THOMAS M. M. HEMY (1852-1937) - PAGE 34

UNCONQUERABLE (1919?)

Thomas M. M. Hemy datapages 01, 02 & 03 are now on site. Plus all of the other image pages, accessible though the index on page 05. PRIOR PAGE / NEXT PAGE

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Thomas Hemy's work 'Unconquerable' as 
repainted by Keith Byass

Information about this work was kindly provided by a friend of the site who lives in England. It would appear that Thomas Hemy painted Unconquerable, a work which showed Captain Frederick Daniel Parslow (Apr, 14, 1856 - Jul. 4, 1915, born Islington in N. London) on the bridge of his ship, the Anglo-Californian, on Jul. 4, 1915, with his son at the wheel & German U-Boat U-39 attacking. It was, I read, painted to commemorate the posthumous award of a Victoria Cross to Captain Parslow, killed in that action, which action took place in the Atlantic Ocean, some 90 miles south west of Queenstown, Ireland, while the vessel was en route from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to Avonmouth, with 927 horses aboard. The page to which that last link takes you describes the Anglo-Californian as being, indeed, a horse transport vessel, though it only became such a vessel when chartered by the Admiralty as part of the WW1 war effort. And indicates that Captain Parslow was a lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve ('RNR'). That page also has a fine image (below) of the Captain, provided by Christine Gates, the Captain's great grandson. I did not spot there the name of the Captain's son, nor learn if he was killed also in the action.

But Bernard de Neumann has answered those last two questions for us. Bernard tells us that Captain Parslow's son was also named Frederick Parslow. The son survived the battle, & was given a retrospective Sub-Lieutenant RNR commission in order to receive a Distinguished Service Cross. He, at least, had the chance to accept his commission. His citation reads: 'For his services in the horse-transport "Anglo-Californian", which was attacked by a German submarine on the 4th July [1915] and subjected to heavy gun fire for an hour and a half. Sub-Lieutenant Parslow steered the ship throughout the action and maintained his post after his father, the Captain of the ship, had been killed by a shell, until some of our patrol boats arrived and drove the submarine off.'

Did I tell you that the Anglo-Californian was unarmed?

A New York Times archived story re the fight is here - in a page that used to show sensibly but is quite difficult to read today, at least on my screen. Which story says that nine aboard were killed & eight more were wounded. The total crew numbered 95, I have read. At least two of the dead were Americans.

Bernard also comments that Captain Parslow never was, in his lifetime, in the RNR, but the Royal Navy appears to have awarded him a posthumous commission in the RNR in order to have him counted as one of their own. 'There was no other reason I can think of for this as the then Mercantile Marine were already eligible for the Victoria Cross. However any doubts that there may have been as to the eligibility of members of the Merchant Marine to receive the Victoria Cross (if there were in fact any doubts) were firmly removed by a royal warrant of May 22, 1920.' See inset text below for more on this whole subject.

Cover of The Nitrate Boats by David C. E. 
Burrell

The Hemy data comes, primarily, from a book by David C. E. Burrell, entitled 'The Nitrate Boats', published by the World Ship Society in 1995.

As you can indeed read below, the painting used to hang in the office of Sir John Latta. The Hemy work would seem to be lost, & the image which follows is a repainting of the work by Keith Byass, based upon a small black & white print published in 'The Shipping World' in 1920.

'The Nitrate Boats' (ISBN: 0-905617-77-0) can be purchased in a great many places.

Now the book may well, correctly, be entitled 'The Nitrate Boats (Lawther, Latta & Co. Ltd)'. The Anglo-Californian was, it would seem, owned by the Nitrate Producers S.S. Co. Ltd., often known as the Anglo Line, which line was managed by Lawther, Latta & Co. Ltd. of London, hence, I trust, the name of Sir John Latta above. The Anglo Line was, I read, in operation from 1895 to 1943 & involved with the South American nitrate trade.

Should Keith Byass, whose work below graces this page, or the author or publisher prefer the image below not be presented on this page, I will gladly remove it - but with regret.

Thomas Hemy's work 'Unconquerable' as 
repainted by Keith Byass

Now the purpose of this site is really to feature the above artwork of Thomas M. M. Hemy. But I have often expanded that 'mandate' where subject matter is of related interest. So I provide here a) additional data about the Anglo-Californian with the source indicated. And b) background data kindly provided about the whole subject of the Victoria Cross kindly provided by Bernard de Neumann, an expert indeed on that subject. And maybe even more material, by the time you read this page.

a) Some images related to the Anglo-Californian.

