It is interesting what catches your eye. I was browsing some military records and the record of my great-great half-uncle Harvey C.W. Parr came up. One of his occupations in the army in WWI was a batman.
No, not “the” batman, but “a” batman.
A batman was a manservant to an officer, also called a soldier-servant. Officers usually chose the person who was to be his batman from among his men. Before vehicles, the batman was in charge of the “bat-horse “, the horse carrying the packsaddle with his officer’s kit. This was seen as desirable as the soldier was exempted from more onerous duties and got better rations.
Harvey Charles William Parr was born 20 June 1890 in Fordham, Cambridgeshire, England. He was the fourth child, and first boy, of Charles Parr and Eliza Wells. He joined his half-sister Agnes (1884) and his sisters Fanny (1887) and Alice (1888). His father was an agricultural labourer. The 1891 census indicates that the family kept growing with new siblings for Harvey: Elizabeth (1891), Frederick (1893), Ruth (1894) and Herbert (1896).
Unfortunately, Harvey’s mother Eliza died from TB in July of 1898. , In October of that year Harvey, Elizabeth and Fanny were enrolled in the Exning School. Harvey’s father disappears from the records at that time. It appears that the children were likely put into the workhouse after their mother died and enrolled in school then. It is not known at this point what happened to their father.
On the 1901 census, Harvey is living in the workhouse with his sisters Alice, Elizabeth and Ruth and his brother Fred. Agnes was working for the Salvation Army, and Herbert died at the workhouse in February 1901.
In 1911, Harvey was living at 23 Chapel Street, Belgrave Square SW and working as a manservant. The Belgrave area was considered one of London’s most fashionable districts when it was built. Chapel Street is just off of Belgrave square and the area is still quite expensive. The last time 23 Chapel Street was transferred as a leasehold in 2018 it went for £2.3 million. At the time Harvey was working there, he was working for James Labouchere a produce broker.
Harvey likely lost his job when Mr. Labouchere passed away in 1914 as in 1916 when he married he was working as a munitions worker and living at 43J Lewis Dwellings. The Samuel Lewis Housing Trust was set up to house the poor. Each flat had a solid copper fuel boiler for heating water for bath and laundry (the bath was under a wooden table top in the kitchen. There was a larder, coal bunker and toilet on the balcony. The solid fuel range in the kitchen could be pushed through to the adjacent living room to warm the family. Rent was between 7 and 8 shillings per week and included chimney sweeping.
Harvey married Frances Eleanor Sinclair SUTHERLAND, who was living in the same building on 20 June 1916. The marriage documentation does not list a job for Frances, but it does note that her father was a butler.
A very short time after the wedding their son Frank William John PARR was born on 14 October 1916. At that time he and Frances were still living at the Lewis Dwelling and he was still working as a munitions worker. While he worked there he was also in the army reserve.
In February of 1917, Harvey was examined for the army. He was working at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich filling shells. The Royal Arsenal was 3.5 miles long, 1 mile wide covering 1,300 acres and employing 100,000 people at its peak.
Harvey was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 100 pounds with a chest of 31.5 inches and an expansion of 3 inches. The forms indicate he had defective teeth, was knocked kneed, had slightly flat feet, a defective septum and a circular scar on the back of his head. Perhaps the teeth and scar are an indication of the rough life in the workhouse as a youth.
In 1917, Harvey, Frances and Frank were living at 95C Guinness Buildings, Draycott Avenue. These buildings were also built for the poor, and it appears a step down from the Lewis Buildings. The Guinness Buildings were built of red brick and their purpose was to house as many people as possible. The baths were in a separate building with cold water available all the time and hot water only available at specific times for tenants, and only for a fee. Toilets and sinks were outside the flats on the landings and were shared by four families. Hot water was supplied to the tenants at meal times so that tenants did not have to light fires in the summer. There was a large common room that could seat 300 people with books, newspapers and games supplied.
The records indicate he enlisted 30 April 1917. His regiment was the Rifle Brigade and then the Kings Liverpool Regiment and his regimental number was 21507 and then 93179.
Harvey was sent to the Macedonian (Salonica) front in October 1917. He was made a batman on 08 December 1918. Did he request it for better rations? Or was it known that he had previously worked as a manservant? We won’t ever know, but we do know he was granted proficiency pay on 15 December, less than a week later.
