Lieutenant, 18th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry
Killed in Action in the Battle of the Somme, 4 July 1916, aged 31
Buried at Euston Road Military Cemetery, Colincamps, France

Euston Road Military Cemetery, Colincamp
(Click to enlarge)

George was the only son of George and Emily (née Prestley) Simpson. He was born at The Castle Grounds, Devizes, Wiltshire in 1885. His parents were married in the same year. The Remembrance Book in Holy Trinity Church, Forest Row, was signed by his mother, Emily, then living at Quorndon in Forest Row.

George was buried at Euston Road Military Cemetery, Colincamp, France. His grave is identified as Plot 1, Row 6, Grave 59. The cemetery, located about 11 kilometres from Albert, contains 1,123 identified casualties and 170 unidentified. Here the Allied troops were stationed in the front line at the start of the Battle of the Somme. They were particularly associated with the unsuccessful attack on Serre, a strongly fortifed village north of Albert, on 1 July.

In 1891 George was living at Nursted Road, in the parish of St. James St. John in Devizes. His father George, aged 36, was a newspaper proprietor and his grandfather (also George) was recorded in 1861 as aged 42 and the Mayor of Devizes, living at Wyndham Villa. His mother Emily aged 26 had been born in Paris and was recorded in the census as a British subject by parentage.

He was educated at Marlborough College where, in the 1901 census, aged 16, he was one of 308 13 to 18 year old boarders. After Marlborough he completed a three year course at the Royal School of Mines at Camborne specialising in the metallurgical aspects of goldmining.

His last appointment was as the manager of a reduction plant in a Dutch gold mine in Sumatra.

George does not appear in the 1911 census, but it is likely that he was abroad, possibly in Sumatra. On 2 April 1911 his parents were living at Castle Grounds, part of Devizes Castle.

Soon after the start of war in 1914 George joined the Public School Brigade. This was a Pals Battalion originally exclusively for public school boys where membership was by application only. It formed part of Kitchener's Army of 1914 and later converted into regular British Army battalions.

As Kitchener's Army faced an increasing shortage of officers, public school leavers and university graduates were encouraged to apply for a Commission. The exclusive nature of the Public Schools Brigade changed as numbers were made up by taking in 'ordinary ' volunteers.

The Public School Brigade
(Click to enlarge)

After five months as a private, George received a Commission first as Acting Lieutenant and then as Lieutenant. Moving on to the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry George now became one of the Durham Pals. The Battalion was formed on 10 September 1914, proceeding to train at Ripon and then on Salisbury Plain. In May 1915 they became part of the 93rd Brigade in the 31st Division. On 6 December 1915 they left Liverpool for Egypt, to take over defence of the Suez Canal, arriving in Port Said on 21 December. In early March 1916 they moved on to France. The Public Schools Battalion were in action on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Initially they were in the supporting wave during the attack on Beaument Hamel. Like all the leading battalions they advanced into murderous machine gun fire. Some managed to reach the German barbed wire defences but got no further. Many were killed or injured or lost in No Man's Land. That night several of the remaining men were captured as prisoners of war. The Public Schools Battalion suffered 522 casualties on July 1st (22 Officers and 500 Other Ranks) On July 4th Lieutenant George Simpson became another officer killed in action.

The death of Lieutenant George Simpson was reported in the Sussex Agricultural Express on 21 July 1916. After his death the sum of £3,684 12s 3d was granted in probate to his mother. George Simpson is also commemorated in the Marlborough College World War 1 Roll of Honour. The College lost 749 members of the College community.

Kevin Tillett