Sir William Penn Symons

Jul 17, 1843 to Oct 23, 1899

Sir-William-Penn-Symons
Sir William Penn Symons

William Penn Symons was born at Hatt near Saltash, Cornwall, the eldest son of William Symons and Caroline Anne Southwell. Educated at Crediton and Sandhurst, Symons was commissioned as an Ensign in the 24thRegiment of Foot (later renamed the South Wales Borderers) in 1863 and was promoted to a Lieutenant in 1866.

He first saw action in South Africa in 1877-78 when as a Captain he took part in the operations against the Galekas and the Zulu war the following year. In 1880, Symons served in India and served on the staff in the expedition to Burma in 1885 as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General. Four years later he commanded the Burma Column and was given the rank of brevet Lieutenant Colonel in 1886 and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1891.

Frequently mentioned in dispatches he commanded the 2nd Battalion South WalesBorderers until 1893 when he became Assistant Adjutant General for musketry in Bengal, India. Between 1894 and 1898 he commanded a Brigade in the Waziriston Expedition, the Tochi field force and afterwards a division in the Tirah expedition to north-western India.

In May, 1899 Symons was sent to Natal, South Africa to take precautionary measures in the northern border in the likelyhood of hostilities with the Transvaal Republic with the temporary rank of Brigadier General. On the outbreak of the second Anglo-Boer war on October 11, 1899, Symons remained in command of the advance British position in Dundee with four battalions of infantry, three batteries of artillery and one cavalry regiment. On October 19, 1899, the Boers captured Elandslaagte station and several rail, telegraph and road communications between Dundee and Ladysmith, almost cutting off and surrounding the force at Dundee. At the Battle of Talana Hill, Symons was shot in the abdomen and died three days later. Although the Boers were eventually driven off Talana Hill, they were still in a commanding position and eventually took Dundee, the British forces withdrawing to Ladysmith.

Symons is buried in St James churchyard in Dundee where a large marble cross now marks his grave. There is also a stone cairn at the foot of Talana Hill where Symons received his wound.

William Penn Symons had married Caroline, only daughter of T. P. Hawkins of Edgbaston, Warwickshire in 1877. It is not known if any children were born of this marriage.