Military History

The Highest Honour #44 | Arthur Sullivan | William Symons | Hugo Throssel

By The Cove November 14, 2021


Corporal Arthur Percy Sullivan VC (1896 - 1937, 40yo)

Arthur Sullivan was born on 27 November 1896 at Prospect, South Australia. At the completion of schooling he worked as a banker in Gladstone, Broken Hill and Maitland. He enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force on 27 April 1918 and deployed as a reinforcement.

On 05 October 1918 Sullivan transferred to Artillery but the war was over before he could be allocated to a unit. On 23 May 1919 he was temporarily promoted to Corporal and joined the British North Russia Relief five days later which saw him being discharged from the AIF. He was posted to the 45th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers.

On 10 August 1919 the British attacked on the Dvina front in order to demoralise and disorganise the Bolsheviks and so give time for an unhindered evacuation of North Russia. During the attack, which was a complete success with minimal British casualties, his unit was cut off and, while fighting their way back to their lines, an officer and three men fell from a narrow plank into a deep swamp on the Sheika River. Without hesitation and under intense fire, Sullivan jumped into the water and rescued all four, bringing them out singlehandedly. The evacuation was completed by late September and the relief force was demobilised in England. For his actions Sullivan was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Sullivan returned to Australia on 01 November and was presented with his VC in Adelaide in April 1920. At the completion of the war he returned to banking but on 09 April 1937 he accidently slipped and hit his head on a kerb causing his death. 

Lieutenant Colonel William John Symons VC (1889 - 1948, 58yo)

William Symons was born on 12 July 1889 at Eaglehawk, Victoria. At the completion of schooling he worked as a commercial traveller. He served for eight years in the Militia before joining the Australian Imperial Force on 17 August 1914 where he was posted to the 7th Battalion as a Colour Sergeant.

He embarked for Egypt in October 1914 and was promoted to Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant on 09 April 1915 and landed at Gallipoli with his Battalion on 25 April 1915. He was commissioned to Second Lieutenant the next day and promoted to Lieutenant on 02 July 1915.

About 0500 h on 09 August 1915, the Turks made a series of determined attacks on Jacob's Trench at Lone Pine where six Australian officers were killed or severely wounded. Learning that the position had been overrun, Lieutenant-Colonel Harold 'Pompey' Elliott ordered Symons to retake the trench. 'I don't expect to see you again', he said, 'but we must not lose that post'. Symons led the charge that drove off the Turks, but the enemy continued attacking from the front and both flanks. Symons received Elliott's permission to abandon fifteen yards of open trench and to establish a new barricade. Although the Turks set fire to the overhead woodwork, Symons extinguished the flames, kept the barricade in place and finally forced the enemy to discontinue their attacks. One of seven Australians to win the Victoria Cross at Lone Pine, Symons was cited for his conspicuous gallantry and received his Victoria Cross from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 04 December 1915.

Symons returned to Australia in March 1916 but soon re-embarked for the Western Front as a Captain commanding a Company of the 37th Battalion. He was wounded on 27 February 1917, subsequently gassed during the Battle of Messines on 07 June 1917 and then re-joined his unit in January 1918 in France. He returned to Australia and on 07 December 1918 his AIF appointment was terminated. He served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the home guard in 1941-44 and on 24 June 1948 died of a brain tumour.

Captain Hugo Vivian Hope Throssel VC (1884 - 1933, 49yo)

Hugo Throssel was born 26 October 1884 at Northam, Western Australia. At the completion of his schooling he worked as a Jackeroo. In October 1914 both Hugo and his brother - Ric, joined the Australian Imperial Force with the newly formed 10th Light Horse Regiment (LHR) where Hugo was commissioned a Lieutenant. He did not immediately deploy with the 10th LHR to Gallipoli having to remain in Egypt but on 04 August 1915 he arrived three days prior to the charge at the Nek. He led the fourth and last line of attacking troops which was eventually recalled after having advance only a few yards. 

At 0100 h by moonlight on 29 August 1915 the 10th LHR was brought into action to take a long trench, roughly 90m of which was held by Turkish troops on the summit of Hill 60. As a guard, Throssell killed five Turks while his men constructed a barricade across their part of the trench. When a fierce bomb fight began, 'a kind of tennis over the traverse and sandbags', Throssell and his soldiers held their bombs on short fuse until the last possible moment before hurling them at the enemy on the other side of the barricade. Throughout the remainder of the night both sides threw more than 3,000 bombs, the Western Australians picking up the bombs thrown at them by the Turks and hurling them back. Towards dawn the Turks made three rushes at the Australian trench, but were stopped by showers of bombs and heavy rifle-fire. Throssell, who at one stage was in sole command, was wounded twice. His face covered in blood from bomb splinters in his forehead, he repeatedly yelled encouragement to his men. For his part in the battle Hugo Throssell was awarded the Victoria Cross. It was the first VC to be won by a Western Australian in the war, and remains the only one awarded to a Light Horseman.

Evacuated to hospital in England, Throssell was promoted to Captain and rejoined his regiment in Egypt. He was wounded in April 1917 at the second battle of Gaza where his brother Ric was killed. On the night that Ric disappeared, Hugo crawled across the battlefield under enemy fire, searching in vain for his brother among the dead and dying, and whistling for him with the same signal as they had used when boys. Hugo returned to his regiment for the final offensives in Palestine and led the 10th Light Horse guard of honour at the fall of Jerusalem.

After the war Throssell married the novelist Katharine Susannah Prichard. Badly affected by his war experiences, he became a socialist and an opponent of war. Although he tried to resume his life on the land, he never fully recovered, and committed suicide in 1933.


Portrait

Biography

The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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