My step grandfather George William Symes (1896 – 1980) enlisted in the British Army in 1915 at the age of nineteen. Soon afterwards he was commissioned in the field and in June 1915 he joined the Durham Light Infantry with a war service commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.

On 22 February 1916 he was seconded to the Machine Gun Corps and sent to France the next day. Nine months later, on 1 November 1916, George was promoted to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant.

On 21 June 1917 granted a regular commission with the rank of Second Lieutenant he became an officer in the York and Lancaster Regiment.

After the war he remained in the army in the York and Lancs and continued to rise through the ranks. In 1946 he became Colonel of the regiment, serving in that role until his retirement from the army in 1949.

In 1949 he emigrated to Adelaide, South Australia.

On his death in 1980 George Symes left a large bequest to the Regimental Chapel of the York and Lancaster Regiment, in Sheffield Cathedral.

The York and Lancaster line infantry regiment was created in the Childers Reforms of 1881 by the amalgamation of the 65th (2nd Yorkshire, North Riding) Regiment of Foot and the 84th (York and Lancaster) Regiment of Foot. The regiment served in many minor conflicts and in both World Wars. When the army was reorganised in 1968 the regiment chose to be dissolved rather than merge with another regiment, one of only two infantry regiments in the British Army to refuse amalgamation.

When the regiment was disbanded George Symes bought some regimental memorabilia, including a drum and part of the Regimental Silver.

George left a large collection of medals, his own and medals belonging to soldiers who had fought in the Yorks and Lancs and its predecessors, the 65th and 84th Regiments of Foot. I do not know how he acquired these medals. Perhaps they became available for purchase, with the drum and silver.

Most of the medals were awarded to commemorate campaigns in which the regiment and its predecessors took part.

Campaign medals were awarded by the British army to recognize general military service in war, in contrast to decorations for merit, which were issued in smaller numbers for acts of heroism and bravery.

George Symes’s medal collection:

Top row: Military General Service, Indian Mutiny, New Zealand, Distinguished Conduct Medal, Egypt, Khedive’s Star
Middle Row: Egypt, Khedive’s Star, British South Africa Company, Queen’s South Africa, King’s South Africa, 1914–15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal
Bottom row: Military Medal, 1914–15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal, 3 Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medals

  • Military General Service Medal awarded to James Eccles 2/84th Foot – bars show Nive and Nivelle
    •  the 2nd Battalion of the 84th Foot took part in the Battle of Nivelle on 10 November 1813 and the Battle of the Nive in December 1813. The medal roll records James Eccles served with the Light Company.
    • the Military General Service Medal (MGSM) was a campaign medal approved in 1847 as a retrospective award for various military actions from 1793–1814; a period encompassing the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Anglo-American War of 1812. It was issued to officers and men of the British Army in 1848 but only to surviving claimants. A total of 26,089 medals were awarded. Only about 10 per cent of those who served received the medal.
  • Indian Mutiny Medal awarded to J Driscoll 84th Regt bar. Bars show Lucknow and the Defence of Lucknow.
    • The 84th regiment was sent to Burma in 1842 and was in India in 1845. The regiment fought in the Siege of Cawnpore and the Relief of Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny. The regiment was the only formation ever to receive a salute from the battery at Fort William, Calcutta, and honoured with that acclaim when it left India in 1859.
    • Jeremiah Driscoll was a private in the 84th Foot (service number 34). He was born about 1834 at Drenwigh Dunnanway Cork and in 1876 at the age of 42 he was admitted as a Chelsea Pensioner, a resident at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, a retirement home and nursing home for former members of the British Army He died in 1904.
  • New Zealand War Medal awarded to J. Cook of the 65th regiment. This is most likely J Howlet Cook; Service Date: 1845-1866; Campaign or Service: New Zealand; 65th Regiment of Foot; Regimental Number: 2294.
    • The regiment saw action in the First Taranaki War of 1860 to 1861 and in the Waikato campaign of 1863 to 1864. The regiment returned home in October 1865.
  • Egypt Medal with clasp El-TebTamaai awarded to  2549 Lce Sgt H Haycock 1/ York & Lanc regt 29th Feb 1884; also his Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Khedive’s Star (All recipients of the Egypt Medal were also eligible for one of the four versions of the Khedive’s Star)
    • Lance Sergeant Henry Haycocks received the Distinguished Conduct medal for assisting in capturing a battery of four guns, and being among the first to rush the pits sheltering the enemy at El Teb.
    • Queen Victoria presented the medal to Haycocks and nine other soldiers, in person at Windsor Castle on 3 July 1884. For each of the ten soldiers in turn the record of service was read out by an equerry and then the Queen pinned the ribbon of the silver distinguished conduct medal to his breast.
    • 1904 Private 2nd battalion Joseph Witt also was awarded the Egypt Medal with bar showing Tel-el-Kebir. As well as the Egypt Medal he was awarded the Khedive’s Star
  • The British South Africa Company Medal was awarded to 2891 Pte E Havron 2nd battalion for operations in Matabeleland and Mashonaland (Rhodesia now Zimbabwe).
    • The roll, compiled in 1897, noted Havron had died in Bulawayo (Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe). Edward Hevron was buried in Bulawayo General Cemetery, with a death date of 25 June 1896. The record has “Trooper “C” M.R.F., Bulawayo Hospital, dysentery“.
  • The Queen’s South Africa Medal and clasps for Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, Tugela Heights, Relief of Ladysmith, and Laing’s Nek, was awarded to 4651 Pte J Edley 1/ York & Lanc regt. In 1902 he also received the King’s South Africa Medal with clasps for South Africa 1901 and 1902; this second medal was never awarded singly, but was always paired with the Queen’s South Africa Medal.
  • Many men received World War 1 medals: 1914–15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. 7806 Pte Costello Y & L Regt received the three medals and the 1914 bar.
  • In addition to the three World War 1 Medals, the Military Medal was awarded to 15728 L/Cpl. J. Priestley Y. & L. Regt. in December 1917
    • The Military Medal was established on 25 March 1916. It was awarded to other ranks including non-commissioned officers and warrant officers, and ranked below the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).
  • The Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal was issued to Clr-Sgt Robert Brobson of the 65th Regt  in 1845. He had served for 21 years. Quartermaster Sergeant Dennis Heneghan of the 84th Regt was awarded the medal in 1877 having served for 18 years.  Sergeant John Henry Kaye of the York and Lancaster Regiment was issued the medal on 1 July 1907 having served for 20 years.

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