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Simmon LATUTIN, GC (Posthumously)

Source: Copyright, Janet Snowman, Royal Academy of Music

No. & Rank at the Time of Action: 242974, Captain

Unit/Occupation: The Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert's), seconded to the Somalia Gendarmerie

Date and Place of Birth: 25th July 1916, London

Family: Son of Morris and Freda (Krafchig) Latutin. Married Margaret Jacob, Harrow, Middlesex in March 1940 (Registry says Marylebone). Had two daughters Elizabeth born in 1942 and Anne born 1943. Wife remarried by 1974 and was then Mrs. Liebert.

Early Life: Educated at London Polytechnic and then won a scholarship to Royal Academy of Music.

In an announcement in the London Gazette on 17th September 1942, p.3956, "Cadet Simmon Latutin (242974) was commissioned 2/Lt to the Somerset LI 21.8.42."

Date and Place of GC Action: 29th December 1944, Mogadishu, Somaliland

The London Gazette: 10th September 1946 No. 37717

Citation: "The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the GEORGE CROSS in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner to:-

No 12788 Havildar ABDUL REHMAN 3 / 9th The Jat Regiment Indian Army

Captain Simmon LATUTIN (242974) Somalia Gendarmerie (Harrow, Middlesex)."

Account of Deed: (The Times, 11.9.1946, p.7)

On December 29, 1944, a fire occurred at the training school store, Somalia Gendarmerie, Mogadishu, while some Italian rockets and explosives were being taken out destined for another unit about to hold a New Year’s entertainment. Captain Latutin, together with one officer, a company sergeant-major, and a personal boy were in this store selecting the explosives, the first-named standing in the main doorway; for some unexplained cause a fire commenced and almost simultaneously a great number of rockets commenced to explode and burn – there were some 170 cases in the store; with the force of the explosion and the fire the store became an inferno of danger. Captain Latutin, regardless of the detonating rockets, the intense heat generated by the fire, and the choking clouds of smoke, plunged into the store-room and succeeded in dragging out the officer, who was almost unconscious owing to his burning injuries. By this time Captain Latutin was himself alight, but without an instant’s hesitation he again rushed into this seething holocaust of flames and rescued the company sergeant major, who by this time, owning to the fierce nature of the fire, was quite naked. The body of the boy was later recovered, but was not recognizable owning to the charred condition of his corpse.

The heroism of Captain Latutin was superb as he fully realized the acute danger which he must incur in entering the building, ablaze with explosives and flames; his unquenchable determination to succour the injured is evinced by his second entry into the store, though himself and his clothes already alight. His action was illustrative of the finest degree of British courage and a magnificent example of undaunted selflessness. Captain Latutin died as a result of his injuries on the following day.

Remarks: Joined up in July 1940, Commissioned in 1942, 1943 commanded an infantry Training School of Swahili troops from Kenya and teaching infantry work to the Somaliland Troops after the fall of Italy.

Additional Information: Whilst many of those who have received the George Cross have previously had a reputation for fearlessness - this is by no means true of everyone who has received that high distinction. The story of Noor Inayat-Khan, who wrote fairy stories for children, has already been told and another equally unlikely candidate was Simmon Latutin, a sensitive professional musician of Russian-Jewish extraction.

His father was born in Riga and bore the same name as General Vatutin, the hero of Kiev. As a young man, he emigrated to England and, in translating his name, the 'V' became an 'L'. In London, he met and married a Polish girl, Simmon Latutin's mother. Simmon had an artistic temperament and his parents sent him to study at the Royal Academy of Music. At the age of twenty he achieved the unusual distinction of being selected as a member of the London Symphony Orchestra, often leading his section. Then came the war and he was called up. He continued to play with the LSO whilst on leave. After music, photography was his main interest.

He suffered from poor eyesight and was drafted into the Pioneer Corps. Eventually he was selected for training at an Officer Cadet Training Unit and was commissioned into the Somerset Light Infantry. In 1943 he was selected for service as an instructor in East Africa and, soon afterwards, he was made O.C. of the Somaliland Gendarmerie Training School, at Mogadischu. The climate there did not treat him kindly and he developed ulcers that refused to heal. He was sent to the Military Hospital in Nairobi and, after treatment there, was flown back to Mogadischu again, still wearing plaster.

He arrived back there in December 1944, and one day soon afterwards he went to a storeroom where another officer, a Sergeant-Major and a native boy were selecting rockets and explosives for a New Year entertainment. For some unknown reason, as he was standing in the doorway, fire broke out in the store; and hundreds of rockets began to explode. Within seconds the place became a white-hot inferno and the three men inside fell to the ground, torn by the blast and badly burned by the hot flames. Without hesitation, Captain Latutin dashed through the bursting rockets into the store and succeeded in dragging out the officer. Then, his clothing blazing, he returned and came out again with the Sergeant-Major, who was by then quite naked with every stitch of clothing burnt from his body. Had he been able, he would undoubtedly have gone in a third time for the native boy but the heat had become too intense and Captain Latutin was too badly burned for him to take any further part in the incident. He lived throughout the following night but his injuries were mortal and, next day, he died. Simmon Latutin may not have been physically strong, but he more than made up for this in toughness of spirit and, in the final test, that short-sighted, sensitive musician died as gallantly.

Final Rank: Captain

Other Decorations/Medals: Defence Medal & War Medal 1939-45

GC Location/Sale History: Captain Simmon Latutin's George Cross is currently held, along with that of Pte J H Silk, in the Somerset Military Museum, Taunton Castle, Somerset TA1 4AA

Date and Place of Death: 30th December 1944, Mogadishu, Somaliland. Aged 28

Cause of Death: As a result of his GC action

Burial Cremation: Nairobi War Cemetery, Kenya; Grave reference. Plot 1. Grave 3. The War Cemetery is on the south-western outskirts of Nairobi, about 10 kilometres west of the city centre on Ngong Road, which is the main road to the Government Forest Reserve.


Memorials: Name on Roll of Honour at the Royal Academy of Music, London

Memorial Gates dome, Constitution Hill, London. These Gates were erected to honour the five million men and women from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Caribbean who served with the Armed Forces in both World Wars. It was inaugurated on the 6th November 2002 by HM The Queen.

Source: Terry Hissey

Town/County Connections: London