Pte Symons Albert Gilroy

  • Date of birth: 03/07/1887
  • Place of birth: Farina, South Australia, Australia
  • Date of death: 12/10/1917
  • Place of death: Keiberg Spur, Belgium
  • Cause of death: Killed in action (K.I.A.)
  • Age: 30
  • Profession: Miner
  • Country: Australia
  • Rank: Private
  • Service number: 2252
  • Enlistment date: 28/01/1916
  • Enlistment place: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  • Last known unit: Australian Infantry, 48th Bn.
  • Force: Australian Imperial Force

Memorial

Additional information

Albert Gilroy Symons, a 30-year-old miner from Queenstown, South Australia, fell during the Battle of Passchendaele. At the time of his death, Albert served in the 48th Battalion Australian Infantry, part of the 12th Brigade, of the 4th Australian Division. He enlisted in Adelaide in January 1916. During his training he was appointed the rank of sergeant. But Albert reverted to enlisted rank on proceeding to the front in September 1917.

The 4th Australian Division participated in the First Battle of Passchendaele on the 12th of October 1917. The Division advanced, from its position east of Zonnebeke, to the German strongpoint of Assyria, south of the village of Passchendaele. Its task was to flank guard the attack of the 3rd Australian Division on their left flank, which had to capture the ruins of Passchendaele. The attack of 4th Division was carried by the 12th Brigade, who advanced with the 47th and 48th Battalions. These battalions were to move along the Ypres-Roulers Railway towards the Keiberg Spur. The 47th battalion was to capture the first objective, the Red line. The 48th Battalion was to leapfrog the 47th and had to capture the second and final objective, the Blue line. This line was situated near the German strongpoint of Assyria.

At 5.25 a.m. the 48th Battalion followed the 47th Battalion towards the German lines. They were to advance behind a creeping barrage. However, not all guns had reached their designated positions, due to the muddy terrain. The conditions made the barrage thin and as a result it lacked accuracy. Several shells fell short, causing casualties among the attacking Battalions. German machine-gun positions, unscathed by the feeble barrage, quickly opened fire, as the troops were struggling through the mud. On top of the German machine-gun fire, the German artillery put down a barrage on the jump-off line.

The 9th Brigade, of the 3rd Australian Division on their left, was held up and could not keep pace with the 12th Brigade. So as the 47th and 48th Battalions advanced further, they suffered several casualties, when they came under fire from a German strongpoint north of the railroad. Men were deployed along the railroad to fire on German positions in the 9th Brigade’s area and to make sure the Germans would not outflank them. The rest of the 47th and 48th Battalions overran Decoy Wood. By now the Companies of the advancing Battalions had been intermingled on several places.

Once the Battalions reached the base of the Keiberg spur, they were enfiladed by machine-guns from Assyria, a concrete blockhouse on the right. The advance was checked in front Assyria. The orders were given to dig in, as the Battalions had lost the pace of the barrage. Once positions had been consolidated, the German defenders at Assyria were driven back by acute mortar and machine-gun fire. Nevertheless, the toll exacted by German machine-gunners and snipers had been heavy. At 8.25 a.m. it was decided to halt the advance on the left, because the 9th Brigade’s attack had been halted. However on the right “A” Company went forward, securing several German positions and establishing outposts. During the consolidation of the positions, the Battalion was heavily shelled by the German artillery. And “A” Company suffered heavy casualties from machine-gun and rifle fire coming from beyond Assyria.

During the afternoon German troops were seen massing for a counter attack and while the 9th Brigade had failed to keep pace with the 12th Brigade, the Brigade was now in danger of being outflanked. When the Germans attacked the flank, the Battalion had to withdraw. Few of the outpost garrisons survived. With their left flank up in the air both the 47th and 48th Battalion retired to their old frontline. The attack had been an utter failure.

Private Symons was reported missing after the attack. A Court of Enquiry in 1918 declared that he had been killed in action on the 12th of October 1917. Albert’s remains weren’t found or were never identified. He is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. Albert left behind his wife Hilda May and his young son Jack Gilroy.