Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Friday, 17 January 2014

Your Loving Brother, Sam

This young man is my grandfather (b.12th March 1892), my dad’s dad, always known to me as Granddad Sam. I wasn’t as close to him as my other grandddad, Sid, who has often appeared in my blogposts, and he was always a bit distant with me on the few occasions I can remember seeing him. I have no recollections of fun or storytelling, as I do with Sid, so I was surprised to read a postcard, signed from ‘your loving brother Sam’ and with fifteen kisses added around the edge.

I am indebted to my brother for the information on how Sam spent the war. He did the research and helped to give me and our families a picture of how Sam spent WW1.

As far as I know we only have one photo of Sam as a lad, seated, with his sister and his dog, in a family group in which the head of one of the sitters has been removed!

Sam joined the Northumberland Fusiliers in 1914, probably with a pal, as his two brothers and his Brother-in-law all joined the Royal Engineers. He mentions Ted Hicks in the postcard, related in some way to his brother-in-law Jim, so perhaps he was the friend who joined him at the recruiting station. Sam's army record was lost, with so many others, in the Blitz of 1941. However, we can be sure that he served in the 10th or 11th Battalion, 68th Brigade, of the 23rd Division of the British Army. The Brigade spent the early part of the war training and some of the infantry, building up defences of South London.

Between 21-26 August 1915 the Division landed at Boulogne and thereafter served on the Western Front until late 1917, when it moved to Italy. The picture below, of Sam’s platoon, was probably taken before they left for France as there is no evidence of long service chevrons or wound stripes

The Northumberland Fusiliers. Sam is second left, bottom row.
On arrival in France the Division took responsibility for the front line sector at Bois Grenier where they spent the next five months, until relieved the following February. During the rest of 1916 Sam saw action at various locations on the front at the Battle of The Somme, and at the end of the year the Ypres Salient, where in 1917 he saw further action at the Menin Road and Passchendaele.

In October 1917 the Division undertook the long journey to Italy to support the Italian army. They were placed in a front line section at Montello, facing the Austrian Army, where they stayed until March 1918. There were no major incidents, but there was heavy shellfire to endure as they worked to strengthen the position. The next move was to the Asiago Plateau, where the Battles of Asiago and Vittorio Veneto are recorded in the War Diaries of the Northumberland Fusiliers.

After the Armistice the Division moved to a billeting area west of Treviso and the troops were gradually returned to Blighty. Sam sent this card to Cis (Sarah, his sister) in February 1919, just before he was sent home.



A man of few words was Sam, both spoken and written, but he was clearly fond of my Great-aunt Cis, his elder by seven years. When Sam’s mother, Lydia, died, he had gone to live with Cis and her husband Jim at Lammas Street. After the war, he brought his new bride to join him there for a while until my father was born, when they moved to a place of their own a few minutes away.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a soldier of The Great War, commemorated in the Faces Project of the Imperial War Museum. He was just an ordinary soldier but, unlike Sam, he went missing in the Battle of The Somme. We were lucky that Sam, another ordinary soldier lived to found our little branch of the family tree.

To see more stories of ordinary and extraordinary men and women of the First World War, which began 100 years ago this year, visit other participants in this week’s Sepia Saturday.


16 comments:

  1. Sam was certainly in the thick of things at Somme, Paschendale and Ypres. Good to know he made it home.

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  2. I have a hard time imagining serving so long. His handwriting is some of the best I have seen on a postcard!

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  3. He was in a lot of battles, you're indeed lucky your family branch exists today. Looking at the Northumberland Fusiliers photo I wonder how many survived the war...

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  4. A beautiful tribute to Sam. and the photographs and postcards must be very precious. My grandfather too fought at Paschendaele and when he wrote home addressed the card to "Blighty". .

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  5. The photo of the Northumberland Fusiliers is so reflective of that era, complete with drummer. He went through a lot in the 5 years he was involved in the War. Could that have affected him and made him less "conversational"?

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  6. Great Story. Glad Granddad Sam made it home. Wonder why only 15 kisses?

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  7. Isn't it enjoyable to discover little things we never do about people, especially our relatives. I've been doing my own reaching again in our family's backgrounds and it's quite surprising the things I never knew. I do remember that ahead post, it was interesting too. It's good to see he had such a big heart too, drawing those hearts is really wonderful, coming from a man!

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  8. A fine tribute post. Reading your description of Sam's movements during the war, I was reminded of a book I read last year of a WW1 soldier's diary that had a very similar experience going from the Somme to Italy and back. It's called "Sapper Martin - The Secret Great War Diary of Jack Martin" It is a very personal story that captures the common soldier's viewpoint of the war.

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  9. A wonderful post Marilyn, the story of not just your family but so many ordinary families of the time. I know 1914 was really just another year, but it does seem like such a tipping point in history.

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  10. The sleepy street postcard is certainly a contrast to the story of his fight through Europe you tell.

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  11. A great story! Last year a relative in NZ showed me a book that had been compiled of the many letters written home by her uncle to his sister, right up until a few days before he was killed, which she had lovingly typed up. I only wished I could have read it through properly, but unfortunately I was only there for a short time. I did manage to find a brief mention of their cousin who also served, and who was my grandfather.

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  12. It seems to be a universal phenomenon that kids are closer to one set of grandparents than the other, at least it seems that way in my family as in yours. The postcard and your brother's research most certainly have given you a different picture of your grandfather.

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  13. Good for him if he got to come home, and unscathed by the experience.
    I had a great uncle who came back a changed man, apparently.
    He never talked about it, I was told.

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  14. A fine accounting. Too too many of these undocumented heroes. Thanks for the post.

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  15. Sam did so well to survive so many great battles....& what irony that he survived yet his War Record was destroyed in WW2.

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  16. Reading these stories of soldiers serving in WW 1, I just keep remembering that song about Christmas on the front when the German and English soldiers stopped fighting for a day to celebrate. If only that day could replace all the fighting and killing and laying up of anger leading to the next war and on and on.

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