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Sailor who saved his unarmed ship gets lasting memorial

A heroic Islington sailor who posthumously won the Victoria Cross for helping to save his ship from a U-boat is to be commemorated exactly 100 years after his death.

Mercantile Marine Master Frederick Parslow was a civilian when his ship, the unarmed SS Anglo-Californian, was ambushed by the German vessel on 4 July, 1915.

He was killed in the attack, but not before managing to weave his ship back and forth across the North Atlantic, evading the attacking submarine.

At times during the battle the submarine came close enough for the Germans to fire rifles at the stricken ship. After Master Parslow was killed, his son, also called Frederick, took over the bridge as his father lay dead beside him on the deck, and continued the battle to save his ship. 

After an hour-and-a-half, two armed vessels reached the ship and rescued its surviving crew and its cargo of 927 horses bound for the Western Front.

Following the action, the Royal Navy gave Master Parslow a nominal rank of Lieutenant in the Navy Reserves after his death so that they could bestow upon him the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military honour.

Master Parslow, who was born in Balls Pond Road, N1, was 59 when he was killed. He was the First World War’s oldest Victoria Cross recipient, and one of just two civilians to be given the honour during the conflict.

Now a new memorial is being created to honour Master Parslow, as part of the Great War 100th anniversary commemorations. Paving stones are being laid across the country in honour of each of the 627 men who were awarded Victoria Crosses between 1914 and 1918. Each stone will be laid in the town where the recipients were born.

Dignitaries from Islington Council will be joined by naval top brass for a ceremony to mark the centenary of Master Parslow’s death on 4 July. The paving stone, which will bear Merchant Navy colours, will be unveiled at a public ceremony at the war memorial in Islington Green.

Islington Council armed forces champion, Cllr Gary Poole, said: “Even though 100 years has elapsed since Master Parslow’s incredible act of bravery took place, it is fitting for us to pull out all the stops to remember him on this the 100th anniversary of his death.

“His was just one of countless brave deeds carried out by thousands of young men, many of which went unpraised. The paving stones are a way of cementing their memory for generations to come.”

Paving stones commemorating another four men from Islington who were awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War are expected to be unveiled over the next few years until 2018.

Frederick Parslow Snr.jpg

Frederick Parslow Snr.jpg

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Frederick Parslow Jnr.jpg

Frederick Parslow Jnr.jpg

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The SS Anglo-Californian.jpg

The SS Anglo-Californian.jpg

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Frederick Parslow Stone.jpg

Frederick Parslow Stone.jpg

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