George Thomas Simmons was born on the 24th March 1888 in East Grinstead, Sussex. He died in 1962 at the age of 73 in East Grinstead, Sussex. His regiment was the The Royal Sussex Regiment and his rank was private with the service number: GS 6824.
There are at least three generations of George Simmons. Our particular George Thomas Simmons was born on 24th March 1888. It would appear that the Simmons family have lived in the area of East Grinstead for several generations. George’s father is a Plumber. His parents George and Eliza were married in 1887 in East Grinstead, Sussex. George was the first child born. He was baptised on 10th June 1888 at East Grinstead.
The 1891 Census of England and Wales finds the family living at 68 Glen Vue, East Grinstead. George is a 3 living with his parents George and Eliza. Another child has been born; Jessie Emily was born on 22nd April 1889 and is now 2.
The 1901 Census finds George as a 13 years old. No occupation is shown for George or his sister Jessie who is now 11, they are probably at school. The family are all still at the same address of 68 Glen Vue, East Grinstead.
On 18th May 1907 George is 19 and employed at East Grinstead Railway Station as a Porter according to the UK Rail Employment Records 1833 – 1956. The 1911 Census for England and Wales finds George as a boarder at 5 Goodwood Road, New Cross, London. George is now 23 years old and is a Railway Guard. It is interesting to note at this stage that one of the daughters living at the same house where George is boarding, Lillian Young, later becomes his wife. On 20th May 1912 George became a Police Constable with the Brighton Borough Police Force. It is not known where he was living.
On 27th May 1913 George married Lillian Young at East Grinstead Parish Church. Lillian is the daughter of Mrs Young who boarded out rooms to George.
George Thomas Simmons appears on both WW1 Plaques within The Old Police Cells Museum at Brighton Town Hall.
George Simmons received permission to join the Army from the then Chief Constable Mr William Gentle on 12th May 1915. He left the Police on the same day and attested to join the Army. He stated his age was 27 years and 1 month, a Police Constable living at 59 Sandgate Road, Brighton.
Other Police Officers that had applied for permission to join the Army and released on the same day are shown below:- Arthur H Avis, Edward Eade, Edmund N Funnell, Christopher Gaston, Clifford Gaston, William Daniels, William J Berry, Frederick Stephenson, Samuel V Kitchener and Ernest Lynn.
George Simmons has a service number of GS/6824 which is consistent with joining The Royal Sussex Regiment between 2nd May 1915 and 1st June 1915. The “GS” signifies those that joined up for General Service but was not always prefixed on their records.
George was initially sent for training with the 10th Battalion on 21st May 1915 at Colchester the same day as Sydney Millen. On 8th September George passed a course of instruction in stretcher bearing and first aid. Catt, Avis, Cheesman, Clinch, Lynn, Lintott and Millen were also on this course.
Whilst all of George’s Police colleagues were being posted, mostly to the British Expeditionary Force in France, for some reason he remains in Colchester with the 10th Battalion. According to his war record George is posted to The Royal Engineers on 7th March 1916. His new Service number is 128008RE. He is a Pioneer. He went to France for training. On 20th June 1917 George receives a gunshot wound to his left arm. He was sent home and taken to the University Hospital, Gower Street, London. He is posted on 8th July 1916 to the Royal Engineers 3rd Pioneers Company in England.
On 13th March 1917 George is posted and embarks for the British Expeditionary Force in France with the Royal Engineers Special Brigade. The First World War witnessed the first use of Chemical Weapons in armed conflict. Chlorine Gas was first used on the Western Front by the Germans against French units in the Ypres Salient in 1915.
Special units of the Royal Engineers were established to use chemical weapons. They were wholly a wartime innovation – prior to 1915 the British Army had no capability for using Gas. In retaliation for the use of Chlorine by the Germans at Ypres, retaliatory measures were authorised by Lord Kitchener.
The British Army first used Gas in the preliminary stages of the Battle of Loos in September 1915. Although it had a very limited effect at Loos, the decision was taken to formalise the special Engineer units. A Special Brigade was formed, containing 4 Battalions, each of four companies. These would handle gases discharged from cylinders. Four other special companies were also formed to fire gas shells from Stokes Mortars, and four special sections to use flamethrowers. The total establishment of the whole Brigade was 208 officers and 5,306 men.
George was only in France for a few months when he was transferred back to England on 3rd July 1917. On 20th April 1918 George was promoted to unpaid Lance Corporal, He is with B Company 110 Royal Engineers Special Brigade. In 1916 Army Council instruction No. 1733 was issued with regards to The Military Police. The instruction is long and tedious but in short explains that the system of Policing such large numbers of Soldiers at home and abroad required trained Police Officers. As a result it would appear that soldiers who were Police Officers prior to the war were being transferred to either the MMP (Mounted Military Police) or MFP (Military Foot Police).
On 23rd July 1917 George was temporarily transferred to the Military Foot Police for the duration of the war. He remains a Lance Corporal and his new service number is P15921. On 17th August George is posted to Italy where he remained until 23rd March 1919. George report for disposal and was demobilized on 22nd April 1919. George was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
George rejoins Brighton Police on 10th April 1919 along with another returning Police Officer Alfred Hobden. It has not been possible to prove with any certainty that George and Lillian had any children. The 1939 Register reveals that George is a Widower. It has not been possible to establish a date of his wife Lilian’s death at present. George is living with his sister Jessie at 17 Sackville Gardens, East Grinstead. The record states that he is a Sewerage Pumping Station Attendant. George died in 1962, at least 22 years after his wife. His death is registered in Uckfield but he probably died in East Grinstead.
Jessie Emily Simmonds, George’s sister died the year after in 1973.
Lack of information between rejoining Brighton Police in 1919 to his Death in 1973.
Copyright Researched and reported by Ian Borthwick 2017, retired Sussex Police Officer AB579, served between Nov 1976 to March 2007.