SIMMS, John Thomas

Private John Thomas Simms (Sims)
5192 3rd Line Depot, 7th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment)

John Sims was born in 1885 at Burton-upon-Trent son of John James Sims, mother’s name not known. He married Bertha Wilde of Swanwick, at Swanwick Church on 25th April 1908. In 1911 John and Bertha were living at Hill Top, Swanwick and had 2 children Marguerite Bertha, aged 2 and Albert aged 1.  John was employed as a colliery holer.

John attested on 4th November 1915 aged 28 years and 6 months and gave his home address as Hands Cottages, Old Westwood, Notts. Within only six weeks on 17th December 1915, he was promoted to Lance Corporal. However, by 28th January 1916 had been deprived of his rank. John had been found to be suffering from venereal disease. It was not an offence to contract the illness but it was an offence to conceal having it. On 22nd February 1916 he was admitted to hospital and due to the nature of his illness, his pay would have been stopped as a deterrent as the army was struggling to control the numbers of men unable to serve actively due to this condition and therefore regarded it as a self inflicted injury. As there were no antibiotics in those days, treatment was unpleasant and painful. On 11th March 1916 John absconded from hospital and headed home to his wife. He was later caught at Westwood as absent without leave.

In April 1916 he made the local newspaper headlines:-

CONSTABLES ASSAULTED BY SOLDIER – SIX MONTHS FOR SELSTON MAN – A violent deserter, Private James (misprint – should read John) Thomas Sims, 3/7th Sherwood Foresters, who caused a great deal of trouble at Selston on Tuesday morning, was charged at Mansfield today with assaulting P.C’s Payne and Robinson.
The officers received orders to arrest the prisoner as a deserter, and on going to Westwood to do so Sims told them they were not going to take him. Payne took hold of his sleeve, and a struggle ensued, and the prisoner got away. He was caught again, and the prisoner struck the constable on the jaw. Then they struggled around a ‘copper’ in the yard, and the chimney was pushed down, and the prisoner picking up a brick threatened to dash his brains out with it. Prisoner then bit Payne on the back and also tried to break his thumb, twisting it badly. Eventually with the assistance of PC Robinson, the handcuffs were got on him. Prisoner also ran full kick at Robinson and bit him on the wrist, and the officer had to use the staff on him. Prisoner complained that fair play was not done to him. He became very excited in court and shouted and swore at the officers. He said he told them he was going back by the next train to his regiment, when the policemen jumped on him like wildcats. He had been in the army since last November, and was a good soldier until. “I got played dirty with.” Prisoner used threats towards the constables, and Supt. Rodgers informed him that if he were not careful another charge would be preferred against him.
Ald. Taylor told prisoner that he had a bad record, and he would have to go to prison for 6 months.  Prisoner: “I will go for 12 months if you have a mind to make it. The war is going on.” Bertha Sims, wife of the prisoner, and Ethel Fletcher were then summoned for resisting PC Robinson when in the execution of his duty at the same time. The evidence was that the women pulled him by his hands and legs and obstructed him when dealing with the man. Under the circumstances Supt. Rodgers did not press the case and the Bench discharged them with a caution.’

John served at home in the UK and was therefore not awarded any military medals. He was discharged from the Army on 30th December 1916 as ‘no longer fit for war service.’ His record notes that he was by that time totally disabled, with swollen joints and numerous pains so if had been treated for his infection it had not been successful.  He died in 1922 aged only 36 and was buried at Westwood, St. Mary’s on the 6th July. Looking back in hindsight, none of the above may have occurred if penicillin had been invented. John told the police he had been a good soldier and indeed, his rapid promotion bears this out.