Lieutenant Colonel John (Jack) William PARSONS DSO
John William PARSONS was born at Inman Valley on 12 October 1878, the third youngest of nine children, including four boys, of Thomas PARSONS and Mary Elizabeth PARSONS (nee SMITH) of Inman Valley.
Jack, as he was known, was educated at the Church of England school, Inman Valley, and then worked on the family property, Holowilena. In 1896 he joined the South Australia Mounted Rifles with his brother, Harry. He fought in the Boer War in South Africa, embarking from Adelaide on 2 November 1899 with the first SA contingent. Trooper PARSONS was invalided home in June 1900 and was later awarded the Queen’s Medal with Clasp. He was one of 125 light horsemen who, in 1902, represented South Australia at the coronation of King Edward VII.
Later promoted to the rank of captain in the South Australian Mounted Rifles, Jack served as Area Officer at Willunga from 1912 to 1914. His World War One service records show he was aged 36, married with two children, when he applied for a commission in the Australian Military Forces on 10 February 1915. His wife was the former Ethel Ann ROADS, of Yankalilla.
Jack PARSONS was commissioned as major and posted to command C Squadron, 11th Light Horse Regiment, part of the 4th Light Horse Brigade. The formation of the 4th Light Horse Brigade, and the 11th Light Horse Regiment as part of it, was announced on 11 February 1915. He sailed in one of two contingents from Brisbane, on 2 May 1915, aboard His Majesty’s Australian Transport (HMAT) A7 Medic. The first contingent was landed at Aden on 12 July, to reinforce the British garrison there against a predicted enemy attack; they re-embarked on 18 July without having seen action.
In Egypt, the Regiment began training as infantry, having been ordered to leave its horses in Australia. In August, it deployed to Gallipoli and was split up to reinforce the three light horse regiments already ashore. Jack PARSONS’ C Squadron was attached to the 9th Light Horse Regiment where his brother, Major Harry PARSONS, was in command of B Squadron.
After the Allied evacuation from Gallipoli, the 11th Light Horse Regiment joined the forces defending the Suez Canal, conducted patrols and took part in forays into the Sinai Desert. In 1917, the Regiment moved into Palestine and fought, as a dismounted unit, in the Second Battle of Gaza. Jack was appointed as Commanding Officer of the Regiment on 13 August 1917.
At Beersheba in late 1917, the Regiment was engaged on flank protection and was too widely scattered to take part in the famous charge. After Gaza fell on 7 November, Turkish resistance in southern Palestine collapsed. The 11th Light Horse participated in the pursuit that followed, and then spent the first months of 1918 resting and training. It moved into the Jordan Valley in time to participate in the Es Salt raid between 29 April and 4 May. The regiment subsequently defended the crossing points over the Jordan, and helped to repulse heavy Turkish and German attacks on 14 and 15 July 1918.
In August 1918, the regiment was issued with swords and trained in traditional cavalry tactics in preparation for the next offensive against the Turks. This was launched along the Palestine coast on 19 September 1918. The 11th Light Horse displayed its versatility at Semakh on 25 September by first charging the Turkish defences around the town on horseback, with swords drawn, and then clearing the actual town on foot, with rifle and bayonet.
Semakh was the Regiment’s last major operation of the war; the Turks surrendered on 30 October 1918. While awaiting to embark for home, the 11th Light Horse were called back to operational duty to quell the Egyptian revolt that erupted in March 1919; order was restored in little over a month. The Regiment sailed for home on 20 July 1919.
Jack PARSONS had a distinguished career. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Mentioned In Despatches (MID). In 1917, he commanded the 11th Light Horse Regiment and was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. Returning to Australia he commanded the 23rd Light Horse Regiment and took command of the 6th Cavalry Brigade in 1924 when he was appointed to the rank of Colonel.
His health suffered for several years after the war from malaria contracted in the Jordan Valley. This prevented his return to farming and he continued to have share farmers on a property he owned at Kimba. Later, he ran a small poultry farm at Woodville.
He was chief air raid warden for the Southern District, based at Port Adelaide, during World War Two and also worked in the Findon Ammunition Works.
Jack PARSONS died on 7 February 1957. His cremated remains were interred in Centennial Park.
Service file of John William PARSONS, downloaded from the National Archives of Australia
Compiled by Victor Harbor RSL member and retired journalist Graham McINERNEY, March 2010.