In March 1919, Harvey was re-deployed to Turkey after he contracted malaria, which was blamed on the climate at Salonica.
On 17 October 1919, at the age of 29, Harvey had a heart attack, thought to have been brought on by malaria. After serving 2 years and 224 days (2 years, 14 days abroad), he was discharged on 10 December 1919 and was given a small pension as he had a child. The pension was to expire on 15 June 1920, so it was only to tide him over for a very short time. He then lists his job before the war as a manservant. He was classified as a Class Z Reserve, meaning he was returning to civilian life but had an obligation to return if called upon. He received the Victory medal and the British medal.
After the war, on the census in 1921, Harvey, Frances and Frank were living at the Guinness Buildings and Harvey was working for Julian Franks, the proprietor of Furnished Chambers at Albemarle Court, as a waiter valet. Harvey was back working in the nicer areas of London as 27 Albemarle Street was considered to be one of Mayfair’s most prestigious locations.
Also in 1921, their daughter Ilona Sutherland Parr was born.
On the 1939 Register, we find the family still living at the Guinness Buildings. Harvey continues to work as a waiter valet. By this time Frank is 23 and is now working as a work shop assistant and 18-year-old Ilona is working as an artificial flower maker.
In December 1942, Ilona married Walter E Cox. By 1945, we can posit that all three men – Harvey, Frank and Walter were enrolled in the armed forces as Frances and Ilona were living at 68 Cloncurry Street, Fulham, London, England. The two were living with another woman named Vera Scutt according to the electoral register. They are now living in a semi-detached house. Perhaps the other woman Vera is renting a room, perhaps they are renting rooms, or it is possible there are two flats in the house.
In 1946, Walter and Frank had joined the three women in number 68. Harvey shows up again at number 68 in 1950 when he, Frances and Frank were living there with Vera and William Scutt. Ilona and Walter had moved next door to number 70 and lived there with Harriet and Kate Knight. In 1954 the same arrangements for the family, but the second couple living in number 68 were Doris and Jonathan Brown. In 1958 we still have the same living arrangements, but Harriet had been replaced by a gentleman named John Bargeton. In 1963 Ilona and Walter had moved back into number 68 with Harvey, Frances and Frank.
In 1969 Frances died, leaving an estate of £5,024. At that time she was living at 68 Cloncurry.
Harvey died in 1974. His death is registered in the second quarter in Fulham, so we don’t know if he made it to his 84th birthday or not. It is likely that he was still living at Cloncurry Street at that time.
Harvey and Frances’s two children remained in the London area. Frank died at the age of 84 and Ilona lived until she was 92 and died in 2013. Neither had any children, so Harvey’s line is at an end.
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 Birth Indexes (CR) England, Newmarket, Cambridgeshire. Jul-Sep 1890. PARR, Harvey Charles William. http://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 25 December 2018.
 Census. 1891. England and Wales. Fordham, Newmarket, East Cambridge, Cambridge. https://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 2018.
 Deaths (CR) England. RD: Newmarket, Fordham, Soham, Cambridgeshire. 16 July 1898. PARR, Eliza.
 Census Records, 1901. England. Exning, Suffolk. 31 March 1901. PARR, Harvey (pauper). RG 13/1541, f177, p 4. https://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 14 December 2020.
 Census Records, England. 23 Chapel Street, Belgrave Sqare SW, St George Hanover Square, London. 02 April 1911. PARR, Harvey (Servant). RG 5. SD Belgrave ED 04 p. 192. https://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 30 September 2022.
 Testamentary records. England. 03 November 1914. LABOUCHERE, James. Probate. Collection: England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995.
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 Marriages (PR) England, London. 20 June 1916. PARR, Harvey Charles William and SUTHERLAND, Frances Eleanor Sinclair. London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932. https://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 25 December 2018.
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 Census Records, 1939. England. Chelsea, London. 29 September 1939. PARR, Harvey [head]. RD 5/1 Line 10. https://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 30 September 2022.
 Directories, England. 1954. London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1965. p 184. https://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 30 September 2022.
 Testamentary records, England. 18 September 1969. PARR, Frances Eleanor Sinclair. Probate. Collection: England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. https://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 30 September 2022.
 Death Indexes (CR) England, Fulham, London, England. March – June 1974. PARR, Harvey Charles W. Vol 12 p. 762.