STAFF SERJEANT WILLIAM VAZIE LANGDALE SIMONS SIMONS
ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY ATTACHED ROYAL FLYING CORPS
25TH JANUARY 1918 AGE 25
BURIED: ISMAILIA WAR MEMORIAL CEMETERY, EGYPT
William Vazie Langdale Simons' inscription was signed for by his brother, Robert John Jermyn Simons (the brothers were known as Vazie and John). 'Vale' is the Latin word for farewell and it's possible that John was inspired by a poem written by the Roman poet Catullus, which he addressed to his dead brother who, like Vazie, was buried far from home.
By ways remote and distant waters sped,
Brother, to thy sad grave-side I am come,
That I may give the last gifts to the dead,
Since she who now bestows and now denies
Hath taken thee, hapless brother, from mine eyes.
But lo! these gifts, their heirlooms of past years,
Are made sad things to grace thy coffin shell,
Take them, all drenched with a brother's tears,
And, brother, for all time, hail and farewell!
The last line, 'Atque in perpetuam frater ave atque vale', is one of the most famous lines in Latin literature. And if John didn't know it from Catullus, he may have been aware of Tennyson's poem, Frater Ave Atque Vale, which Tennyson wrote in the year following his own brother's death, after visiting Catullus' villa at Sirmio.
Vazie and John were the sons of Vazie and Maud Simons. The parents married in Australia, where Maud was born and where their eldest child, Clara, was also born. By the time Vazie Jnr was born in 1893, the family had returned to Merthyr Tydfil for Vazie Snr to join the family law firm, Messrs Simons and Plews. In 1907, Vazie Snr committed suicide - shooting himself through the heart at his office desk.
Vazie Jnr joined the Royal Field Artillery in 1912 as a territorial. He was called up on mobilization and served with the BEF in France and Flanders from November 1915. In 1916 the battalion went to Egypt and served through the Palestine Campaign, taking part in the two battles of Gaza. Vazie was awarded a Military Medal for conspicuous bravery in the field during the first battle.
In late 1917, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and was killed during flying training on 25 January 1918. He is buried in Ismailia, a small town on the west bank of the Suez Canal.