Harold “Harry” Fitzsimmons AM

b. 17/02/1911 Armley, Leeds, Yorkshire. d. 08/04/1944 Burma.

DATE OF AM ACTION: 31/05 – 02/06/1935 Quetta, (then India), now Pakistan.

Harry Fitzsimmons was the son of Harry and Elisabeth Fitzsimmons of Leeds, Yorkshire, and was stationed with the 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment at Quetta when the disastrous earthquake hit that city in 1935. Situated in the north-west of the Indian Sub-continent, Quetta was first established as a base by Sir Robert Sandeman in the late 1870s, and by the 1930s was an important military centre for conducting operations on the North West Frontier. However, on 31 May 1935, the city was completely destroyed by one of the world’s worst ever earthquakes, a disaster which resulted in some 35,000 casualties – all surviving military and nursing personnel were quickly seconded for rescue work, the climate and the extensive damage making their task a most harrowing one.

Fitzsimmons was involved in the rescue operations over the course of three days, and in particular on 1 June 1935:

‘Another Albert Medallist, Private H. Fitzsimmons, was part of a party of rescue workers east of Sandeman Hall area of the city. He was approached by a group of Indians who in their grief and frenzy asked the seemingly impossible. A man was trapped alive in the middle of a two storied house that had collapsed. Private Fitzsimmons burrowed under the rubble, shoring it up as he went along. He found the man, trapped underneath a dead woman, her leg pinned down by a heavy beam. He reported that “If we were to remove the beam it would bring down tons of rubble and bury them both.” “What do you suggest?” replied the officer. “Well Sir, if only the woman’s leg wasn’t in the way, I could get the man out”, replied Harry Fitzsimmons, who then went on, “supposed we could get a saw Sir? After all, the woman is dead!”

Private Fitzsimmons went back below with a carpenter’s saw. Keeping it upright, he began to slowly cut through the woman’s leg, even though another tremor might have brought down further debris and trapped both men. For two hours, working in cramped and dangerous conditions, Harry Fitzsimmons kept his nerve until at last he had freed the trapped Indian. This was just one of the many gallant acts performed by Private Harry Fitzsimmons during the days of rescue work that followed.

Fitzsimmons subsequently advanced to Sergeant and transferred to the Gloucestershire Regiment. He served in Palestine in 1936. He was serving with the latter during the Second War, when he died on active service 8 April 1944. The Regiment had been fighting in the Burma Campaign from February 1944. Sergeant Fitzsimmons is buried in Gauhati War Cemetery, India.



On the 31st May and 1st and 2nd June, 1935, Fitzsimmons was on rescue duty in the area of Quetta city to the east of Sandeman Hall. He worked with conspicuous energy and devotion to duty throughout the period of rescue work, and in conjunction with others was responsible for saving several lives. On 1st June, in order to rescue an Indian whom he knew to be buried alive, Fitzsimmons, at great risk to his own life, made a passage under the debris of a house into which he was able to crawl. On reaching the man he discovered a woman lying dead on top of him, who was pinned down by a stout beam across her leg. In order to release the man, whom he eventually saved, he had to saw off the woman’s leg with a carpenter’s saw. The remains of the building, and the passage he made, were in imminent danger of collapse during the whole period he was working. Fitzsimmons’ action was a very gallant one and worthy of special recognition.’