13 April 2003

John Joseph Sims is one of those 19th Century Victoria Cross recipients of whom nothing much is known. He was born in Bloomsbury, Central London, sometime in 1835 and joined the 1st Battalion, 34th Regiment, later to become The Border Regiment. Sims must have been only 19 years old when the regiment was posted to the Crimea to take part at the Siege of Sebastopol.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 24 February 1857 ]. The Redan, Crimea, 18 June 1855, No. 3482 Private John Joseph Sims, 34th Regiment.

For having, on 18th June 1855, after the Regiment had retired into the trenches from the assault on the Redan, gone out into the open ground under a heavy fire in broad daylight and brought in wounded soldiers outside the trenches.

The announcement of the award of the Victoria Cross to John Sims was made in the London Gazette of 24th February 1857, on the institution of the award. He was fortunate to have been in England that year and was invited to take part at the first investiture of the award of the VC in Hyde Park on 26th June 1857, having the Cross pinned on his breast personally by Queen Victoria. ( The whereabouts of John Sims' VC is unknown. It has never been sold or auctioned and therefore its location is a mystery ).

John Sims died on 6th December 1881, aged 46, at the Union Workhouse, Thavies Inn, City of London, from phthisis ( tuberculosis ). He was buried in Common Ground in the City of London Cemetery, Manor Park, without a headstone

It was only recently that the Systems & Quality Manager of the City of London Cemetery decided to raise a Heritage Brochure and Heritage Trail of the cemetery grounds and gardens and was eager to include in the tour the graves of two VC holders.

Although John Sims had been buried in an unmarked grave in Common Ground, and the area now comprises memorial gardens, the exact location of Sims' burial plot was known. Therefore, on Friday, 11th April 2003, a memorial plaque was placed over the grave of Private John Sims VC in time for the official launch of the City of London Cemetery's Heritage Brochure and Heritage Trail on Sunday, 13th April 2003. The cemetery is Europe's largest, covering around two hundred acres of grounds and gardens with seven miles of pathways. It was opened in 1856 and is still under the control of the Corporation of London.

The other VC holder buried in the cemetery is Lieutenant George Drewry VC, Royal Navy, who earned his Victoria Cross during the landings from HMS 'River Clyde' at V Beach, Seddul Bahr, Gallipoli in 1915. He was accidently killed in 1918 when a block fell from a derrick and fractured his skull whilst serving on HMS 'William Jackson' in Scapa Flow. His body was carried south and was placed in a grave in the City of London Cemetery. ( George Drewry's VC is held by the Imperial War Museum, London ).


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Iain Stewart, 20 April 2003