Auction: 18002 - Orders, Decorations and Medals
(x) 'So Sir Penn Symons is killed! Well, no one would have laid down his life more gladly in such a cause. Twenty years ago the merest chance saved him from the massacre at Islandhlwana, and Death promoted him in an afternoon from subaltern to senior captain. Thenceforward his rise was rapid.
He commanded the First Division of the Tirah Expeditionary Force among the mountains with prudent skill. His brigades had no misfortunes: his rearguards came safely into camp. May the State in her necessities find others like him!'
Winston Churchill pays tribute to Sir William Penn Symons following his death at the battle of Talana on 20 October 1899.
The emotive personal copy of Historical Records of the 24th Regiment (1892) of Major-General Sir W. Penn Symons, 24th Regiment of Foot, containing 9 original signed watercolour plates by the renowned military artist Richard Simkin
Appointed General Officer Commanding Natal in 1899, Penn Symons took the volume with him to South Africa and hoped to refer to it when re-visiting the battlefields of Isandhlwana and Rorke's Drift. Instead he died of wounds received at the battle of Talana on 20 October 1899
Paton, G., Colonel, Glennie, F., Colonel, Penn Symons, W., Colonel, eds. Historical Records of the 24th Regiment, from its formation, in 1689, 1st Edition (London, Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., 1892). Octavo. Bound in original black Morocco leather by A. H. Swiss of Devonport. Title and Regimental Cipher gilt to spine. Regimental 'Egypt' emblem with 'XXIV' beneath gilt to front board. Endpapers of dark green cloth bordered by floral gilt decoration, Penn Symons' heraldic bookplate to the front endpaper. All leaves gilt-edged. Title page loose but present.
Three small holes to spine, otherwise a pleasing copy in good condition.
Bound within the volume, on thick art paper, are 9 original signed watercolour illustrations by the renowned military painter Richard Simkin (1850-1926). Each depicts a uniformed soldier of the 24th Foot at various stages of the Regiment's history. Their subjects are as follows: Private 1742; Grenadier 1768, Officer 1808; Private 1812; Officer 1828 Levee Dress; Officer Light Company 1840; Band Corporal and Drummer 1843; Colour Sergeant 1858; Officer 1873.
William Penn Symons was born at Hatt, Cornwall in July 1843. Educated privately, he was commissioned as an Ensign in the 2nd Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot on 6 March 1863. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 11 December 1866 and Captain on 16 December 1878.
Penn Symons first saw action in South Africa during the Ninth Xhosa War (1877-78), commanding a Company of the 2nd Battalion in actions against the Gcaleka and Ngqika tribes. He took part in the Zulu War of 1879, and was present at Isandhlwana Camp on 21 January. At 1:30 a.m. on 22 January, six companies of the 2nd Battalion - including Penn Symons' - received an order to march to Lord Chelmsford's camp at Izipezi Hill. This order saved his life, as the Isandhlwana garrison was massacred by the Zulus just hours later.
Promoted Major on 1 July 1881, he served in the Burmese Expedition (1885-89) and was breveted Lieutenant-Colonel on 26 November 1886. The following year he was appointed Assistant Adjutant General for Musketry at Madras. In 1899 he commanded one of two columns in the Chin-Lushai Expedition, for which he was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (C.B.). Advanced to Lieutenant-Colonel of 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers in 1891, he went on to command a brigade during the Waziristan campaign of 1894-95 and the expedition into Tochi Valley (1897-98). Leading the 1st Division in Tirah during 1898, he was elevated to K.C.B.
At the outbreak of the Boer War Penn Symons was made General Officer Commanding Natal, with the temporary rank of Major-General. He took this copy of Historical Records of the 24th Regiment with him to South Africa, hoping to visit the battlefields of Isandhlwana and Rorke's Drift. Instead he was wounded in action at the battle of Talana on 20 October 1899, while leading the Dundee garrison against the Boers. He died of his wounds at the 20th Field Hospital, Dundee. Winston Churchill paid tribute to him in a telegram to The Morning Post, while the Cornish town of Saltash raised a monument in its Victoria Park. The Durban Light Infantry, impressed by his courage, erected a memorial stone over his grave at Dundee.
Penn Symons was an original editor of Historical Records of the 24th Regiment; with its signed Simkin paintings, his 1st Edition copy is unique. The volume was removed from his kit following his death and remained in South Africa, finally entering a private collection.
Enclosed within the volume is a page from Hart's Army List of June 1893, the last in which Penn Symons' name appears as Lieutenant-Colonel of the 24th Foot. Around this page is his handwritten annotation: '1893 June Monthly Army List - The last in which my name appeared on the 2/24 List.' Also enclosed is a period photograph of Penn Symons' grave at Dundee, with the handwritten label: 'The late Gen. Penn Symons grave decked with flowers & Union Jack hoisted by Major Henderson D.A.A.Y. on morning of 15th May when Dundee was reoccupied - D. S. Howie.'
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