Frederick was born in St. Pancras on 1st September 1891 and Ilford County High School until 15th January 1906 when he withdrew in order to take up musical training. He was recorded as a music student in the 1911 census. His parents, Frederick and Anne lived at 10 Melbourne Road, Ilford and his father was a Stove maker and hot water engineer. He was their only child.
He enlisted at Ilford Recruiting Office, joining the 7th Battalion of the Essex Regiment (service number 4369) in December 1915. He served ‘at home’ in Britain between February and August 1916.
The Ilford County High School school magazine, Chronicles, reported in the Autumn of 1916 that Frederick had been promoted from the Essex Regiment to a Lieutenancy and made Musical Director for the exhibition of the Government War Films including the famous ‘The Battle of the Somme’ film (1916) that was watched by 20 million people in Britain (half of the population at the time). He worked for the Foreign Office throughout France, beginning at the Theatre Rejane in Paris. Before the war, he had been working as an orchestral conductor and was an eminent violinist in his own right.
The Daily Mail reported (of his work on ‘The Battle of the Somme’ film);
‘Not a little is contributed to the sense of realism by the dramatic music arranged by Mr F. Simmons…’
Lieutenant Simmons wrote to the school, saying;
‘I am having a wonderfully interesting time. My endeavours to convey my wishes to my French orchestra cause great fun at times, but fortunately three of the members speak excellent English, and all goes well. I expect there will be trouble, though, when we get out to the provinces, and so I am making desperate efforts to pick up the neglected threads of my French, what time I lament not having made better use of my opportunities at the good old school. Not the least useful of my books is a dog-eared copy of a certain ‘Pictorial French Course,’ the restaurant chapter of which in particular has rendered yeoman service! I can at least obtain the necessaries of life and find my way about Paris, so that’s enough to go on with for the present.
The transition to my present mode of life was bewilderingly sudden. On August 5th I was pursuing my usual routine at Hulton Camp, when a wire arrived from the War Office ordering me to report there immediately. I did so, and within six days was out here busily engaged upon the preparations for the opening show.
The French people are tremendously interested in the films, and our audiences wax very enthusiastic, not only over the Somme film, but also over that of King George’s visit to the Front, which comes as a welcome relief after the sombre atmosphere of its big predecessor.’
According to the CWGC website, he was attached to the Leicestershire Regiment when he was killed in action at Cormicy on 27th May 1918. He is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial, Aisne. His age is given as 26. He left a widow, Margaret Simmons (nee Elliot) who lived in Hillcrest Road, Woodford. They had married in the Summer of 1917.
Chronicles reported his death in the Autumn 1918 edition,
‘Lieut. F. Simmonds, whose death was notified in our last number, is officially reported to have been killed instantaneously on the 27th May on the Aisne.
There is a striking passage in a letter from his O. C. :-
“A splendid fellow, admired by all the officers, he died the glorious death of a British officer, excelled by none.”
Research by Andrew Emeny, History Teacher at ICHS
ICHS school records and magazines
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Ilford County High School started life as the Park Higher Grade School in 1901 in Balfour Road, Ilford. It was renamed Ilford County High School (or initially County High School, Ilford) in the years after the school’s management was transferred from Ilford School Board to Essex Education Committee in 1904.