An Original WWII British Army 37 Pattern Webbing Belonging to Lieutenant-Colonel Alex Simson
This rare piece of military history belonged to Lieutenant-Colonel Alex Simson at the time was Captain J.A Simson.
This war hero died at the grand old age of 86 This is his obituary: –
who has died aged 86, was awarded the Military Cross in 1943 while leading mine-clearing parties in the last phase of the battle for Tunis (5-7 May 1943) this was an engagement between allied and Axis armies during the Tunisian campaign
In April 1943, the Allies launched a series of concentric attacks on the Axis fortifications around the city. The regiments of 2 Armoured Brigade, part of 1 British Armoured Division, were attempting to advance north of the Kournine feature, a rocky peak that dominated the surrounding terrain, when they came under heavy shelling and machine-gun fire. Mines, laid on the tracks and scattered among the crops, further slowed them up.
Simson, then a lieutenant in command of a troop of the 1st Field Squadron RE, went in front of the leading tanks in a Daimler scout car. He came under closely observed artillery fire and his vehicle was repeatedly hit by shrapnel; but he continued his reconnaissance and then reported on the full extent of the German mine layout.
At dawn the next day, Simson took working parties forward through the mines under continuous shelling. Showing complete indifference to danger, he made lanes through the mine belts and cordoned off the areas where there were scattered mines. His example was an inspiration to his men who persevered in clearing the mines despite taking numerous casualties.
Simson continued his operation in the minefield until he was severely wounded in the arm and leg later in the morning. He was awarded an immediate MC and was invested with the decoration by King George VI at Buckingham Palace the following year.
James Alexander Simson (always known as Alex) was born on February 2, 1918 at Llandinam, Montgomeryshire, and went to Epsom College, where he was captain of the fencing team and played in the first XV. He completed 10 months basic training in October 1940 and was commissioned into the Corps of Royal Engineers. Two years later, he was posted to the Middle East.
On one occasion, in a small town in Tunisia, Simson’s troop freed one of the local dignitaries who had been hiding with his family in the cellar of their house. A bottle of vintage Cognac, long buried in the garden, was produced and when the celebrations were well under way the man offered his young daughter to Simson in gratitude. Simson declined – the girl was no beauty, he said afterwards – and his diplomatic skills were tested to the full.
After the action in which he was wounded, Simson spent several months in hospital in England. He had recovered by the spring of 1944, was promoted captain and moved to the Officer Cadet Training Unit RE as an instructor in mines and demolitions. In April 1945 he took command of the RE training team, part of the British Military Mission to France, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm.
Simson was granted a regular commission in 1948 and, after attending the School of Military Survey, was promoted major. He returned to the Middle East in command of No 1 Radar Air Survey Liaison Section RE on attachment to an RAF Photographic Survey Squadron.
After a spell with 42 Survey Engineer Regiment RE in Egypt, Simson contracted polio. He was in an iron lung for several months but had recovered sufficiently to move to Scotland in 1954 with the military staff of the Ordnance Survey where he was responsible for 200 staff engaged in a mapping project.
He went to East Africa in 1957 with 89th (Independent) Field Squadron RE in command of a unit involved in mapping the northern frontier district of Kenya. A posting the next year as survey staff officer to HQ British Forces Arabian Peninsula was followed by his appointment as chief geographic officer to NATO, responsible for the military mapping of Norway, Denmark, and Schleswig Holstein. In 1961 Simson moved to Shape, where he took charge of co-ordinating military mapping throughout all the NATO countries.
In 1968 he returned to the military staff, Ordnance Survey, to command the South Eastern Region, before moving to the Directorate of Military Survey at the Ministry of Defence. He retired from the Army in 1971 in the rank of lieutenant-colonel and returned to NATO as a civilian.
For the next 11 years, Simson was based at HQ Allied Forces Central Europe, Netherlands, where, as a geographic specialist, he served with military agencies and chaired working parties engaged in mapping standardisation and documentation. He and his wife, Jean, were great party-givers and their hospitality was a byword.
Simson retired in 1983 and settled in a village in Powys. He played an active part in local affairs until the onset of severe osteoarthritis made this impossible. For many years he enjoyed visits to the Ardennes, where the family kept a cottage.
Alex Simson died on July 20. He married, in 1948, Jean Gunson, who survives him with two sons and two daughters.
Named inside to a Captain J. A. Simson of the Royal Engineers “RE”
The webbing comprising one webbing belt,2 cross shoulder straps.
One ammo pouch, inside stamped BHG Ld 1942
Compass webbing pouch, inside stamped B.S 1942 ⩚
a Webley pistol holster
Stamped inside B.Ltd. ⩚ 1942
An officer’s binocular case stamped inside M.E.C. 1942 ⩚
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