Captain Frederick Daniel Parslow of the Anglo 
Californian

The image of Captain Parslow, at left, came from this web page.

The images that follow, are from a fine 2002 volume by Stephen Snelling. That volume is 'The Naval VCs', (ISBN 0-7509-1395-9) published by and available from Sutton Publishing of Phoenix Mill, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 2BU, U.K. The book contains 8 1/2 pages of data about F. D. Parslow & the Anglo-Californian drawn, in part I see, from Parslow family papers provided by M. Finlay (Michael John Finlay, a great grandson of Captain Parslow) & A. Walker (clearly related to the Parslow family from the above linked page) & the research notes of P. M. B. Barber. It is all most interesting reading.

It would seem that the volume is one of a series of three volumes about World War 1 recipients of the Victoria Cross.

Should Christine Gates or Sutton Publishing request this photographic material be removed from this site, I will of course, do so.

Michael Finlay, of Barrie, Ontario, Canada, great grandson of Captain Parslow, has been in touch & can be reached here. Michael tells me that Katy Walker, referred to lower on the page re the location of the VC medal itself, is Michael's cousin's daughter. I guess that makes her Frederick Parslow's great great granddaughter? Not very good at such matters, so I might well be wrong in that.

I found it interesting to read that it took quite a while to actually gazette & award Captain Parslow's Victoria Cross - over four years, in fact. It was presented by King George V to Frances Parslow, the Captain's widow, on Jul. 10, 1919 in a ceremony that took place in the quadrangle at Buckingham Palace. It may possibly be the actual 'Parslow' Victoria Cross that is depicted below the Byass artwork image (above). But now see lower on this page.

At left, below, then is an image of another artwork of the Anglo-Californian action, apparently by artist Charles Pears. It was published in the Jul. 17, 1915 issue of Illustrated London News. It shows Frederick Parslow, the son, at the wheel of the vessel with his father dead at his side. Which ILN article also advised, I read, 80% down on this page: (cached here)

One of the bravest deeds in the annals of the British merchant service was told when the London steamer Anglo-Californian, reached Queenstown on July 5, [1915] with Captain Archibald Parslow and eight men dead, and eight others wounded, after an encounter with a German submarine off the Irish coast.
The Anglo-Californian, which belongs to the Nitrate Producers Steamship Company, was homeward bound from Quebec when the submarine overtook her, and began firing at her wireless apparatus. ‘Our Captain,’ said a survivor, ‘was a brave man, and kept on the bridge smiling at the enemy as shot and shell were discharged at his vessel.
Eventually the gallant Captain was killed. His son, the Second Mate, who was by his side, was knocked down, but bravely took the wheel and steered the ship, lying on the bridge, with shells bursting around him, ‘until assistance arrived’ and the submarine disappeared.
Our correspondent states that over thirty horses on board were killed. The submarine, he adds, fired mainly at the bridge and at the boats being lowered. The ship was hit about twenty times.

I read in Stephen Snelling's volume that the chase lasted over three hours & for much of that time Anglo-Californian zig-zagged to avoid the withering fire of the surfaced U-boat. In an attempt to avoid the fire, the Captain lay flat on the deck, & from a similar position his son steered the ship. It was, indeed, during a moment when the Captain raised his head to see the vessel's position that he was hit by an enemy shell. The U-boat was, at the end of the action, so close that it fired on the Anglo-Californian with rifles! It would seem that both Parslows were truly deserving of the V.C. Carl Franz List, a crew member on the U-boat, stated that the U 39 crew thought that Captain Parslow deserved the Iron Cross, for the brilliance of his defensive tactics!

A Charles Pears painting of the 
action and Captain Parslow's son also Frederick Parslow

Frederick Parslow, the son, was the master of the Anglo-Australian when in Mar. 1938, en route to Vancouver, Canada, out of Cardiff, Wales, that vessel vanished without trace after passing the Azores.

My mind wonders whether any of the 927 horses survived their traumatic experience in the hold of the Anglo-Californian. And ended up at their intended destination on the Western Front. While I can only partially answer that question, over 30 horses were killed in the action. The others? They probably ended up on the Western front, since the ship & its cargo were saved. My mind also wondered what later happened to the Anglo-Californian.

