I started researching family geneology in 2002, focussed on the Simkin, Marshall families primarily, largely in Australia, South Africa, England, Canada and China. My research turned into creating a family fact album, containing copies of records, photos (both people and time and place), and in some cases, extensive and interesting individual histories from:
- Largely coming from both Birmingham & Sheffield in England, immigration records show Henry Coles Simkin my Great-Great Grandfather, was the first our our Simkin’s to leave England and sail for Australia in the late 1800’s;
- I come from a long line of military service … my Great Grandfather Henry Walter Simkin fought at Passchendaele in WWI, his son (my Grandfather) Roy Simkin also fought in WWI, gassed by mustard gas & was shot, and his son (my Father) Brig. General Max Simkin started Army Aviation in Australia and fought in WWII, Korea, Malaya & Vietnam. His wife (my mother) Irene Marshall, a WRAF Warrant Officer served in WWII (assistant to Marshall of the RAF, the Lord Tedder at Whitehall) and in Singapore and met my father while teaching him how to parachute. Their son (my brother) Colonel Tim Simkin was the Australian Military Adviser to the UN and served in East Timor and Iraq. My sister Mandy Jeanroy managed procurement for all Australian Defense (Army, Navy, Air Force and civilian) at the Australian Embassy in Washington DC, and I too, for a brief time, was in the Australian Army Reserves;
- Business (in the 1700/1800’s our family were largely Silvermiths in Birmingham, Roy Simkin heading Dunlop Rubber in Australia);
- The arts (James Simkin was a artist painter in London in 1870’s, and myself, a Broadway Producer)
In researching my great grandfather, Henry Walter Simkin, I came upon a treasure trove of over 75 documents from the National Archives of Australia and other sources, in chronological order of the highlights….
Henry Walter Simkin enlisted in the Australia Imperial Forces (Australian Army) in 1915 – one week AFTER his son (my grandfather) enlisted.
Henry Walter Simkin RE-ENLISTED in 1916…
SIMKIN Henry Walter Service Number – 2039
He was sent to France, and went AWOL (absent without leave) a couple of times:
SIMKIN Henry Walter Service Number – 2039 Military Card
THEN charged on May 9, 1918 he was found Guilty of DESERTION, and charged with 3 years of Penal Servitude…
SIMKIN Henry Walter Service Number – 2039 Military Charges
BUT, and it’s a BIG BUT….
His wife is told he’s dead from the Battle of Passchendaele! (one of the worst battles in modern history)
Priscilla Alice Simkin notes referencing Passchendaele battle
She is granted a widow’s pension (even the army thinks he is dead)…
Priscilla Alice Simkin pension card referencing widow status
THEN, a couple of weeks later, he is found alive, and the widows pension is cancelled…
Priscilla Alice Simkin pension card referencing widow status cancelled
His full service records:
SIMKIN Henry Walter Service record
I note from historial records and dates, he deserted a single week after the Battle of Passchendaele — I assume there were traumatic and mental health issues with this desertion since the battle was unbelievably traumatic and deadly.
On June 12, 1918, his sentence was suspended.
On August 9, 1918, he was returned to Australia.
THEN upon the poor guys return from France, he likely becomes an alcoholic:
Priscilla Alice Simkin note to army of move address secret from dunken husband
Hi wife changes her address and tried to hide from him….
Priscilla Alice Simkin note to army of move address
…and he received the British War Medal and Victory Medals following the war….
SIMKIN Henry Walter Service Medals
SIMKIN Henry Walter Service Number – 2039 Military Victory Medal
SIMKIN Henry Walter Service Number – 2039 Military British War Medal
His wife left him (and re-married).