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Eric Duncan Simonds, known as Duncan, was born in June 1917 at the family home, Pensdell on Murdoch Road just outside Wokingham. Aged 3 in 1920, they moved to Mertonford nearby where the family lived until 1931. He was the 2nd of three sons to Eric & Amy Simonds, Louis (1910-1947) Kenneth (1920-2006) and Amy (1914-1914). The 3 brothers were very close.
Here I will try to show my father’s very full life both in pictures and with a more serious side – hoping that there will be something to interest both his immediate family his grandchildren and perhaps his colleagues.
He was educated first at St Neots and then Eton from 1930 – 1935. Here in full uniform for the leaving ceremonies in summer 1935.
There was then no concept of a ‘Gap Year, but in February 1936 he set off in a school party of 23 boys, by ship to Australia which took them a month via the Suez Canal. He recorded every part of the then extraordinary trip across Australia from Perth to Brisbane by train & bus.in a scrap book, that you can read HERE: [awaits scanning]
For the young of today, it is worth reminding you that the whole trip, in every detail, had to be organised by letter [snail mail!] and it took each letter just over a month to travel out – and the same to travel back – so it was a huge feat of organisation!
The same year, he travelled alone across Europe by train & bicycle, returning with first hand accounts of the rise of fascism in Germany and the fear among Austrians he stayed with of impending trouble with Germany & where the Anschluss which led to WW2 happened just a few months after he left.
He then went up to Magdalene College, Oxford, for 2 years before joining the family firm as a trainee in October 1938. The onset of War in September 1939 interrupted his training and he joined the H.A.C. [Honourable Artillery Company] and was immediately dispatched to O.C.T.U. in Catterick for officer training, from where he was posted to 4th RHA [Royal Horse Artillery] and later ‘C’ Battery, where he spent most of the next 5 years.
The Hop Leaf Gazette of February 1940 announced his departure overseas with a leading article: XXX
Demobbed from his military service in 1946 he rejoined the Brewery, serving under his father Eric Simonds and rising to be appointed Joint Managing Director with ** in 19**?
Innovations & achievements?
Royal Warrant Holders Association
In 1957 when the board was debating the fateful merger with Courage, his was the only voice arguing that a business with some 1,100 pubs, 50 off-licences and 30 hotels was large enough to make its own way in the new world of TV advertising. Following the merger, he was appointed Sales Director of the enlarged business and moved from Reading to the Courage offices in Southwark.
Reading Civic Society
Duncan spent many years supporting his three sons in their competitive sailing events around the world with his trusty old Range Rover. Towing boats around Europe into his 60’s so that they could fly out after work on a Friday, compete for 2 or 3 days, then leave him to pack up and return home maybe a week later!
In 1997, the British Soling Association published this article in honour of his service to the class and his 80th birthday: 1997 Soling Association
Click on this link to read his obituary of August 2002 in:
The Times: Times Obituary
Reading Chronicle: Chronicle Obituary
In June 2017 we organised a Simonds family reunion at his old family Home, Audleys Wood near Basingstoke. It says something for his family spirit and legacy that 170 people gathered to remember him and to renew or even establish family connections across countries & continents!