The Simmons Family of Oxshott in WW1

Thomas Mark Simmons was born in Dorking 1867, he married Olive Steer in 1889 at Billingshurst where Olive was born in 1872. They were living there in 1891, where their son Alfred was born in that year, but by 1893 when George arrived they had moved to Oxshott. In 1901, the census records show they were living in Steels Lane, Oxshott and Thomas worked in the Littleheath (Cooks) Brickworks. He was still working there in 1911, but had moved to live in No. 4, Brickfield Cottages, Littleheath Lane. They lived locally until Olive died in 1940 and Thomas in 1958.

Alfred

By the time War was declared in 1914, their eldest son Alfred had already left the family home back around 1910 and married Caroline Dalton in Coventry. He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps. South Staffordshire Regiment and his address at the time of the 1911 census was the Royal Artillary Barracks, Bullyard, Hertford St. Coventry.

They had three children, born in 1913,1914 & 1916.

During WW1 Alfred served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. with the Service No.7250218.  He was awarded, the medals, 1914/15 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal, which are affectionatly known as Pip Squek & Wilfred. and the General Service medal with Iraq Clasp.  (ref. Nat. Archive WW1 medal card index).

George

Thomas and Olive’s next son George, who was born in Oxshott, was living and working there at the time of the 1911 census.

            George, in WW1 from Alan Simmons family memories.

George’s son Alan’s recollections of the last war, ‘At the age of six, I was standing by our old radio with my mother and Grandmother, then as the war was announced, my mother, said “Oh no, no, not again, not again!” It was not until later in life that I should learn why Mother reacted the way she did.

Going back to the 1914-18 war, Mum and Dad were courting. Dad – George – went into the Rifle Brigade, based at Winchester after joining up in August 1914, when war broke out. He was only just twenty years old and joined with his pal from Oxshott, Joe Auger. They served in France and George was first wounded in action in 1915, shot clean through his left wrist, then after treatment in a field hospital he was sent on sick leave.

They saw much action and fighting together, then they were sent up to relieve the front line and within a short time Joe was shot through the head. You can see his name on the war memorial on top of the Heath Hill. (Joe was moved to a Casualty Clearing Station at Beauval and it’s possible that George was wounded around the same time?). George’s hand mended well, but the bones of the wrist fused together, making his right arm rigid from the elbow to the knuckles. But his trigger finger still worked, so he was sent back to the front line again.

He operated a Vickers machine gun and so was a marked man. Some time later in another action a medical chap was dressing a wound he received when a sniper shot Dad again, through the head. The medic removed Dad’s identity discs, and left him for dead, but his steel helmet had saved him. It had turned the bullet which only split the side of his head. Meanwhile, however, back home he was reported dead prayers were said in church.

The Germans were advancing when someone saw him make a slight movement so he was taken back, uncon­scious to a German hospital with head and shoulder wounds, where a surgeon saved his life, he had no identity discs and was an Unknown Soldier.

After several months he was well enough to send a card to my Grand­parents in Little Heath Lane – and was ‘born again’, after his signature was confirmed. As he got better, he had the choice of either being in a prisoner-of-war camp or working on a German farm. On the advice of the doctor, who said ‘his only interest was to save life’, he went for the farm work, as a prisoner so he would have extra rations, fresh air and exercise and no time to sit bored and brooding.

Finally, the War was over and George had survived and was able to return home and marry my mother.

I have a sister who is the eldest, then a older brother and when mother was expecting me in the early 1930’s, Dad had a check up with his doctor as he had chest problems, thought to be TB. After treatment he was thought to have been cured, but had to go back for a final check up six months later and have fluid removed from his lungs, he was then sent home, but a couple of days later he became seriously ill, it would seem from an infection caught during the check up, he was taken back to St. Thomas’s Hospital where he died the next day on 07 Jun 1932.

Mother said she was one of the few who wore black for the same man twice!

Our accommodation went with the work, and mother had to be out within a week. So we returned to my grandparents, on Mother’s side. Then I arrived on the scene. So it was that I was with my Grandmother and Mother by the ra­dio when the war was announced – both my brother and sister were out.’

