This site aims to record the details of all those men and women from the Borough of Carrickfergus who served during the Two World Wars. The blog is a work in progress and is constantly being updated - all the information collected will go towards The Carrickfergus Roll of Honour book which will hopefully be published in 2014.
Private John McKeen Simms, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
today: The first Carrickfergus man to lose his life in the Great War, Fusilier John McKeen Simms - 10437 - 2nd Battalion Royal
Inniskilling Fusiliers. Born in Carrickfergus in 1896, killed in
Action 26th August 1914 aged 19.
John was born in rural Carrickfergus in 1896 son of Robert James and Agnes Simms and brother to Maria, Jane, Agnes, William, Thomas, Samuel, James, Robert and Hans. By 1901 he was a school boy living with his family in the western division of rural Carrickfergus. His father was a farmer and many of the children worked as helpers to their father. By 1911 the family had moved to Portallo Street in Belfast just off the Woodstock Road. John was now working as a message boy and his father as a cattle dealer in the city.
When war broke out in August 1914 John was living in Victoria Street in East Belfast and had already been attested to the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and his war record shows his transfer date to France with the Expeditionary Force as 23rd August 1914. He was killed in action just three days later on the 26th August 1914, on this date the
2nd Battalion was heavily involved in the first day of the Battle of Le
Cateau. For long hours during the morning of the 26th August, the
British, notably the field artillery, held overwhelming numbers of the
enemy at bay and inflicted severe loss. John lost his life alongside 35 of his comrades among huge acts of bravery and heroism.
Private John Simms was reported as missing in the weeks following the battle and his family would have had an 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 in Esnes Communal Cemetery, Nord, France. Grave reference: I (pictured), his name
also appears on the Strandtown War Memorial on Belmont Road.
Info on Esnes Communal Cemetery:
witnessed fighting in the Battle of Le Cateau (26 August 1914), and it
was captured by the New Zealand Division on the 8 October 1918.
In the corner of the Communal Cemetery, are five graves; one (marked
also by a French memorial) contains the bodies of soldiers of the 4th
Division who fell in August, 1914, and in the others are buried soldiers
who died later in the War.
There are now over 100, 1914-18 war
casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, over half are
unidentified and a special memorial records the name of a soldier who
fell in the Battle of Le Cateau and is buried in the cemetery, but whose
grave cannot now be traced.