1. Grave:Noeux-Les-Mines Communal CemeteryI. L. 4.
2. Book:The (1921) Masonic Roll of Honour 1914-1918Pg.135
3. Memorial:The (1940) Scroll - WW1 Roll of Honour16C GQS

Awards & Titles:


Family :

With thanks to Gerry McPartland of Harrogate and Claro Lodge, for the majority of this legend.

Born 1888, son of David and Hannah J. Simpson, of 42, Kent Rd., Harrogate, Yorks and known as Jim. He was educated at Harrogate College and in Brussels, returning to England in 1908 to become an articled pupil of the Waterworks Engineer during the building of Roundhill Reservoir, near Masham.

In April 1910, he and his brother George and travelled to Canada via New York where he was employed by the Canadian Northern Railway in British Columbia as an engineer and surveyor. George continued his travels and worked on the Government Experimental Farm in Agassiz, British Columbia. They kept in touch, Jim sent George a Postcard in 1911 with his photo on the front. He liked to put his photo on things.

They both came home together in 1912, being met by their parents in Southampton. Jim returned to Harrogate and worked as a civil engineer in the Land Valuation Dept of Harrogate Borough Council.

Service Life:


Unit / Ship / Est.: 173rd Tunnelling Company 

Action : Actions in Spring 1916 

Actions in Spring 1916 covers a number of non specific actions on the Western Front in the period February to the end of June 1916. Much of this period concerned the build up to the Battle of the Somme, particularly the acclimatisation of the Service Battalions (Kitchener Volunteers) to trench routine. As the Battle of the Somme occupied the plans for 1916 no significant efforts were made in other sectors. Many of the casualties could be considered 'routine'. During the period December to June 1916 5845 British soldiers died in 'minor trench operations'.

Detail :

Jim joined the Territorial’s in May 1913 and had been promoted to corporal just before war was declared in August 1914. He immediately joined fifth battalion of The Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire) Regiment where he was swiftly promoted to Sergeant. On his arrival in France in 1915 he volunteered to join the newly formed 173rd Tunnelling Coy, where he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant stationed in the Central section of the Somme between Armentieres and Arras. He was based just south of Bethune at Noeux-les-Mines. He was not far from Vimy and probably was involved in the preparation to blow up the ridge. Tunnels were dug to allow the movement of men along the Front line without the enemy being able to see the troop movements.

The Leeds Mercury of the 13th May 1916 provides context to his story and the portrait image: "OFFICER-SON OF FORMER MAYOR OF HARROGATE. News was received in Harrogate, yesterday, that Second-Lieutenant James Marsden Simpson, of the Royal Engineers, has been killed at the front. He was the eldest son of ex-Alderman and Mrs. Simpson, former Mayor and Mayoress of Harrogate, whose family has been associated with the public life of Harrogate for upwards of fifty years. Second-Lieutenant Simpson was twenty-nine years old. He was in the Harrogate Territorials when war broke out, and after he had been at the front some six months, and had been made a sergeant, he received a commission in the Royal Engineers, being in civil life a M.I.C.E. He was a well-known Yorkshire Rugby forward. He was one of the founders of the Harrogate Old Boys Club, and was captain of the team several years. He stood quite fit 6ft. 2in. in height, and was proportionally built, being a very powerful forward."

Jim had been in a trench which was new to him and went alone to inspect it when he was shot. ‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulk recounts the dangers facing tunnelling teams and Captain Weir dies the same way as Jim, shot in the head by a sniper. Jim’s sergeant, who went to help him, was also killed.

Jim was buried in Noeux-les-Mines cemetery. His brother, George, was killed in action in August 1918. Their Memorial Plaques, or “Dead Man’s Penny” as they became known, are inlaid in stone at the bottom of his father's (David Simpson’s) memorial.

Masonic :

TypeLodge Name and No.Province/District :
Mother : Harrogate and Claro No. 1001 E.C.Yorkshire (West Riding)

18th January 1913
22nd February 1913
22nd March 1913

He is recorded as a Civil Engineer from Harrogate upon his initiation in 1913. The contribution record shows his war service and that he was "Killed in Action 9th May/16."

He was initiated into Harrogate & Claro Lodge at an Emergency meeting on 18th January, 1913. The letter accompanying the minutes read, “The circumstances which cause this emergency are that he is present in England on a visit from Canada and is wishful to return there in about four months time. Consequently it will not be practicable to Initiate, Pass and Raise him in the time, if the ordinary custom and practices of the lodge are observed. We may mention that his father and grandfather were both members of the lodge.” He was Passed and Raised in the subsequent months, again at emergency meetings. However, his return to Canada was delayed and he regularly attended Lodge until August 1914. His father, Bro David Simpson, who had been a member of the Lodge and was now a member of Doric lodge was present at his Initiation, but interestingly did not attend his passing or raising.

Source :

The project globally acknowledges the following as sources of information for research across the whole database:

Additional Source:

Last Updated: 2020-02-20 06:32:02