Biography

Birth date: 10 July 1889
Birth place: Australia: Victoria, Eaglehawk
Death date: 24 June 1948
Death place: United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Final rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
Units:
  • 7th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • 37th Australian Infantry Battalion

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.

Rolls and Awards

First World War Embarkation Roll

  • Rank: Captain
  • Date of embarkation: 03 June 1916
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Victoria Cross

  • Unit: 7th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Victoria Cross

  • Unit: 7th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation)

  • Unit: 7th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Victoria Cross

  • Unit: 37th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Honours and Awards : Victoria Cross

  • Unit: 7th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Photograph

113292

FIELD MARSHAL LORD WILLIAM RIDDELL BIRDWOOD (SECOND FROM LEFT) AND VICTORIA CROSS WINNERS, AIR VICE MARSHAL F.H. MCNAMARA, COLONEL W.J. SYMONS AND LIEUTENANT L. KEYSOR.

113292

H06206

CAPTAIN W.J. SYMONS, VC, 37TH BATTALION.

H06206

P01111.001

ENGLAND. 1918. THIS PHOTOGRAPH HAS BEEN CROPPED FROM P0997/01, A GROUP PHOTOGRAPH OF THE OFFICERS OF 37TH BATTALION. LEFT TO RIGHT: CAPTAIN E. S. WILSON, CAPT W. J SYMONS VC, AND CAPT W. F. ROBERTSON. (DONOR C. ATWELL)

P01111.001

P00997.016

BULFORD, ENGLAND. 1916-09-27. MEMBERS OF 'C' COMPANY AND 'D' COMPANY, 37TH BATTALION, TAKE PART IN THE MARCH PAST AS PART OF THE REVIEW OF 3RD DIVISION TROOPS BY KING GEORGE V. CAPTAIN W. J. SYMONS, COMMANDING OFFICER OF 'D' COMPANY IS THE MOUNTED OFFICER SALUTING.

P00997.016

P02939.002

Studio portrait of Sergeant (Sgt) William John Symons, 7th Battalion. Later promoted to Lieutenant (Lt), he was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) "for most conspicuous bravery on the night of 8th - 9th August, 1915, at Lone Pine Trenches, in the Gallipoli Peninsula". Lt Symons repelled several enemy...

P02939.002

P00997.001

Group portrait of officers of the 37th Battalion before the Battalion left for France in November 1916. Identified standing in the back row, from left to right: Lieutenant (Lt) Sydney Henry Birrell from Woodland, Victoria; Second Lieutenant (2nd Lt) Harold Carlyle Parker from Hastings, Victoria who...

P00997.001

P09772.007

Group reunion of the 7th Battalion AIF. The men all wear returned service badges on their lapels. The 7th Battalion, was raised by Lieutenant Colonel Harold 'Pompey' Elliott, and along with the 5th, 6th and 8th Battalions formed the 2nd Brigade. The men of the 2nd Brigade all enlisted in Victoria....

P09772.007

Private Record

Symons, William John VC (Lt-Col.)

Printed matter acquired by Symons while overseas with AIF. Includes Christmas message from Birdwood, booklet of illustrations of Mena Camp, folder from hotel in Cairo, and booklet of Dirty Dick's wineshop in London. Maker: Symons, William John

3DRL/3866C

Heraldry

1914-15 Star : Lieutenant W J Symons, 7 Battalion, AIF

1914-15 Star. Impressed on reverse with recipient's details.

RELAWM16566.002

Victoria Cross : Lieutenant W J Symons, 7 Battalion, AIF

Victoria Cross. Engraved on reverse suspender with recipient's details, and on reverse cross with date of award.

RELAWM16566.001

George VI Coronation Medal : W J Symons, VC

George VI Coronation Medal. Unnamed as issued.

RELAWM16566.005

British War Medal 1914-20 : Captain W J Symons, 37 Battalion, AIF

British War Medal 1914-20. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

RELAWM16566.003

Victory Medal : Captain W J Symons, 37 Battalion, AIF

Victory Medal. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

RELAWM16566.004

Published Collection

Cigarette card of Capt. W J Symons VC

Cigarette card showing portrait of Captain William John Symons VC. Part of a series of cards depicting Australian VCs printed by Sniders and Abrahams.

RC09123

Digitised Collection

Diary for Frederick Harold Tubb, 1915

Diary relating to the First World War service of Major Frederick Harold Tubb VC, 7th Battalion. The diary was written by Frederick Tubb between 17 August and 6 October 1915. In this diary, Tubb recounts his movement off Gallipoli due to the wounds he received at Lone Pine and the lengthy games of...

RCDIG0000281

Diary for Frederick Harold Tubb, 1915

Diary relating to the First World War service of Major Frederick Harold Tubb VC, 7th Battalion. The diary was written by Frederick Tubb between 7 October and 21 November 1915. In the diary, Tubb describes his continued convalescence at 3rd London General Hospital in Wandsworth and meeting another...

RCDIG0000282

Diary for Frederick Harold Tubb, 1915-1916

Diary relating to the First World War service of Major Frederick Harold Tubb VC, 7th Battalion. The diary was written by Frederick Tubb between 31 December 1915 and 30 June 1916. In the diary, Tubb comments on the newspaper reports about the direction of the war, his promotion and continued...

RCDIG0000284

Timeline

Date of birth 1889-07-10
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1914-08-17
Other units 1914-08-18 Colour Sergeant to 7 Battalion.
Date of embarkation 1914-10-18 Embarked at Port Melbourne aboard HMAT A20 (SS Hororata).
Date promoted 1915-04-26 Appointed 2nd Lieutenant.
Date promoted 1915-07-02 Appointed Lieutenant.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-08-20
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-09-01
Date of honour or award 1915-09-08 Awarded Victoria Cross for action at Lone Pine, Gallipoli, Turkey whilst serving with 7 Battalion, 2 Brigade, 1 Division as a Lieutenant
Date of recommendation honour or award 1915-10-16
Date promoted 1916-05-01 Appointed Captain.
Date of embarkation 1916-06-03
Other units 1916-06-03 Company Commander with 37 Battalion.
Date wounded 1917-07-07 Gassed.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1918
Date of death 1948-06-24