More formally addressed as:
Here in the full ceremonial robes of the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and carrying the Royal Burse. [Purse] was one of the greatest legal brains of his generation.
You cannot inherit rights to a Coat of Arms, so Gavin applied to the Garter King of Arms for a grant. This is an extract from their official archive:
The second son of Louis de Luze Simonds. Gavin married Mary (Née Mellor) (1887-1973) the daughter of Judge Francis Mellor JP. KC. CBE. at St George’s Hanover Square in 1912. They divided their time between Sparsholt, near Winchester and a flat in Ormonde Gate, Kensington.
They had three sons, Robert and then twins Gavin & John who sadly all pre-deceased them. The Simonds Viscounty therefore became extinct when the 1st Viscount Simonds died in 1971.
Robert Francis Simonds (1913) died in infancy.
Gavin Alexander Simonds (1915-1951) died following a long struggle with illness contracted on active service in East Africa during the Second World War. He died at the King Edward Vll Sanatorium in Midhurst, Sussex, which specialised in the treatment of TB.
John Mellor Simonds (1915-1944)
1934 at Queens Club, representing Winchester College at racquets.
Called to the Bar of the Inner Temple in 1939, at the outbreak of war he was commissioned into the North Staffordshire Regiment. Promoted Captain in July 1942, he joined the 1st Airborne Division from its formation, being attached to 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment (2 South Staffords) in 1 Airlanding Brigade. During the invasion of Sicily on July 9th 1943 his glider failed to reach land and he was rescued from the sea.
On August 12th 1944 Simonds married Ada Barbara Willcock MB (née Robinson) the widow of Flying Officer Anthony John Willcock who had been killed flying over France on August 6th 1943.
Now a Major, John was dropped into Arnhem in Holland on September 18th 1944 on the 2nd day of the action as second-in-Command to OC HQ Company, 2 South Staffordshire Regiment. They tried and failed to reach Arnhem from their drop zone, then retreated to defend the church area in the Oosterbeek enclave. Regimental records show that he was wounded on the 19th and killed on the 23rd having insisted that, following surgery, he be allowed back to lead his troops. He has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel 5 of the Groesbeek Memorial.
It was said that his intellect matched in every way that of his distinguished father. Winchester College Archives have his biography HERE.
Viscount Simonds’s illustrated biography was written by his godson Kenneth Simonds and illustrated by his great nephew. [me] Is HERE
A copy has been accepted by the House of Lords Library as his official biography.
There is also a comprehensive biography in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [ODNB]. This page therefore just adds a little more – not covered elsewhere.
Gavin Simonds enjoyed a scholarship from Summerfields School in Oxford to College House, Winchester College from September 1894-1900 where he was a keen sportsman. As a footballer, he played their particular version of the game at 6 and 15 a-side. There were only three teams and the matches were all within the school but also included occasional matches against teams of old Wykehamists and Gavin did play football there again whilst he was at Oxford. He also played in regular soccer matches, both inter-house competitions and in a school XI. Here are some school photos, reports of these matches and a ‘Hot Roll’ poster, courtesy of the Winchester College archives.
He went on to New College Oxford, 1900-04 where he gained firsts in classical moderations and literae humaniores.
He had the great honour to be received ‘Ad Portas’ at Winchester College, twice. First with a group of other Wykehamist judges in 1937 and then again in 1954 on his own. Here is a copy of the speeches (delivered in Latin) on that occasion and photographs:
He remained a keen follower of country sports throughout his life and continued shooting well into his 80’s, but his passion was fishing. He famously crossed swords with GEM Skues from 1936, when they disagreed on the adoption of the ‘wet’ nymph in place of a truly ‘dry’ fly traditionally used for trout fishing.
Gavin was appointed Lord Chancellor by Winston Churchill in 1951 [1951-54]. This meant that he was in office when King George VI died, so he carried an enormous responsibility, personally conveying the tragic news to Queen Mary and later presiding over the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey, so he is depicted in the Coronation Window of the Becket chapel at Canterbury Cathedral. One high point of his term was a visit to the USA and Canada, where he gave the keynote speech to 1500 assembled lawyers of the American Bar Association, but managed to take time out to stay with his Simonds cousins ‘Gran & Gramps’ in Cohasset!
At the age of 82 and completely from memory, Lord Simonds wrote his memoirs entitled; ‘Recollections of an Idle Old Man’ with memories and personal anecdotes of his family life and his years in high office. Since it contained many ‘personal opinions’, he instructed in his will that it should be kept under lock and key until 40 years after his death. That time has long passed so I am delighted to be able to make it more accessible here for the first time.
A typescript copy is housed in the New College Oxford Archives, under ref. PA/SIM 1 who kindly assisted in creating this digital version. The original manuscript version is available in the Winchester School archives and the family copy was donated to the Lincoln’s Inn archives in 2017. The 170 page memoir is divided into 8 large files, for access click:
On a personal note, Gavin & Mary lost their twin sons through the war. This led them to take a kindly and very human interest in his nephews, of which I am one. I still remember when as a child of 4 in 1952 I was a guest with my parents to watch him in procession to the Woolsack. When he spotted me, he stoppped the procession, pulled a half-crown piece from the ‘bourse’ and handed it to me with instruction [to the now dumstruck & terrified child] to share it with his brother!
These files, in common with all other material on Gavin Simonds and in this website, are not to be copied or quoted without consent and appropriate acknowledgment.