Parsley, John

Parsley, John         1920 August 13th              Orcheston

Soldier Killed by a Moving Target at Orcheston

Bombardier John Parsley, RFA, stationed at Greenland’s Farm Camp, Orcheston, met his death in an extraordinary accident, evidence of which was given at the inquest held at the Military Hospital at Fargo.

Lieut R H Mould, RFA, said that Parsley was a single man, aged 23, and his home was in Wangford, Suffolk.

Captain Vernon Gillam, RFA, stated that, acting under instructions from the higher authorities, he had been recently experimenting to obtain a target of a tank in motion, which would travel at a speed of twenty miles or more per hour. He had a corrugated iron sheet about 9ft 6in in length, and 3ft 6in in width, to which was secured a wooden frame to represent the size of a tank. Fore and aft he had a yellow bunting flag flying for visibility. The weight of the target was about 3cwts, and the height approximately 6ft. It was attached to a Foden steam lorry. The track of the target was fairly level ground over the first 900 yards, and then came a slight descent near to the road. Witness was accompanied on the previous day by Lieut Mould and four men, including Parsley. These men assisted him in his preparations, and their job then was to watch the tackle. They knew their work, and had assisted in previous experiments, particularly Parsley, who was his second right-hand man.

He had a considerable amount of trouble with the tackle through breakage of ropes and the necessity of oiling blocks and lubricants. Lieut Mould was near the men at the hold-fasts, and witness was about fifty yards away from the party. He satisfied himself as to the security of the tackle, and then told the driver of the lorry to start slowly, and when he found the target was moving to increase the pace. He gave him these instructions because in his previous trials ropes broke and the target was only got under way with difficulty. To his surprise there was on this occasion no resistance, and the target moved immediately. The driver increased his speed in accordance with his instructions, and the target shot away at a speed of something like 40 miles an hour. He saw the target appear on the crest at the end of the 900 yards, and it rose in the air. The impetus of the jump carried the target right down to the bottom of the slope, and also carried it off its true line. The target when in the air struck Parsley on the head. The man was at least 150 yards from the crest, and was not in the true line of the target. Lieut Mould went to him at once, and reported that he was dead. The whole occurrence happened in 30 seconds.

Lieut Mould Corroborated.

Captain George Walker, RAMC, spoke to examining the body upon its arrival at Fargo Hospital. The man had been very severely injured, and had a fractured skull, and he had also evidently received a tremendous blow on the right shoulder and upper part of the chest. His injuries were consistent with the target having struck him, and death must have been instantaneous.

The Deputy Coroner (Mr H E Vincent) returned a verdict of “Accidental Death.”


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