We will always remember them

Gary Simmons, (OB 1967) Capt Infantry (ARES) Ret.

Inspired after watching the BGS Remembrance Day Chapel Service online, Gary Simmons (OB 1967) wrote the following:

It is my privilege on this Remembrance Day 2020 to relate to you a brief history of my family’s military service in both World War 1 and World War 2.

I am not surprised that I joined the military.

My father, grandfather and great grand uncles all served in the military at some stage of their lives. I even have it on good authority that my great-great-great grandfather was an English sea captain turned pirate too!

When I left BGS in 1967, I joined the National Australia Bank, but I had two “careers” in my life – one as a banker, and a second as a private in the Citizens Military Forces (“CMF” then changed to the Australia Army Reserve).

As my career in the bank progressed, so did my army career from Private thru to Warrant Officer Class 2, then as a Commissioned Officer.

I retired as a Captain in the Australian Infantry after 35 years’ service.


My father – Lt Phillip Simmons

My father, like his father, joined the “Militia” as a young Cadet in the Artillery in 1936 and rose the rank of Corporal, but when the Second World War broke out, he, like many others, enlisted.

He enlisted with thousands of others at Caulfield racecourse in 1938 and was posted to the newly formed 2/29 Battalion part of the 8 Division as the Signals Sergeant.

By 1941, my father was in Singapore as the Japanese began their conquest of Malaya. The Battalion was sent to a small town called Muar to prevent the Japanese advance to take the Island of Singapore.

What transpired is the battle of Muar Road where the 2/29 Battalion and other Units kept 55,000 Japanese at bay for 4 weeks. During that time, the Battalion lost over 58% of their original strength including their Commanding Officer, 2IC (also my father’s best mate) and Signals Officer Lt Sheldon.

The Battalion withdrew to Singapore and was reformed under the command of LtCol Pond.

My father was promoted to Lt and set about reorganising and reforming the Signal’s Platoon.

Unfortunately, like thousands of others, my father became a Prisoner of War (“POW”) and spent over three years in Changi Jail on the infamous Burma Railway.

He returned home in 28 September 1945, but still suffered injuries until he passed in 1992.


My great grand uncles – William and Dougall McDougall

At the beginning of World War 1, Wil joined the 8th Light Horse.

He was a bit of a rebel and was frequently on charges of insubordination (mainly against British Officers!). Be that as it may, he soon found himself in Gallipoli and fought there until withdrawn.

I had the privilege, along with two of my Army mates, to visit Gallipoli and walk the same ground that Wil fought upon. It was a very sobering time.

Wil was then posted to Egypt and joined the Camel Corp, but soon became ill with Typhoid Fever. He was then evacuated to the island of Lemus, but died shortly after.

He rests with his mates in a cemetery in Egypt.


Dougall McDougall

Dougall joined the 59th Battalion and fought in France on the Somme and in Belgium.

Wounded several times he was Mentioned in Dispatches and was awarded an MID.

The most famous battle occurred for the attack on the town of Menin in Belgium where, against overwhelming odds, the town was saved from the Germans.

In honour of the fallen, the town built a Shrine of Remembrance called “Menin Gate”. Every night at sunset a ceremony is held with full guard and wreathes laid. This service is attended by around 3000-4000 people from around the world every day.

It was my honour and privilege to say the Ode at this service and, along with my Army mates, lay a wreath in honour of the fallen.

Lest we forget.

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