first Battalion Auckland Infantry Regiment. Photo: Supplied /...
Captain Ernest Charles Parry of the first Battalion Auckland Infantry Regiment. Photo: Supplied / NZDF
He was killed on 16 October, 1917, at the Battle of Passchendaele.

Captain Parry, who was from Paeroa, is commemorated on the New Zealand Tyne Cot Memorial to the missing but until now had no known grave.

He will now finally get a headstone but his name will remain on the Tyne Cot memorial as it is the policy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that names not be removed once they have been engraved into the memorial.

Captain Parry's grave was confirmed by a painstaking review of historical material by New Zealand Defence Force historians after an initial case put forward by overseas researchers.

NZDF historian Matthew Buck said the identification was based on two key sources.

"We had some pages added to the war diary of his battalion and a letter from one of his comrades published in the Ohinemuri Gazette in 1917."

He said it was unlikely either would have been found if it was not for the digitalisation programmes carried out recently by Archives New Zealand and the National Library.

The NZDF team found evidence that the bodies of Captain Parry and Sergeant Donald McLean were found lying close together on the battlefield by other members of their battalion.

It said it appeared the bodies were buried together on the battlefield and when they were recovered for reburial at Douchy Farm Cemetery, the graves concentration unit was only able to identify Sergeant McLean and an unknown New Zealand Captain.

Captain Ernest Charles Parry was killed on 16 October, 1917 at the Battle of Passchendaele. Photo...
Captain Ernest Charles Parry was killed on 16 October, 1917 at the Battle of Passchendaele. Photo: Supplied / NZDF
Buck said before it could be confirmed as Parry's grave, they had to eliminate it was not the grave of four other New Zealand Infantry captains killed in the same area who had no known resting place.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission said Captain Parry was the first successful identification case for a New Zealand casualty it was aware of.

There are 6290 New Zealanders who served during World War I who have no known grave.

Captain Parry had two young sons. Both served in the Royal New Zealand Airforce during World War II.

One of them, Flight Sergeant Joseph Parry, was killed on active duty flying with the RAF's 99 squadron on 29 September 1941. He has no known grave.

 

 

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