Memoriam Henry Walter Simkin

Anzac Armistice Pin
Henry Walter Simkin (1877 – 1959)

Private Henry Walter Simkin 58th Battalion 38yo hatter from Hawthorn when enlisted on 14 July 1915Born 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.

Priscilla Alice Simkin wife of Henry Walter Simkin Dorothy Florence Simkin daughter of Henry Walter Simkin Roy Simkin son of Henry Walter Simkin Horace Albert Simkin son of Henry Walter Simkin
Priscilla Dorothy Roy Horace

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.

HMHS Devanha hospital ship SS Devanha troop shipIn 1915, P&O’s SS Devanha took part in the Dardanelles campaign at Gallipoli, landing the 12th Battalion of Australian troops at ANZAC Beach, then steaming up the coast to create a diversionary target for Turkish firepower. That evening the vessel evacuated her first load of casualties and began service as the HMHS Devanha hospital ship to ferry the wounded between the Peninsula, Alexandria and Malta. P&O notes that the vessel was the last hospital ship to leave the Dardanelles.

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SS Ajana troop shipBuilt for Australind Steam Ship Co Ltd, London and underwent conversion to a troopship at Cockatoo Island Drydock on December 10th, 1914 to transport 427 troops and 304 horses. The SS Ajana made 5 journeys from Australia carrying troops to the battlefields of Egypt and Europe. On April 14th, 1917 she was attacked by a U-Boat in the English Channel but was able to escape, and was chased for a second time by a U-Boat of the NW coast of Ireland on July 29th, 1917, and again escaped. On November 25th 1919 she was sold to the New Zealand Shipping Company and renamed Otarama.

Private Henry Walter Simkin 58th Battalion 38yo hatter from Hawthorn when enlisted on 14 July 1915 Henry Walter SIMKIN AIF Enlistment Service Number 2039 SIMKIN Henry Walter Service record SIMKIN Henry Walter Service Number 2039 Military Charges SIMKIN Henry Walter Service Number 2039 NAA 75 SIMKIN Henry Walter Service Number 2039 Military Card 1 SIMKIN Henry Walter Service Number 2039 Military Victory Medal SIMKIN Henry Walter Service Number 2039 Military British War Medal Henry Walter Simkin Medals

The ANZAC Spirit

The landing at Anzac by Charles Dixon 1915 at National War Art Collection Archives New ZealandANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day is recognized globally on the anniversary of the landing of troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula in World War I at dawn on April 25, 1915. In Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Newfoundland it is known as the Gallipoli Campaign or simply as Gallipoli.

A joint Imperial British and French operation was mounted to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the geographical area that is now Turkey and provide a secure sea route for military and agricultural trade with the Russians including the strategically important Dardanelles in the Aegean. Russian troops were fighting on many fronts, particularly against troops from Germany and the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. 70,000 troops were amassed including the ANZAC forces were the first to arrive to fight on new sea fronts

As dawn broke on 25th April 1915, the troops were towed ashore in lifeboats to land at what quickly became known as Anzac Cove, and some way short of the intended landing place. ‘The boats missed their bearing‘ and it proved to be a costly mistake. On the first day alone over 2,000 men lost their lives and little ground was won.

Heavy casualties and bravery of military personnel were experienced on both sides in the 260 days at Gallipoli from April to December 1915. In the battles, many lives were lost on both sides and the Allied forces did not succeed. The last ANZAC forces withdrew from the Gallipoli peninsula by December 20, 1915. The retreat was just about the only successful operation with very few casualties.

ANZAC Badge australia Over 8,000 Australian and 2,721 New Zealand soldiers soldiers died in the Gallipoli campaign alone, and even though the campaign was a military failure, the ANZAC legend was formed. Many saw this as the start of the ANZAC spirit. This is an Australasian ideal based on the “mateship” and cheerful suffering the forces showed during this campaign.
ANZAC Çanakkale Savaşları Badge turkey In Turkey, the campaign is known as the Çanakkale Savaşları, after the province of Çanakkale. In Turkey, the battle is perceived as a defining moment in the history of the Turkish people – a final surge in the defense of the motherland as the centuries-old Ottoman Empire was crumbling. The struggle laid the grounds for the Turkish War of Independence and the foundation of the Turkish Republic 8 years later under Ataturk, himself a commander at Galipoli.

Map of the Landing at Gallipoli Peninsula in World War I at dawn on April 25, 1915 by ANZAC's

In spite of losses, the Battle of Gallipoli / Çanakkale Savaşları resonated profoundly among all nations involved.

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Memoriam Henry Walter Simkin

Memoriam Roy Henry Simkin

Memoriam Max Simkin

Memoriam Irene Simkin

Memoriam Richard Simkin

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