Born on 10th of July 1889 in Eaglehawk, Victoria to William Sampson Symons and his wife Mary Emma (ne: Manning). William was the eldest of five boys and lived with his family in Eaglehawk until his father passed away in 1904 at which point Mary moved the family to the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick. After his father’s death William John Symons worked, driving a grocers cart to help support his mother and siblings and later became a travelling salesman.

Records indicate that William John Symons spent eight years as a volunteer with the forces (possibly the Militia) before joining the Australian Imperial Force (A.I.F). It was 17th of August 1914 when William joined the, AIF, 7th Battalion enlisting at Carlton, Victoria as a Private. Within two days he had been promoted to Colour Sargent. On April 9th 1915 Symons became the Acting R.Q.M. Sargent, and then on the 26th of April was again promoted to Second Lieutenant. On July 2nd, a month prior to the actions that won Symons the V.C. medal he became a Lieutenant within the 7th Battalion. On the nights of August 8th and 9th 1915, in the trenches at Lone Pine, Symons was involved in some fierce fighting, he was knocked over by an exploding bomb but picked himself up and lead a charge to successfully re claim the post that they had earlier lost. William John Symons was awarded his V.C. by H.M King George V, on October 15th, 1915. 

On March 12th, 1916 Symons returned home to Australia for a short period in which he was promoted to Captain on May 1st. When he again deployed, this time it was with the 37th Battalion, he was sent to Plymouth in England. On November 22nd 1916, Symons left South Hampton, England and headed for France, where he was wounded in Action on July 7th. Suffering from Gas Poisoning Symons was returned to England where he spent time recovering. On September 20th 1917 he was discharged from the 3rd London General Hospital. It wasn’t until January 13th, 1918 that Symons once again departed from South Hampton en route to France where he rejoined the 37th Battalion on January 19th. Symons had a weeks leave between March 9-16th, which was spent in Paris before returning to duty. Symons once again left France which was to be the last time. Symons returned to England on June 20th, 1918 to attend a course at Hayling Island. 

At some point in time during his service William John Symons met Isabel Anna Hockley. The pair was married on August 15th, 1918 at St. Mary’s Church, Hayling Island, Hampshire, England and the following day they boarded the vessel RMS “Mauitania” and set sail for Australia, arriving on October 14th. After returning to Australia with his new wife Symons settled in the St Kilda area and started a family. The couples first child, Isabel Evelyn, (Eve), was born at Armadale, Victoria on May 21st 1919 and on March 29th 1923 their second daughter was born, her name was Nym Denise Mary

Pen-Symons, in Brighton. The family returned to England after having adopted the name Pen-Symons, “Pen” being a Cornish prefix on Names. After returning to England Isabel gave birth to their third child. Anne Marcondes Pen-Symons was born on December 2nd, 1924 at Pinner, Greater London, England. Having won a VC Medal, came some very special privileges. Symons and his daughter Eve were able to attend the coronation of George VI, on May 12th,1937. William John Symons passed away at St Mary’s hospital, Paddington, London on June 24th 1948 from Broncho Pneumonia and a Cerebral Tumor.

After falling on financial difficulties after the death of her husband, Isabel sold his VC Medal for $1,750 Australian Dollars. In the late 60’s  the 7th Battalion of the A.I.F, learnt that the medal was once again to be sold, they set up an Appeal to raise the funds for the return of the Symons VC to Australia. This appeal proved successful and was returned to Australia in 1967. It has since been given to the Australian War Memorial where it remains today for all to appreciate.

Article by Melissa Rennie (Great Grand Niece)