Lieutenant William Symons VC

William Symons. P02939.002 William Symons.

Date of birth: 12 July, 1889
Place of birth: Eaglehawk, VIC
Date of death: 24 June, 1948
Place of death: London, England  

William Symons was born at Eaglehawk, Victoria, in 1889. He worked as a commercial traveller and served for eight years in the militia, then enlisted in the AIF in August 1914. Posted as a sergeant, Symons landed with the 7th Battalion on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. He was commissioned second lieutenant the next day, and promoted to lieutenant on 2 July.

In the early hours of 9 August the Turks made a series of attacks on Jacob’s Trench at Lone Pine. Symons was ordered to retake the trench, knowing he would be lucky to survive. He led a charge, but the enemy continued to attack. With the trench under fire from three sides Symons built a timber barricade. Although the Turks set fire to the woodwork, he extinguished the flames and finally forced the enemy to discontinue their attacks. For his efforts he received the Victoria Cross.

Symons returned to Australia in 1916, then embarked in June with the 37th Battalion as a company commander. He was badly gassed during the battle of Messines in June 1917, but after a break to recover fought on the Somme in 1918. After the war he settled in Britain with his wife, serving with the home guard from 1941 to 1944. He died in London in June 1948.

Citation (abridged):

On this night Symons commanded the right flank of some newly-captured trenches and repelled several counter-attacks with great coolness. Next morning the enemy attacked an isolated trench, killing or severely wounding six officers in quick succession. Symons led a charge which retook the trench, shooting two enemy with his revolver. The trench was under fire from three sides, so Symons withdrew to nearby head cover and under heavy fire built up a barricade. His coolness and determination finally compelled the enemy to discontinue their attacks.

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