Samuel was born in the parish of Withiel in 1879 to William and Elizabeth (nee Osborn).
The Census of 1881 shows Samuel with his parents on Lanjew Farm along with his brothers Richard, William, Harry and sister Mary. His father is a farm labourer.
For the Census of 1891, Samuel is with his parents along with his brother Fred (aged nine), sister Fanny (aged four) and baby sister Bessie (aged nine months).
Similarly the census of 1901 shows Samuel, aged twenty and now a farm labourer, with his parents and sister Fanny. They are now living in Rosenannon. His baby sister Bessie had died earlier in 1893.
Samuels father William died in August 1903 and was buried in St Wenn Churchyard on the 8 August. William tragically died when he fell from a hay wagon. The following newspaper cutting reports the inquest:
Just over a month later on the 13 September a much happier event occurred when Samuel married Elizabeth Jane Salmon Trembath. Elizabeth was from Churchtown, St Wenn and the marriage took place in St Wenn Church.
We now move to 1911 and the census of that year shows Samuel and Elizabeth living in Churchtown, St Wenn. Samuel’s occupation is a ‘rabbit trapper on farms’ and Elizabeth is a grocer. They have no children.
Three years later on the 8 April 1914, Samuel sails from Southampton on the RMS Olympic, bound for New York, USA. With Samuel, on board this fine ship, is Thomas Chapman, the youngest of the Chapman brothers from Rosenannon.
Both Samuel and Thomas are described as miners on the passenger list and their destination is Trimountain Mine, Houghton County, Michigan. RMS Olympic was the first in a trio of British ocean liners built by Harland and Wolff in 1911 for the White Star Line. The second ship was Titanic, built in 1912 and the third was Britannic built in 1915. All three were designed to be the largest and most luxurious passenger ships in the world at that time.
The tragic Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic on her maiden voyage in 1912 and Britannic sank in 1916 after hitting a German mine off Kea in the Aegean Sea. Olympic, however, had a long career spanning twenty four years. She carried many troops during the Great War and was referred to as ‘Old Reliable’. She was sold for scrap and broken up in 1935. Trimountain was a copper mine and was worked from 1899 until it’s closure in 1935.
After some time Samuel returned home to his wife but Thomas stayed on, married and had four children. He died in Houghton October 1956.
The War came and Samuel enlisted in St Austell on the 17 December 1915 into the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry His service number was 33716 and he was posted to the 1st/5th Battalion of the DCLI.
By this stage of the War it had become clear that the Royal Engineers were unable to cope with the vastly increased requirement for field engineering. So it was that certain infantry battalions were retrained as pioneers and allotted on the basis of one per Division. It fell to the 1st/5th to be trained as an infantry pioneer battalion to support the Royal Engineers. Their work included building and maintenance of roads, light railways, bridges, command posts, dug-outs and erection of barbed wire defences. Much of this was carried out in or near the front line and usually by hand and was therefore extremely dangerous and required men of great strength.
The pioneers of the 1st/5th were also trained as infantry and were equipped with the same weapons. They were frequently called to take their place in the firing line.
The DCLI Attestation Book states that Samuel was ‘Despatched’ on the 23 August 1916. It is certain that this means he was posted overseas and as the 1st/5th Battalion were already in France, he must have been sent there.
During the summer and autumn of 1916, the Battalion was based in the village of Laventie but in October 1916 it was moved South to the Somme area and billeted near Albert. Although the great Battle of the Somme was drawing to a close there was still much work for the pioneer battalions.
There is a record, dated 19 April 1917, in the Battalion War Diary ordering Samuel, a member of A Company, to advance to the Horse Transport Depot at Abbeville for work on new Roads and Construction Unit.
In March of 1917 there was a renumbering of all soldiers and Samuel was given a new service number 241014. Again this is part of the sequence 241000 to 241999 allocated to the 1st/5th.
However, Samuel was transferred to the Royal Engineers proper and was therefore given a new service number of 513903. This number was part of the sequence allotted to the Cornwall Fortress Company about August 1917. Why he was transferred is not known but he was likely either wounded or due to illness that resulted in him being removed from front line duties. Samuel might have still served in France as some of this Company’s personnel did but he could also have continued his service on the home front.
Later on from March 1918, Samuel was posted to the transportation branch of the Royal Engineers and his new service number was WR 33716. The WR prefix denoted ‘inland waterways and railways’ but it also included ‘roads and quarries’ the branch to which Samuel was posted. Samuel would have resumed his life with his wife Elizabeth. The 1939 Register finds them living in Ivy Cottage, Withiel. Samuel is described as an ‘ariel foreman’ for Cornwall County Council.
Elizabeth died on the 7 April 1958 and Samuel on the 1 November 1963. They are both buried in Egloshayle.
My thanks to Hilary Trump, Samuel’s great niece for the information and photographs. Grateful thanks to the Cornwall’s Regiment Museum, Bodmin for filling in some of the blanks and to the members of the Great War Forum for information on service numbers