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20577 Rifleman Albert Edward Simmons – NZ Rifle Brigade

Albert Edward (Ted) Simmons was born in Tawa Flat on 20th July 1876[i] the fourth child of Pemley (nee Gambell) and Thomas Simmons. Pemley and Thomas had immigrated to New Zealand in 1874 with three children so Ted, as he was known in the family, was the first to be born in New Zealand[ii].

The Simmons first moved to Tawa Flat and then 1886 to Porirua where all five of Ted’s younger siblings are all recorded
as attending Porirua School.  Ted is recorded as working as a ‘surfaceman,’[iii] a railway roll, in 1906. The Simmons family remained in the Porirua to 1908 as Pemley’s death notice in October 1907 indicates ‘wife of Thomas Simmons, Porirua.’[iv]

On 1st May 1916 Ted enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He was employed as a farmer by P Mungavin, Porirua and his last residence was Ohau, Levin. Ted gives his younger sister Mrs Mary Ann Elizabeth Logan, Wellington
as his next of kin.  Ted, on his enlistment papers has 20th July 1881[v]  making him 35 rather than the top end of recruitment of 40. Passed as medically fit 20577 Private Albert Edward Simmons entered Trentham with the 16th Reinforcements. 20577 Private Simmons was transferred on 27th July 1916 as 20577 Trooper Simmons NZ Mounted Rifles but left with the 16th Reinforcements on 28th August 1916 for service overseas.

On 24th October 1916 Private Simmons arrived in England and marched in to Sling Military Training Camp and was allocated as Rifleman Simmons to 5th Reserve Battalion, 3rd NZRB. Training was short and Rifleman Simmons on
15th November 1916 shipped to France. Two weeks training in France and Rifleman Simmons was posted to C Company,
2nd Battalion, 3rd NZRB. The NZRB was manning trenches in the Boutillerie Sector, Lys and occupied in tip for tat raids
with the Germans during what was to be a very bitter winter on the Western Front. The conditions contributed to Rifleman Simmons being admitted to hospital with scabies and possibly rheumatism to his knees. Rifleman Simmons took part in
the successful Battle of Messines in June 1917. Following almost a year at the front Rifleman Simmons was given two
weeks leave in the UK returning to his unit on the 8th October 1917. The NZ Division was completing preparations for
the 3rd Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele. On 12th October 1917, Rifleman Simmons of C Company, 2nd Battalion, NZRB
was on the left hand of the first wave of troops to go ‘over the top’ a recollection from Corporal Green[vi] in the third
wave records:

‘At 6 am a tremendous bombardment opened and we went
overin a sea of mud. The fire from the German pill boxes was
hellish and our barrage failed. The emplacements for our guns
were not solid enough and the guns tilted causing trouble in our
ranks from the shells of our own 18 pounders. The wire
entanglements,the mud and the pill boxes prevented any
success. C Company lost heavily and the 3rd Battalion lost
about half its numbers in casualties. Our Colonel, Winter-Evans,
was killed. 150 of C Company went over and casualties
numbered 82, including all the sergeants except Goodfellow.
The attack was an impossible attempt. The ground was swampy
and very muddy and heavy cross fire from the pill boxes did not
give us a chance. The Black Watch on our left were in exactly the
same position. The stunt should never have been ordered under
such conditions. It was absolute murder.’

British stretcher bearers at Passchendaele 

The troops eventually fell back to positions close to their start line. For badly wounded soldiers lying in the mud, the aftermath of the battle was a private hell many died before rescuers could reach them. The toll was horrendous 843
New Zealand soldiers were either dead or lying mortally wounded between the lines[vii].  Among those wounded was Rifleman Simmons who was wounded in the head and leg. Rifleman Simmons was initially posted as missing but was
one of the lucky ones to be rescued by stretcher bearer and bought by the No1 NZ Field Ambulance to the No 46 Casualty Clear Station (CCS) and once stabilised moved back to the 11th General Hospital, Camiers where he was admitted on
13th October 1917. Rifleman Simmons was moved via the Convalescent depot at Estaples to the No2 Stationary Hospital
at Abbeville on 24th October 1917 before being evacuated by sea to the No 1 NZ General Hospital, Brockenhurst where
he was admitted on 28th October 1917. Rifleman Simmons remained at Brockenhurst for a month then at the NZ Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch for three months before spending six months at the NZ Reserve depot at Brocton.

