Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, took part in two ceremonies last week to commemorate the death of John Parr, who grew up in Finchley, joined the army reserves at 14 and was the first British soldier to die in action in the First World War. He died aged 17 on 21st August 1914.
The first of two ceremonies to commemorate John Parr took place in Lodge Lane, Finchley, on Thursday 21st August, 100 years to the day since the teenager was killed in action. It was organised by Martin Russell, the Representative Deputy Lieutenant for Barnet. Around 300 people attended to hear speeches on John Parr's life from the Mayor of Barnet, Hugh Raynor, and from Barry Anderson and Katherine Loveday, both from the Barnet War Memorials Association. Many of the Parr family were also there and John Parr's great niece, Mrs Iris Hunt read out a copy of a letter from his mother to the War Office trying to find out what had happened to her missing son.
Martin Russell then unveiled a memorial paving stone outside the former home of the Parr family and wreaths were laid in tribute.
Speaking after the ceremony, Theresa Villiers said "I have been to many events to mark the outbreak of the First World War over recent weeks but this was the most moving of all. The sacrifice made by thousands of men from across the UK and the Commonwealth was made painfully clear as we all reflected on the bravery of a 17 year old boy who was the first member of the British Army to die in the line of duty in World War One. To mark his loss with a ceremony and memorial stone outside his family's little house in Finchley brought home some of the reality of the awful scale of human suffering that the Great War inflicted and the astounding courage and dedication of the men who served in that conflict."
"The fact that around 300 people turned out for this commemoration event shows that a hundred years on, Barnet still remembers the fallen and respects their heroism and courage."
Ms Villiers attended a second commemoration of the life of John Parr which was held at North Middlesex Golf Club, in Friern Barnet Lane, on Saturday, saying "I am very pleased that the North Middlesex Golf club have chosen to install a plaque in memory of John Parr who worked at the club as a caddy before joining the army. The club can be rightly proud of their former caddy for his service to his country."