Born on September 7th, 1877 in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England to my great, great grandparents, Henry Coles Simkin (a silversmith) and Rebecca Edith Elizabeth Simkin (née Bradbury). Immigration records show they left England and sailed for Australia in the late 1800’s. Henry Coles lived at Windermere Crescent, M. Brighton.
My great grandfather, Henry Walter Simkin a short man at 5′ 7″ became a hatter, living at 15 Melville Street, Hawthorn, Victoria. He and his wife, Priscilla Alice Simkin (née Fellows, born in 1889) had a daughter, Dorothy Florence and 2 sons, Roy Henry and Horace Albert.
Henry enlisted at age 38 in the Australian Imperial Forces (A.I.F.) on 14 July 1915 (service number 2039), one week after his son, my grandfather Roy Henry Simkin, enlisted.
For reasons unknown, Henry re-enlisted in 1916 and then assigned to the 58th battalion as a Private. He was shipped off to France on July 8th, 1916 aboard the troop ship “SS Ajana” departing Melbourne via Fremantle, where he fought in World War I at Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele (one of the worst battles in modern history).
His wife Priscilla is told he’s dead in January 1918 and is granted a widow’s pension.
Soon after, he is found alive, the widows pension is cancelled, and he was charged going AWOL on May 9, 1918, found guilty of desertion, and sentenced to 3 years of penal servitude. On June 12th, 1918, his sentence was suspended, and on August 9th, 1918, he was returned to Australia aboard the “SS Devanha” hospital ship.
Apparently returning with what today we call PTSD, and now an alcoholic, Priscilla divorced him upon return.
Priscilla died in Melbourne on June 28th, 1951. Henry passed away on June 20th 1959, in New South Wales, Australia.