Walter SIMS (17th September 1878 – 2nd January 1915)

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Walter SIMS was born on 17th September 1878[1] at Leigh Farm, St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.  He was the son of Walter SIMS (1828-1914) and Mary BEVIS (1842-1918).  Walter had a brother Sidney, eight half siblings from his father’s first marriage to Rhoda GOODYEAR (Charles, George, William, Fred, John Daniel, Annie Levinia & Wallace) and four half siblings from his mother’s first marriage to William PAGE (William, Isaac, Elizabeth Ann & Jane) plus one further half sibling via his mother Mary, George BEVIS who was her illegitimate son from a relationship she had with a John CUMMINS before she married William PAGE.

On the 1st of November 1878[2], Walter was baptised in the St Mary Bourne Methodist Chapel by the Revd. Robert TAYLOR.  At the time of his baptism it is stated that his abode was St Mary Bourne and that his father Walter was a Labourer.

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Primitive Methodist Chapel, Swampton, St Mary Bourne[3]

On the 3rd of April 1881[4], Walter was living with his parents Walter & Mary, his half-sisters Elizabeth Ann PAGE & Jane PAGE and his half-brother Wallace SIMS on Stoke Road, St Mary Bourne.  His siblings Elizabeth, Jane & Wallace are all described as Scholars so likely to have been attending the village school.  His father is an Agricultural Labourer.  Also within the household is 11 year old Earnest COOK as boarder, described as being a Farm Servant.

On the 5th of April 1891[5], Walter is still living with his parents Walter & Mary and half-brother Wallace but they now reside at Lye Farm, Stoke.  Walter is still an Agricultural Labourer there is no note of whether Walter was at school or not on this census or whether he had started working.

On the 15th of February 1897[6], Walter joined the 3rd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment for a period of 6 years (this was a volunteer/militia Battalion) he was given Service No. 7970.  At the time he joined at 18 years old he was described as looking only about 17, he had Red hair, Blue eyes and a Fresh complexion.  The records state that at the time he was 5ft 6⅝in tall had a 32in chest with a maximum expansion to 34½in and weighed 110lbs. His religion was recorded as Methodist and he was passed fit for service on the 16th February 1897.  On the 23rd of March 1897 he was sent home temporarily and stated as being “Unfit”.  The following year on the 25th April 1898, Walter was “Discharged by Purchase”.  At the time Walter joined up he stated that he worked for Mr Hurford of Andover, Hampshire and was living in St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.

On the 20th July 1899[7], Walter again joined the 3rd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment for a period of 6 years (this was still a volunteer/militia Battalion) this time he was given Service No. 8980.  Since the last time he joined up Walter had grown and now was 5ft 8⅞in tall, had a chest measurement of 34½in with a maximum expansion to 36½in, he now weighed 118lbs.  This time his religion is recorded as Church of England.   He was certified fit for service on the same day.  His employer at the time is again stated as Mr Hurford of Andover, Hampshire and he was again living in St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.

At some point between the 3rd June 1899 and 20th January 1900[8] Walter joined the 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment as a Regular Soldier and was assigned the Service No. 5718.  Walter then was sent to South Africa and served in the Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Transvaal with the 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment during the Second Boer War.  The Anglo Boer War website[9] states that the battalion sailed on board the Assaye about the 4th January 1900 arriving at the Cape around the 27th January 1900. Walter’s service with the colours in during the Second Boer War entitled him to the Queens South Africa Medal with the Cape Colony, Orange Free State & Transvaal Clasps.  The clasps Walter was entitled too were all clasps[10] that were given to soldiers who were in the areas from specific dates but not there at the time of specific actions that an individual clasp was issued for.  His service also entitled him to the Kings South Africa medal with both the 1901 and 1902 clasps.  This medal was only awarded those that had completed a minimum of 18 months war service before the 1st June 1902.  It could only be awarded to those that had also earned the Queens South Africa medal. It is not known when Walter left the 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment but sometime after he served in South Africa and 1911.

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On the 2nd April 1911, Walter is living in St Mary Bourne with his mother Mary.  He is stated as being a Farm Labourer, age 32 and single.

