Pte Symons Albert Gilroy

  • Date of birth: 03/07/1887
  • Place of birth: Wilpoorina, Leigh Creek, 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

Private Albert Gilroy Symons was part of the 48th Australian Infantry Brigade (12th Australian Brigade, 4th Australian Division). He enlisted in January 1916. In his training depot he was appointed the rank of sergeant (May 1916). He held this rank until October 1916, when his unit arrives at the military base at Codford, England. He is again appointed the rank of sergeant (with extra duty pay) for the 12th training Infantry Battalion. In June 1917 he is promoted to acting sergeant. Private Symons reverts rank on proceeding overseas (5/9/1917). He joins the 48th battalion on 16th September.
The 4th Australian Division participated in the First Battle of Passchendaele on the 12th of October 1917. The Division advanced with the 12th Brigade from its position east of Zonnebeke to the German strongpoint of Assyria, south to the village of Passchendaele. Their task was to flank guard the attack of the 3rd Australian Division on their left flank, which had to seize Passchendaele. The attack of the 12th Australian Brigade was carried out by the 47th and 48th Battalions. These battalions had to move towards the Keiberg Spur, along the Ypres-Roulers Railway, running towards Passchendaele. The 47th battalion was to capture the first objective, the Red line; The 48th battalion was to leapfrog the 47th and 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 advancing 47th battalion towards the German lines. They were covered by a creeping barrage. However, not all guns had reached their designated positions, due to the muddy conditions. 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 was held up and could not keep pace with the 12th Brigade. So as the two Battalions advanced further, they suffered several casualties, when they came under fire of a German strongpoint north of the railroad. Men were deployed along the railroad to fire on German positions in the 9th Brigade area and to make sure the Germans would not outflank them. The rest of the 47th and 48th Battalions swept through Decoy Wood and overran the German positions. By now the Companies of the advancing Battalions had been intermingled on several places.
Once the Battalions reached the front of the Keiberg spur, they were enfiladed by machine-guns from Assyria, a concrete blockhouse on the right of the advance. The advance was checked at 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 being 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 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 this attack. A Court of Enquiry declared him killed in action in 1918. The body of private Symons was never found. He was one of the approximately 360 casualties.