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William was born on 15 September 1879 in Wolverhampton, the son of Sarah and Arthur Wellesley Parkes. In 1881 they were living at 30 Cobden Street, Wolverhampton, together with his brother Ernest John. He married Elizabeth Emily Beresford on 31 July 1909 at All Saints Church, Wolverhampton, and the couple had two children, Archie and John Stanley Parkes, in 1911 and 1914. In 1911, William, his wife Elizabeth, and father Arthur, were all living at 56 Sutherland Place, Wolverhampton. William was listed as a printer/furniture dealer.

William enlisted on 20 November 1915 in the 2nd Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment (service number 27082). On 17 February 1917, he was captured at Cosselette in France and held at camps at Celle, Cambrai and Soltau. By 24 May 1917, notice had been sent to his father that William was a prisoner of war, as this was reported in the Express & Star. However, he appears to have survived the war. He died in Wolverhampton in 1957.