Kenneth Claude Symonds was born in Sweetman Street, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire on 3rd July 1892 to Annie Elizabeth Symonds [née Power] and Ernest John Symonds and was the youngest of five children.


After completing his education at Wellington College in the first decade of the 20th century he assisted his father, who was an Inspector of Weights & Measures. Kenneth also decided upon a life as a territorial soldier in the recently created 1/4th Battalion, The King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry) and was duly commissioned as a Second-Lieutenant on 1st May 1912.


On the outbreak of war in August 1914 the Regiment was mobilised and Kenneth and his Battalion were moved from Shrewsbury to Sittingbourne in Kent. Here they remained until 29th October 1914 when they left Southampton on board a troop ship bound for India, the plan being that they were to undertake garrison duties so relieving one of the regular battalions which was desperately needed on the Western Front.


They arrived in Bombay on 1st December 1914 and after remaining in Rangoon for a brief period sailed for Singapore where they disembarked on 10th February 1915. Life out here was far more pleasant than either France or Belgium.


Over twelve months later on 15th March 1916 the C-i-C’s staff sent an urgent cablegram to London with a request that they forward Kenneth’s medical file by return; clearly something had sparked their concern. A reply was received the same day and so a cyphered follow-up cable was sent to the War Office in London from Singapore; decrypted it reads:-




Kenneth was ordered back to England at the first available opportunity and posted to the home based 3/4th Battalion and on 26th August 1916 following a medical board the War Office wrote to the C-i-C, Western Command advising him that in their opinion ‘it is regretted that there is no alternative but to gazette him out as relinquishing his commission on account of ill-health…’


The notification duly appeared in the London Gazette on 6th September, to be effective on 9th September 1916. His leaving the army under such circumstances qualified him for the newly created ‘Silver War Badge’ [along with an official certificate of entitlement] which was issued to service personnel honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness during the War. Sometimes known as the Discharge Badge or Wound Badge, it was made of sterling silver with a unique number stencilled on the reverse. It was worn on the right lapel while in civilian dress as it had been the practice of some misguided women to present white feathers to seemingly able-bodied young men not in uniform.


Kenneth Claude Symonds, formerly a First-Lieutenant of 1/4th Battalion, The King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry) died at his parent’s home in Shifnal of Pulmonary Tuberculosis on Tuesday 16th October 1917 at the age of 25. He was buried in the churchyard of St Andrew’s in Shifnal. The graveyard contains a number of casualties from both World Wars and so several years ago a decision was made that all their names should appear alongside each other as a permanent and lasting memorial as some of the individual burial plots had fallen into disrepair.


The King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry) is perpetuated today in The 3rd Battalion, The Rifles.


See also the Imperial War Museum permanent digital memorial to the ‘Lives of the First World War’ for KC Symonds. https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/4344379