Tony Simmonds RIP
a tribute from an old friend
Introduction by Margaret Sheard….
Tony Simmonds lived in Lapta for many years but after having suffered a stroke in 2003, he and his wife Annabel moved to an apartment Kyrenia. Tony recently had another massive stroke resulting in being in hospital in intensive care but sadly he died on 30th November, his burial took place on Friday 4th December.
He served with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, part of which was in Cyprus.
Tony was a member of the Royal British Legion, Kyrenia Branch and attended the Remembrance events at the Old British Cemetery in Kyrenia. He was also a founder member of the Bellapais Lodge.
We have received a wonderful tribute from his old friend Roy Bailey, which you can read below. It is a very moving account of a friendship which spanned almost 61 years, including their army service in Cyprus.
By Roy Bailey
In a letter to me a year or so ago, Tony spoke of ‘our long friendship’. It was a friendship, greatly valued by me, that had endured for nearly 61 years.
Having been conscripted into the Army as National Servicemen, we both signed on for 3 years in January 1955. We were posted to the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in Germany, where we got to know each other – possibly as a result of coming from the same area of South Bucks. Although in separate companies we spent a lot of time together when off duty, and returned to England with the Regiment in 1956. From our barracks in Essex I recall us travelling into the West End together to enjoy my first Chinese meal!
When the Regiment was diverted to Cyprus later that year instead of going to Hong Kong, we were on the same troop deck together, spending time ashore in Malta, and we continued our friendship throughout the next 18 months. I have a treasured photo of us together in 1957, with Tony wearing the sergeant’s stripes that he had earned.
In January 1958 we came home on demob together, and then spent some time racketing around the Windsor area, frequenting a club owned by Diana Dors’ ex-husband.
His marriage to Nina and a move to Sheffield and then to the North-East put an end to this, but we kept in touch and, when I was filming in the North for the BBC, Tony came along to a couple of locations. He was thrilled to meet Danny Blanchflower.
Inevitably we lost contact, but after he and his family moved back to Ringwood, he got in touch, and we picked up the threads. We joined the Regimental Old Comrades Association, and attended Reunions and Remembrance Day services in Oxford. Either Tony would stay at my house, or we would share a room in a B & B near the barracks. I have happy memories of us walking back to our lodgings through the suburban streets of Oxford in the small hours, having enjoyed a convivial evening.
After Tony and Nina moved to Cyprus communications became difficult, but we kept in touch by post, and he proved to be an excellent letter writer. His communications were always chatty and descriptive, and on more than one occasion he treated me to six pages of handwritten A4! One problem we never solved was that of communicating by e-mail, and I am grateful to Keith Lloyd and Marion Stuart for their assistance over the past six years in helping me keep in contact. Towards the end, when it was no longer possible for him to write, Tony would ring me every week or so, and I looked forward to those occasions.
On one of their visits to the UK we took the Simmonds out to lunch in the Stevenage area, and I met them four times in Cyprus. In July 2006 I celebrated my 70th birthday at their house in Lapta, and they entertained me very well for the 12 days; four years ago my wife and I spent a week in Kyrenia and saw Tony and Nina nearly every day; and our final visit was on the 17th November this year. The fourth and very frustrating occasion was in November 2009, when I was present for the unveiling of the British Cyprus Memorial and could only chat to them for 5 minutes prior to the ceremony before being bussed back to Limassol.
Tony was always engaging company, with a good sense of humour and an infectious chuckle, and we were never at a loss for a topic of conversation. It would probably be true to say that his politics were somewhat to the right of Attila the Hun, and political correctness was foreign to him, but that was never a problem. We shared an interest in our Regiment, good living, and a great love of the Goon Show. He would often address me as a Goon character such as Eccles or Neddie Seagoon in his letters and on the telephone. We were always comfortable in each other’s company, and in over 60 years I don’t think we ever exchanged a cross word with each other.
It was fortuitous that my wife and I had arranged to be in Kyrenia last month when we did, and although my old friend was obviously very unwell, it was good to spend a day in his company. I am greatly saddened to know that never again, when the phone rings, will I hear that slightly gruff little voice, a la Spike Milligan, say ‘Hallo Jeem’!