Anyone watching the news, browsing the internet or is a fan of James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster, Titanic, knows that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. While the ill-fated voyage is certainly getting a great deal of media attention and new information seems to find its way to the top (ugh…no pun intended), I decided to take a different route. No, I’m not going to see Titanic 3-D, because let’s be honest it will always end the same, except this time I would get the added bonus of a slight headache due to the 3D glasses. Nor am I going to bid on the estimated 5,500 recovered artifacts from the Titanic’s watery grave because it seems a bit creepy and sacrilegious. Instead, during the media/information overload I came across an iconic Titanic photo and it was not the subject of the ship that intrigued me, but rather the story of the newsboy in the picture.
The Boy in the Picture
- Newsboy Ned Parfett sells his papers in front of the White Star Line’s London offices, April 16, 1912.
Every now and then you come across a photo and you began to think about the people in it and their stories (or it could just be me). This was the case when I stumbled upon the photograph of newsboy Ned Parfett. The particular photo has been listed among the iconic photographs about the Titanic. The National Archives (UK) described it as: “One of the most poignant images of the Titanic disaster is of a young newsboy outside the White Star Line offices in London, holding an Evening News poster announcing ‘Titanic Disaster Great Loss of Life’.”
As I did a little more research into the photograph, I found the story of Ned Parfett’s short life. About six and a half years after this photograph was taken, Ned was killed in World War I. At the time of his death he was only 22 years of age. Ned, along with his three other brothers, joined the British forces during The Great War. In 1916, he enlisted into the Royal Artillery where he served as a dispatch rider. Later, he would be assigned to reconnaissance duties. Though he was young, his youth did not factor in on his sense of duty. Because of his gallant conduct and bravery in a series of missions, he was awarded the Military Medal.
On October 29, 1918, while Ned was collecting some clothes before going on leave, the Germans begun a bombardment. A shell landed on the quartermaster’s stores, killing Ned. Tragically, it was just days before the Armistice and the end of the war. His other three brothers served in other disastrous and bloody battles against the German army, one brother was wounded and gassed at the third battle of Ypres. But Ned was the only one who did not make it home.
An officer, who recommended Ned for special recognition, wrote to one of his brothers after Ned’s death:
On many occasions he accompanied me during severe shelling and I always placed the greatest confidence in him.
[Zim's Note: If you have been reading many of my war posts and the battle of Ypres sounds familiar, you may be thinking about a previous post - Henry Tandey's History Changing Decision. Quite a while ago I also did a post on the Cancelled Passengers of the RMS Titanic.]
Information – National Archives (UK)
Photograph – Smithsonian Institute