John Cornelius SIMPSON
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Unit: 16th Battalion RIFLE BRIGADE
Date of Death: 23 August 1918
Age: 34
Cemetery: Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France

Cornelius Simpson was, almost certainly, mortally wounded on the day before he died.

The 1901 Census confirms he had been born in Wilmslow and the family was still living there, at Davenport Green. His father, George, was a retired hotel keeper and was married to Elizabeth. Cornelius was their only son and they had two younger daughters, Maud and Nellie. Cornelius’ occupation was recorded as being an “articled clerk” and, presumably, he later qualified as a solicitor.

In the closing months of 1915, he married Elizabeth Hickman in Woolwich, London. They are thought to have briefly lived at “Thornhill”, HeathRoad, Stockport, before Cornelius enlisted into the army. He joined the Rifle Brigade as a private and was given the service number of G/9141. However, it would seem that not long after going overseas on active service, he was selected to become an officer (as were many middle class men) and he will have returned to the UK for training.

His commission is recorded as being into the Rifle Brigade but there is no record of him in the Rifle Brigade Chronicles or its Roll of Honour. It would seem, therefore, that he was immediately assigned to the 19th Battalion, London Regiment to which records show he was attached at date of death.

In the middle of August 1918, the Battalion was in reserve positions near the Somme village of Heilly, where the men were getting some well deserved rest and the opportunity to have a bath. On the 20th, they received orders to go back into the front line at a position known as the Bois de Tailles where they relieved the 21st Londons. The next day, a major British offensive began across the original 1916 Some battlefield. The 19th Londons were not in action that day, but received orders to take part in the continued fighting on the 22nd.

The men moved into assembly positions under a heavy enemy bombardment and were ready by 3.45am. Zero hour was 60 minutes later and the men attacked through heavy mist which had been caused by smoke and dust from the shelling. They had secured their objective by 8am and were leapfrogged by other units carrying forward the attack. These units were originally successful but had to fall back during the afternoon under a sustained German counterattack. The pressure from the enemy also forced the Londons to withdraw some way to the rear.

Cornelius must have wounded during the attack and was taken to a field hospital at Daours – 41st Casualty Clearing Station – where military surgeons would have done all they could for him but without success.

In the early 1920s, when the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information, Elizabeth had returned to the Woolwich area and was living at 92 Nithdale Road, Plumstead.

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