Parish, John Neville Woodbine

John Neville Woodbine Parish was born November 28th 1920,in Neston, according to the Oxford University (Christ Church) Roll of Honour, but not registered until the March Quarter of 1921 (Wirral Vol. 8a  Page 702), the youngest son of Francis Woodbine & Dorothy Catherine Mary Parish (nee Drew).   His father Francis Woodbine Parish died of Meningitis in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, Canada in the October of 1921, after wounds received in WW1.   So John probably never remembered his father.  Please click on the link to read Francis’s story.

The 1921 census, which was taken on the 19th of June 1921 gives us an insight into the family, as Francis Wooodbine Parish was stationed in London at the Headquarters, 2nd London Infantry Brigade (Defence Force), 381 Cambridge Rd E 2.  This gives us more information on his life, he was born in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), Russia, he was 37 years and 3 months old and had been born in Whitchurch (St. John).   His wife Dorothy and children were living at Glynne Cottage Hawarden, she was now age 31 years and 3 months old and had been born in Westminster, London.   Her eldest son was Patrick, 8 years and 2 months old, born in Mahabaleshwar, Bombay Presidency, India.   David Parish was 6 years and 8 months old born in South Kensington, London.   Nancy Parish was 3 years and 8 months old.   Sheila Parish was 1 year and 9 months old and John Parish was 6 months old, all born in Burton, Cheshire.  There were 5 servants living in the house.

Francis Woodbine Parish was to die a few months later in 1921 after the First World War ended.   Francis died in Canada from Meningitis, after WW1 and being wounded in the war.   His name is on the Hawarden War Memorial after being added later with special permission.  Please click on the links to read the family story.

Please also click on for the family lineage in “The Peerage.”

Sadly John’s brother David Francis Woodbine Parish also died in WW2, on the 11th February 1942, please click on the link to read his story.

John and David’s schooling was at West Downs. Winchester* and Rugby, where he gained one of the American Exchange Scholarships arranged the English Speaking Union according to his bio by the Oxford University (Christ Church) and newspaper reports.   He went to St. George’s School, Rhode Island, U.S.A.

*David entered the school  in 1923 and John in 1929 and they are remembered on the West Downs School, Winchester – War Memorial.  – “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here Am I, Send Me.” Isaiah chapter 6, verse 8.

John is remembered on the Rugby Roll of Honour but David isn’t, so I don’t believe that David went to Rugby.

A small Newspaper cutting I found of the Western Daily Press 5th March 1942 –“Presentation of a Mobile Kitchen, In memory of Gladstone’s Great-Grandson,” led me to search for the School John  had gone to in the U.S.A.

I found Passenger lists of his journey to America with lots of other “Scholars” who, I presume, were going to the same place or other colleges in America.   They were on the Aquitania and sailed from Southampton on the 7th September 1938, Third Class Passengers.   They were with the English Speaking Union, London W.1   (See below.)

John was going to St. George’s School, Rhode Island, U.S.A. and I have been in touch with them and they are glad that one of their students, i.e.John, is being remembered.

From the website, there is a photograph of John (see below) and a list of all the Organisations he was involved in whilst in the School:-

Entered School: 1938, age 18. – Choir, Glee Club, Rifle Club, Civics Club, all 1938-39, Dramatic Association – 1939.    Athletic Record:- Soccer: Team 1938, Office Held: Vice-President, Civics Club, 1939 – College: Oxford.

Valerie Simpson, Archivist at St. George’s school has been extraordinarily generous in sending me loads of documents and photographs of John’s time in St. George’s School, he was enormously popular according to these and indeed as the newspaper article stated, a Mobile Kiltchen, one of three that the school donated, was in memory of John and there was, I believe, a plaque placed inside of the one that the key was presented by his mother Dorothy to Sir Arthur Hobhouse, Chairman of Somerset County Council.   Valerie went on to tell me about a British couple, who made a reproduction, see below:-

A lovely couple in Bristol (England) created a reproduction of the Mobile Kitchen from the black and white photograph, which they had seen somewhere years ago. They take the kitchen to fairs in the Bristol area. We were in touch in 2017 and they even came to see the St. George’s campus.” (Photo of the mobile kitchen is below.)

