The horse transport vessel Anglo-Californian sank off the south coast of Ireland on 4 July 1915 while en-route from Montreal, Canada to Avonmouth, England. At the time she was carrying 927 horses destined for the Western Front. At 0800 on 4th July, German submarine U39 surfaced a mile off the port beam of the Anglo-Californian as she was about 90 miles off Queenstown, Co Cork. The Master, Lieutenant Frederick Parslow (Royal Naval Reserve) with his eldest son at the helm, took evasive action but U39 opened fire with her deck gun repeatedly hitting the vessel. At 1030 the submarine ordered Parslow to stop and abandon ship. Having received signals from local destroyers to delay, Parslow ignored the order much to the annoyance of U39 commander, Walter Forstmann, who opened fire on the vessel wrecking the bridge, lifeboats and superstructure.
U39 closed to 50 yards shooting at anything that moved but soon dived to avoid the approaching destroyers.
The Anglo-Californian was towed into Queenstown on 5 July.
Lt Parslow lost his life along with 21 others including Horseman David O’Neill from Belfast.
Parslow was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) while his son and the chief engineer were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Interestingly, Parslow was not a member of the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) at the time of the incident. He was posthumously awarded a commission as a RNR Lieutenant and then awarded the VC.
Parslow’s grave along with 9 others from his ship can be found at Cobh Old Church Cemetery, County Cork.
Research by Mark McCrea, Member, History Hub Ulster.