Eaglehawk Primary School’s Anzac Day service is always a special as each year at the service, the annual William John Symonds memorial recipient is announced. William John Symonds was a student at Eaglehawk Primary School who went to war and received the Victoria Cross medal. In his honour, a medal given to a student who displays qualities including:

  • always trying your best,
  • looking after your friends,
  • showing leadership skills and leading by example,
  • having a positive outlook on life,
  • being enthusiastic and motivated to achieve and
  • setting personal goals and working hard to achieve them.

This years’ service led by school captains Zaylee and Tristan, was extra special as William John Symonds granddaughter Sarah Kellar made the journey from England to Australia to present the medal to this year’s winner Chloe and meet many past medal recipients, who returned to the school to attend the service.

Before the service, Sarah and local war veteran Paul Penno, visited the grade 6 room where they were interviewed by students. Following this, Sarah spoke to the Eaglehawk community and relatives who had travelled from all over Australia to meet her.

Sarah Kellam has been sending EPS gifts for the WJS medal winners and this year she decided to come down and present it herself. We were thrilled when we were able to get an inside scoop on Sarah Kellam’s grandpa.

Why did you decide to come to Australia? I decided to come because I’ve been to wanting to come to Australia for years so I can find out more about my grandpa.

Do you commemorate ANZAC day in England? No, not in big cities unless you are like me and are a family member of a VC medal or for some, any medal winner.

Can you tell us the story about your grandfather’s VC medal? He was sent to Gallipoli one day to take a trench from the Turks, he was quiet low down on the officer rank, but the higher ranked people had all been shot, he was told to keep the trench on his own, if they lost the trench they lost some of the war, Comrade said” Here take my gun, go and keep my trench, I don’t expect to see you again.

What makes you proud to be WJS granddaughter? I’m very proud of my grandfather and I have learnt a lot about him over the years.

At a young age did anyone ever confront you with any questions about your grandfather? No not really, then I wasn’t really sure about him and back then my father used to tell me “Don’t cry over spiders, your William john Symons granddaughter, he was brave”.

What’s the one thing you have always wanted to know about the war? I’ve always wanted to go to Gallipoli to go to the graves; in 2015, I got invited to go to the Remembrance Day there.

How many years have you been sending EPS gifts for the ANZAC commemoration? Since 2006 when my mother thought it would be great to keep in contact with my grandfather’s old school.

Have you ever seen your grandfather? He disappointedly perished 11 months before I was born.

How did your mother describe your grandfather? She absolutely loved him, very much. My mother said When he came back from France after he was gassed he came home coughing all night!

What are your thoughts about the war? The war is a strange thing and I don’t really like how the war started, it’s sort of funny to think about it

Do you prefer to where rosemary or poppies on ANZAC day? I like to wear poppies; my daughter owns a flower shop down in England and made a poppy wreath for outside the shop.

What is the highlight to your trip to Australia? Everything was great! I went to see my elder’s graves.

What do you like about Australia? The people and the sunshine!

If you could your grandfather one question what would it be? How he came back from the war still cheerful!

Paul Penno

Paul Penno is an ex solider from the Vietnam War. He is also part of the Eaglehawk R.S.L and plays a big part in the ANZAC services around Eaglehawk.

  1. What war did you serve in?

Answer: Vietnam War

  1. Do you have any medals?

Answer: Yes I have a few

  1. What are your thoughts on the war?

Answer: War is a horrible thing, no one likes war

  1. What was your role in the war?

Answer: I drove the soldiers out in my truck to war



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