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Emotional pilgrimage to war grave

PUBLISHED: 09:11 02 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:31 08 July 2010

A NORFOLK man has spoken of the emotional pilgrimage he made to visit his father's war grave in India.

A NORFOLK man has spoken of the emotional pilgrimage he made to visit his father's war grave in India.

Brian Simmons flew out to Calcutta earlier last month ahead of Rememberance Day to lay a Poppy Cross on the grave of his father Stephen who was killed when Brian was little more than a toddler.

Now 70, and having researched as much as possible about his father and the cause of his death, Mr Simmons wanted to pay his respects at least one more time while he is still fit enough.

He said: “On Remembrance Sunday I attended a service at the Cenotaph in the centre of Calcutta and laid my poppy cross there.

“The service was really moving with an Indian Army pipe band and buglers to play the Last Post.

“Representatives of high commissions attended from countries such as Germany, Russia, China, Bengal, Malaysia and Singapore.”

Having visited his father's grave for the first time in more than 30 years the day before Mr Simmons then returned the Bhowanipore war cemetery to place the poppy cross on his father's grave.

He said: “I spent some time there in reflection on what had happened all those years ago and what could have been, if he had survived, something I will think about for the rest of my days.

“On the Monday I went back to the grave and the cross had gone, I suppose to help someone to make a few rupees to feed themselves and their family, so long as it did some good.”

Stephen Simmons, a scientific instrument maker by trade, joined the Royal Navy during the war despite being in an occupation which meant he did not have to sign up.

He was soon promoted to Acting Chief Motor Mechanic and during his time in the Navy he served on various ships and at various naval bases.

He also spent time in America learning about the latest marine engine technology and training on American PT (patrol torpedo) boats.

Brian Simmons has never found out the exact circumstances surrounding his father's death but he believes he died in some sort of explosion on board ship.

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