"To Keep in Memory"

The Sparling Brothers

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Captain Herbert Sparling MC, 7th Battalion, West Riding (Duke of Wellington's) Regiment, attached 10th (Service) Battalion.
Wireless Officer Norman Sparling, The Marconi Company.

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The Badge of the West Riding Regiment

Herbert and Norman Sparling were sons of Frank and Sarah Sparling. Frank Sparling had been a fish merchant before he retired. He and his wife also had a daughter, Olive, born in 1891, and a younger son, Frank Wilfred, who was born in 1907.
The Sparling family lived at Saw Wood House, a farm just off the York Road between Scholes and Thorner, close to the railway line.

Herbert Sparling had attended Leeds Grammar School before going up to Leeds University, and he was a member of the University Officer Training Corps prior to taking a Territorial Force commission in the 7th Battalion of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment on 12th July 1915. According to the Yorkshire Evening Post newspaper, he went to France in September 1916. There is no evidence to confirm that he ever served with the either the first or second line battalions of the 7th Battalion of his regiment. He does, however, appear in the war diary of the 10th (Service) Battalion of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment. A London Gazette notification that appeared in November 1917, but dated 1st July 1917, that he was promoted once more to Lieutenant, and was to remain seconded appears to confirm that he had been attached to the 10th Battalion for some time.

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Map of the area where Herbert Sparling won his Military Cross, taken from the Brigade War Diary

Lieutenant Sparling was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in action east of the Flemish city of Ypres on 20th September 1917. The 69th Infantry Brigade, of which 10th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's Regiment was a part, was ordered to advance to attack a wood called Inverness Copse from the area of Stirling Castle and Clapham Junction, which lay either side of the Menin Road. The London Gazette of 18th January 1918 announced that he had been awarded the Military Cross, but the official citation was not published until 25th April 1918. Herbert Sparling had been informed of the award in October 1917.

The Gazette stated the award was:

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He took command of his company during an attack and led it with great coolness and determination. He remained in command though wounded, and during an enemy counter-attack displayed remarkable coolness and resource."

Neither the war diary of his battalion or the Brigade to which it belonged gives any detail of the action, other than to say the objective was captured as per the plan.

A further notification in the London Gazette from December 1917, states that Herbert Sparling was to be promoted to acting Captain while in command of a company. This suggests two things. Firstly, the wounds that took the previous company commander out of action must have been serious, and that he was expected to be away from the company for some time, perhaps never to return. Secondly, the wound that Herbert Sparling sustained in the battle was slight. It was noted that he remained at duty during the battle, but he would have had the wound treated once he was back out of the line.

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The Military Cross

Herbert Sparling’s tenure as a company commander was relatively short lived, for he was wounded again on 18th October 1917, and this time seriously. His battalion was holding the line just north of Jetty Wood, next to Polygon Wood, east of Ypres when he was wounded. Nothing is recorded in either the battalion or brigade war diaries that tells of how Herbert Sparling was wounded, although it is noted that the battalion was relieved the day after, on the 19th October.

For Herbert Sparling, the second wounding spelled an end to front line soldiering. It was reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post, on October 27th 1917, that he had been seriously wounded and was in hospital abroad. This is evidence that he had been too seriously wounded to have been sent directly back to the UK. He relinquished his commission on account of ill-health caused by wounds, and this was announced through the London Gazette on 29th January 1919. He was issued with a Silver War Badge in April 1919.

After the war he returned to his studies and gained a MA in 1919. He then attended Wells Theological College, where he studied to be an Anglican Minister and he was ordained in 1921. In 1922 he married Beatrice Chang, the daughter of a medical doctor who was originally from Shanghai in China, but had been living and working in Leeds since 1902. By that time, the Sparling Family had moved to Hollyshaw Lane in Whitkirk.

Yorkshire Evening Post 17 May 1922
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Reverend Captain Sparling MC & Mrs Sparling

He became a priest in 1922 in the Diocese of Southwark while he was at the Church of Holy Trinity, Roehampton, 1921-24; He later moved to St. Barnabas, Dulwich, 1924-27, and was Vicar of Buckminster with Sewstern between 1927-30; Later moves took him to Dent 1930-32, and Cowgill 1932-47. He retired to Bancroft Manor, Sherington, Buckinghamshire, where he became a valued member of the Parish Council over many years, enjoying periods as Chairman and Vice-Chairman.

Rev Sparling did not enjoy a smooth start to his time at Sherington. He fell victim to an unscrupulous solicitor who was also a confidence trickster and consequently lost over £5,000 when he bought Bancroft Manor in 1958.

In later life Rev & Mrs Sparling moved to Swinden Hall, an imposing 16th Century house near the North Yorkshire border with Lancashire. He was also reported on in the Yorkshire Evening Post when he bought the village of Cold Kirby, near Sutton Bank in Ryedale along with 1100 acres of land, including 23 farms.

The Reverend Captain Herbert Sparling MC died in 1977, and his widow Beatrice died in 1987.

 

Norman Sparling was born in 1899. Nothing is known about his war service.

Wireless Officers were employed by the Marconi Company, and Mercantile Marine shipping companies would pay the Marconi Company to place their employees as radio operators on merchant ships. Those officers and sailors of the Mercantile Marine who sailed through operational zones were entitled to medals for their efforts and though the rolls have survived, Norman Sparling’s name is not listed among them.

Given his age, it seems likely that school, and his Marconi training would have meant that his service began very late in the war, and perhaps at shore based wireless stations thus ruling him out for qualification for any of the medals available to his contemporaries in the Marconi Company working with the Mercantile Marine service.

Norman Sparling died in 1921, aged 22. He is buried in the churchyard of St Peter’s Church in Thorner.

Remembering the Fallen of Two Villages on the Eastern Fringes of Leeds.

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