John is also remembered on the Oxford University (Christ Church : Roll of Honour : Lives lost in World War II) website :- and a bio.

“Sub-Lieutenant (A) John Neville Woodbine Parish

Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, H.M.S. Heron

Born: November 28th 1920 – Died:  May 17th 1941 

John was born in Hawarden. He was the youngest of the five children of Lt.-Col. Francis Woodbine Parish and his wife, Dorothy Mary Catherine Drew. She was the daughter of the Reverend Harry Drew, Rector of Hawarden and Mary Gladstone, a daughter of the Prime Minister, W.E. Gladstone. The Parishes had two other sons and two daughters. 

Colonel Parish had been awarded the Military Cross and the D.S.O. in the First World War, during which he had been seriously wounded. On September 17th 1921, he sailed from London to New York on the Menominee with his wife. There was one other passenger, a 24-year-old student, Percival John Higgs from Devonport. It seems that he may have been with them to assist with the Colonel who died in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, aged thirty-seven, on October 13th. He left £905-2-7 to his wife, living at 2, The Boltons, London. She died in 1982 at the age of ninety-two. 

John was educated at West Downs and Rugby. He Matriculated in 1939. In September 1938, along with fourteen other students, he visited the United States under the auspices of the English Speaking Union and attended St. George’s School, Rhode Island, USA. He was at Christ Church for only one year when he was called up.

 He was a Sub-Lieutenant (A) stationed at HMS Heron [Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton]. In 1939 the Admiralty Air Division commandeered 417 acres of land at Yeovilton, and work began on the construction of the site, with the runways being completed in 1941, despite problems with poor drainage.

 He was killed when his Hurricane of 759* Squadron crashed in the River Parrett on May 17th 1941.

He is buried in the churchyard of St Deiniol at Hawarden, Flintshire.

He is commemorated on the West Downs School memorial.

He left £273-9-5. Administration was granted to his mother.

His brother, Pilot Officer David Francis Woodbine Parish was killed on February 11th 1942. A pilot with 236 Squadron, he is commemorated on the Malta memorial Panel 3, Column 1.”

*I believe that this may have been an error and it should read 750 Squadron.

Valerie was able to send me photographs of John & David’s cousin Julian Glynn Woodbine Parish, son of Patrick Parish, Francis Woodbine & Dorothy Mary Constance Parish, who attended St. George’s School many years after John and who sadly died in a plane crash in 1974.  – Valerie tells me :-

“I have also attached (just for your interest) two pictures of John’s nephew, Julian, (Patrick’s son), who attended St. George’s for the school year 1960-1961. I think this is a nice indication that Uncle John had had a good experience here. Very sadly, Julian too has also died; our Alumni Office had a letter in his file explaining that Julian had been a passenger on the Turkish airline that crashed in early March 1974 shortly after take-off from Paris. He had been a helicopter pilot for British European Airways.”

BBC ON THIS DAY | 3 | 1974: Turkish jet crashes killing 345

A Turkish Airlines DC10 crashes near Paris, en route to London, killing all … The accident was probably caused by a cargo door coming open during the flight, …

A letter from John to the School and printed below was among the documents and photographs Valerie so kindly sent, showing how he felt on the 6th October 1940, when he wrote to St. George’s School and his letter was printed in the Alumni Bulletin.

He then went to Oxford University (Christ Church) and was called up after just 1 year.   He is remembered on their WW2 War Memorial:-

John was to join the Fleet Air Arm on the 1st July 1940 and was awarded his wings on January 1941 a few weeks after his training was complete.

