Alfred Warren Symes



Aug 1, 1886

Born at Ottawa Ontario


 Oct 19, 1914

Shown on Pay Sheet for the Lanark and Renfrew 42nd Regiment, Smiths Falls Ontario


Nov 5, 1914

Shown on 21st Battalion Pay Sheet with permanent rank of Cpl but appointed to rank of Acting Sgt


Nov 7, 1914

Attested into the 21st Battalion at Kingston Ontario 

Ø      Number 59949  (temporary number 374)

Ø      Next of kin given as Peter B Symes (father) of 326 Lyon St, Ottawa Ontario

Ø      Previous occupation given as Traveling Freight Agent for the CNR (Canadian National Railway)

Ø      Previous military experience given as 7 years with the 43rd Duke of Cornwall’s Own Rifles at Ottawa

Ø      Religion given as Church of England

Ø      Assigned to “D” Company

o       This was later reorganized into “B” Company and he was a member of No 8 Platoon


Jan 22, 1915

Assigned to guard a prisoner who was being held for a DCM (District Courts Martial).  This was a 21st Battalion Sgt who was suspected of being a German spy.  His personal diary describes this as being “rather unpleasant”.  (author’s note, I have been unable to ascertain the name of the suspect, nor the outcome)


Jan 23, 1915

Reduced to rank of Cpl


Mar 8, 1915

Reverts to rank of Pte at his own request


May 6, 1915

Embarked the RMS Metagama at Montreal Quebec



May 15, 1915

Disembarked at Devonport England and proceeded to West Sandling Camp, near Hythe Kent


Jul 3, 1915

Granted 5 days leave to London


Jul 8, 1915

Granted 2 day extension to leave


Jul 10, 1915

At duty from leave


Sep 14, 1915

Embarked the St Seiriol at Folkestone



Sep 15, 1915

Disembarked at Boulogne France and proceeded to St Omer


Sep 21, 1915

Proceeded into the front line trenches for the first time


Oct 14, 1915

Admitted to the Field Hospital Dressing Station at La Clytte with a diagnosis of Otitis (an inflammation of the middle ear).  The diagnosis was later changed to show that both ear drums were ruptured


Oct 18, 1915

Transferred to No 2 Field Hospital Dressing Station at Bailleul


Oct 19, 1915

Transferred via No 21 Ambulance Train


Oct 20, 1915

Admitted to the No 1 Convalescent Depot at Boulogne diagnosed as being partially deaf


Oct 21, 1915

Transferred to No 11 Convalescent Hospital at Boulogne


Oct 28, 1915

Discharged to the Base Depot at Boulogne


Nov 28, 1915

Admitted to the No 1 Convalescent Depot at Boulogne


Nov 29, 1915

Discharged to Base Details


Dec 18, 1915

Admitted to No 3 General Hospital Depot at Havre


Dec 31, 1915

Admitted to No 2 General Hospital at Havre as being partially deaf


Jan 1, 1916

Discharged to the Reinforcements Detail at Havre


Jan 9, 1916

Declared “Fit” and discharged to unit


Jan 12, 1916

Rejoined the 21st Battalion in the field


Jun 18, 1916

SOS (Struck Off Strength) 21st Battalion and attached to the Canadian Section, GHQ (General Headquarters) 3rd Echelon, as Orderly Room Clerk with pay


Jun 24, 1916

Admitted to No 8 General Hospital at Rouen with a diagnosis of ICT (Inter Connective Tissue infection) of his Buttocks 

Ceases to be attached to 3rd Echelon


Jun 30, 1916

Discharged from hospital and attached to the Canadian Section, GHQ (General Headquarters) 3rd Echelon, as Orderly Room Clerk with pay


Oct 3, 1916

Fined 1 day’s pay 

Offence not recorded in file


Oct 19, 1916

Fined 1 day’s pay 

Offence not recorded in file


Nov 7, 1916

Promoted to rank of Sgt 

TOS (Taken On Strength) 21st Battalion as Orderly Room Sgt to replace 59866 Sgt JA Scott, who had been transferred to 4th Brigade HQ 

Attached for duty to Canadian Section GHQ 3rd Echelon at Rouen


Nov 26, 1916

Granted 10 days leave to England


Dec 6, 1916

Returned to duty from leave


Apr 1, 1917

Graded for pay as Sgt Clerk


Dec 22. 1917

Granted 14 days leave to Bordeaux


Jan 5, 1918

At duty from leave


Dec 8, 1918

Granted leave to England


Dec 25, 1918

At duty from leave


Apr 5, 1919

Ceases to be attached to 3rd Echelon and proceeded to England and joined the 21st Battalion 

TOS “P” Wing at Witley pending return to Canada


Apr 29, 1919

Medical exam at Witley Camp reports a Myopia Astigmatism causing defective vision.  This condition is reported as being present from childhood and corrected with eyeglasses.  It is also noted that his ruptured ear drums were caused by gunfire at the front, which results in his partial deafness


