Today I wanted to pay tribute to a true East End hero, the Revered George Edward Maule Parry who was murdered on D-Day, the 6th of June 1944.
As the Padre with the 6th Airborne Division, Padre Parry had parachuted into Normandy in order to support the men of the Division as they undertook the dangerous, though vital, task of capturing the bridges over the River Orne and the Caen Canal.
Within 24 hours, he would be dead, having sacrificed his life in order to try and save the lives of his wounded comrades.
The full story of the horror of what was little short of a brutal and savage murder was not told for several weeks. But, when it began to be reported by various newspapers, it sent a genuine wave of revulsion across the country.
A detailed account of what happened was given by Leonard Mosely, War Correspondent with the Daily Record, and it appeared on Thursday 29th June 1944.
It makes for harrowing reading and I have reproduced the article here in full:-
AIRBORNE PADRE WAS BRUTALLY MURDERED
“I am at last able to tell you the story of one of the most brutal actions perpetrated by the Nazis against our troops fighting in Normandy – the story of how German soldiers broke into a medical aid post filled with our wounded in the Orne Valley on D-Day, killed the helpless men and then murdered the padre who tried to defend them.
The name of the padre who gave his life in an attempt to save his wounded charges is the Rev. George Edward Maule Parry of the 6th Airborne Division.
Captain Parry, formerly of St. John’s, Leytonstone, and Emmanuel Church, Forest Gate, was 29 years of age and was killed by a knife or bayonet.
His parents, Canon A. J. and Mrs. M. C. Parry, live at Wanstead.
His brother, Lieut. Peter Francis Maule Parry, was killed in North Africa in November, 1941.
VITAL BRIDGES JOB
The parachute battalion at which the Rev. Geo. Parry was Padre given the job in the early hours of D-Day of dropping by parachute and capturing intact the vital bridges spanning the River Orne and the Caen Canal in Normandy.
When they stole down to earth just before 1 a.m. Padre Parry dropped with them.
They were soon all engaged defending themselves against some of the bitterest and most determined Nazi counter-attacks of the invasion.
While fighting was going on and the men were valiantly holding the bridges they captured from attacks by Nazi guns, men and tanks, Padre Parry moved among them encouraging those who were still fighting and giving what help he could.
SET OFF TO ASSIST
After about an hour, however, he heard that “A” Company of the battalion, which was holding the perimeter of our defences along the west side of the canal near the village Le Port, was in sore straits and aid for the wounded was badly needed. Padre Parry set off through the darkness to join them.
Not long after he arrived Nazi forces infiltrated between the Company and the rest of the battalion, cutting them off from all help for the next 15 hours.
Soon after dawn a Panther tank and a self-propelled gun swung down the road and opened fire on them which took a heavy toll of the men.
Padre Parry and the medical section did all they could to help, but not all of the wounded could be cared for.
“A” Company’s commander was so badly wounded that he carried on the direction of the battle from a stretcher.
TRIED TO SAVE WOUNDED
All efforts to get help from the rest of the battalion failed and many men died in trying to get through.
And then after one attack the enemy broke “A” Company’s line at one point and penetrated sufficiently to reach the medical aid post where Padre Parry was working on the wounded.
Those who were near enough to see what happened say that the Nazi troops who seemed to be in a completely frenzied condition thereupon set upon the wounded shooting and bayoneting them.
Padre Parry immediately went to the aid of the helpless Britons lying on the dressing station floor. He protested vehemently against the murder of the helpless paratroopers and when this was ignored by the enraged Germans he is believed to have tried physical intervention and put himself between the Nazis and the wounded troops.
He was then charged by the enemy troops, and, in the struggle that followed, bayonets or knives were used by the NAZIS, and Padre Parry was cut down.
He fell beside the men he tried to save.
Owing to the desperate situation that prevailed at the time it was impossible for anyone else in “A” Company to come to his aid or to the aid of their comrades, and for several hours afterwards the medical post was in no man’s land.
Not till later in the morning did the second in command of the Company manage to reach Battalion H.Q. and tell his story.
CRAWLED FOR HELP
Despite his wounded shoulder, he crawled through the gardens and shell-wrecked houses of Le Port and dodged through the Nazi lines until he reached the bridge.
There he refused to have his wound dressed, but asked for a patrol, and immediately returned to his Company, fighting the whole way back.
ALL FOUND DEAD
It was this patrol which recaptured the medical post and occupied it.
They found all its occupants dead, with Padre Parry lying beside them.
Then, with this small reinforcement, “A” Company held off all subsequent Nazi attacks until late in the evening of D-Day, when troops from the beaches fought their way through and relieved them.
MEN TOOK REVENGE
Padre Parry, like the rest of the clergymen attached to 6th Airborne Division, was immensely popular with his men and news of his death and the way in which he died sent a wave of fury and indignation through the whole division.
I was with the men of the battalion during many hours of D-Day watching their successful battle to hold the bridge and I know how deeply they felt the loss of the man who had dropped with them.
I don’t think there was a man in the whole battalion who that day did not fight to revenge the death of Padre Parry.”
BURIED IN BENOUVILLE CHURCHYARD, NORMANDY
The Reverend G.E.M Parry, lies buried in Benouville Churchyard in Normandy.
Today, as we celebrate VE Day, please take a few quiet moments to remember that, in our World of instant, vacuous celebrity, there were, and still are, many young men who, like Padre George Parry, remain largely unsung heroes but to whom we owe a massive debt that we can never fully repay, and who truly deserve our honour and our eternal respect.
Indeed, as with so many of those brave young men, the words of John Maxwell Edmonds make a truly fitting close, not just for the memory of Padre Parry, but for all of those who made, and continue to make, the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.
When you go home, tell them of us and say
For your tomorrows these gave their today.
To all of you, I say, thank you and Rest In Peace.
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