The O'Leary Collection—Medals of The Royal Canadian Regiment

In June 2022, the CEF medals awarded to Simpson were passed along to collector James G., who had acquired Simpson's Queen's South Africa Medal. With that transfer, Simpson's medals are once again reunited.

7985 / 159 Sergeant Alfred Percy Simpson

2nd (Special Service) Bn., The RCR (S.A.)
2nd Regt., Canadian Mounted Rifles (S.A.)
Canadian Artillery (C.M.)
Canadian Field Artillery (C.E.F.)

By: Capt (ret'd) Michael M. O'Leary, CD, The RCR

Alfred Percy Simpson was born in London, England, on 23 Jul 1877.

Having emigrated to Canada by the late 1890s, Simpson was serving in the Canadian Militia with the 3rd Regiment, Canadian Artillery, at St John, New Brunswick, in 1899. He was also ready to answer the call when Canada recruited a battalion, primarily of trained militia soldiers from across the country, to form the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry, for service in South Africa. With companies raised in designated regions, "G" Company of the battalion was recruited in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The battalion would form Canada's First Contingent for the South African War.

Formed on 28 May 1869 as the New Brunswick Brigade of Garrison Artillery, Simpson's unit was, by 1899, titled the 3rd "New Brunswick" Regiment (Heavy Brigade). In more colloquial short form, it was often recorded as the 3rd Regiment, Canadian Artillery (C.A.). The regiment's soldiers were prepared when a recruiting office for "G" Company of the First Canadian Contingent opened in St. John, N.B., in October 1899. Simpson was one of 20 soldiers from the 3rd Regiment who attested for service in South Africa.

Simpson enlisted with the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment at St. John, N.B., on 19 Oct 1899, for service in South Africa. A single 22-year-old railway fireman, he named his brother, C. Simpson of the North Staffordshire Regiment of Foot, as his next-of-kin, Simpson declared prior service with the 3rd Regiment, Canadian Artillery. As a Private in the infantry, he was given the regimental number 7985.

Service in South Africa for the First Contingent was marked by the heat, the dust, the marching, and the occasional minor operation with little chance of a general engagement. It was not until February, 1900, that the battalion would be engaged in a major battlefield event, with the capture of the Boer general Piet Cronje and his 4000-strong Commando on the banks of the Modder River near Paardeberg Drift.

The battle of Paardeberg lasted from 18 to 27 February, and the Canadians were in the thick of the battle on the opening and closing days. On those two days, the battalion lost almost all of its fatal battle casualties of its overseas deployment. "G" Company paid its share of that price. On 18 Feb 1900, during the initial encirclement of Cronje's laager, "G" Company suffered one killed in action and four wounded in action, one of the latter dying of wounds the following day. The Royal Canadians were back in the front lines on 27 Feb 1900. Cronje's positions had been subjected to artillery fire by British forces since the 18th, and a final push to force his surrender was planned. Two of the Canadian companies, "G" and "H", were the most advanced troops at the moment of surrender. The cost to "G" Company was four killed in action and 13 wounded in action.

Alfred Simpson was one of the Regiment's wounded, suffering a bullet wound to his neck and back on 27 Feb 1900 at the battle of Paardeberg (Cronje's Laager). His condition assessed as serious, Simpson would spend much of the year in hospital in South Africa. Once he was able to travel, he was invalided to Canada where he was discharged on 3 Nov 1900.

One year after his return to Canada, and recovered from his injuries, Simpson re-enlisted for South African service. He signed his Canadian Yeomanry Attestation for the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles (C.M.R.), on 11 Dec 1901 at St. John, N.B. A single 24-year-old labourer, Simpson named his sister, Mary Miller of Clapton, England, as his next-of-kin. He stated that he had two years' previous service with the 3rd Regiment, Canadian Artillery and thirteen months with the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion, R.C.R., in South Africa. As a private in the C.M.R., Simpson received a new regimental number, 106.

Simpson returned to South Africa where he served with the 2nd C.M.R. He returned to Canada and was discharged upon disbandment of the regiment on 22 Jul 1902 at Halifax, N.S.