(From Fedora Newsletter (Oxshott) – Spring 2001SHC file ref. SHC ref. 4472/2)

George’s sweetheart was Eunice Isabella Young who was born in 1892 in Sussex. By 1911 she was in domestic service in Oxshott, where the wedding took place on 30 June 1920, at St Andrews Church, Oxshott, Surrey. George was then employed as a chauffeur to Dr. T C Blackwell, the first resident doctor in Oxshott. Their three children were born 1921, 1926 and 1932,

 

Maurice

Thomas and Olive’s youngest son, Maurice Simmons was born in 1900, in Oxshott, Surrey, and lived with the family. No further information has been found.

Source, Alan Simmons, from Fedora Newsletter (Oxshott) – Spring 2001SHC file ref. SHC ref. 4472/2

National Archive, via Ancestry, Census, Birth, Marriage, Death records & confirmed by A. Simmons (4/2018)

 

War Memorial & Church Tablet

For – Oxshott Memorial Cross, on Oxshott Heath

Oxshott heath War Mem 2014

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&  Stone tablet set on column. Names in three columns. Incised lettering painted blue and red.

Cross at top of centre column, in St Andrews Church, Oxshott.

St. Andrews Church WW1 tablet names

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St Andrews Chrch Tablet WW1 & 2

Title: St Andrews Chrch Tablet WW1 & 2
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Lieutenant John Neale RNVR

Neale medals pic

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Details of the Albert Medal award to John Neale RNVR.

25 August 1916 – Lieutenant John NEALE RNVR, Stokes mortar incident, Esher, Surrey

The London Gazette 25 January 1918 (from Whitehall, January 23, 1918)

‘On the 25th August 1916, Lt. Neale, R.N.V.R., was conducting certain experiments which involved the projection from a Stokes mortar of a tube containing flare powder. An accident occurred, rendering imminent the explosion of the tube before leaving the mortar, which would almost certainly have resulted in the bursting of the mortar with loss of live to bystanders. Lt. Neale, in order to safeguard the lives of the working party, at once attempted to lift the tube from the mortar. It exploded whilst he was doing so, with the result that he was severely injured, but owing to the fact that he had partly withdrawn the tube from the mortar no injury was caused to others.’

John Neale, of Oxshott, Surrey, was commissioned Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and served during the Great War attached to the Munitions Experimental Station, at Claremont Park, Esher, the home of H.R.H. the Dowager Duchess of Albany. As his work was the responsibility of the Ministry of Munitions, the recommendation for the award of his Albert Medal was made to the King by the Minister of Munitions, the Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill, M.P., and Neale was presented with his Albert Medal by H.M. King George V at Buckingham Palace on 6 April 1918. He was subsequently advanced Captain, Royal Marine Engineers.

The Home Office papers dealing with Neale’s award are preserved in the Public Record Office and contain, inter alia, the original recommendation made on behalf of the Minister of Munitions; the submission to the King; the draft citation; a copy of the inscription to be engraved on the reverse of the award; and correspondence leading to the investiture at Buckingham Palace.

stokes mortar

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A typical WW1 Stokes Mortar


Details of  the THE ALBERT MEDAL (AM)   – (from Web Naval History)

The medal was instituted in 1866 for saving life at sea, named after Queen Victoria’s    husband, there are two Classes, the 1st in gold and 2nd in bronze (ribbon colours and sizes changed through its history). In 1877 – it was also granted for saving life on land.


Publication of John Neale’s temporary commission; from the London Gazette.  7566 – THE LONDON GAZETTE, 3 AUGUST, 1915.

            Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.  Temporary commissions in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve have been issued as follows : —

(extracted from the list of names)

LIEUTENANTS.

John Neale.


ABOUT – JOHN NEALE

Born  1866 in Addlestone, near Chertsey.

Death  date 1945 (age 79)

He married Mary Timms (1860 – 1938) in 1890 & was listed as a grocer in the census returns & later lived in Hersham, Oxshott then Molesey.

He was a Member of the Oxshott Men’s Club from about 1911 and a Vice President at the time of his award, which was acknowledged in their 1919 AGM minutes, with local directories showing his address as  ‘Vintilla’, in Kellys Directory, which was located in Sheath Lane, Oxshott, on the east side.

