Henry John Simmons M.M.; Corporal, 15th Casualty Clearing Station, Royal Army Medical Corps.

Henry Simmons

Henry John Simmons was born in Caversham, Oxfordshire, on 7th December 1887 and was the son of Frederick and Sarah. In 1901, Henry was working as a clerk at a Co-operative store in Caversham. Eight years later, Henry had successfully applied for a post as an attendant at St Audry’s Hospital, where he started work on 9th September 1909. Henry was another member of the hospital football team, the same one won the Suffolk Senior Cup in the 1910-11 season. In 1913, Henry married Minnie Rose Mortlock, a nurse at St Audry’s. The following year, their daughter Kathleen was born.

When war was declared, Henry continued to work at St Audry’s until the new year when, on 30th January 1915, he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) and was sent to Aldershot for training. Here, he was posted to join the 15th Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) who, at the end of May 1915, received orders to go to France, boarding the SS Architect with over twenty-two tons of equipment. Henry disembarked in Le Havre on 1st June 1915 and the 15th CCS remained in the area until 20th July when they were sent to Hazebrouck in northern France. It was here that Henry became the first man at the 15th Casualty Clearing Station to be awarded the newly introduced Military Medal, he was also promoted to Corporal.

In September 1917, Henry's CCS was moved to Ebblinghem and he was promoted to Acting Sergeant. Nine months later, the CCS was on the move once more, this time to Ruitz, south of Bethune, where Henry was promoted again – to Acting Staff Sergeant.

After the Armistice was declared, the 15th CCS began to take in Prisoners of War for treatment and, later, British soldiers suffering from influenza. Henry and the CCS remained at Ruitz until the clearing station was finally closed down on 17th October 1919. 

The SS Architect that took Henry Simmons and the 15th Casualty Clearing Station to France.

Henry returned to work at St Audry’s on 19th November 1919, over a year after the end of the war. As his promotions were only “acting”, he returned to the rank of Corporal. For his war service, Henry Received the 1914-15 Star and the British War and Victory Medals.

After the war was over, Henry and Minnie had a second child, a son called Horace, born in 1921. Henry was to become Chief Male Nurse at St Audry’s and, in 1939, the whole family were living on the hospital estate. Both of Henry and Minnie’s children also worked for the hospital; Kathleen as a mental nurse and Horace as an apprentice motor mechanic. Minnie died in 1942 and is buried at Melton Old Church.