We are grateful to Jack Pridham who spent his childhood years in Thornbury and wrote a book of his memories of the town and his family. In this extract he describes his uncles Percy and Ted Symes. You can read other extracts of Jack’s memoirs by clicking on the links in the left hand column.
Records of the No.3 Symes, Percy or Perce, are few and far between: long before I was born, he went abroad never, I believe, to return. As a young man in Thornbury, he trained to be a carpenter somewhere in the town but then emigrated to Australia, probably a few years before the outbreak of WWI. He joined the Australian Army when war broke out, became a Sergeant and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1917 – the family’s only real hero who was later commissioned. According to the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 219, 20th December 1917 his medal was awarded for ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, by encouraging his men he established them rapidly in a strong defensive position, afterwards taking water up to the outposts and bringing back a wounded man from “No Man’s Land” under heavy fire. He also did invaluable work with Bombs and Rifle Grenades during a hostile counter- attack upon a neighbouring Unit”.
I think Perce must have been wounded in Europe where he met his first wife, to be, in hospital – an Australian nursing sister, a Miss L. Howard with whom he settled down in Perth and raised one son, Ronald. Ronald who joined the RAF was shot down and killed in WW II. I think Percy’s first wife died and Percy married again and had a second son, Victor who came to England for a while. The Perth telephone directory is full of people with the name “Symes”. Some must be related!
(With the benefit of the information now available on the Internet we have discovered that some of Jack’s memories of Percy were slightly jumbled. This is not surprising when he was recalling what he had been told as a child about someone he never knew. Click here to read what we have found about Percy).
Edward ‘Ted’ Symes
Quite unlike Perce was Edward (Ted), the fourth child who was completely devoid of drive and, I am sure, had no inclination to go to foreign parts. However, for some totally unknown reason, he did venture 80 miles north of Thornbury to Birmingham in the WW I period where he and his wife, neé Fanny Ashcroft, worked on the trams. There are photographs of the very tall and gangly Ted with big feet and hands, and Fan, resplendent in their corporation uniforms.
Prior to his wartime activities, Ted had been a gardener with skills probably derived from his father, and post WW II he and his wife returned to Thornbury. They stayed with us on The Plain for a while and then moved to a small terraced house in Castle Street and he became a gardener for the ‘Lord of the Manor’, Sir Algar Howard.
(We have a little more detail to supplement Jack’s memories of Ted and Fanny – click here to read it)