Herbert James Simons

Herbert James Simons
Born at St Ives in 1898, Herbert was one of eight children born to Arthur, a cattle dealer's labourer, and Fanny (née Smith). In 1901 the family of ten were crammed into three rooms at 10 Cumberland Place, St Ives, just off East Street.

Herbert's father died in 1903 aged just 38yrs. By 1911 Herbert's mother had moved the children still at home, her three sons of school age, to 9 Darwood Place, St Ives. Fanny worked as a charwoman. The house was shared with her daughter's family. Shortly after Herbert started work with Harry Anderson, butcher, in Bridge Street, St Ives, as a slaughterman and roundsman.

Given a final month's delay of call up when he appealed, as reported by the Hunts Post on 15 December 1916, Herbert enlisted at Huntingdon in early 1917 and joined the 10th Battalion, Essex Regiment. After several months training he landed in France.

A letter from Herbert was published in the Hunts Post on 21 September 1917 telling how he met his two brothers at the Front, and thought of them as he fought. He subsequently wrote, published 2 November 1917, explaining the circumstances that led to him being awarded the Military Medal, given for bravery in battle.

Herbert died of severe wounds Saturday 24 August 1918, aged 20yrs. It is most likely this occurred in a field hospital in France. The date on which he became a casualty is uncertain, but probably during the Second Battle of Bapaume.

The town of Bapaume had been in German occupation for some time. Linked by rail and four major roads to surrounding towns, it was an important objective for the Allied Forces.

Bapaume WW1 1918
Allied forces occupy Bapaume in August 1918
Advances were made on the first day of battle on 21 August 1918. The war diary of the 10th Battalion indicates they were involved from the 22 August on, gaining ground from the Germans on 23 August but coming under severe artillery fire. Casualties from those two days were 29 killed, 148 wounded and 35 missing. It is most likely Herbert was one of the wounded.

News of Herbert's death was published in the Hunts Post on 13 September 1918. He is buried at Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France.

Two of his brothers fought in WWI. The report of Herbert's death mentions 'the greatest sympathy is felt for his widowed mother, who had given her two other sons for their country'. Did all three brothers die in the War?

William is a mystery. He was reported killed on 22 March 1918 by the Hunts Post 3 May 1918, but he doesn't appear on the St Ives War Memorial or any other war memorial. Neither is his death recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. In 1911 he was living in Stevenage with his wife, two daughters and a son, working as a butcher's assistant. There is a William John Simons who died at Hitchin in 1956, aged 68yrs. Is it possible William was believed killed, but was actually a prisoner of war and survived?

Arthur wrote from the Front asking for shirts, reported 28 May 1915. He again wrote to say he was injured and told of his very narrow escape from the Germans, reported 25 June 1915. He was awarded both the Military Medal, given for bravery in battle, reported 17 May 1918, and the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry in the field, reported 19 July 1918. There is no indication that he was killed during WWI.

Do you have a photograph of Herbert or his brothers or any additional information? If so, please get in touch via the make contact page.

Source materials
Click any of the links below to view original source materials.
1901 Census
1911 Census
War diary, 10th Battalion, Essex Regiment
Commonwealth War Graves Register
Commemorative Certificate

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