The Vandalia the new name for the Anglo-Californian after purchase by Cunard in 1915

Now that is a question that I can now answer. It would seem that Cunard purchased the vessel from Lawther, Latta & Co. Ltd. of London in 1915, after the U-boat action, I presume, & renamed it the Vandalia. And on June 9, 1918, the Vandalia was torpedoed & sunk in St. George's Channel (the channel between Ireland & Wales).

And, at left, I am able to provide an image of the Vandalia, courtesy of Heinz Nederkorn.

You would like to know that Heinz has or I probably should say had, an enormous website covering Cunard Line history & graphics from 1840 onwards. We thank you Heinz! As this page was updated, in Feb. 2008, I was puzzled. The image at Heinz Nederkorn's site seemed no longer to be the above image. And his vast website seems to have since vanished.

See also this page re the vessel.

I refer above to the print that was published in the Jul. 17, 1915 edition of Illustrated London News. It was, I see, of most of a page in size. So large indeed. That page was for sale via e-Bay in Feb. 2013. Here.

b) Published in the London Gazette of May 23/24, 1919 (& 2nd page)

The availability of the following text was kindly advised by Billy McGee, founder of the Ropner Navy Memorial Fund. Relating, of course, to the awarding of the 'Victoria Cross'. We thank you, Billy!

The masthead of the London Gazette of May 23, 1919 The masthead of the London Gazette of May 23, 1919

Lieutenant Frederick Parslow, R.N.R.

   For most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of the Horse Transport "Anglo Californian" on the 4th July 1915.

   At 8 a.m. on 4th July, 1915, a large submarine was sighted on the port beam at a distance of about one mile. The ship, which was entirely unarmed, was immediately manoeuvred to bring the submarine astern ; every effort was made to increase speed, and an S.O.S. call was sent out by wireless, an answer being received by a man-of-war.
At 9 a.m. the submarine opened fire, and maintained a steady fire, making occasional hits, until 10.30 a.m., meanwhile Captain Parslow constantly altered course and kept the submarine astern.
   At 10.30 am the enemy hoisted the signal to "abandon the vessel as fast as possible," and in order to save life Captain Parslow decided to obey, and stopped engines to give as many of the crew as wished the opportunity to get away in the boats On receiving a wireless message from a destroyer, however, urging him to hold on as long as possible, he decided to get way on the ship again The submarine then opened a heavy fire on the bridge and boats with guns and rifles, wrecking the upper bridge, killing Lieutenant Parslow, and carrying away one of the port davits, causing the boat to drop into the sea and throwing its occupants into the water.
   At about 11 am two destroyers arrived on the scene and the submarine dived    Throughout the attack Lieutenant Parslow remained on the bridge, on which the enemy fire was concentrated, entirely without protection, and by his magnificent heroism succeeded, at the cost of his own life, in saving a valuable ship and cargo for the country. He set a splendid example to the officers and men of the Mercantile Marine

c) Background data on the Victoria Cross, courtesy of Bernard de Neumann.


Victoria Cross Royal Warrants as they relate to the Mercantile Marine/Merchant Navy

The Royal Warrant of 29th January 1856 instituted the Victoria Cross ('VC') for acts of great valour in the presence of the enemy by the Royal Navy and Army.

A Royal Warrant of 10th August 1858 extended its award to 'Non-military persons' as some civilians showed sufficient valour during the Indian Mutiny. It also extended the coverage to include 'acts of conspicuous courage and bravery under circumstances of extreme danger, such as the occurrence of fire on board ship, or the foundering of a vessel at sea, or under any other circumstances in which, through the courage and devotion displayed, life or public property might be saved'.

Other Royal Warrants appeared over the years prior to 1920, but none specifically mentioned the Mercantile Marine/Merchant Navy leaving it unclear, perhaps, as to their eligibility. This may have clouded the minds of the Admiralty in considering the awards to two Mercantile Marine Masters, Captain Frederick Daniel Parslow (Temp Lt RNR) of the ANGLO-CALIFORNIAN and Captain Archibald Bisset-Smith (Temp Lt RNR) of the OTAKI. Both of whom received posthumous Temporary Lieutenant RNR commissions before being awarded posthumous VCs. Why the commissions?