He was enlisted with a commission as a Lieutenant in July 1915, then transferred to Ministry of Munitions in August 1915.

He became Commanding Officer of the Experimental Station, Ministry of Munitions, at Claremont House, Esher, Surrey.

On 31st December 1917 he completed his service with the Ministry and was invalided out of the service on 9th January 1918, as a Commander.

A promotion to Captain RNVR, was not approved, which may have been as a result of him leaving the service and 1919 he used the title of Commander, when living in Oxshott, as shown in local directories.

Records show that he received a war pension for his wounds.


Almost 100 years on, his Albert Medal was sold at auction in March 2017, for £6,000.

 

THE OLDEST TOMMY TO DIE IN WW1?

One of the most remarkable members of the British Army of the First World War must have been Henry Webber. In 1914, he was sixty-six years old, over twenty years past the Army’s normal age limit, and his family of four sons and five daughters were all grown up.

He had already lived a very full life, having been a member of the London Stock Exchange for forty-two years. and was a prominent member in a great variety of local affairs: a Justice of the Peace, a County Councillor since the formation of the Surrey County Council, a Churchwarden and President of the local Boy Scouts Association.

He also took part in many of the fashionable sports: cricket, shooting, hunting (as Master of the Old Surrey and Burstow Hunt). Three of his sons were Army officers serving in France and he longed to join them.

Henry Webber was born in Tonbridge, Kent, on 3 June 1849. He was the youngest son of Dr William Webber of Norwich and was educated at Tonbridge School and Pembroke College, Oxford, and gained his degree in 1870. He joined the Stock Exchange in 1872 and in 1874 he married Emily Morris at Lingfield Church. Emily was the eldest daughter of Mr Norman Morris of Ford Manor, Dormansland. They lived in Horley from 1875 firstly at Greenfields, and then settled at The Elms in Honey Row, (later the house became Kingsley School, since demolished).

First, Webber applied to the War Office, offering to serve ‘in any capacity’ but his offer was rejected. Next, he recruited a company of ‘Rough riders’ fellow-horsemen like himself and offered this unit complete to the Army, but again he was rejected. He never gave up and, possibly to rid themselves of this persistent old gentleman, the War Office eventually gave him a commission. After a very short training period, Henry Webber went to France as a battalion transport officer at the ripe old age of sixty-seven, a remarkable achievement for perseverance.

He was sent to join the 7th South Lancs, a New Army battalion, in the 19th (Western) Division. He was accepted quite normally by the younger officers in the battalion; he performed his duties well and not many knew his true age, although the CO found that his own father and Webber had rowed together at Oxford in the same year, over half a century earlier. Webber hoped that he might meet and salute his three sons who all held ranks higher than his.

Late on the afternoon of 30th June 1916, the men due to attack the next morning marched out of the villages where they had been billeted. It was a moment charged with emotion as all those remaining behind turned out to give the fighting men a good send off. One man to be left behind was Lieut Henry Webber. Although his duties as Transport Officer would normally have kept the sixty-seven year-old out of any action, many men were finding excuses to go up to the trenches and his CO had specifically ordered Webber to remain behind.

All next day, the First Day of the Somme, the 19th (Western) Division had remained in the trenches of the Tara-Usna Line, just outside Albert. Fresh orders were issued that they should attack the German front line at 5pm but these were cancelled and four Lancashire battalions were ordered to turn back and march to the rear. When Lt Webber with the battalion transport met the 7th Lancs that evening he was greeted by smiling friends. Despite the carnage of 1st July, Lt Webber’s battalion, which was on the outskirts of Albert, was not touched by the battle.

On 21st July the 7th Lancs moved up to relieve a battalion in the front line near Mametz Wood. That night Henry Webber took supplies as usual with the battalion transport. Leaving his men to unload the horses, he went over to where the C.O. was talking to a group of officers. Into this routine, a peaceful scene, there suddenly dropped a single, heavy German shell.

