The Simon family in the First World War.
On 11th November 1918 at 11am an armistice was signed that ended the First World War. Since then the United Kingdom and other commonwealth countries have chosen 11th November as a commemorative day to remember all of those who have given their lives in service.
Between 1914 and 1918 more than 16 million people lost their lives during WW1; among them were 3 of Henry Simon’s sons.
Henry Simon founded Simon Carves in 1878 with the aim of implementing the new coke ovens which were being developed by his business partner, François Carves. This was Henry’s second business venture after the achievements of his first company, Henry Simon Ltd, had revolutionised the flour milling industry and won him international success. Henry Simon was also involved in the societal development of Manchester; co-founding the Withington Girl’s School and acting as leading benefactor for the new Physics Laboratories for Owen’s College Manchester. The Simon family continued to develop the family businesses and were fundamental to the development of Wythenshawe, with Ernest Darwin Simon becoming 1st Baron Simon of Wythenshawe in 1947.
When war broke out in 1914 the Simon family played important roles both on the battlefield and the home front. Henry’s eldest son, Ernest remained at home to maintain the family businesses which were to play a major part in the war effort, whilst his three younger brothers all went off to war. Sadly, none of them would return.
Eric Conrad Simon, the youngest Simon brother, was a Captain in the Lancashire Fusiliers and was killed on August 17th 1915. Eric had been active in the Territorials from 1907 and risen to be a Captain in the Royal East Kent Regiment before resigning in 1913. After graduating from Bedales, Eric became a farmer in Hampstead and married Winifred (née Levy) in 1912. Together they had two sons; Oliver (born 25th November 1912) and John (born 1st September 1914). Whilst Eric’s occupation would have meant Eric was considered a ‘reserved occupation’, he felt a strong obligation to serve and he was commissioned in January 1915 as a Second Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. In April he was promoted to the rank of Captain and by May his battalion was fighting in France. On the evening of August 16th 1915, Eric was reconnoitring near Albert on the Somme. He was shot by a sniper and died on August 17th 1915 in the Field Ambulance. He lies buried in MIllencourt Cemetery.
Victor Herman Simon was a professional soldier who commanded a field squadron of sappers. A Major for the Royal Engineers, Victor had been serving in South Africa before his regiment were recalled to France in November 1914. He was known to his army comrades as ‘Tubby’, and was said to be a cheerful confident man fond of steeple-chasing and big-game hunting. In November 1915 Victor was awarded the Military Cross for his ‘conspicuous ability and energy at Loos on 27th September, 1915’. Although it was practically daylight when he arrived at Loos, Victor at once grasped the situation, put his two troops to work and materially assisted in consolidating the position held by a cavalry brigade. Victor was killed on 5th June 1917 and is buried at Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery.
Heinrich (Henry) Helmuth Simon, the second eldest son, served as a Major with the Royal Field Artillery. Henry lived with his wife Edith May Simon and their four children in Sharston House, Grove Park, Knutsford. He joined the army in 1914, becoming a Major in ‘C’ Company of 210 Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. Henry was part of the first territorial division to be moved overseas when war broke out; embarking for Egypt on 9th September 1914 to defend the Suez Canal. In early 1917 his regiment were ordered to the Western Front, and in September 1917 found themselves in action during the Third Battle of Ypres (also known as the Battle of Passchendaele). Henry was wounded on 1st September 1917 and died 8 days later. He is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.
The three brothers are commemorated on the War Memorial in Didsbury. The Simon family’s grievous sacrifices for the war effort were unfortunately not unique, and this Remembrance Day Simon Carves is proud to honour their memories and those of everyone who lost their lives during the war.
Mary Danvers Stocks, Ernest Simon of Manchester
Tony Davies, The Knutsford Lads Who Never Came Home
Manchester Evening News
The Gazette, 'WW1 Awards and Accreditation'