Major John de Luze Simonds D.S.O., the Royal Garrison Artillery

April 22, 2019

 

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Major John de Luze Simonds D.S.O., was killed in action at Mazingarbe while in command of a siege battery during the Arras Offensive.

Educated at Summerfields, Oxford, he attended the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and was gazetted into the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1903. Major Simonds served for several years in the east, carrying out important survey work, and then acted as ADC to General Sir Charles Anderson.

In 1910, he was sent to survey and report on Hainan Island, a large unexplored island off the Southern tip of China, populated with a head-hunting tribe. His personal diary, hand-drawn maps and silver chrome photographs of tribesmen and villages (never seen before by the Chinese or Westerners) is in the School of Oriental & African Studies in London.

At the outbreak of the Great War Major Simonds was serving in India, and arrived on the Western Front in December of 1914. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for conspicuous service as the liaison officer between the Royal Garrison Artillery and the Royal Flying Corps. On the day of his death he was in command of a siege battery at Mazingarbe when he was killed by a shell.

He was also a poet, writing what was described as “moving poetry whilst under appalling conditions on the front line”. When his body was recovered a poem was discovered in his pocket, written on a blood-stained piece of paper, part of which reads: “Be very proud to number me among the deathless dead, along the trench the cornflower shimmers blue like eyes bestarred with tears ;so long ago we wore its bloom in pride of victory, where called the deep Cathedral chimes to prayer. Oh the grey walls and warm red tiled roofs, the purling stream and velvet meads, where we have played together - never more to lie beneath the trees and drink the sun”. He is buried in the Mazingarbe Communal Cemetery at Bethune in France.

John, of Audley Woods, Basingstoke, was 32 years old.

 

 

 

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December 11, 2018

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