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Hunt on for sapper’s descendants

Michael TraillAlbany Advertiser
Graham Henderson has had no luck finding the family of the dead man’s penny.
Camera IconGraham Henderson has had no luck finding the family of the dead man’s penny. Credit: Laurie Benson/Picture: Laurie Benson, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

David “Digger” Carnegie Symers last saw Australian shores on June 6, 1916, leaving from Fremantle for the Western Front as a sapper in the Australian Imperial Force’s 44th Infantry Battalion.

Private Symers would pay the ultimate price days before Christmas in 1917, killed in action on the battlefields of Belgium.

Before joining the army in January, Pte Symers was employed as a grocer’s assistant in Albany and was the town’s “leading athlete”, as described by Australian press when the news of his death reached home.

Headquarter Signallers of the 44th Battalion, David Symers middle of third row.
Camera IconHeadquarter Signallers of the 44th Battalion, David Symers middle of third row. Credit: Australian War Memorial

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In February 1918, the Bunbury Herald reported Pte Symers as being the fourth nephew of William Hatton, including Pte Symers’ brother Stewart, to appear on the casualty list of Australia’s war effort.

“Sapper Symers, better known as 'Digger' amongst his sporting friends, was recognised as the leading athlete in the town,” the Bunbury Herald reported at the time.

“Although only a youth in years, he was the best footballer in the district, while at cricket, he was up on the top rung of the ladder with the bat and ball, and in the field ... while there were few, if any, better as a billiardist.”

Now, the hunt is on to unite Pte Symers’ “Dead Man’s Penny” with his descendants after his Memorial Plaque was discovered among pots and pans in a donation to the Salvation Army’s Albany Community Store.

The Memorial Plaques were handed to the next-of-kin of fallen British and Empire services personnel killed during World War I. “It was early September that these people dropped off donations with us, they mentioned it was a deceased estate, the usual items of crockery, bric-a-brac, pots and pans and that sort of thing,” store manager Graham Henderson said.

“It didn’t come in any special packaging or anything, it was just in among all sorts of normal, day-to-day items.

“It’s probably the most unusual thing we’ve ever come across.”

Anyone with information should phone the Albany Community Store on 9842 6767.

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