Excerpt from:- RNAS Yeovilton (HMS Heron) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


In 1938, the potential of the land at Yeovilton for use as an airfield was spotted by Westland Aircraft’s chief test pilot Harald Penrose and an offer was made to buy the land. The owners, however – the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of the Church of England – refused to sell it. In 1939, the Admiralty Air Division commandeered 417 acres (169 ha) of the land and work began on the construction of the site. The runways being completed in 1941 despite problems with poor drainage. A main runway of 3,645 ft (1,111 m) and three subsidiary runways each of 3,000 ft (914 m) had been constructed.[1]

750 Naval Air Squadron was formed at RNAS Ford on 24 May 1939 from the Royal Navy Observer School, but after Ford was bombed early in the war, it moved to RNAS Yeovilton.[2] They were joined by 751 and 752 Squadrons with the Naval Air Fighter School soon following. In addition Westland Aircraft developed a repair facility at the site. From July 1940, the site was subjected to Luftwaffe bombing on several occasions. 794 Naval Air Squadron was the first to be formed at the base and served to train other squadrons to practise aerial gunnery, and part of one of the runways was marked up as a flight deck to practise landing on an aircraft carrier. 827 Naval Air Squadron was also stationed at Yeovilton operating Fairey Albacores and later Barracudas starting in May 1943, becoming the first squadron to receive Barracudas in any substantial number.[1] Several units which were preparing for embarkation were also stationed at the site during the Second World War. Because of pressure on space at the airfield, satellite sites were set up at Charlton Horethorne and Henstridge in 1942. A centre for Air Direction Radar was also established at Speckington Manor on the edge of the airfield.[1]

Excerpts from:- 750 Naval Air Squadron from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

History – 

The Royal Navy established HM Naval Seaplane Training School on 30 July 1917 at Lee-on-Solent; the unit was responsible for the training of seaplane pilots and observers. When the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps merged on 1 April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force, the school was renamed No. 209 Training Depot.[1]

From 1932 Lee-on-Solent was provided with a full airfield and became the headquarters of the RAF’s Coastal Command. Observer training continued apace and the airfield was home to a wide range of naval aircraft including Fairey Seals, Hawker Ospreys, Blackburn Sharks, Supermarine Walruses, and Fairey Swordfishes. Telegraphist air gunners were also trained at Lee-on-Solent in the years leading up to the Second World War.[1] 750 Naval Air Squadron was formed at RNAS Ford on 24 May 1939 from the Royal Navy Observer School, but after Ford was bombed early in the war, it moved to RNAS Yeovilton.[2] Changing title from a school to a squadron did not change its basic purpose, which was the training of observers for the Fleet Air Arm. The squadron initially flew Hawker Ospreys and Blackburn Sharks, but in November 1940 it moved to Piarco Savannah (HMS Goshawk) in Trinidad[2] and at about the same time re-equipped with Fairey Albacores.[3]

On 15 January 1941, 21 officers and 121 ratings from 749, 750 and 752 squadrons sailed from Liverpool on SS Almeda Star bound for Trinidad.[4] Two days later German submarine U-96 sank Almeda Star in heavy seas 35 miles (56 km) north of Rockall.[4] There were no survivors.[4]

The squadron operated in Trinidad for the duration of World War II and was disbanded on 10 October 1945.[2]

World War II Database  – Photo of 6 British Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Sea Hurricane aircraft operating from RNAS Yeovilton (HMS Heron), Somerset, England, United Kingdom, 9 Dec 1941 ww2dbase. (Below.)

As you can see John was extremely popular and by all accounts a lovely person who gave his life for us all without a thought for his own, which was by all accounts his nature and he had a wonderful life to look forward to with all the privileges not all of us know.   He was very well loved and being the youngest child, his mother must have been distraught.   At this time of course she was not to know that on the 11th February 1942, she was to lose another son, David.    Please read his and their father’s story by clicking on the links.


John’s former alumni at St. George’s School, Rhode Island U.S.A., who also died in the war and is mentioned on the article about the Memorial Tree and on the Memorial in the School Hall. :-


Flight Lieutenant


Service Number J/6013

Died 03/06/1943

Aged 21

Royal Canadian Air Force

Son of Sidney Earl Buckley and Joan Isabel Buckley, of Woodcroft, Northamptonshire.


Location: Surrey, United Kingdom

Number of casualties: 20275

Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 172.

Learn more about the other soldiers on the Hawarden Memorial

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