My step grandfather was George William Symes (1896-1980), a soldier, who retired with the rank of Major-General.
George Symes enlisted in the British Army in 1915 at the age of nineteen. In June he was commissioned with a war service commission (for the duration of the war) into the Durham Light Infantry as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was seconded to the Machine Gun Corps on 22 February 1916, and was sent to France and Belgium on 23 February 1916. On 1 November 1916 he was promoted to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant. On 21 June the following year George Symes was granted a regular commission in the York and Lancaster Regiment, with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
Between WW1 and WW2 George remained a professional soldier. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was rapidly promoted, appointed Major-General in command of the 70th Division in Africa and then in India. The 70th Division was broken up, however, to form part of the “Chindit” Special Force under Orde Wingate, designed to operate behind the Japanese lines in Burma. George became deputy, but was stationed at New Delhi. He held command of Lines-of-Communications divisions in France and later in Burma, and after the war he was commander of the South-West District in England.
In 1949 he resigned his commission and emigrated to Australia.
George was colonel of the York and Lancaster Regiment from 1946 to 48.
In 1968 the British army was reorganised. The York and Lancaster regiment was one of two infantry regiments that chose to be disbanded rather than amalgamated with another regiment.
When the regiment was disbanded George purchased some memorabilia including a drum.
On his death George Symes left a large sum to the Regimental Chapel for the York and Lancashire in Sheffield Cathedral, England. The ceiling of the chapel is a memorial to George and his first wife Katherine.
- Roger André, ‘Symes, George William (1896–1980)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/symes-george-william-11817/text21145, published first in hardcopy 2002