Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Herbert Simpson

Herbert Simpson :

Herbert Simpson : (L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaf; Territorial Efficiency Medal

(L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaf; Territorial Efficiency Medal

Herbert was born in around August 1892 in Manchester. We don't know anything about his early life or family.

In February 1914 Herbert joined the 8th (Ardwick) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Territorial Force based in the Ardwick area of the city. As a Territorial Herbert kept his civilian home and job, although we don't know anything about these. He trained as a soldier during evenings and weekends, as well as an annual training camp lasting around 2 weeks. His service number was 2031.

The First World War broke out in August 1914 and the 8th Battalion was called into service. They were sent to Egypt on the 10th September and arrived in Alexandria, Egypt, on the 25th.

After less than a month in Egypt, on the 19th October, Herbert and the 8th Battalion were sent to Cyprus. This was a Turkish colony administered by Britain. As Britain and Turkey were now at war Herbert took part in the British annexation of the island.

The 8th Battalion returned to Egypt on the 23rd January 1915. Herbert went to war that May when the battalion landed in Gallipoli. They were soon in the front line, and took casualties. It was renamed the 1/8th Battalion at around this time.

It is very likely that Herbert took part in the attack on the village of Krithia that began on the 4th June. This had been intended to be captured during late April when the first Allied troops landed, but the Turks had been able to hold them off. The 1/8th Battalion advanced further than most British units, but this meant when the Turks counter attacked they were cut off and forced to withdraw, taking heavy casualties.

Herbert's next major operation began on the 7th August, near the village of Krithia. It was intended to divert Turkish troops away from the British landings at Suvla Bay. The British launched an attack, but were forced back by a Turkish counterattack. The Turks continued to attack for the next 2 days, inflicting many casualties on the British.

By this time Herbert had been promoted to Lance Corporal. On the 7th and then on the 13th he carried out acts of bravery. For both of these 'gallant actions' Herbert received a certificate from the commander of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, which commanded the 1/8th Battalion.

This would be the heaviest fighting Herbert and the 1/8th Battalion saw in Gallipoli. Although the Turkish defenders still shelled and sniped at the British, over the next few months the weather and disease were perhaps the main threats to Herbert and his comrades.

We don't know whether Herbert was ever wounded or taken ill during his time in Gallipoli. The 1/8th Battalion was evacuated back to Egypt in December and served in Egypt throughout 1916 before moving to France to fight on the Western Front in March 1917.

In early 1917 soldiers serving in Territorial Force units were given new service numbers. The 8th Battalion was allocated the range 300001 to 350000. Herbert was given 300255.

The 1/8th Battalion served on the old Somme battleground at Epehy and Havrincourt during the summer of 1917, before moving north to Ypres in Belgium during late August. They guarded the North Sea coast at Nieuwpoort whilst the Passchendaele Offensive was fought around Ypres. In November 1917 they returned to France and were stationed around Bethune.

On the 13th September 1917 Herbert was promoted to Warrant Officer Class II. This was his fifth promotion since the war began. He was given the job of Company Sergeant Major (CSM). This made him responsible for discipline, organisation and administration within one of the battalion's companies.

During March and April 1918 the 1/8th Battalion helped to defeat the German Spring Offensive. The Allies had defeated this offensive by July and began one of their own in August. This was extremely successful and drove the Germans back.

During the Allied advance, known as the Hundred Days Offensive, Herbert demonstrated great bravery. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the London Gazette of the 3rd June 1919. This is his citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has, during the period 17th September to 11th November , 1918, shown marked qualities of courage, initiative and leadership. His coolness under heavy shell fire and under the most trying conditions have been invaluable to his company and battalion.

After the war ended on the 11th November the 1/8th Battalion was demobilised. Herbert returned to civilian life. On the 2nd August 1919 he married Bessie Timperley in Manchester. Her maiden name was Fielding; she had married Thomas Timperley in 1911. We don't know what happened to him. Their daughter Bessie was born on the 23rd February 1920. We don't believe Herbert gained any step-children from his marriage.

Herbert must have missed the Army because on the 6th April 1920 he rejoined the 8th Battalion. He worked as a plate moulder and again trained during evenings and weekends. The Army had changed its system of service numbers again, so Herbert was now 3511901. He kept his wartime rank of CSM and in 1921 he was a member of A Company.

During this time there was a great deal of industrial unrest and the threat of widespread strikes by workers such as miners. The government was afraid that the Police would not be able to cope so it was decided to form an organisation known as The Defence Force. This would be based on the Territorial Army, but separate from it, and used to support the police if a large strike was called. Herbert joined the 8th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, Defence Force between April and June 1921. The strikes did not occur, so the Force was disbanded. Herbert re-joined the 8th Battalion.

In 1923 Herbert was awarded the Territorial Efficiency Medal. This recognised 12 years service in the Territorial Force and the Territorial Army. Herbert could count his service during the war twice. His medal was presented on the 24th May by the commanding officer of the 8th Battalion, in front of 'a full parade'.

Herbert served as CSM in the 8th Battalion until the 12th November 1927, when he was discharged 'at his own request'. At this time he lived at 67 Grey Street in Longsight, Manchester.

The rest of Herbert's life is a mystery. We believe he died in Manchester between July and September 1956, aged 63. We know he had died by the time his medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in February 1957.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council