Warrant Officer Class 2, Company Serjeant Major, George Mayer Symons, The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), attached to the British War Mission, died during the influenza epidemic at Camp Lee, Virginia on 8 October 1918. He was buried in Poplar Grove National Cemetery near Petersburg.
Unfortunately, his grave marker was incorrectly inscribed. The error was first identified by Betsy Dinger, a Park Ranger of the National Parks Service responsible for the cemetery. In conjunction with the CWGC team in Ottawa, she obtained a new, correctly inscribed headstone and stored it pending the refurbishment of the cemetery. This $4 million project will replace all of the flat grave markers (laid this way in 1933 in the false belief that maintenance would be easier), improve drainage in the lower laying areas and repair the boundary wall.
On Saturday 27 August 2016, in sweltering heat, a short ceremony of rededication was held at the cemetery. It was organised by Betsy Dinger and Lieutenant Colonel S. J. Caldwell Royal Logistic Corps, the British liaison officer attached to Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee. In attendance were George Symon’s neice, Mrs Joyce Fletcher, and other family members; Command Sergeant Major Leabarron J. Bates United States Army and his family, and representatives of the French and New Zealand teams at CASCOM; a historical re-enactment contingent, well turned out in period Australian and British uniforms and rifles; and representatives of the National Parks Service.
The short ceremony included brief presentations about Fort Lee in the war and the life of CSM Symons, and a heartfelt response by his niece. The Act of Remembrance was followed by the Last Post, a silence, and the Rouse. Finally, flowers were laid at the grave by the national representatives and by the family.
It was a privilege to attend this ceremony and it is hoped that a similar ceremony will be possible for the family of Leading Seaman Sam Gordon Wills when his gravestone is replaced in due course.