When the smoke and dust had cleared it was found that twelve men and three horses had been hit. Henry Webber lay unconscious, badly wounded in the head. He and the other wounded were rushed to a Dressing Station but, for Webber, it was to late. He never regained consciousness and died that night.

The news of the death of this old warrior was noted in high places. His family received special messages of sympathy from the King and Queen and from the Army Council, unusual tributes to a dead Lieutenant of infantry. Webber’s devotion to duty was further honoured when he was mentioned in the C in C’s Despatches. His wife never recovered from the shock of his death and died two years later, but ironically, his three sons all survived the war. He is buried in Dartmoor Cemetery at Becordel-Becourt and at age 68 was probably the oldest British soldier known to be killed during WWI.

Henry’s eldest son was Brig-Gen NW (Tommy) Webber CMG DSO (plus 9 Mentions in Despatches) who had a distinguished career in the War ending up as chief of staff to the commander of the Canadian Corps and was later MD of the Army & Navy Stores group.

(Henry Webber is also commemorated on the Horley War Memorial)

RM Jenks

Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, Drill Section newsletter. 2013

Pirbright 1918 – Mutiny in the Ranks

Early in 1918 there was a mass walkout by Guards’ Machine-Gunners stationed at Pirbright, between Woking and Aldershot. The origins of this mutiny are obscure, yet for three days every private soldier refused duty. Instead they organised voluntary route marches along the lanes near the camp, in defiance of their officers, returning only for meals. The strike was eventually called off when a colonel of the Welsh Guards arrived and, giving an assurance that there would be no victimisation, asked for a spokesman from each of the five regiments involved. ‘Five old soldiers agreed to come to the front, though to my knowledge they were by no means ringleaders. They were taken off to London under close arrest, court-martialled and sentenced to two years each in a military prison. The breach of faith may have come about because the colonel was overruled by the GOC London District. But I think we were naive to expect the public school code of honour to be extended to ‘mere lower rankers’.

The rest of the rebels – they must have numbered a couple of hundred or so – were split up into their original regiments, and a detachment sent to its reserve battalion for a short time before being put on a draft for France again. This incident was a major embarrassment to the military higher echelons that units from the Guards could be involved in such demonstrations, lead the powers to be to review the unit and consider an appropriate action. This lead to the decision to the disbandment of the Guards Machine Gun Regt and return all soldiers to their parent regiments shortly after the war ended.

Item compiled by R. Bell, Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, Drill Section newsletter (2011)

Oxshott Heath War memorial

Oxshott Heath – War Memorial

The Oxshott War Memorial stands on the hilltop above the south slope of Oxshott Heath in a prominent position facing south, it has a backdrop of trees and is surrounded by a low steel rail and a hedge to enclose it.

The stone memorial was erected after World War 1 by Sir Robert MacAlpine, who lived locally at Knott Park, he was the founder of the MacAlpine construction company and was often referred to as  ‘concrete Bob’ for his use of the material.

The memorial displays the names of 25 Oxshott men who died in the 1914-18 war and the 25 who gave their lives in the 1939-45 war so that their courage, bravery and sacrifice is never forgotten. The ground around the Memorial is maintained by the Oxshott Heath Conservators and is the place where a service of commemoration is held every year on Armistice Sunday.

 

Details

The stone memorial comprises a 7m high wheel-head cross rising from an octagonal column, this stands on a square plinth with inscriptions dedicated to those who lost their lives during the Second World War.

The square plinth is inscribed with the wording: A.M.D.G./ 1939-1945, on the front, with the 25 names of those who died on the other three sides.

The plinth sits on top of five octagonal steps 4.6m wide at the base, which have inscriptions and names in stylised lettering dedicated to those who lost their lives during the First World War.
The wording around the top plinth reads:

IN GRATEFUL MEMORY OF/ THE MEN OF OXSHOTT WHO/ SERVED THEIR KING & COUNTRY IN THE GREAT WAR/ REMEMBERING BEFORE GOD/ THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR/ LIVES IN THE CAUSE OF/ LIBERTY AND JUSTICE

On the next three lower steps are the 25 names of those who died with their Rank and Regiment in which they served.

