Thomas James Simmons spent his early years in Hastings where he served in the 1st Cinque Ports Volunteers. Later he spent four years in the Royal Navy. He arrived in Chelmsford around 1909 when he married and went on to have three daughters. By 1911 he was living in Chelmsford and working as an insurance agent before becoming a brewer’s agent. He joined the army in October 1914 and survived until July 1917 when he went missing, later presumed killed in action, near Ypres.
SIMMONS, THOMAS JAMES,
Private, 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment (formerly of the Essex Regiment)
On 1st July 1916 he was posted to the 3/5th Battalion of the Essex Regiment and on 9th September 1916 he was transferred to the 3/1st Battalion of the Hertfordshire Regiment as Private 9684. He was appointed Acting Lance Sergeant (paid) on 23rd September 1916, and then to the 1/1st Battalion of the Hertfordshire Regiment on 4th November 1916 as Acting Sergeant.
He went missing and was later presumed to have been killed in action on 31st July 1917 while serving as Private 269692.
On 28th September 1917 the Essex County Chronicle carried an appeal from his wife:
“Pt. T. J. Simmons, husband of Mrs, Simmons, 13 Grove Road, Chelmsford reported missing July 31, was in the Essex Regt., and afterwards transferred to the 1st Herts. Mrs. Simmons would be glad of information about him, which would be gratefully received.”
Thomas was born in Hastings, Sussex in 1886, the son of Thomas Simmons and Louisa Ann Simmons (nee Hayward). His father had been born in 1860 in Hastings; his mother in 1861 in Rye, Sussex. They had married in Sussex in 1885.
Thomas’ siblings were Albert Henry Simmons (born in 1888 in Hastings, died in 1964), Percy William Simmons (born in 1892 in Hastings), Rosina Lottie Simmons (born in 1894 in Hastings) and Beatrice Louisa Simmons (born in Chelmsford in 1900).
Aged five, the 1891 census recorded Thomas living with his parents and brother in Hastings. His father was a carpenter. The next census in 1901 found 15 year-old Thomas employed as a farm assistant, residing with his parents and three siblings in Hastings. His father was a carpenter and joiner.
In the years following Thomas served for four years in the Royal Navy.
Thomas was married in 1909 to Poplar-born Catherine Elizabeth Tapper. The census of 1911 found the couple living at 13 Grove Road, Chelmsford with their Chelmsford-born one year-old daughter, Edna Rosina Simmons, who had been born on 15th January 1910 and died in 2002. Thomas was employed by Pearl Assurance as an insurance agent.
The couple had a further two daughters: Doris Evelyn Simmons, born on 7th October 1911, died in 2002; and Phyllis Irene Simmons, born on 8th April 1913, died in 1995.
In December 1913 a dispute between
Thomas and his two brothers went to court and was reported in the Essex County Chronicle:
“BROTHERS AT VARIANCE. Thomas James Simmons, brewers' traveller, of 13 Grove Road. Chelmsford, sued two brothers, Albert Henry and Percy Wm. Simmons, on a judgment summons, for the first instalment of 4s. each in respect of lodgings. Both defendants denied owing the money and said they would not pay, but his Honour said the Court had found they did owe the money, which must paid, otherwise they would to prison.-—One defendant said would to prison rather than pay.—His Honour made a committal order for eight days in each case, suspended for 28 days.’
On 20th October 1914 Thomas attested at Chelmsford and joined the 5th Battalion of the Essex Regiment, a Territorial battalion, as Private 2663. At the time he was 28 years and nine months old, and employed as a brewer’s agent. He had seen previous military service with the 1st Cinque Ports Volunteers from which he had left to serve four years in the Royal Navy. He was appointed Acting Lance Corporal on 10th November 1914, Lance Corporal on 2nd January 1916, Acting Corporal on 27th January 1916, Acting Lance Sergeant (unpaid) on 5th April 1916 and Acting Lance Sergeant (paid) on 13th May 1916,.
Thomas has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, West-Vlaanderen in Belgium, on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, and the Moulsham Parish Memorial, St. John’s Church, Moulsham.
He was entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
The 1918 register of electors listed Thomas’ widow still at 13 Grove Road. His brother Percy also served in the army.