John de Luze Simonds (1884-1917) was known as Jack.
The 3rd son of Louis de Luze Simonds, like his elder brother, was educated at Winchester where he started in classics, but switched to mathematics & science. In 1897 he achieved the first scholarship on the entry roll to Magdalen College.
Jack was gazetted into the Royal Garrison Artillery as a career officer in 1903 with an early posting to Malta. From where he was posted to Hong Kong as A.D.C. to the C-in-C, general Sir Charles Anderson.
The outbreak of war found him in India. He reached the front line in France in December 1914 with the Indian Mountain Bettery, He served there continuously until his death, receiving the DSO for conspicuous service as liaison officer between the RGA and the Royal Flying Corps. Jack was killed in action at Mazingarbe on 22nd April 1917 while in command of a siege battery and is buried in the Mazingarbe communal cemetery extension, Bethune: Grave I.F.12.
His elder brother Viscount Gavin Simonds wrote this of him in his memoirs:
“In my fourth year at school I was joined by my brother John de Luze who got the first scholarship in 1897. He came as a pure classic but being seized with the desire to join the army he turned to mathematics and science and in due course got into Woolwich and passed into the Royal Artillery. After a spell in the Garrison Artillery followed by an appointment as A.D.C. to the G.O.C. Hong Kong, General Sir Charles Anderson. He was posted to France in December 1914 with an Indian Mountain Battery. Perhaps nothing showed more clearly the straits to which British arms were reduced than the dispatch of this unit to the front. It did its gallant best but was wholly unsuited to trench warfare. When it returned to India, my brother stayed on in a staff appointment and was killed by a heavy shell behind the lines in 1917. He had been awarded the D.S.O. and would perhaps have reached high rank in the army.”
In 1910, he led a small contingent from Hong Kong to Hainan Island, a large island off the Southern tip of China where they spent 5 weeks. It was then reputedly populated with savages still involved in head hunting. He was briefed to survey, map and report on this largely unexplored island, His personal diary, hand drawn maps and silver chrome photographs of never before seen tribesmen and villages, give a unique insight into this arduous assignment, the island and its inhabitants before the arrival of either Western or seemingly even Chinese civilisation. His handwritten manuscript, together with the original typescript entitled ‘A Journey amongst the Lois of Hainan’ were presented by the family to the School of Oriental & African Studies [SOAG] in London on the 100th anniversary of his epic journey in March 2010. His own typescript – with some biographical additions.
Jack was assisted on this journey by the Rev Clarence H Newton (1869-1953) who served as a protestant missionary on Hainan from 1896-1920. By extroardinary coincidence, his grandaughter contacted me in 2017 with more of the story. The mission’s Hainan Newsletter for 1910 wrote only this of the trip: “In addition to visiting a number of markets off the usual route while on the way to Mission meeting which was held in Kachek last year, Mr. Newton has made three more or less extended trips to the country, looking after Christians and enquirers. Another trip of five weeks was made in company with the British Consul in Hoihow and an artillery officer from Hongkong, visiting the Lois in the region of the Five Finger Mountains and the small cloth Lois living to the south of Namfong, returning by way of Nodoa.”. Clarence had his own camera, donated by a wealthy patron back home, so acted as the group photographer and it is his handwiting on the photo album at the end. There is a copy of this album at U.C. Santa Barbara. [Ref: Wyles Mss 115] Clarence, a widower, married a Loi lady at the British Consul’s office in Canton and they returned to the USA soon after.
Jack was a soldier poet and [like many of his fellow officers] wrote moving poetry whilst under appalling conditions on the front line. Most of Jack’s poems were published privately by his family after his death. His best known work, ‘If I should die’ is on a separate page, at the back.