West Ham Archdeacon Elwin Cockett believes there is a hero in us all

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- Credit: Archant

From the Dambusters to the Great Escape, there are many great stories of wartime heroes.

But have you ever heard the story of George Parry, the Forest Gate Vicar who died on D-day?

As a newspaper in Australia reported on July 12, 1944, “Parry was killed with a knife or bayonet while defending helpless wounded men during a German raid on a medical aid post.

The Germans set upon the wounded in a frenzied state, shooting and bayoneting them. Rev Parry threw himself between the Nazis and the wounded troops.”

Military chaplains are, of course, unarmed, and George Parry had posed no threat to his killer.


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Writing in The Times shortly after Parry’s death, the Bishop of Barking told how he “was one of four sons of Canon Allen James Parry, till recently Vicar of St Peter’s, Upton Cross, and Rural Dean of West Ham.

All four were on service. Two have now given their lives for their country.”

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He went on to describe him as a priest who “won the love of the people” and that “In 1941 he joined up as a chaplain himself and served for 19 months in West Africa.

In 1942 he was transferred to the Parachute Regiment with which he proceeded to the invasion. Already several fine chaplains have lost their lives in France. George Parry adds lustre to their number.”

Why tell this story now? Well, we all know of heroes whose exploits have been recognised and rewarded, quite rightly, and who became famous.

But there are also countless other people whose courage has been forgotten, or who have never received any recognition or reward. And there are even more people among us today who are living quietly heroic lives, looking out for the needs of other people, putting others first, and all without recognition or reward.

The great thing is that we all have the capacity to do that if we want to. It’s worth trying, even if only for one day at a time.

As David Bowie said, “We can be heroes, just for one day.” More from Elwin

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