I have a number of ancestors who have fought in various wars. My father was conscripted into the army to go to Vietnam in 1965, both of my grandfathers and their brothers enlisted in World War II, and my great grandfather Victor Rex SIMMONS enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in WWI. It is his brother James SIMMONS though, more commonly known as Milton, who my post is about.
Milton SIMMONS was born 17 Oct 1889 in Washburton, Milton/Ulladulla, NSW to James SIMMONS and Eliza (nee WENTWORTH). Milton was the third of James and Eliza’s 7 children, and my great grandfather Victor was the youngest.
When Milton enlisted, (the first of 3 brothers), he was 25 and a farmer from Brooklet in Northern NSW. The Simmons family had moved to the area sometime at the turn of the century from the South Coast, and ran a dairy farm.
Private Milton, service no. 1952, joined the 3rd Reinforcements of the 26th Battalion in June 1915. He arrived in Egypt in January 1916, and after training was shipped to France in March 1916. On 29 July 1916, Milton was one of many young Australian men involved in an attack on German lines at Pozières, a village in the Somme. He was never seen alive again. A brief statement from a fellow soldier, D. D. Goodyear, said: “We went over side by side, both carrying bombs. We captured the first German trench where I was detained. He went on to capture the second and I never saw him again. I am afraid he was killed”.
It was exactly a year before Milton’s body was recovered, identified and he was officially recorded as “Killed in action”. During that time must have been agony for his family. Milton’s father James had passed away in 1912, so it fell to his mother Eliza and older brother Frank to try to discover his fate. Heartbreakingly, Eliza passed away only 2 months after Milton went missing, and therefore never discovered what happened to him.
Milton’s remains were interred in Serre Road Cemetery No. 2 near Beaumont-Hamel, France. An image of his grave and details of the inscription can be seen on The War Graves Photography Project.
Until recently I had no knowledge of Milton Simmon’s sacrifice. I have always felt incredibly proud of my father and grandfathers for all they fought for and went through, but feel particularly moved by Milton’s story as he did not come home.
As we watch the ANZAC march tomorrow, he is one of many I will be silently thanking.