Courtesy of Debbie Ellett Hajduk
Private John Simmons
Pakenham & District War Memorial
Born: 1895 - Traralgon, Victoria
Enlisted: 12 July 1915 aged 20
Unit: 14th Battalion, 11th Reinforcement (SERN: 3499)
Served: Egypt & Western Front
Died: Not known
Listed on the Pakenham & District War Memorial as “Pte. J. Simmonds”, John was nearly 20 years old when he enlisted on 12 July 1915. At the time, he was working as a farm labourer with Charles Smale of “Green Hills” Pakenham (1). On his enlistment forms, he stated that his parents were dead, and nominated a friend, Mrs Shepperd (also spelt Sheppard) of Pakenham East, as his next of kin. He was apparently a brass finisher by trade (2). John was assigned to the 14th Battalion 11th Reinforcement at Broadmeadows Army camp north of Melbourne. He was initially sent to Egypt, but was later transferred to the Western Front. There, in July 1916, he was “knocked down by a shell” and suffered concussion. This explosion aggravated a pre-existing hearing problem, which John suffered from since he was a boy. Apparently one way he had worked around his deafness while in the Army was through lip reading (3). John was deemed to be “very deaf in both ears” and recommended for permanent discharge. He embarked for Australia in July 1917 and was discharged as medically unfit on 2 November 1917. John had served a total of 845 days with the AIF, of which 715 were overseas (4).
When John was being discharged, he stated that he intended returning to Pakenham. He subsequently obtained work with John Joseph Mullane (5). In May 1918, John was presented with a gold medallion from the Pakenham community at a special welcome home arranged for local soldiers who had already returned from the War (6). Memorably, he rode on horseback with five other returned soldiers in the Pakenham Armistice Day parade in November 1918 (6a). John subsequently paid £210 to purchase a 20 acre farm at Pakenham owned by Jack Clements. He also sought £100 assistance from the Repatriation Scheme to purchase a horse, dray, plough and harness. John had references from the Berwick Shire Clerk James Ahern, who described him as a “decent lad” and Constable Stephen Maher, who felt John would succeed in the undertaking. He was granted £50 assistance, and later allowed to use it to help pay off the land instead. In December 1920, Jack sold sold his property to Mr H T Sheppard of Pakenham (7).
(1) (5) & (7) NAA B73 R11759 SIMMONS John
(2) (3) & (4) NAA B2455 SIMMONS JOHN
(6) Pakenham Gazette 7/6/1918, p. 3
(6a) Dandenong Advertiser 28/11/1918, p. 2