Private John McKean Simms – Service Number 10437

John was born 15 July 1895 in Carrickfergus. He came from a large family of ten brothers and sisters.  His father Robert was a cattle dealer and, at the outbreak of war, the family lived at 58 Portallo Street, Belfast – they would later move to Victoria Road, Sydenham. John had been a ‘message boy’ until enlisting in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (2nd Battalion), before the start of the war. He transferred to France, with the British Expeditionary Force in August 1914 and just 3 days later was reported ‘missing’ after the Battle of Le Cateau (26 Aug 1914). His family would have had a horrible wait, praying that perhaps he had been taken prisoner, but knowing the likelihood that he had been killed. His body was eventually recovered and he was buried near where he fell in Esnes Communal Cemetery in France, alongside seven of his comrades.   He was one of the first East Belfast servicemen to die in World War One – at the age of just 19 years. The Simms family received a War Gratuity of £5 as a result of John’s death. John is commemorated on both the Cregagh Presbyterian Church and Strand-Sydenham Presbyterian Church Roll of Honour. He is also included on the Strandtown and Sydenham war memorials. Two of his brothers also served in the Great War, one of whom received the Military Medal in 1918 and survived the war.

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