The father of my step grandfather George Symes (1896 – 1980), also named George (1859 – 1920), was born in 1859 at Puncknowle, Dorset , 6 miles east of Bridport. He was the oldest child of Daniel Symes (1834 – 1914), an agricultural labourer, and Sarah Symes nee Trevett (1836 – 1925).

On 2 October 1878, George Symes senior, labourer, aged 19, enlisted in the Royal Artillery Regiment, signing his attestation papers at Bridport on 2 October and joining at Portsmouth on 14 October.

Symes served six years as a gunner (equivalent to private). From 1884 to 1892 he was stationed in India, where he rose through the ranks, from bombadier (corporal) to sergeant then Colour Sergeant. He left the army in 1899.

Colour Sergeant George Symes at the Tower of London. Photograph kindly provided by Rod Rumble, who was given it by Brian Jeans, a Symes descendant.

George Symes married twice, first to Rosa Guppy (1860 – 1892) at Milborne Port, Somerset, in 1886. They had two children. Their oldest son, William Hensley Symes, was born on 27 November 1887 and baptised on 1 January 1888 at Milborne Port, Somerset. He died of diarrhoea aged 5 months on 1 April 1888 at Agra, India, and was buried on 2 April in the Agra Cantonment Fort Cemetery. William was recorded as the son of Sergeant Symes, 7/1 Scottish Division Royal Artillery.

Agra, about 100 miles southeast of Delhi, was the administrative capital of the North Western Provinces. It suffered badly in the Indian Mutiny of 1857. In 1858 the capital was moved to Allahabad, and Agra declined in importance. It is now best known as the site of the Taj Mahal, a grand mausoleum commissioned in 1631 by Shah Jahan to house the remains of his favourite wife.

In March 1888 the 8th battery of Garrison Artillery No. 1 Northern Division was posted there, Sergeant Symes with it.

Agra Cantonment Cemetery is a few kilometres from the city’s main railway station, Agra Cantonment. The cemetery is also known as ‘Gora Kabristan’, Hindi for ‘Europeans’ [literally “White Men’s”] Cemetery’.

Agra Cantonment Cemetery. Photograph from FindAGrave and used with permission of the uploader, Iain MacFarlaine.

George and Rosa Symes’s second son, Edward Daniel Symes (1890 – 1950), was born in 1890 at Campbellpore, present-day Attock, Pakistan, 1,000 kilometres to the north-west of Agra.

In 1892 Rosa Symes died of cholera at Ferozepore, some 400 kilometres south-east of Campbellpore (Attock) and about 600 kilometres north-west of Agra.

George married a second time, to Eliza Paulley (1870 – 1946) at Minterne Magna, Dorset. They had one son, George William Symes, born on 12 January 1896 at Minterne Magna. This George Symes was my step grandfather.

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