To clarify matters completely regarding awards to the Mercantile Marine/Merchant Navy, a consolidating Royal Warrant was issued on 22nd May 1920. The condition precedent to the award of the Cross was somewhat enlarged as 'most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy'. In addition to officers and men of the Forces of the Empire and the Mercantile Marine (whilst under Naval or Military authority or subject to enemy action during the course of their duties), women of the nursing and hospital services and civilians of both sexes while serving with the Forces of the Empire were declared eligible. Thus now the Mercantile Marine were specifically included. However the Admiralty appeared to operate double standards and during the Second World War awarded VCs to Gould and Roberts of HMS THRASHER for an act of great courage NOT in the presence of the enemy - they removed two bombs from under the submarine's casing and threw them over the side, whereas Captain Mason of the tanker OHIO received a George Cross ('GC') for his great courage and endurance in getting the tanker through to Malta in Operation PEDESTAL - a convoy battle fought almost continuously in the presence of the enemy!

When there was absolutely no doubt about the eligibility of Captain Mason for a VC they awarded him a GC instead! And in the case of the THRASHER VCs there was doubt about eligibility, but Admiral Cunningham overruled the awards committee and insisted that VCs were awarded instead of GCs.  Bernard wonders why?

d) Captain Frederick Parslow's Gravesite

The Gravesite of Captain Frederick Parslow, V.C., in Cobh Old Church Cemeterey, Cork, Ireland.

Captain Frederick Daniel Parslow, VC, is, I read, buried at Cobh (previously known as Queenstown) Old Church Cemetery, Cork, Ireland as you can see on this page. At left I show an image of the Captain, his gravestone & his Victoria Cross medal engraved on the stone, thanks in large part to images provided by Iain MacFarlaine.

The medal?

A Nov. 9, 2001 question from Katy Walker read 'I would love to find out the whereabouts of my Great Great Grandfather's VC - Frederick Parslow. Any info greatly received.'

And, in what I think was a reply to that message, on Jun. 2, 2002, Mike Finlay indicated 'The medal was auctioned by Sotheby's on Feb. 5, 1975. Also, I seem to remember that one of his sons was killed at Hill 60. Does anyone know if a list of those killed in action at that location is available. Any information on the above would be helpful'.

It would seem that there is now, or maybe there was in late 2006, an answer to Katy Walker's question.

In Dec. 2006, the actual medal was owned by 'James T', of Syracuse, New York, U.S.A. So I am advised by a kindly site visitor. And was then, possibly, for sale. A modest image of it is at right.

Iain MacFarlaine kindly advises me that Cobh - ('An Cóbh' in Irish, pronounced 'cove') was first referred to as Cove in 1750. It was renamed Queenstown in 1849 to commemorate a visit by Queen Victoria & so it remained until the name Cove (with its Irish spelling) was restored in 1922 with the foundation of the Irish Free State. He also advises me that the words at the bottom of Frederick Parslow's gravestone are taken from a poem called 'For the Fallen' by Laurence Binyon. Thanks again, Iain!

  The Victoria Cross awarded, posthumously, to Lt. Frederick Parslow, V.C. R.N.R.

e) An image of interest

An image which interested the webmaster, ex the Nov. 1891 issue of Scribner's. The work, it would seem, of artist J. Burns. Entitled 'A Cattle Steamer at Sea.' Part of a 16 or perhaps 18 page article entitled 'The Ocean Steamship as a Freight Carrier' by John H. Gould. Provided for this page by Jonathan Kinghorn, of Lexington, Massachusetts, U.S.A., whom we thank. Appropriate for this page, I trust, since the Anglo-Californian was a horse transport vessel.

I learn that the article just referred to is a chapter in a book entitled 'Ocean Steamships A Popular Account of their Construction, Development, Management and Appliances', published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1891. By: F. E. Chadwick USN/ John H. Gould/ J. D. J. Kelley USN/ William H. Rideing/ Ridgely Hunt USN/ A. E. Seaton. 298 pages, 28 full page & 68 text illustrations. The book was serialized in Scribner's it would seem, since six of what I believe were eight chapters of the book were published by Scribner's in 1891. A copy of that rare volume sold in Apr. 2006 via e-Bay for U.S. $104.06.

An 1891 image 'A Cattle Steamer at Sea.' ex Scribners

More about the subject when I have more to tell you!

Thomas M. M. Hemy datapages 01, 02 & 03 are now on site. Plus all of the other image pages, accessible though the index on page 05.

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