March 2, 2001

Major Arthur Simmons


MAJOR ARTHUR SIMMONS, who has died aged 80, was awarded an MC for exemplary conduct when commanding a squadron of the Royal Tank Regiment in Italy in 1944.

On September 3, Simmons and his squadron were ordered to advance as fast as possible along the main road north of Saludecio (south-east of San Marino) to engage the enemy. En route, they were fired on by 75mm guns; three tanks including Simmons's, were hit.

With his tank on fire, Simmons first ordered his crew to dismount. He then walked down the road, which was now under heavy shell and mortar fire, to contact the nearest troop commander and to direct him to the area from which Simmons judged that the fire was coming.

Next, using his troop commander's tank, Simmons put the remainder of the squadron in the picture and got them to bring down fire on the target area. That done, he walked down the road again to contact the infantry CO, before climbing into the nearest tank and continuing to command the squadron.

That evening, he once again set off on foot to contact the infantry to arrange for local protection. On the way back, he was wounded by a mortar and, although he could not stand, insisted on being lifted into his tank, from where he gave further orders before handing over to his second-in-command. Only when he was satisfied that everything was properly co-ordinated did he agree to being evacuated to a dressing station.

"Throughout the whole day," Simmons's citation declared, "his absolute calmness, complete lack of fear and the cool way in which he retained control, even when his own tank had been hit, were the talk of the whole squadron."

Arthur Ernest Simmons was born at Ilford, Essex, on January 20 1921 and educated at the City of London School. In 1936 he joined an import-export firm in the City.

By the time war broke out he was serving in the Inns of Court Yeomanry, TA. He was commissioned into the Royal Tank Regiment in 1940. Subsequently, he served in Tunisia and then Italy.

After the war, Simmons obtained a regular commission in the Army. He was posted to the War Office and served with 5 RTR in Germany. In the early 1950s he went with 1 RTR to Korea, as part of the UN force there, and subsequently was training major of the Westminster Dragoons, TA.

He served in Hong Kong from 1958 to 1960, and had further postings in Britain, Germany and Belgium. His final appointment was at the Royal Tank Regiment headquarters at Bovington, Dorset.

On returning to civilian life, Simmons joined Lloyds Bank in Ashford, Kent. For several years he looked after the sub-branch at Wye, and then for nearly a decade was in charge of foreign business at the Ashford branch.

After final retirement in 1980, Simmons worked for the Faversham branch of the Soldiers, Sailors and Air Force Association, providing support to local retired service personnel. Wherever he went he was accompanied by his faithful black labrador Pippin.

Arthur Simmons married, in 1944, Jean Sackville Gordon. She survives him, together with their two sons and a daughter.

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© 2000 by Neil Mishalov