V.C. For a Mons Man

The 2nd of November 1918 edition of "The Northern Daily Telegraph" carried the following item

"L/Sgt Walter Simpson Lincolnshire Regiment, son of the late Thomas Simpson, Lee Street, Burnley. The recipient is a native of Burnley. and a former bugler in the old volunteer’s band. Previously served in the army, and rejoined 3 weeks after the outbreak of war. He fought at Mons and has been wounded twice.
V.C.; For most conspicuous bravery and initiative when with a daylight patrol sent out to reconnoiter and gain touch with a neighbouring Division."

In fact the newspaper had mistakenly confused with a Bolton born soldier named Arthur Evans, who won the V.C. and D.C.M. and for reasons not known changed his name to Walter Simpson.

41788 Corporal (Sergeant) Arthur Evans VC DCM
Born: 8 April 1891, Seaforth, Liverpool.
Regiment: 6th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment.
VC won: 2 September 1918, Etaing (France).
London Gazette Issue 30982 published on the 29 October 1918. page 12802.
Died: 1 November 1936, Sydney, Australia.
Grave: Park Cemetery, Lytham-St-Annes (North Stubbs Crematorium, Sydney).
Location of VC: Not publicly held.
Arthur Evans was a 27 year old Lance-Sergeant in the 6th Battalion, the Lincolnshire Regiment, during the First World War. Evans was originally awarded the Victoria Cross under the assumed name of "Walter Simpson".

On leaving school, Evans went to work in an office. He left the office to join the Royal Navy as a stoker, but was discharged (as an invalid) due to an accident. He joined the Merchant Navy, shipped out to America, jumped ship, and supposedly was a supervisor of a crew working on the Panama Canal. He explored South America with a couple of friends, but caught malaria and then made his way to Cuba and the United States. Evans earned passage back to England on a four-mast sailing ship that took a year for the journey, going by way of Australia. For some unknown reason, about this time he changed his name to Walter Simpson and using this name, in May 1914, he joined the 1st King's Liverpool Regiment. Simpson (Evans) saw service in the Retreat from Mons and in the First Battle of Ypres, then either transferred to or possibly deserted from the 1st Kings right before they left for the Middle East, as his next unit was the 6th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment. He earned the VC for action near Etaing in France.

Citation for the Victoria Cross:

"For most conspicuous bravery and initiative when with a daylight patrol sent out to reconnoitre and to gain touch with a neighbouring division. When [the patrol was] on the west bank of [the] river an enemy machine-gun post was sighted on the east bank. The river being too deep to force, Sergt. Simpson volunteered to swim across, and having done so, crept up alone in rear of the machine-gun post. He shot the sentry and also a second enemy who ran out; he then turned back and caused four to surrender. A crossing over the river was subsequently found, the officer and one man of his patrol joined him, and reconnaissance was continued along the river bank. After proceeding some distance, machine-gun and rifle fire was opened on the patrol, and the officer was wounded. In spite of the fact that no cover was available, Sergt. Simpson succeeded in covering the withdrawal of the wounded officer under most dangerous and difficult conditions and under heavy fire. The success of the patrol, which cleared up a machine-gun post on the flank of the attacking troops of a neighbouring division and obtained an identification, was greatly due the very gallant conduct of Sergt. Simpson."

There are conflicting accounts of his life post-war, one version having him emigrating to Australia to escape the long arm of the law. He did enlist in the Australian Army and served with the Tank Corps for two and a half years, but was invalided out due to the after-effects of being gassed in WWI. He passed away at the Repatriation Hospital in Sydney at the age of 45 and he was cremated in Sydney.

In November 1936 the Australian Government, as a tribute of respect to Evans' fighting record, arranged for his ashes to be borne back to his native land. They were placed in the personal charge of Corporal Sullivan VC because of his close friendship with the dead man. Sullivan's duty was to hand the ashes to his friend's relatives for burial in the grave of a soldier brother in England. On disembarkment at Tilbury, Corporal Sullivan went to St. Annes-on-Sea and placed the urn in the headquarters of the St. Annes-on-Sea branch of the British Legion, where it lay until handed over to Evans' surviving brother. The ashes of Arthur Evans, carried by two members of the British Legion and followed by his four relatives, were interred at Lytham St. Annes Park Cemetery with the remains of his stepbrother. His sad duty fulfilled, Sullivan returned to London, whilst waiting for passage back to Australia, tragically; on 9 April 1937, Sullivan was involved in an accident in which he fell while walking to his quarters. He was taken to hospital but died soon after from head injuries sustained in the accident. Sullivan was accorded a full military funeral in London. His ashes were returned to Sydney. Sullivan's Victoria Cross is displayed in the Australian War Memorial Hall of Valour.




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