On This Day

29 October


1918 Titanic, War and Remembrance

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There can be few images of the Titanic disaster more powerful than the one of the newsboy standing in front of the White Star Line offices in London.

For years the newsboy's identity remained a mystery until the photograph was republished in a souvenir book for the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary's reign in 1935.

His family saw the picture and twenty-three years after Titanic sank the identity of the newsboy was finally revealed.

His name was Edward John Parfett, known in the family as Ned. In 1912 he was 15 years old and a full-time newspaper seller, earning a few shillings a week to help support his mother, father and three brothers at their home in Lambeth.

When war was declared two years later Ned was 17 years old and too young to enlist. But in early 1916, aged 18, he final got his chance and joined the Royal Field Artillery, serving at the front in France. By all accounts Ned was a brave soldier and did his duty earning the Military Medal and being mentioned in dispatches.

On 29 October 1918, just two weeks before the Armistice was signed, he was killed when a German shell landed on the Quartermaster’s stores as he collected a clean uniform in which to travel home on leave.

After his death the officer who recommended Ned for special recognition wrote to one of his brothers: ‘On many occasions he accompanied me during severe shelling and I always placed the greatest confidence in him.’

Ned Parfett is buried in Verchain British Cemetery, Verchain-Maugré to the north east of Cambria in France. At the time of his death he was just 22 years old.

He is one of millions that died in 'the war to end all wars', but his image will live on forever.


1875 Arrested on a murder charge

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James Caldell, Second Engineer in the White Star liner Britannic (Yard No. 83) was arrested at Birkenhead, charged with the murder of a stoker named Patrick Callan. When four days out from New York it was alleged that Caldwell kicked Callan several times, beat his head against the deck, threw him down the stoke-hole and then deluged him with water.

From the effect of these injuries Callan died two days later. An inquest was held and the doctor reported that his death was as a result of heart and liver disease. The body was buried at sea, the Bishop of Brooklyn - a passenger, officiating.

It was reported that Captain Thompson of Britannic would have put Caldwell in irons, but he could not be spared from his duties onboard. Caldwell denied the charge and was brought before magistrates on the 30th. Caldwell was later discharged.