74963 Corporal Henry Thomas Simmons – 43rd Reinforcements

Henry Thomas Simmons was born in Porirua on 24th July 1888[i] the youngest of nine children born to Pemley (nee Gambell) and
Thomas Simmons.

Henry, in 1894, was enrolled at Porirua School joining four of his older sibling[ii]. Henry left Porirua School in 1901 initially to work at home,[iii]   in 1911 he was working farming in Pauatahanui.[iv]

The Horowhenua Chronicle reported on 1st April 1912
 'Farm sold. We have to report having sold the 150-acre dairy farm of Mr W. James, Otaki, to Messrs Nicol and Simmons, of Pauatahanui,
  at a satisfactory figure.'

Henry moved to Otaki Railway and was dairy farming there when he was among the 129 men from the No 6 (Manawatu) Recruitment
District selected by balloted for military service.[v]

Henry appealed the selection as reported:[vi]

       Dairy Farmer's Case. Undue hardship and public interest were the grounds for exemption
       urged by Henry Thomas Simmons, dairy farmer, Otaki, a man of twenty-eight years, the
       area of whose land is 150 acres. Appellant mentioned certain financial considerations, and
       said that by about May next he would raise no objection to going into camp provided he
       could get someone to carry on the farm.  The board reserved its decision till March.
       Exemption from military service was granted in the meantime, provided he remains in his
       present occupation.
       Captain Walker: - That means, Mr Simmons, that if you sell the farm you will have to go
       into camp.

                                                                                      Henry Thomas Simmons                                                                    

On 13th April 1917 Henry presented at Palmerston North to a travelling army medical board
where it was determined that he had ‘roughening of heart sounds’ and ‘flat feet’ and these
slight defects were not sufficient to cause rejection however the C2 classification meant that
he was suitable to serve in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force but only in New Zealand.

It appears that Henry because of the C2 classification was not required to go into camp and
continued to farm. On 8th September 1917 the Evening Post reported that
Henry Thomas Simmons, farmer, was fined for having a can of milk at Otaki Railway Station
that was ‘so rusted that when it was lifted the bottom fell out it, and the milk ran over the

On 2nd October 1917 Henry was reassessed by a military medical board and while he remained C2 he was granted leave ‘without pay’
until 16th October 1917 with a due date to report to camp on 17th October 1917. Henry did not officially report to camp until
6th March 1918 his  next of kin listed is his older sister, Mrs Eliza Jane Piercy, Ngaturi, Pahiatua.

74963 Private Simmons was first attached to B Company, 39th Reinforcements then to the 38th Reinforcements. On 20th May 1918
Private Simmons was transferred as a Provisional Corporal to the 42nd Reinforcements. While Corporal Simmons was classified for
service in New Zealand he could provide support as a Non Commission Office (NCO) to other drafts of recruits so was transferred to the
43rd and then 44th Reinforcements. Corporal Simmons was with the 44th Reinforcements when the Armistice was signed on
11th November 1918 and was retained as procedures to demobilise the reinforcements began.

Corporal Simmons was one of many soldiers in camp who were hospitalised with the ‘Spanish Flu’ being admitted on 23rd November 1918 and remained in Trentham Military Hospital until 16th December 1918. On 19th December 1918 Corporal Simmons was demobilised and returned to civilian life.

Henry may have returned to the Otaki initially but when on 5th April 1920 he married Esma Irene Freeman the daughter of Herbert Freeman a prominent Otaki business man the newspaper marriage entry  lists Henry as Pahiatua[vii].  The couple made their home at Makomako, Pahiatua[viii] where Henry farmed through the 1920’s and early 1930’s then at Mangamutu, Pahiatua. The couple had two sons, Herbert Henry and Freeman Charles Simmons.

                                                                                           Henry died on 15th March 1945 and Esma on 30th December 1984 they are buried                                                                                                         together in the Mangatainoka Cemetery, Pahiatua.

                                                                                           Henry and Esma's plaque on their grave at Mangatainoka.

                                                                                          Henry Thomas Simmons is honoured as is his brother Ted on the Porirua School
                                                                                          Honours Board “These also served.”

Henry’s older brother 20577 Rifleman Albert Edward Simmons served with the NZ Rifle Brigade in France.
Esma’s older brothers
37798 Private Gordon Kingsley Freeman served with the 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment
10/1488 Private Harold Norman Freeman served with the Wellington Infantry Regiment
91681 Private Arthur Horace Freeman, 50th Reinforcements and was in Trentham Camp with Henry.

Paperspast Online
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
NZ Electoral Rolls
Porirua School Jubilee book

Trentham Military Camp
Henry Thomas Simmons: Simmons extended family
Henry and Esma’s grave: Pahiatua Cemetery records online

[i]     Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 74963 Corporal Henry Thomas Simmons
[ii]    Porirua School Jubilee 18
[iii]   Porirua School records
[iv]   Electoral Rolls 1911
[v]    Military Service Ballot, 24th November 1916, Manawatu Times.
[vi]   Diary Farmer’s Case, 29th December 1916, Dominion. 
[vii]  Marriage Freeman – Simmons, 7th April 1920, Otaki Mail
[viii] Pahiatua Electoral Roll, 1922
Trentham Military Camp 1915