For his South African service with The RCR, Simpson received the Queen's South Africa Medal with three clasps: "Cape Colony," "Paardeberg," and "Transvaal." For his service with the 2nd C.M.R., he did not have enough time in South Africa to qualify for the King's South Africa Medal. In such a case, the clasp he earned during his second period of service in South Africa, which was the "South Africa 1902" clasp, was to be added to his Queen's medal. Simpson received his Queen's medal and his initial three clasps at St. John, N.B., on 17 Oct 1901. His "South Africa, 1902" claps was sent to him 24 Sep 1904. Simpson also received a Yeomanry Gratuity of five pounds on 21 Jul 1902.

Simpson's name is shown in the applicable database at Library and Archives Canada for the "Land Applications" by which veterans of the South African War could apply for a grant of land under the Volunteer Bounty Act of 1908. Veterans were entitled to 320 acres (two adjoining quarter-sections) of Dominion Land. While an applicant might identify a substitute, a British citizen of legal age, there was a requirement that the land be occupied and cultivated within six months. Many veterans opted to receive scrip for $160 in lieu of the land grant. Unfortunately, its is identified that Simpson's application is among a group of missing files. Since there is no evidence that Simpson moved west to occupy and cultivate an land grant, it is reasonable to assume he took the "cash in lieu" option.

After his service in South Africa, Simpson returned to his employment on the railway. He also continued serving inn the Canadian Militia with the 3rd Regiment Canadian Artillery, at St. John, N.B. His next opportunity for overseas soldiering would come in 1914.

Simpson attested for service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) with the 2nd Canadian Divisional Ammunition Column (2nd C.D.A.C.) of the Canadian Artillery (C.A.), on 26 Nov 1914. A 37-year-old brakeman of the Intercolonial Railway (I.C.R.), Simpson was described on his attestation paper as 5 feet 7 1/4-inches tall, weighing 165 pounds, with a 39 1/2-inch chest, a dark complexion, brown eyes, and dark brown hair. His religious denomination was Church of England. He stated that he had 15 years prior service with the Canadian Garrison Artillery (C.G.A.) but did not detail his South Africa service on his attestation paper. Simpson identified his wife, Eva Simpson, 72 City Road, St. John, N.B., as his next of kin. His attestation paper noted under distinctive marks the scar on his left shoulder from his wounding at Paardeberg, and his medical examination form described it as a bullet wound on back and on neck. On attesting with the 2nd C.D.A.C., Simpson was given the regimental number 159 and granted the rank of Sergeant.

With the Headquarters and 1st Section of the D.A.C., Simpson sailed from Halifax aboard the S.S. Caledonia on 15 Jun 1915. The ship arrived in England on 24 June.

While in England, Simpson was admitted to the 5th Field Ambulance Tent Hospital, Otterpool, on 5 Sep 1915. Suffering from an infected thumb, he was transferred to Moore Barracks Military Hospital at Shorncliffe the same day. He was discharged and returned to duty on 12 Sep 1915.

Simpson crossed the English Channel and landed in France on 16 Sep 1915. Three and a half weeks after arriving in France, on 11 Oct 1915, he was admitted to No. 4 Canadian Field Ambulance with bronchitis. Transferred to No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station the following day and to No. 4 Ambulance Train the day after, Simpson was invalided back to England aboard the hospital ship H.S. Anglia on 19 Oct 1915. On arrival back in England, he was admitted to 2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester, where he would remain until discharged on 8 Nov 1915.

On 20 Jan 1916, Simpson returned to France, landing at Le Havre. He was taken on the strength of the Divisional Artillery Group and transferred to the 2nd Canadian Divisional Ammunition Column on 19 Jan 1916. Simpson was promoted to the provisional rank of Sergeant on 3 Feb 1916, his Permanent Grade remained "Gunner." This change of rank likely indicates that he had to revert in rank to Private (i.e., "Gunner" for an artillery soldier) in order to go to France as a reinforcement. On arrival his past history and skills were acknowledged by the swift restoration of his rank. This was a not uncommon cycle as units in France preferred to receive private soldiers as reinforcements and promote within the unit those who had demonstrated experiences in the theatre of war.

Simpson completed a military will form on 19 Feb 1916. He stated that "in the event of my death I give the whole of my property and effects to my wife Mrs. Eva A. Simpson 72 City Rd, St. John, N.B., Canada."