 

Listed by Historic England in 2015, entry No. 1430670

Name: Oxshott War Memorial, Oxshott Heath, Oxshott, Surrey, KT22 0TA

———–

IWM reference 23379 (Imperial War Museum info.)

OS Grid Ref.: TQ 14003 61149

 

M J Crute, Sources, Oxshott- A Surrey Village by B.S. Gidvani 1996, Oxshott Parish Magazine 1981 & Internet.

Oxshott Rifle Club

A scheme was announced locally in August 1914 to set up in Oxshott a rifle club or civilian guard, for men outside the normal recruiting age. This would allow them to train in the use of rifles. The Oxshott Men’s Club contributed £5 to this, only to find a year later it had to take over the running of the Miniature Rifle Club. Once involved, the Club Committee set about creating rules to run the Rifle Club and control the rifle range. Cartridges were purchased, as was cordite, which was to light the range for evening use. Unfortunately as soon as it had been bought, blackout regulations were introduced due to air raids and so a ban was introduced to prevent the use of outside lighting after sunset! The range was in what is now the Oxshott Village Sports Club, within the ground, and railway sleepers were used to form the bunkers. It had its own pavilion, which was later rented to the Sports Club for use by the football and cricket clubs.

The Rifle Club continued throughout the war and was finally wound up in 1919 when its assets were sold. It had 6 rifles and these were offered to Downside Rifle Club at 15 shillings (75p) each. The rifles were eventually auctioned off to Club members for just a few shillings each, as they weren’t wanted by Cobham Rifle Cub either.

Rifle Club badge 1914

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Taken from One Hundred Years of The Oxshott Club – 1907-2007 – A History, by Mike Crute (The Oxshott Club, 2007).

Oxshott Men’s Club during World War I

Following the outbreak of hostilities, war regulations were introduced under the Defence of the Realm Act, with magistrates restricting the sale of alcohol, by requiring premises to close at 10pm. Interestingly it was made legal to water down beer!

As members began leaving the Club to enlist in ‘Lord Kitchener’s Army’ during 1914, so the committee agreed that those enlisting would all be made honorary members (no membership fee) until the end of the war, or such time as they returned from military service. There was also a fund set up to give the new recruits £1 on joining up and by the end of the year 14 members had done so.

It was also agreed that all Belgian refugees and soldiers of the Allies temporarily residing in Oxshott be elected honorary members. This no doubt compensated for the loss of the Club’s own members and kept the revenue turning over at a viable level.

Towards the end of 1915 the Club premises were used by Major H.H. Gordon Clark, commanding 10th Brigade Surrey Volunteer Regiment, ‘for the purpose of raising in Oxshott and district a platoon of that regiment’. How successful this was we don’t know, but due to the huge loss of men, in spring 1916, conscription into the services started. At the time there were 22 members of the club in the services and 5 had already been killed.

By the end of the war in November 1918, the Club members who had laid down their lives for King and Country during the conflict were honoured at the AGM, when their names were read out:

W. Ackerman

J. Auger

F. Coombes

F.J. Cotterell

F.B. Finch

L.J.G. Finch

A.M. Rimmer

 W.W. Selby

& listed on the war memorial on Oxshott Heath.

Another item of note was that the King presented the Club’s Vice-President, Lieutenant-Colonel John Neale, with the Albert Medal for gallantry.

Taken from One Hundred Years of the Oxshott Club, 1907 – 2007, A History, by Mike Crute.

Air-Raid Refugees from London

Air Raids

The minutes of a committee meeting of the Oxshott Men’s Club in 1915 record what was being prepared in case of an emergency.

In 1915, due to the bombing in London by enemy airships, there was a request from the Stoke d’Abernon parish council to use the clubroom for ‘sheltering refugees from the London area in consequence of air raids’. If people were sent to the village during an air raid and were unable to obtain shelter with the limited number of  dwellings in the area, could they stay in the clubroom overnight as an emergency shelter?

Permission was duly given for women and children to use the building at their own risk, but all liabilities and expenses such as damage, cleaning and  disinfecting would be down to the parish council!

This is an interesting insight into how local people viewed those from the city!

Sources:
The Oxshott Men’s Club Minutes, 1915