Henry Hallam Parr was born in 1847, the son of Thomas Clements Parr, a barrister, of Clevedon Court, Somerset. He was educated at Eton and went to Sandhurst, joining the regiment at the age of 18. He had a very active military career both in the British and Egyptian armies. He was military secretary to Sir Bartle Frere, Governor of Cape Colony, and mentioned in dispatches for his service in the Kaffir and Zulu Wars. He was staff officer to Colonel Glyn when his column was the first to arrive at Isandhlwana after the massacre. In 1881 he was appointed to the staff of Sir George Colley but arrived after Colley had been killed at Majuba, so was put in charge of remounts in Natal where he organised and trained a battalion of mounted infantry.
In 1882 he served under Sir Garnet Wolseley and was wounded at Tel-el-Mahuta while commanding a battalion of MI. In 1883 he was Provost Marshal in Cairo, and the next year was Commandant of Suakin. He was at Tamai and went with the Nile Expedition of 1884-5. From 1885 to 1888 he was involved in the reorganisation of the Egyptian Army, becoming Lord Grenfell's Adjutant-General. He was well placed to succeed Grenfell but his health broke down in 1887 so that Lord Kitchener stepped into his place. But during his time there he and the staff had made a very great improvement in the discipline and effectiveness of the Egyptian soldiers. He returned to England and was made Assistant Adjutant-General at Portsmouth. He would have been promoted to Colonel but sacrificed that promotion when the post of CO of the 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry became vacant in 1890. As CO of the regiment he went with them to Gibraltar and Umballa in India. Afterwards he held several staff posts but was prevented from service in the Boer War by ill health.
The photo shows him in regimental dress uniform with the rank of colonel. His medals include the Knight Commander of the Bath, the Order of St Michael and St George, a medal with clasp for South Africa 1878-9, Egypt medal and Khedive's Star and 4th Class Order of the Medjidie. He had two sons, Hallam and George, who both served in the Somerset LI and died before Sir Henry's death in 1914.
Sir Henry Everett pays tribute to Sir Henry in his Regimental History of the 13th LI:
'Of Hallam Parr it may be said that no commanding officer since the days of Sale ever made such a mark on the regiment. To him we owe a notable revision of the Standing Orders in 1893, last undertaken by Lord Mark Kerr in 1859. The chief features of his system of command were to encourage the individual responsibility of officers commanding companies, and other subordinate commanders even down to squad and group leaders, to assimilate organisation in the barrack room to that in the field, and to revive as far as possible the old light infantry spirit by quickening movements all round. A stern disciplinarian and a good horseman, he was probably the best-turned-out officer in the army. He revived or initiated green whistle cords, green pugarees on Indian helmets, and black sword knots.'
Parr also introduced regimental calendars and 'The Light Bob Gazette' started in 1893 at Gibraltar (Captain Henry Everett being the editor). At first it was issued weekly but in India, monthly. It was a great boon in the up-country stations, and while the war continued in South Africa in 1900-02 it had such a large circulation that the Indian press exerted pressure to have it suppressed.
1847 Born, and baptised on 20 Aug
A Sketch Of The Kafir And Zulu Wars
Regimental Details | Colonels | Commanding Officers