Driver Frank Simkin

Regiment: ”D’ Battery, 63rd. Brigade, The Royal Field Artillery.
Service No: 130230
Date & place of birth: 4th qtr. 1875, in West Wickham, Cambridgeshire
Date & place of death: 3 December 1917 (aged 42) near Cambrai, northern France

Frank Simkin moved to Heyshott in his early 20s and worked as gardener and later as a groom for the rector of St James’s Church. He was married for just over a year when he was killed.

Family background

Frank was born in late 1875 in the village of West Wickham, 12 miles south-east of Cambridge, the sixth of thirteen children born to Edward Simkin (1846–1938) and his wife Louisa née Flack (1847–1933). Edward and Louisa had married in the autumn of 1867 and their first child was born about the same time.

At the time of the 1891 census, Edward and Louisa were living with ten of their children in West Wickham where Edward worked as a blacksmith. Frank was working as an agricultural labourer, aged 15, while two of his elder brothers were also working as blacksmiths.

Ten years later, Frank had moved to Heyshott where he was living at St James’s rectory working as a gardener for the Rev Edward Houndle. In 1911, Frank was living at Sydney Cottage in Heyshott (now The Old Forge) and gave his occupation as a groom/gardener.

On 27 September 1916, Frank married Mary Lewendon at St Luke’s in Richmond, Surrey. Mary had been born at Whitchurch in Oxfordshire in 1873. At the 1911 census, she was living at Upper Cranmore Farm in Heyshott, when she gave her occupation as a lodging-house keeper.

Military service

Frank enlisted at Midhurst, joining the Royal Field Artillery. His service records are not available, so there is little detail about his military career.

Death & commemoration

At the time of his death, Frank was a driver with ”D’ Battery, 63rd. Brigade of The Royal Field Artillery. On 3 December 1917, he was reported “missing, presumed killed” at the battle of Cambrai, aged 42.

Driver Frank Simkin  remembered on the Cambrai Memorial
Driver Frank Simkin  remembered on the Cambrai Memorial

He is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial at Louverval, 10 miles south-west of Cambrai. Frank was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal, although these were never claimed. His medal roll is marked: “Returned (1743 K.R. 1912) 8136/Adt”. Under King’s Regulation 1743, any medals that were unclaimed after ten years were sent to be broken up.

Subsequent family history

Frank’s widow, Mary remarried to Sidney Lovejoy in January 1919; her death was registered in Chichester in September 1964. (Sidney Lovejoy had also been married previously; his first wife, Florence had died in September 1917. Sidney’s brother, Walter, was married to Mary’s sister, Elizabeth.)

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project