This month we return to the Paskey family of Summerland Street, Barnstaple and look at the second of three brothers to die while serving in the First World War.
REGINALD JAMES PASKEY
Gunner 106798 Royal Garrison Artillery
1886 – 5th October 1918
Reginald James Paskey was born in Barnstaple and his birth was registered during the period July to September 1886, according to his Service record he was 29 years and 8 months old on the 17th July 1916.
Prior to his enlistment he had been working as a jeweller’s assistant to a Mr. Turner in Ilfracombe, his service record gives his address as 3 Montpelier Terrace, Ilfracombe.
The first news of Reginald is in an article in the North Devon Journal on the 15th November 1917 that reads as follows:
‘Gunner Reginald Paskey, R.G.A., son of Mr F Paskey of Barnstaple, is in hospital in Mesopotamia suffering from sand-fly fever. He is progressing favourably.’
Mesopotamia at the time of the First World War is what is known today as Iraq.
The British Campaign in Mesopotamia (an online source) describes the conditions in Mesopotamia as follows:
‘Conditions in Mesopotamia were appalling for soldiers who served there; extremes of temperature up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit were common. Arid desert, flooding, mosquitoes, flies and other vermin led to high levels of sickness and death through various diseases. Under these conditions units fell short of men and many of the reinforcements were half-trained and ill-equipped. Medical arrangements were shocking with wounded men spending up to two weeks on boats before reaching a hospital. ‘
A year later Reginald is reported as having been posted to Bombay, again being taken ill there.
The next news on Reginald is then an article in Western Times reporting his death, dated the 9th October 1918 which reads: ’….Gunner Paskey joined the Army early in 1917 and a little later went to Mesopotamia. Unfortunately however he had been ill practically ever since, and brought to England recently, he passed away in Reading Hospital on Saturday.
A further article in the North Devon Journal dated the 10th October 1918 reads as follows:
DEATH OF A BARNSTAPLE SOLDIER
‘Mr. and Mrs. F Paskey of Summerland Street, Barnstaple, are mourning the loss of their second son Gunner Reginald James Paskey, R.G.A. The deceased aged 32 served his apprenticeship as a watchmaker and jeweller with Mr. A E Dart of Barnstaple, and he was an assistant to Mr. Turner of Ilfracombe when about a year and a half since, he joined the Army. He arrived back in England about a fortnight ago, the mother and sister (Miss Paskey) being with him when he passed away in Reading Hospital on Saturday morning. The third son Pte. Bertie Paskey (Royal Fusiliers) was killed in action on August 6th 1916, and the bereaved parents are undergoing additional anxiety in regard to their fourth son Pte. Leonard Paskey (Devons), who on Saturday was officially, reported missing as from September 2nd. Pte. Leonard Paskey had seen two years service in Egypt and Palestine, and had been in France for some months. The fullest measure of public sympathy will be extended to Mr. Paskey (who for many years was an experienced overseer at Barnstaple Post Office) and Mrs. Paskey and family in their great sorrow, and a large circle of friends will join in their earnest hope that they will soon receive re-assuring news with regard to their son Leonard.
The mortal remains of Gunner Reginald Paskey were brought to Barnstaple, the interment being made in the cemetery yesterday (Wednesday)). Mr. E Pearse conducted the impressive service, the first part of which was held in the Grosvenor Street Meeting House. The mourners were Mr. F Paskey (father), Miss Paskey (sister), Mrs. Irwin, Mrs. Jordan and Mr. and Mrs. F Richards (cousins). The bearers were Messrs. A. Frayne, Turner (2), Philips, H Jones and Dodd, and the numerous friends present evidenced the high esteem entertained, and sympathy felt for the bereaved family. Beautiful floral tributes were laid on the grave.’
The North Devon Journal of 11th November 1920 records the unveiling and dedication of the new war memorial tablet in the Parish Church at Ilfracombe. The name of Reginald J Paskey is included in the list of names inscribed upon it.
Many WW1 service records were destroyed during a bombing raid in WW2 but those for Reginald Paskey have survived and, as he spent time in various countries and hospitals, contain a variety of different types, giving much detail of his time in the army. These are available on the Ancestry family history website.
The records also include this postcard from his mother requesting the release of his personal effects and, below, the accompanying documentation for their return.
How upsetting it must have been for his mother to write and ask for, and have to sign for her son’s belongings –
– and to finish the story, the receipt, again signed by his mother, for his war medals.
Ilfracombe view – Local Studies Library postcard collection
British Newspaper Archive – North Devon Journal, Western Times (available free online in the Local Studies Centre)
Ancestry Library Edition – British Army WW1 Service Records (available free online in the Local Studies Centre and in any Devon library)
http://www.findagrave.com – image of gravestone