John Henry Sims - Laindon Station Master 1926-1952.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'John Henry Sims - Laindon Station Master 1926-1952.' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'John Henry Sims - Laindon Station Master 1926-1952.' page

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)

I’ve just re-read Joan Sim’s book ‘High Spirits’ and feel that a little about her father’s life should be recorded on the Archive.  He served as Laindon Station Master for 26 years – a noteworthy person in his own right.

John’s father, Robert Henry Sims married Maud Mary Willett in Orsett 1887.   Their son John Henry was born in Poplar 1888.

The 1891 Census shows the family had moved to 5 Humphreys Avenue, Hastings, (Maud Mary’s place of birth).  John’s younger brothers Fred and Percy plus sister Bertha were born in Hastings.

The 1901 Census shows the family living at 57 Orsett Road, Grays. John now aged 12. 

Shortly after this, John aged 13, started work at Grays Railway Station.  His youngest brother Bertie was born in Orsett 1903. 

The 1911 Census shows John in 2nd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, at Hillsborough Barracks, Ecclesall, West Yorkshire.  

At the start of WW1 in 1914, the family were still living in Orsett Road, Grays.  John’s military records show he was embodied as a Private on 7.9.1914 and shortly after was appointed Lance Corporal and promoted to Sergeant.  He served in Malta, Egypt and Gallipoli, received the 1914–15 Star, British War and Victory medals.  After being demobbed, John joined The London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) as a booking clerk. 

In 1922 John Henry married Gladys Ladbrook in Rochford.   Gladys had been born in Great Wakering.  By 1926 they were living in Station House, where John had been appointed to the position of Station Master.  Their only daughter Irene Joan Marion was born 9th May 1930 in Station House and was later to become well known as the much loved, all round actress Joan Sims and one of the main stars of the ‘Carry On’ films.

In 1950 the station received a first class certificate for cleanliness and again in 1951.   I can remember around that time, waiting on the platform, bucket and spade in hand, for the steam train to take us to the seaside at Southend and noticing how neat and tidy it was with some pretty little flowers growing near the waiting room.  My mum said they were petunias and dad sang us a song called ‘I’m a lonely little petunia in an onion patch’.  After we climbed abroad and slammed shut the carriage door behind us, I wonder if it was John himself who sent us on our way, by waving the flag and blowing the whistle!

John served 26 years as Laindon Station Master.  1926 – 1952 and retired on 15th September 1952, the same day that his daughter Joan made her London Stage debut at St Martin’s Theatre in a review called “Bells of St Martins”.  The attached newspaper cuttings announced his retirement.  He and his wife Gladys moved to Southchurch, in Southend where they enjoyed 12 years of retirement until his death in 1964

This page was added by Nina Humphrey(née Burton) on 04/05/2015.
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In railway circles, John Henry Sims was always known as "Harry", which is interesting as his only daughter, Irene Joan Marion Sims was, similarly, always known to us all as "Joan"!

By John Bathurst
On 06/05/2015
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