Name: Henry Lamont Simpson
DoB: June 5 1897,
Regt: Lancashire Fusiliers
DoD: August 29 1918
Academic Career: CGS 1908-1916
Henry was the eldest of four children born to Henry Colbeck Simpson and Margaret Jane (née Quirk), and they resided at The Old Grove, Carlisle. Henry Senior was a tailor and hosier (employer) from Newcastle, according to the 1901 Census, when he was a visitor to Woodhorn Manor in Morpeth. He is also not listed on the 1911 Census as being with the family. Mother Margaret was born in India but her mother Matilda was from the Isle of Man. The 1891 Census show her living in Warwick Square Carlisle, a school mistress. Interestingly in 1881, when a pupil teacher, she was living with her mother and uncle Richard Carson, a Chelsea pensioner, who had served in the British Army between 1860 and 1878, so there was clearly a family history of military service.
Carlisle Grammar School 1908-1916.
Henry appears to have been academic. He was a county council minor scholar, 1908; Charles Howard scholar, 1909; and a foundation scholar, 1912. He was awarded a maths prize in 1909 and junior classics prize in 1911. He was awarded the 1914 school medal for sports. He played Smike in “Nicholas Nickleby“. By 1913 he was a prefect and librarian and took prizes in reading, French and maths. In 1914 he was house captain and was very active in the dramatic productions; playing the lead in “Ivanhoe” and appearing with Hannay in a comedy “French as he is spoke”. He won the chancellor’s medal, the literature prize and maths prize (again!). Henry was active also in the debating society. “HL Simpson is one of the best speakers we have this term, his speeches are generally a pleasure to listen to, both on account of his original ideas, the excellent way he delivers them and a delightful vein of humour never lacking”. He opposed the motion that “the construction of a Channel Tunnel is unadvisable” and recommended having theatres and hotels at the bottom of the sea “where the fishes might see our beauty”. In 1915 Henry was the editor of the Carliol and school captain.
Henry was good at sport too: we have a photo of him on the school cricket team from 1913 and he played on the Rugby XV 1915 (“useful in the scrum”). He was also tennis captain.
Henry won a scholarship to Cambridge (History Exh. of £30 at Pembroke Coll., Cambridge, 1915). Henry deferred going to university in favour of joining up. There is a short letter from his father to the Master of Pembroke from 25th September which reads: “ It is my painful duty to notify you that my son 2ndLieut, HL Simpson, for whom you were holding a scholarship, was killed in action in France on August 28th”. The College does record him on their War Memorial however.
Henry won a scholarship to Cambridge, but deferred going up to university in favour of joining up. Henry received his commission to the Lancashire Fusiliers on June 26 1917. On September 6, the War Diary records that HL Simpson had been wounded, and while he had joined the 1/8th in France, he was actually in Belgium when he was injured. It was bad timing as the Battalion was relieved the next day and retired to camp at Brandhoek. At some point Henry returned to the front, this time in the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. The 1918 Annual reported that: “On the 29th the Intelligence Officer, 2/Lieut. H.L. Simpson was killed while reconnoitering “No Man’s Land.” According to the preface of his book of poetry, he was killed by a sniper’s bullet.
The 8th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers had been at Gallipoli and Egypt, but from February 1917 had transferred to the Western Front.
During July 1918 the 1st Battalion was resting at Coubronne and Waemers Cappel. Battalion sports were held on 7 July and the officers wrestling on horseback afforded much amusement. Was Henry a part of this? On 1 August the Battalion marched to Hazebrouck whereupon it was attached to the 88th Brigade in order to relieve the 6th Battalion Australians.
Henry is a published poet. A compilation book ‘In Flanders Fields’ published in 2005 comprises works from 30 poets killed in action, including Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen, and our own Henry Lamont Simpson. The volume includes two of Henry’s poems – Casualty List and Last Song.
In 1919, Henry’s former English Teacher H. C. Duffin, who taught at the school from 1912 to 1916 published Henry’s poems in a book “Mood and Tenses”, which is no longer in print. In the Introductory Remarks, Duffin says of his pupil: “His spirit was fine, swift, vivacious and at the same time firm-set in sanity and strength”. There are 40 items in the book, mainly poems with a couple of prose sections. The dates of the poems range from 1914 to 1918, which suggests that some were written whilst he was still at school. Some poems were written in Cambridge suggesting he spent time at the university. Roughly three-quarters appear to have been written before he joined up or during training, and the remainder from the front, or at least having experienced it.
Last Song written on June 13 1918
Henry Lamont Simpson
All my songs are risen and fled away;
(Only the brave birds stay);
All my beautiful songs are broken or fled.
My poor songs could not stay
Among the filth and the weariness and the dead.
There was bloody grime on their light, white feathery wings,
(Hear how the lark still sings),
And their eyes were the eyes of dead men that I knew.
Only a madman sings
When half of his friends lie asleep for the rain and the dew.
The flowers will grow over the bones of my friends;
(The birds’ song never ends);
Winter and summer, their fair flesh turns to clay.
Perhaps before all ends
My songs will come again that have fled away.
“There could not easily be a more fitting memorial of his life than a book of his poems.” H. C. Duffin
In the Nicoll family archive there are a few letters from Theodore Walrond (the music master from 1906-11) to the brothers in which various ‘OC’s’ are mentioned.
” And clearly all the family knew HL Simpson as there are passing references to his death and then a rather gracious (printed) note from his parents expressing gratitude for ‘all the sympathy and kindness shown to them in their great sorrow’”
a) Carlisle School Memorial Register 1264-1924
b) Census: 1911 RG14/31343; 1901 RG13/4837; 1881 RG11/5157
c) The Carliol
d) Archivist Pembroke College Cambridge
e) War Diary of 8th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers
f) The Lancashire Fusiliers Annual 1918 Vol XXVIII
g) The Nicoll family archive