yeovil at War

Charles Samways

Died of pneumonia


Charles Samways was born in Yeovil in 1893, the son of leather dresser George Samways (b 1867) and Martha née Dade (b 1868). In the 1901 census, George and Martha were listed at 6 West Hendford with their children; eight-year old Charles and daughter Nellie aged two. Nellie died the following year and George Samways died in 1918. In the census of 1911, Martha, a dressmaker, was living at 93 Kiddles Lane (today's Eastland Road) with 18-year old Charles and his five-year old brother Reginald. Charles gave his occupation as a glove cutter and most likely worked at the glove factory on the corner of Kiddles Lane.


Charles enlisted in the West Somerset Yeomanry (Service No 1355) at Taunton. The date of his enlistment is unknown but is likely to have been on the outbreak of war in 1914.

At the outbreak of the First World War, the regiment was part of the 2nd South Western Mounted Brigade. It mobilised on 4 August 1914 and moved to Winchester. On 15 August it moved with its brigade to the Colchester area. In September 1915 it was at Thorpe-le-Soken where it was dismounted. Still with the 2nd South Western Mounted Brigade, in September 1915 the regiment left Thorpe-le-Soken for Liverpool. On 24 September it boarded RMS Olympic and sailed the next day. It arrived at Mudros, Greece, on 1 October and on to Suvla Bay on the Aegean coast of the Gallipoli peninsula in European Turkey. The regiment landed in Gallipoli on 9 October and was attached to the 11th (Northern) Division where they were employed digging trenches. In November it was in the firing line, attached to the 2nd Mounted Division and 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division. On 19 December it was evacuated to Imbros, the largest Turkish island.

In December 1915 the regiment landed in Alexandria to help defend Egypt. In February 1916, 2nd South Western Mounted Brigade was absorbed into the 2nd Dismounted Brigade. It served on Suez Canal defences and part of the Western Frontier Force. On 4 January 1917, the regiment was converted at Ismaïlia, Egypt to form the 12th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry and 2nd Dismounted Brigade became 229th Brigade in the 74th (Yeomanry) Division. At this time Charles' Service Number changed to 295586 and he served in the Lewis Gun Section of D Company, 12th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry.

With the 74th Division, it took part in the invasion of Palestine in 1917 and 1918. It fought in the Second and Third Battles of Gaza (including the capture of Beersheba and the Sheria Position). At the end of 1917, it took part in the capture and defence of Jerusalem and in March 1918 in the Battle of Tell 'Asur. On 3 April 1918, the Division was warned that it would move to France and by 30 April 1918 had completed embarkation at Alexandria.

On 7 May 1918, 12th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry landed at Marseilles, France with 74th (Yeomanry) Division. It served in France and Flanders with the division for the rest of the war. From September 1918, as part of III Corps of Fourth Army, it took part in the Hundred Days Offensive including the Second Battle of the Somme (Second Battle of Bapaume) and the Battles of the Hindenburg Line (Battle of Épehy). In October and November 1918 it took part in the Final Advance in Artois and Flanders.

It is not clear what happened to Charles but he was clearly back in England when he died of pneumonia on 6 November 1918. He was aged 25.

Charles was buried in Yeovil Cemetery, Grave B306, and his name is recorded on the War Memorial in the Borough.




Courtesy of Cliff Johnson

A studio portrait of the debonair Charles Samways.


Courtesy of Cliff Johnson

Another studio portrait of Charles Samways in uniform. The cap badge and shoulder badge are those of the West Somerset Yeomanry, but I can't identify the divisional flash on his shoulder.


Courtesy of Cliff Johnson

Yet another studio portrait of Charles. On his right sleeve, just above the wrist, are three 'Overseas Service' chevrons. Since they all appear to be the same colour, they date from 1915 onwards (the 1914 Overseas Service chevron was red, followed by subsequent chevrons in blue for later years). This therefore probably dates this, and the previous, photograph to 1917.


A postcard dated 1915 showing a map of the Dardanelles Campaign.


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission certificate in memory of Charles Samways.


Charles Samways' headstone in Yeovil Cemetery.