On the 5th August 1914[11], Walter was on the reserve and he left St Mary Bourne to re-join the army this time the 1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment, this was the same day on which his father Walter Sims was buried in the village church yard.  The following month on the 20th September 1914 Walter arrives in France with the 3rd round of re-enforcements sent to the 1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment who were at the time at La Montagne Farm near Bucy-le-Long, France.  Walter serves with the battalion in various actions in France and Flanders until his death.  Walter died from a bullet wound in the head on the 2nd January 1915 at Le Gheer, Belgium where the battalion were in the trenches[12]. 2As the entry for the 20th to the 31st December 2014 in the War Diary for 1914 states that all casualties during the period were due to snipers it is likely that it was a sniper that shot the bullet that killed Walter as the battalion were occupying the same position. Walter was buried on the 3rd January at Lancashire Cottage Cemetry, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium in Grave No: II. D. 4[13]. For his service during the Great War the 1914 Star with clasp, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal were all awarded to Walter.  It is not known where Walter’s medals were sent, and where they are located today.

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“And another – This week the parishioners have lamented the loss of yet another of their brave sons at the front, in the person of Pte. Walter Sims, also of the 1st Hants Regt.  The news was received by his widowed mother, through the agency of a letter from the captain of deceased’s company, who stated that he was killed by a bullet wound in the head on Jan. 2 and was buried the next day in the little regimental graveyard, the service being conducted by the chaplain.  A memorial service was held in St. Peter’s Church on Sunday, when in the course of his sermon, the Rev. P.E. Binns read a portion of the letter as follows:  “I hope it will be a consolidation to you to know that your son won for himself a reputation as a man fearless under fire, who could be counted on to go unquestioningly through anything.  I considered him one of the most reliable and best men in the company, and talking of him to my sergeant-major only the day before he remarked that Pte. Sims was one of those quite fellows that was always there when wanted and nothing came amiss to him” Before the blessing a suitable hymn was sung, and the usual prayers were read.  After the blessing the organist Mr. A.H. White played a funeral march from “The story of Nayid” It might be added that Pte. Sims father died on the very day his son was call up.  Sims was on the reserve, and a chum of the other three warriors whose deaths have been previously recorded. [14]

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NOTES

I originally started looking into the men from St Mary Bourne in the 1st Hampshire Regiment because of my connection to Walter SIMS.  His mother Mary is my 3 * Great Grandmother, he was the half brother of my 2 * Great Grandfather George BEVIS who was Mary’s eldest child.  It is interesting to note too that Walter was a Great Grandson of William SIMS who was transported for taking part in the Swing Riots in St Mary Bourne.

[1] Birth Certificate for Walter SIMS

[2] Baptism record for William SIMS (Hampshire Record Office (HRO) Ref: 96M72-NMC-R8 (1874-1903)

[3] Copyright unknown, with thanks to Laura Sykes for permission to use.  For more information see http://stmarybournegoestowar.net/2014/09/28/all-is-safely-gathered-in-by-the-primitive-methodists/

[4] 1881 England Census Record (Ancestry.co.uk Class: RG11; Piece: 1258; Folio: 21; Page: 11; GSU roll: 1341307)

[5] 1891 England Census Record (Ancestry.co.uk Class: RG12; Piece: 961; Folio: 17; Page: 6; GSU Roll: 6096071)

[6] Militia Attestation Papers (4 pages) for Walter Sims (Service No. 7970) dated 15th Feb 1897 from findmypast.co.uk

[7] Militia Attestation Papers (3 pages) for Walter Sims (Service No. 8980) dated 20th July 1899 from findmypast.co.uk

[8] See http://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/hampshire-regiment-1st-2nd-battalions.html for more information on dates Service No’s assigned.

[9] http://www.angloboerwar.com/unit-information/imperial-units/559-hampshire-regiment

[10] http://www.angloboerwar.com/medals-and-awards/british/1875-queens-south-africa-medal

[11] Burial of Walter Sims from “Extracts from the Burial Register of the Parish of St Mary Bourne in the County of Southampton, 1897-1951” by Canon. Martin Coppen 16th November 2008.

[12] 1st Battalion War Diaries 1914-1915

[13] http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/447899/SIMMS,%20W

[14] Andover Advertiser, Friday 15th January 1915 – St Mary Bourne section

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