Category Archives: Marlborough House School

Charles Francis Simonds

Charles Francis Simonds
Major 13th Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps

 Division 45

Simonds CF photo

Charles Francis Simonds was the eldest son of James and Cecilia Simonds, of Redlands House, Reading. James Simonds was already dead when news came that Charles had been killed in action.  The Simonds family were a well-known banking family in Reading. Although the bank, Messers. J & C Simonds & Co. had already incorporated with Barclay’s & Co. Ltd.  However, the original brass nameplates could still be seen on the door of the Barclay’s bank which is sited opposite the ‘Jacksons’ corner until Barclays vacated the building.

 Charles Simonds was educated at Wellington College and Trinity College, Oxford.  He served in the South African war as a member of the Berkshire Mounted Infantry and received the Queen’s Medal with four clasps.   Charles rejoined the Army in September 1914 leaving his work as a businessman and partner in the Simonds bank.  He was gazetted as captain to the Service Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. and received his majority February 1st 1915, he went to the front in July 1915.

 He married Evelyn Hickman, granddaughter of the late Sir Alfred Hickman, in 1907.   They had two sons and had their family home at The Crofts, Spencer’s Wood.  By the time of CWGC registration Evelyn remarried and taking the name of Fuller and moving to Strattonend, Cirencester.   

 Charles Simonds was well known in Reading as a sports man, he rode to hounds with the South Berkshire Hunt and was a member of their committee.  Charles had rowed at Oxford and in his twenties was a member of the Reading Rowing club, serving a period as Captain when the club was particularly successful.

Charles   Simonds had been home on leave only three weeks before his death.  On his return to the front Simonds was  charged with the planning of a trench raid. This was carried out successfully due to his outstanding organisation.  However, during the accompanying  bombardment shells fell on the command dugout, which should have been safe from danger, and Charles Simonds and other key officers were killed   instantly.  A mining party was sent in immediately to dig the place out and eventually after much heavy digging found the bodies which were removed to the unit church hut.

Charles   Simonds was killed on 29th June 1916 aged 38.  He was buried in Berles-au-Bois Churchyard  Extension, Pas de Calais. The unit had been in the village some two months at   the time of Simonds death.  The grave   location is G.5.  He is commemorated on the Simonds family grave number 2297, in the Reading Cemetery. Berkshire   Family History Society classification 45B1.



Samuel Robert Collier

Samuel Robert Collier (Bob)
Second Lieutenant
6th Royal Berkshire Regiment

 Division 14

 Collier SR photo  CIMG2160 CIMG2161

Samuel Robert Collier known as Bob and commemorated as such on his parents headstone was 23 years old when he was first reported in the Chronicle of 4 August 1916, missing believed killed.  He was the only son of Mr and Mrs S. George Collier, of 198, Tilehurst Road, Reading. 

He was educated at Marlborough House, Reading, and Bath College.  On leaving college he entered Messrs. S. and E. Collier’s Brick and Pottery Works, of which his father was a director.  While at Bath college he was in the Cadet Corps for three years and on leaving became Scout Master of the King’s Road Boy Scouts for four years. 

At the outbreak of war he entered the Berkshire Yeomanry, but later received a commission in the 9th Berkshire Regiment, quartered at Wool.  For four months he acted as transport officer for the regiment, and gave it up to take his examinations at Salisbury Plain, and on June 16 1916 he left for France to join a service battalion of the Berkshires, acting as transport officer till July 15, when he took the post of platoon commander, when the usual transport officer returned from hospital.  He  went into action on July 17 in Delville Wood on the Somme and  was not seen after that date.

 His Captain N. B. Hudson wrote to his parents. “At about 3.30pm I saw your boy lead off his platoon against the enemy in the wood, some of his platoon came back, but I can get no information from them, save that one man told me ( I am afraid this all seems very cruel; but I think you would like me to say all I can) that he had seen an officer’s body lying in the wood, wearing riding breeches and stocking putties, and these I know were the clothes your boy was wearing.  There is only one piece of hope that I think it is right to offer you, and that is no one saw him killed, but in a wood one sees very little.  We have come back 30 miles from the scene of the action now.  From dawn on the 17 until 3.30 p.m. your boy was with me, and showed great coolness under very trying conditions.  At 3.30 p.m. he led his platoon through the wood on the right of the company, while I took the left.  I did not see him anymore.  All I can hope is that you have heard something I have not.  This I can say, that although your boy had only been in my company for two days, I saw in him during the action a fearless and courageous man, whom I felt I could trust.”

 Delville Wood was referred to by the troops as Devils Wood.  Bob Collier’s body was never found and his name is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing Pier and Face 11D

Cedric Charles Okey Taylor

Lieutenant C.C. Okey Taylor
3rd Battalion East Kent Regiment (The Buffs) & Trench Motar Battery

Division 48


Cedric Charles Okey Taylor  was the grandson of a local Reading dignitary. His death is reported in The Chronicle of 15th December 1916.

“Attached to the Trench Motor Battery Z/14, 14th Division, BEF, France, fell in action on Sunday, December 3rd 1916.  He was not quite 22 years of age and the only son of Mrs. Taylor, of 31, Weltje Road, Ravenscroft Park, London, and the late Charles Warmsley Taylor, of Reading.”

His Captain communicated the news to his mother.

“He was at a gun position with his men when the dug-out was blown in.   His death must have been instantaneous, and two of his men were killed with him.  We have recovered his body, and he will be buried tomorrow, and as many of his brother officers that are available will attend.  I need hardly say how deeply sorry all his friends are, and to me it I is a personal loss, since he has been associated with me  longer than any other officer, and we have been together since he joined the Expeditionary Force.  One cannot speak too highly of his ability, his devotion to duty, and the keen interest he took in all his men and their welfare.  It is a sad loss which we all feel, and offer you our deepest sympathy.”

He is commemorated upon the grave of his grandfather in the Reading Cemetery and is buried in the Faubourg D’Amien Cemetery, Arras. Location I. J.58.

Upon his death he left his estate to his married sister Olive Margaret Okey Allner.