On Wednesday 10 February at 0850hrs a plaque was unveiled at the National Westminster Bank, 36 The Rock, Bury, in commemoration of Cpl Percy Grenfell Simmons, born in Ardwick in 1892, and Pte Herbert Howarth, born in Bury in 1895. Both were Old Boys of Bury Grammar School and employees of the Bury branch of Parrs Bank, and both were killed in action on the Somme in 1916 during the First World War, five days apart. The plaque was discovered during the recent refurbishment of the National Westminster Bank which now occupies the site.
The unveiling ceremony was attended by personnel representing 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, today’s Army Reserve descendant of Percy’s unit, The King’s Liverpool Regiment, and the Drummers Call was performed by the Fusilier Drummers.
Samantha Tobin, Branch Manager Bury NatWest, said: ‘The branch has just gone through a big transformation, and during that time the plaque was discovered. I’m really proud to have the plaque restored and on the wall of our branch. These were former employees and part of the local community. It’s been exciting doing the research and working together with the Fusiliers Museum to find out about the history of these two individuals.’
Paul Davies, CO for the Bury, Oldham and Tameside Local Market, said: ‘It was during the branch clear-up when we were going through the old safe that we found the plaque. We started to do a little bit of digging for information and discovered that the two individuals had worked for the bank. It’s so important to the staff and the local community that we continue to display the plaque, especially with the local link to the Fusiliers.’
Major Andrew Adams, Quartermaster 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, said: ‘The two individuals commemorated on the plaque were members of what were antecedent units of the current day Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment. As Bury is in the local area of Army Reserve unit D Company 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, we were keen to have a military presence for both the unveiling and the reopening of the bank. It’s extremely poignant, especially in this the centenary year of the Battle of the Somme, to think of these two individuals who left Bury 100 years ago to fight in the Great War. It’s very important that we still remember them.
Mark Hone, Head of History and Politics, Bury Grammar School, said: ‘When the plaque was discovered they found out that Herbert Howarth was an old boy of Bury Grammar School. They contacted me, and it subsequently emerged that Percy Simmons, the second individual on the plaque, was also an old boy of the school. I’m very moved by the restoration of the plaque. Herbert and Percy were killed five days apart. They must have known each other well. They’d been at school at the same time and worked at the same bank. The school has a long history with the military; our Cadet unit was founded in 1892, and two thirds of the Old Boys who served in the First World War had been cadets themselves. It’s very good to see Army Reservists here today, especially because of the town’s continuing connection with the Army.’