Unsolved Murders

Graham Parish

Age: 7

Sex: male

Date: 16 Jul 1944

Place: Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Graham Parish was found dead in a water tank at a military camp in Wiltshire.

He had gone missing on the Thursday, 13 July 1944 and was found in the tank on 16 July 1944.

He had lived in Frome Road with his parents. They last saw him as he left home at about 5.30pm, going through the gate at the bottom of the garden into the field at the back of their house with their neighbours 4-year-old son.

Graham Parish's mother said that when he had not returned by 10pm she called the police.

After he had vanished on the Thursday afternoon, a widespread search was made for him and the police and neighbours followed up many rumours that he had been seen or heard of in all manner of places. Several static water tanks were also dragged systematically by the police, but it was not until the Sunday morning that Graham Parish was found in a large tank in a field that had previously been searched.

He was found by a neighbour who had only been discharged from the Army on the Friday. He said that when he got home on the Friday, he found that his own son was missing. However, he said that he was found soon after by some soldiers and that later on the Sunday he went out to help look for Graham Parish. He said that he searched premises in the locality and a static water tank in the area and that as he was going home for dinner, he was told of another static water tank and decided to try there. He said that there was an angle bar in the water and that as he levered it backwards and forwards the body of Graham Parish suddenly came up in the water. He said that he then lifted his body out. He said that there was no protection around the tank and that the water was roughly 18 inches from the top. He added that there was nothing to show that anyone had fallen into the tank.

A man said that he had searched the site at 10pm on the Thursday as part of an organised search party and that all the water tanks were searched until 2am, as well as a clay pit. He said that they continued the search the next day with the proper gear but found nothing.

He said that there was about 8 feet of water in the tank and that the tank was approximately 20 feet in diameter and 10 feet deep. He added that there was nothing surrounding the tank but grass and nothing to stop a person walking into it. He said that there were also some disused huts nearby.

The man said that he had often told boys to clear out of the area but noted that he had often seen soldiers encouraging boys there by giving them sweets.

The doctor that examined Graham Parish's body at 2pm on the Sunday said that his cause of death was drowning. He said that it was difficult to say how long his body had been in the water but said that in his opinion it had been in the water for between 24 and 36 hours.

When the coroner asked the doctor whether he thought that his body had been in the water since the Thursday, the doctor replied, 'I should hardly think so long as that, judging by the external appearance of his body'. He said that there was a mark on the right side of his face but that he thought that it was probably caused when he was taken out of the water and that the skin was not broken.

An open verdict was returned. The coroner said that there was no doubt that boys played about on the derelict site and that he was not at all certain that soldiers did not encourage children there, noting that they probably enjoyed their company. He said that he was quite certain that Graham Parish and the other little chap had been to the site but added that there was nothing to shew how or why Graham Parish fell into the tank.

The press later warned parents not to let their children play near wartime ponds, noting that almost 60 children had been drowned in them, noting that many more had fallen in only he be pulled out in the nick of time.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see Daily Mirror - Tuesday 18 July 1944

see Larne Times - Thursday 06 July 1944

see Gloucester Citizen - Monday 17 July 1944

see Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser - Saturday 22 July 1944