Herbert Sidney Park was born in Stroud on 3 June 1894. He is shown in the 1901 census as living with his parents Sidney Benyon Park (aged 40) and Ellen (aged 48) and sister Margaret (aged 9) at 21 Lansdown, Stroud. Later in the life the family moved to Highmead, Field Road. His father and mother were drapers and operated shops in George Street and High Street.
Herbert Park attended Wycliffe College in Stonehouse from 1904 to 1910 attending first as a day boy and later as a boarder at Haywardsfield. Wycliffe At War records that “He was never did much at games” He was a member of Literary and Debating Society and is recorded as being a leading speaker in debate on reform of the House of Lords in December 1909. In his last year at school he was a senior – what we would call today call a prefect. He left the school after taking London Matriculation (the equivalent of A levels today).
Herbert and his parents were members of Bedford Street Congregational Church. He was one of 97 members of the Church who served during the First World War. 16 members of the Church in the words of the time “paid the supreme sacrifice”. All who died and served are recorded on the Church War Memorial. During his time in London he attended Westminster Chapel, a large church 200 yards away from Buckingham Palace. The Church was founded by Congregationalists in 1840, and Herbert became the general secretary of the Sunday School.
In January 1913 he was appointed a clerk in the Civil Service, working in the National Health Insurance Audit Department. On his death his chief at the Civil Service wrote “I held him in high esteem, both for his character and abilities as well as for the good work he did in my department of the service”
The Civil Service were reluctant to release him but eventually in 1916 he joined the Artists Rifles Famous members of the Regiment include William Morris, Noel Coward, Barnes Wallis and the war poet Wilfred Owen. During the Great War the regiment acted as an Officer Training Corps with more than 10,000 recruits being commissioned as officers.
He was commissioned into the Border Regiment on 4 March 1917 and joined the 1st Battalion whilst they were in a rear training area at Candas (about 50km South West of Arras) on 9 June 1917. The regimental diary records Candas as being "comfortable, clean little village, beautifully situated". On 26 June the regiment moved up to the front line to the North of Ypres where they remained until 7 July. This was probably Herbert's first experience of life in the trenches.
He wrote about his first experience up the “line”
“These days, chiefly spent in strong posts and pill-boxes, were most interesting and instructive, and I found that I didn't get “get the wind up” nearly as much as I thought I should. All the time I seemed to be helped and buoyed up”
On the 31 July - the first day of Passendale - the Regiment supported the Guards Division making roads in the area of Boesinghe, north of Yypres. On the 12 August the Regiment moved up to the front line. On the 15th they began to move off in preparation for the second phase of the battle during which they assisted in an advance east of Ypres. When they were relieved on the 17th the 18 days of battle had reduced the battalion by 181 by officers and men had been killed, wounded or reported missing. Seriously understrength the Regiment moved to the rear training area at Bailleumont.
It is unclear when Herbert took on responsibility as battalion bombing officer. This is assumed to be a reference to the Mills Bomb, which (with some modification) remained the Army's main issue hand grenade from 1915 to 1972. Its inventor was William Mills who was knighted in 1922.
In January 1916 one commentator stated “ The casualties among the bombers are necessarily very great. It is absolutely essential that every Officer, NCO and man in the ranks should be instructed in how to throw a Mills Bomb.”
On 26 October 1917 Herbert was out teaching a group how to use a bomb, when according to the Regimental Chaplin “ the wretched thing went off spontaneously (undoubtedly due to a defect in the make) and killed him and the man who was actually holding it.” The soldier killed with him was 31 year old Private Richard McCulloch of Whitehaven, Cumbria. As an officer, Herbert's next of kin - his parents - would have been notified by telegram. Mcculloch's widow Mary would have had to wait until the other ranks death notice form to arrive by post.
The last resting place for the victims of this training accident is a French Parish Burial Ground in the village of Bailleulmont between Doullens and Arras, which contains graves of 34 casualties. As the regiment was out of the line a full ceremonial funeral with the whole Battalion paraded was held.
Sources: Census 1901 – www.ancestry.co.uk, Sidney Park, Stroud Journal obituary October 1928, Old Wycliffian Society, Wycliffe at War and Star 1909, Border Regiment War Diary June to October 1917, London Gazette 4 February 1913, Stroud News 2 November 1917 – report of death and reprint of chaplain's letter.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetry Details: