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John Lintorn Arabin Simmons

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Captain John Linton Arabin Simmons (1821-1903)

1848 Inspector General of Railways


1903 Obituary [1]

Field-Marshall, SIR JOHN LINTORN ARABIN SIMMONS, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., Royal Engineers, died on the 14th February, 1903, at Hawley House, Blackwater, Hants.

He was the fifth son of the late Captain Thomas Frederick Simmons, Royal Artillery, a well-known authority on Military Law, whose book on the “Constitution and Practice of Courts-martial” was for many years the standard treatise on the subject.

Lintorn Simmons was born at Langford, in Somerset, on the 12th February, 1821, and after being educated at Elizabeth College, Guernsey, and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, obtained his first commission as a second lieutenant, Royal Engineers, in December, 1837.

His early service was in North America; and for the first portion of his professional career he devoted his attention largely to railway work, holding successively the appointments of Inspector of Railways, Secretary to the Railway Commission, and Secretary to the Railway Department of the Board of Trade.

In 1853, however, his presence, on leave, in Turkey led to his employment by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe on several important missions connected with the Embassy at Constantinople. This was followed by the appointment of Captain Simmons as Her Majesty’s Commissioner at the headquarters of the Ottoman army in Europe, which post he retained until 1857, having in the meantime obtained promotion by two brevets to the rank of Lieutenant- Colonel.

In the spring and summer of 1854 Simmons served with the army under Omar Pasha and in the operations on the Danube, and was present at the siege of Silistria, which, although Ton Moltke accounted it the worst of the Danubian fortresses, has repeatedly played an important part in Russo-Turkish wars. In 1854 the defences had been renovated, and, under the leadership of several British officers, they were brilliantly and tenaciously held by the Turks. After pressing the siege with great vigour, the Russians were forced, on the 22nd June, to raise it and to recross the Danube. For his services in the Danube campaign Simmons received the Turkish gold medal, with an additional medal for Silistria.

In December, 1854, having become a major by brevet, he proceeded to the Crimea, where he took part in the siege of Sevastopol, and was present at the action of Eupatoria on the 17th February, 1855. For some time previously a cordon of Russian cavalry had surrounded Eupatoria, which was held by a Turkish garrison from Omar Pasha’s army. On the 17th February the Russians made a determined attack on the town with 40,000 of all arms, but were rcpulsed, leaving nearly 500 dead. The Turkish garrison, with which Major Simmons served, lost 97 killed and had nearly 300 wounded. For his services in the Crimea, Simmons received, in addition to a brevet and a mention in despatches, the C.B., the third class of the Medjidieh - of which he afterwards had the Grand Cordon - the fifth class of the Legion of Honour, and a sword of honour from the Sultan. Later, in 1855, he accompanied Omar Pasha to Asia Minor, and was present at the action on the River Ingur, where he rendered notable service by leading a column across the river, turning the Russian position, and capturing the enemy’s works and guns. This ended a war record which, although brief, was full of distinction, and would only have been possible in the case of a man of great tact and savoir faire, as wall as of marked military talent and many-sided ability.

During 1857 Colonel Simmons acted as British Commissioner for the regulation of the Russo-Turkish boundary in Asia, and from 1858 to 1860 he served.as Consul-General at Warsaw. At the close of 1860 he was given the command of the Royal Engineers at Aldershot, and five years later was appointed Director of the Royal Engineer establishment at Chatham, where he remained until his promotion to Major-General in 1868.

In 1869 he was created a K.C.B., and made Lieutenant-Governor of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, becoming Governor in the following year. Among the cadets at the 'Shop' during the earlier period of Sir Lintorn Simmons’s direction of that establishment mere two who have risen to peculiar distinction as Royal Engineer officers namely, Lord Kitchener of Khartum and Major-General Sir Herbert Chermside.

In 1871 Sir Lintorn Simmons published an important pamphlet, of which probably very few copies now exist, on “The Military Forces of Great Britain.” In this luminous and forcible brochure he argued that the existing system of a small army with partially trained reserves of Militia, Volunteers, &C., did not and could not possibly afford such a military force as was requisite. After considering the Continental systems, he deprecated the idea that even the Swiss plan of modified conscription, then being widely advocated, would produce adequate results in this country, for which a force more highly trained than the Swiss Militia was, he thought, a necessity.

In view of the changes that have since taken place, and of further changes that are being suggested as regards the military system of the country, it is interesting to note that the late Field-Marshal, so far back as 1871, was warmly in favour of enlisting men between the ages of 20 and 24 by voluntary enlistment, on clear and intelligible terms, offering a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, for periods of three years in the infantry and six years in the cavalry, Artillery and Engineers. The men so enlisted, to the number annually of about 40,000, were to form the standing Army, and to be liable to additional service so long as required during war, if such occurred during their period of service with the colours. A Reserve was provided for, but on voluntary lines, and three years’ men were to be encouraged to volunteer for a six years’ period of Indian and colonial service. The lapse of years has naturally deprived the scheme of much of its original weight ; but there are several points in it which may yet be studied with advantage ; and the pamphlet indicates the author’s clear and vigorous perception of contemporary military deficiencies.

After six useful years spent in directing the studies at the Royal Military Academy, Sir Lintorn Simmons, now a Lieutenant- General, was appointed in 1875 Inspector-General of Fortifications, in which extremely important post he remained until 1880. In the meantime, however, he had performed excellent service in several public capacities outside the Army headquarters staff.

In 1874 he served on the Royal Commission on Railway accidents, a duty for which his early railway experience specially qualified him. In 1878 he achieved the greater distinction of being attached to the Special Embassy during the Berlin Congress.

In 1879 he served on the Colonial Defence Commission, and in 1880 he was specially appointed to assist Lord Odo Russell at the Berlin Conference on the Greek Frontier question. His seniority-he had become full General in 1877-now restricted the area of his military employment ; but in 1884 a fitting post was found for him in the Governorship of Malta, which he was enabled to hold until 1888, when he was retired under the age rule which forbids the employment of army officers after reaching 67. The last public service rendered by this distinguished veteran was as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Pope in 1889.

In May, 1890, Sir Lintorn Simmons, who had been created a G.C.R. in 1878 and a G.C.M.G. in 1887, was given the baton of a Field-Marshal, in which rank he had been senior of those not of Royal blood for several years before his death.

Sir Lintorn Simmons was twice married-first, in 1846, to Ellen, daughter of Mr. John Lintorn Simmons, of Eeynsham, secondly, in 1856, to Blanch, daughter of Mr. Samuel Charles Weston, who died in 1898.

Sir Lintorn Simmons at the time of his death, was one of the senior members of the Institution. He was elected an Associate on the 1st June, 1847, and an Honorary Member on the 1st March, 1892.



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