One month after his promotion, on 3 Mar 1916, Simpson was admitted to No. 4 Field Ambulance and immediately transferred to No. 8 Casualty Clearing Station. He was diagnosed with "Periostitis of the Tibia" (inflammation of the connective tissue). Simpson was subsequently transferred to No. 13 General Hospital, Boulogne, on 4 Mar 1916 for two weeks of treatment. He was discharged to No. 1 Convalescent Depot, Boulogne, on 18 Mar 1916, after which he was sent to Base Details on 19 Mar 1916. Simpson rejoined his unit in the field on 30 Mar 1916.

On 19 Dec 1916, Simpson was admitted to a Field Ambulance "sick." He was transferred to No. 6 Casualty Clearing Station (C.C.S.), before being admitted to No. 1 Canadian General Hospital at Etaples on 23 Dec 1916 with a diagnosis of "acute nephritis" (inflammation of the kidneys).

Simpson was again invalided to England on 31 Dec 1916 via Ambulance Train No. 12 and the hospital ship H.S. Dunluce Castle. He was admitted to Middlesex Hospital, Claxton-on-Sea (affiliated with the Military Hospital at Colchester), on 2 Jan 1917, where his condition was listed as severe. On being evacuated from France, Simpson was taken on the strength of the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre (C.C.A.C.).

After three weeks in the Middlesex Hospital, Simpson was transferred to Oakwood Hospital, Dingwall, on 22 Jan 1917. Following another three and half weeks at Oakwood, he was transferred to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Woodcote Park, Epsom on 15 Feb 1917, where he would spend the next two and a half months before being discharged on 27 Apr 1917.

On 10 Mar 1917, Simpson's parent unit changed with a transfer to the Canadian Artillery Regimental Depot (C.A.R.D.). This occurred as part of the establishment of regional depot units for the infantry and corps depot units for the artillery, engineers and others. He was placed On Command, i.e., a temporary duty assignment without changing parent unit, to the 2nd Battery, Reserve Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, on 7 May 1917. He was posted to the unit on 12 Jun 1917.

Simpson was posted back to the C.A.R.D. at Shorncliffe on June 27th. He was then placed on command to No. 2 Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, at the Canadian Discharge Depot at Buxton on 3 Jul 1917. Two weeks later, on 17 Jul 1917, he was struck off the strength of the C.A.R.D. on embarkation for Canada. He sailed from Liverpool the following day.

Simpson arrived at the Discharge Depot for Military District No. 6 at in Halifax, N.S. On 2 Aug 1917, a Proceedings of a Medical Board form was completed to record the assessment of his medical fitness. With a twenty percent disability expected to last at least two months, it was recommended that Simpson be sent to a Convalescent Home. The following day he was admitted to the Military Hospitals Commission of Canada (M.H.C.C.) Convalescent Home in Halifax as an outpatient. After two months, he was transferred to St. John, N.B., on 1 Oct 1917 for further treatment as an outpatient.

Recorded in his Medical History of an Invalid on 18 Feb 1918, it was noted that Simpson suffered "occasional back and head aches, short of breath and swelling of feet, dizziness & nausea, on exertion." Simpson claimed this had lasted since December 1916. The form noted his condition as: "face, feet & body were swollen, much dizziness and dyspnea (difficult or laboured breathing), treated in hospital in France and England, returned to Canada and has been under treatment, diet and rest since." The medical report included mention of his old war wound from South Africa: "scar on the back of his left shoulder, exiting on the middle line in the small of the back." His current disability was described as "anemia and weakness following trench nephritis." Simpson's condition had worsened since his assessment in Halifax six months earlier, his disability now assessed as fifty percent disability and accompanied by a recommendation that he be placed in Category "C" (fit for home service in Canada only). The board determined that further treatment would not improve his condition and Simpson was designated Category "E" (unfit for general service, service abroad or home service in Canada only). The doctor noting that he "should pass under his own control."

Sergeant Alfred Percy Simpson was discharged from the C.E.F. on 15 Apr 1918 at Fredericton, N.B. He was considered "no longer fit for War Service."

For his First World War service, he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These were sent to him at Tarryburn, St. John, N.B., on 22 Feb 1922.

Alfred Simpson died on 12 Feb 1934, at the age of 56.

Pro Patria

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