Home' The Bunyip : June 12th 2014 Contents "THE BUNYIP" GAWLER, Thursday, June 12, 2014 Page 7
THE recent formal identifica-
tion of Gawler-born soldier Ed-
gar William Parham in a World
War One mass grave may have
come many years after his death,
but, for his living relations, it
brings closure to a search for an-
swers that started in the violent
trenches of France in 1916.
Private Edgar Parham, 38, of the
32nd Battalion, was one of more
than 5500 Australians killed during
the Battle of Fromelles, which took
place on July 19 and 20, 1916, dur-
ing the First World War.
But back here in SA, it would al-
most be another year before Edgar's
family, including wife Ethel, chil-
dren Hilda, Francis (Frank) and Lil-
lian, of Mile End, as well as parents
William and Mary Parham, of Port
Pirie West, would learn that Edgar
had been killed in action.
Letters written by Edgar's family
and now stored in the records of
the Australian War Memorial, show
until April, 1917, they had believed
him missing and, possibly, a pris-
oner of war.
Two months ago, and nearly 100
years later, Edgar's body was for-
merly identified using DNA tech-
His body had remained in France,
in a burial pit among hundreds of
other unidentified soldiers, until
found in 2009 by a joint Australian
Army and United Kingdom Minis-
try of Defence project team.
Tumby Bay's Barbara Henderson,
82, is the only daughter of Edgar's
son Frank and recently read about
her grandfather's identification in a
"It's great," she said in an inter-
view with The Bunyip earlier this
"I didn't know much about him
because he went away before I was
"We were always told he was a
prisoner of war."
Prior to enlistment, Edgar was
secretary of the Solomontown Foot-
ball Club, and for many years had
worked as a baker at the Union Bak-
ery in Mile End, where he lived with
his young family.
A newspaper report at the time
described him as "very popular
amongst those who knew him".
'Parham' is a common Gawler
name, with most living relations de-
scending from Edgar's great-uncles
Edgar's great-uncle Edmund pro-
duced a Gawler line of Parhams,
while his great-uncle John was the
farmer Port Parham is named after.
Edgar's own children each mar-
ried and had children, with daugh-
ter Hilda understood to have mar-
ried a Hutton and daughter Lillian
marrying a Burgess.
Port Lincoln's Sue Wegener is
a descendant of Edmund Parham
and has become a Parham family
She said she was really excited
when she learnt Edgar's body had
been formally located and identi-
"Excited for the closure and for
there to be a result," she said.
"I guess it's a nice way to com-
memorate what he did for his coun-
try and for his family."
Sue recently met up with Edgar's
grand-daughter Barbara to learn
more about Edgar and his descen-
"I've spent the last few years quite
actively researching the Parham fam-
ily descendants and one of my hopes
is to have a family reunion and put
together a book on the descendants
and family," Ms Wegener said.
"That's in the future, but in the
meantime there is a very big family
to track down."
Edgar's recovered remains have
since been reburied in the Fromelles
(Pheasant Wood) Military Cem-
A headstone dedication ceremony
will take place on July 19, this year,
during the annual commemoration
of the Battle of Fromelles.
Meanwhile, the Gawler RSL has
received a grant to create and lay
commemorative pavers in Gawler's
Pioneer Park, with Edgar's name to
be etched on one of them.
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The end of a chapter
Long-lost soldier found
FOR many years, Barba-
ra Henderson, of Tumby
Bay, knew little about her
grandfather, Edgar William
Parham, other than he had
once owned a small black
bible, highly treasured by
The bible, which is at the
heart of one of Australia's great
war stories, is still in Barbara's
possession today, having been
passed down from her dad and
Edgar's son Frank.
The story of Gawler-born
Private Edgar William Parham
and his bible is recorded in files
kept by the Australian military,
and is one that continues to be
As the tale goes, Edgar lay
dying in a trench during the
Battle of Fromelles when he
passed his personal bible to a
More than 20 years later, as
the German soldier (Steinmetz)
was on his own death bed, he
recalled the bible and passed it
onto his brother in the hope
that it would be returned to the
The bible had been a gift to
Edgar from his mother before
he embarked overseas in Febru-
ary, 1916, and was inscribed E.
In mid-1937, via the high
commission in London, it was
returned to Edgar's 83-year-old
mother Mary in Port Pirie.
"His mother ended up giving
it to his son, and that was my
dad," Barbara said.
"My mum and dad had it and
now I've got it."
As the story goes, Mary in-
scribed another bible and sent it
to Steinmetz's brother with her
thanks, and a prayer that young
men would never again be sent
The story of the bible
Private Edgar William Parham was photographed with his family, (from left)
daughter Lillian, wife Ethel, eldest daughter Hilda and son Francis, shortly
before he left for war.
Gawler-born Edgar William Parham
has been formally identi ed by
DNA technology, almost 100 years
after his death during the Battle of
The famous bible of Edgar
William Parham has been
passed down through the
generations and is now in the
hands of granddaughter Barbara
ON OCTOBER 7, 1916, MARY PARHAM, MUM
OF MISSING SOLDIER EDGAR WILLIAM PARHAM,
WROTE A LETTER TO THE AUSTRALIAN RED CROSS
I am sending by this mail, a cake for my son No
2092 Private E.W. Parham, B Company, 32nd
Battalion 8th Brigade A.I.F., who as (sic) been of-
ficially reported missing since July 20th.
As there as (sic) been so many missing at that time
the Red Cross of Adelaide SA tells us that most
probably he is a prisoner of war, although we have not
heard to that effect yet.
We see by our papers that the prisoners get parcels and
letters through you, and we are in hopes that our dear
son will get it through you, if he should be a prisoner.
Trusting you will receive this note alright (sic) and
Mrs M Parham, Port Pirie West, SA
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