On 4th October 1918 Rifleman Simmons returned to France, rejoining C Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd NZRB in the field
on 14th October 1918. The New Zealand Division had contributed to the push during the Battle of the Selles River and
on 27th October 1918 the NZ Rifle Brigades were one mile from the historic fortress town of Le Quesnay. 
On 1st November 1918 Rifleman Simmons was wounded a second when he suffered a gunshot wound to the arm. Evacuated
by the No 3 NZ Field Ambulance he was admitted to 1a General Hospital in Rouen then quickly moved to No2 NZ General Hospital, Hornchurch being admitted on 9th November 1918. The wound was not severe as Rifleman Simmons was
moved to the Brocton Convalescent Hospital on the 10th November 1918. The Armistice was signed on 11th November 1918 so the focus was getting NZ troops back to New Zealand. Rifleman Simmons was moved to the Codford Depot on 23rd December 1918. While stationed at Codford Rifleman Simmons was granted leave to marry on 6th May 1919
                                                            Sarah Cameron in Fauldhouse, Scotland. It is possible that Rifleman Simmons had met                                                                  Sarah while he was a Brocton.

                                                               Sarah & Ted on their wedding day 

                                                             On 30th May 1919 Rifleman Simmons was moved to the Torquay Repatriation Depot                                                                       where he remained until 14th July 1919 when he boarded the Athenic for repatriation
                                                             to New Zealand. The Athenic arrive in Wellington on the 1st September 1919, she was                                                                     carrying 442 troops, 358 wives and 76 children.[viii] Rifleman Simmons was granted
                                                             one month’s leave and on 29th September 1919 was discharged from the NZEF ‘on                                                                         termination of his period of engagement.

                                                             Ted and Sarah returned to civilian life and by 1921 were living at Longburn, Palmerston                                                                 where Ted signed for his British War and Victory medals. Ted returned to farming in the                                                                 Manawatu area before moving to the Pahiatua area where he  farmed up to his                                                                               retirement.

                                                             Ted and Sarah did not have children
                                                             and were living in Hastings when Ted
                                                             died on 23rd September 1953,
                                                             Sarah on 8th December 1962[ix].

The Porirua School Roll of Honour – “These also served”
lists T Simmons among the 47 school pupils who serve 1914 – 1918.

Notes
18926 Corporal Harold Green, C Company, 3rd Battalion,
3rd NZRB Brigade
Ted’s younger brother Henry Thomas Simmons also enlisted but
because of flat feet was classed C2,  
74963 Corporal Henry Thomas Simmons did not serve outside of New Zealand.

References
Simmons family history: Gene Reunited.
NZ BDM
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade : NZETC

Photos
Ted and Sarah : Simmons family
Ted and Sarah’s plaque Hastings cemetery: Simmons family
Stretcher bearers Passchendaele: colourised photo from Imperial War Museum  

[i] NZ BDM
[ii] Simmons – Genes Reunited: 
[iii] Electoral Rolls Otaki 1905 / 1906
[iv]  Deaths, 21st October 1907, NZ Times
[v] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 20577 Rifleman Albert Edward Simmons
[vi]  Corporal Green: From Masterpiece to Massacre. NZ Division in 1917 – Glyn Harper
[vii] Blackest Day: NZ History Online
[viii] Back from the War, 1st September 1919, Taranaki Herald
[ix]  Hastings Cemetery records online
British Stretcher bearers carry wounded at Passchendaele