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Cuthbert Harry Sims

Private 5562 Cuthbert Harry Sims, 68th Machine Gun Company

 

Harry was born in East Challow, near Wantage, in 1898 the son of Sam Sims and his wife Matilda née Lindsay. He was their youngest child and had five surviving siblings, a seventh child had died in infancy.  The survivors were Frederick Joseph (born 1883), Violet Nelly (1885), Priscilla Annie (1887), Eva May (1892), and Edith Rose (1894). The family remained in East Challow until after the 1911 census when they moved to Newbury. It is not known why they made the move, perhaps it was during wartime in order that Sam, an fitter, could work in one of the engineering firms producing goods for the war effort. Whatever the reason for the move, they settled in the town and both Sam (1931) and Matilda (1924) died there.  At the time of his death Sam was living at Holme Villa, Hambridge Road (not strictly Newbury - the town boundary was not extended to encompass Hambridge Road until 1934).


They were Primitive Methodists and would have attended services at either Stroud Green Chapel or the mother church in Bartholomew Street, where Harry’s name would be remembered on the war memorial window.


Kings Royal Rifle Corps badge

The regimental badge of the Machine Gun Corps, as used on CWGC headstones.

Harry’s service record has not survived so it is not possible to tell when he enlisted. It is sometime possible to get some idea of enlistment date from a soldier’s service number, but not in Harry’s case.  He may well have signed up before his unit, the Machine Gun Corps (MGC), came into existence on 22 October 1915. If so he would have started training with an infantry regiment before being picked out as good material for a machine gun section and then transferred to the MGC along with all the other machine gunners from all the infantry regiments.


He was posted to the 68th Machine Gun Company, the company provided machine gun support to the 68th Brigade, 23rd Division. The company’s war diary gives little insight into Harry’s death. He died on 7 May 1916 at a time when the company was in training at Vinchy; they had not been in action since 17 April. A single entry covering 1 to 17 April mentions that a number of men had been admitted to hospital. The company was in the line during that period, but no casualties are reported beyond the hospital admissions for undisclosed reasons.

 

Name on Newbury War Memorial

Harry's name on Newbury War Memorial. (upper left)

Harry was buried in Bruay Communal Cemetery Extension, a military addition to the local village cemetery. Burial there is consistent with treatment in the 22nd Casualty Clearing Station which was located in the Bruay from April 1916 to April 1918. The best guess is that Harry was among those admitted to hospital in early April and died there, perhaps as the result of an infection – an all too common problem in the days before antibiotics.

 

Back in Newbury he is remembered on tablet 11 of the Town War Memorial and, as Cuthbert H Sims, on the memorial window in the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Bartholomew Street. Sadly this window was lost when the chapel was demolished in 1962, having been deemed unsafe and beyond repair.

 

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 Died this day:
16 August 1915
R Stevenson
Woolhampton

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