Headstone call for VC war hero

Bridlington Priory'Lofty Thomas lays a wreath on the Grave of George Symons VC'PA1245-20
Bridlington Priory'Lofty Thomas lays a wreath on the Grave of George Symons VC'PA1245-20

A BRIDLINGTON man has called on the town to commemorate the grave of a Victoria Cross war hero buried in Bridlington.

The grave of Captain George Symons, who died in Bridlington in 1871, was lost for many years but discovered in the past decade in the grounds of Bridlington Priory.

While a plaque to the late Mr Symons sits proudly inside the Priory, Bridlington resident Lofty Thomas hopes to see the small, hidden grave improved to celebrate the life of a war hero.

“I would like to see a proper headstone with his name and rank, something that the people of Bridlington can see and pay their respects to,” said Mr Thomas, 81, of Hustler Road – a former chairman of the Bridlington Combined Ex-Services Association.

“There is talk at the moment that Parliament might look to list the graves of those with a Victoria Cross, but it would be an embarrassment to Bridlington if George Symons’ grave wasn’t improved before that happened.

“It is just a stone laid in the grass for one of the bravest of the brave. He had a full military send-off when he died, but unfortunately he now may have been forgotten.

“It would be appropriate if someone in the town would take responsibility for it and make sure something was put in place. Obviously the Priory are not responsible and may not have the money, but it would be nice to see one of the local councils or a local group support it.”

Mr Thomas believes that commemorating the grave would also help young people in Bridlington further understand the town’s military history.

A spokesperson for Bridlington Priory said that alongside the memorial and photograph of Capt Symons held in the church, they would be “very supportive of any developments”.

Conservative party think-tank The Bow Group, made up of influential Conservative MPs, are set to publish a policy document proposing that the maintenance of Victoria Cross and George Cross graves becomes a legal requirement.

They hope to put the policy document before Parliament, where it will be voted on.

The chairman of the Victoria Cross Trust last month confirmed that the organisation hoped protection for Victoria Cross graves would “tell the whole world that we are proud of these men” and that they hoped graves would “become like Grade II listed buildings, so they are always maintained and nothing can happen to them without permission”.

Bridlington MP Greg Knight believes ministers are right to look into the move.

“I have not read the policy document but I must say that I would lend my support to calls for ministers to look into this,” said Mr Knight.

“There can be legal complexities but it is certainly a good idea to look into it.”

A spokesperson for East Riding of Yorkshire Council confirmed that the council are not responsible for graves away from their own graveyards.

From research completed by the late Ken Dockray, of the WO1 Coldstream Guards, it was found that Captain George Symons was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in the Crimean War, at Sebastopol.

On June 6, 1855, he was severely wounded in clearing a gun emplacement.

Capt Symons – who received an astonishing array of decorations including the Crimean Medal, Clasps for Inkerman, the Turkish Medal for service in the Crimea, the Sardinian Medal and the French Legion of Honour – retired to Cliff Terrace in Bridlington after leaving the armed forces.

Lofty Thomas – who owned a parachute company in Bridlington and last year joined his sons Derek and Chris, and his grandson Kyle, on a three generations skydive – laid a wreath at Capt Symons’ grave on Remembrance Sunday.