Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1942, Sergeant Graham Leslie Parish, the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, was killed at Khartoum airfield in the Sudan.
The son of a soldier who died during the last few days of the Great War, he and his siblings were raised by their mother, who earned her living as a milliner. At the outbreak of the second world war he was working as Borough Librarian at Lytham St. Anne’s – he did not enlist immediately, doing so in February of 1941 after receiving a white feather in the post. Sergeant Parish took part in nightly bombing raids, including Operation Millenium, the first 1,000 bomber raid on Cologne.
On the day of his death his actions earned him the posthumous award of the George Cross. He was the navigator on a flight to the Middle East Command. One of the engines failed shortly after take-off and the pilot tried to turn back in order to land at the airfield, but struck a building and the aircraft burst into flames. All of those on board managed to escape except for Sergeant Parish and a passenger who had suffered two broken legs. The emergency door could not be used due to the collapse of the undercarriage.
The citation takes up the story: “The fire, which completely destroyed the bomber, was so intense that no assistance could be given to the navigator or the passenger. When the blaze subsided Sergeant Parish's body was found leaning against the rear gun turret and the passenger was beside him with his arm over the airman's shoulder. As the passenger could not walk, owing to his broken legs, it is clear that Sergeant Parish has carried him from the .emergency door to the rear turret, a distance of eight yards, in the hope that both could escape through the turret. Undoubtedly both were overcome and burned to death in the attempt. Sergeant Parish could have made his escape through the astro-hatch but his unselfish desire to assist the passenger. cost him his life. He displayed gallantry of the highest order." Sergeant Parish is buried in the Khartoum War Cemetery in the Sudan.
Graham, from Sheffield, was 30 years old.