May 14, 1919

Embarked the RMS Caronia at Liverpool


TOS No 3 District Depot, Kingston Ontario


May 22, 1919

Disembarked at Halifax Nova Scotia and proceeded by train to Kingston Ontario


May 24, 1919

Discharged at Kingston Ontario 

Ø      War Service Badge Class “A” issued number 279877

Ø      Proposed residence on discharge – 326 Lyon St, Ottawa Ontario

Ø      Rank on discharge Sgt


Dec 1, 1919

Married to Eva May Clarke at Ottawa Ontario


Apr 19.1921

British War Medal and Victory Medal sent to 326 Lyon St, Ottawa Ontario 

It appears that the medals were returned


Sep 14, 1921

Medals were resent to 204 Balsam Ave, Toronto Ontario


Sep 14, 1953

Deceased at Victoria British Columbia

 From the January 1954 issue of the Communiqué


The Kingston Daily Standard October 5, 1915


Warmly Welcomed by French People - Marched over Cobble-stone Roads - Tommy Atkins was Very Glad to See Them - Just Behind the Trenches at Time of Writing - Had a Calm Trip Across the Channel

            The arrival of the 21st battalion which contains many Kingston men, in France is described in an interesting letter from Pte AW Symes, of that unit, to Mr PB Symes, of Ottawa.  His letter was dated Sept. 19th and said he expected his battalion would go into the trenches on the following Tuesday. 


            His letter continues: 

            “We had a safe, comparatively calm trip to France, and marched through the French port with bands playing next morning to a rest camp beyond the town.   We were not only surprised but delighted with the treatment of the French people, in view of the thousands of British troops who must have passed through ahead of us since the war began.  When we halted on the way up a hill they brought out bottle after bottle of their best vin blanc and gave a small glassful to each man while it lasted.  We remained in camp until about 7.30 pm and then marched three miles to a freight station, finding the going hard owing to the heat and the weight of our packs.  The French engines and equipment seem larger than anything in England, and almost as big as the ones in Canada.  We were packed into stock cars like sardines (44 men to the car) but nobody complained so long as we had room for both feet at once.  After a journey of several hours we got out at a station and helped to haul our transport wagons out of the freight shed, finally marching away about 3 in the morning over a road paved with cobble stones and lined on either side with tall elm and poplar trees which seem to be a feature of this part of the country.  We marched all day—with frequent rests—passing through villages and towns as well as agricultural districts.  The crops look very good and are being harvested by old men, women and children, besides men unfit for the army.  The hops, which are strung on wires and rise to a height of 25 feet above the ground, are strange to Canadians:


            “About 5 pm—after the hardest day the 21st has ever known—we were billeted in farm houses (or rather outside of them), for the night, some 15 miles behind the firing line.  Everything looked very peaceful here in spite of the low rumble of guns like distant thunder, but we found that nearly every farm had been the scene of some encounter during the now historical days of September, 1914, when the cavalry of the Germans passed through in their much talked of dash on Paris.  The inhabitants between here and the front take things very calmly now, and we noticed at least one house demolished by a shell, which had been entirely rebuilt, which I think shows considerable faith in the Allies’ ability to prevent a second German visit.  We rested all day Friday in this place and in the afternoon were lined up and addressed by a general whose name is often in the Canadian papers.  He told us he had been asked by his superior officer if he could supply a Canadian battalion on short notice and we are the answer. 


            “We accordingly left yesterday morning and covered the eleven miles to our present location in good shape.  For the last five or six miles the road was lined on each side by motor trucks, some undergoing repairs, others waiting until needed.  English troops we have met are fine men and treated us well.  During one of our halts yesterday a company of them were preparing their dinner near the road, and in company with two other scouts I drifted across to be received with open arms.  They shared their tea, bacon and cheese with us, and then collected all the cigarettes available to send over to “the Canadians.” 

            “We are now in a rest camp just four miles from the trenches and there are frequent booms of heavy guns.  Several times we have seen British or German aeroplanes being shelled by the other side, and even at this distance it is a thrilling thing to watch.  You see the machine like a tiny speck in the sky with little white puffs of smoke breaking out all round.  More than 200 shells were fired at one plane today abut without result. 

            “While the weather has been warm until today it is cold sleeping out at night, and will get worse soon.  We can stand the cold all right but are hoping it will keep dry.”


Below is a diary that was kept by Alfred Symes that recounts his experiences in 1915.  This was printed in the June 1936 Communiqué, which was the 21st Battalion Association's post war newsletter.







Below is from the January 1937 issue of the Communiqué.  Sgt Symes was the unofficial historian for the 21st Battalion veterans that made the trip to Vimy Ridge for the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial.  He made a comprehensive report to the Association which was printed in that issue.  He is 4th from the left in the back row.  To date, this is the only photo that I have of him.


Return to Tribute list