Frederick Sams was born on June 4, 1862 at Lindsell, Essex, England the second son of agricultural labourer William Sams and his wife Eliza Bowtell. At the age of three a sister Emily was born at Great Waltham, Essex and at the age of seven a brother, George at Chigwell, Essex. In the 1871 census, the family is recorded at Woodford Bridge, Essex where Frederick is a scholar. Three years later the family has moved to Barkingside, Essex where a bother, Charles is born. In 1876 at the age of 41, Frederick’s mother Eliza dies. It would appear that his father remarried a Maria from Woodford Bridge as a half brother, Walter was born at Barkingside in 1880. The family is still at Barkingside for the 1881 census and like his father Frederick is an agricultural labourer.
A life on the farm was not however to be Frederick’s future. On March 15, 1884 he presented himself at Colchester Barracks, Essex and applied to join the Royal Artillery. On his medical examination he is described as 5 feet 6¾ inches tall and weighing 140 lbs. He has a florid complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair. He is certified fit for the army and on March 18, 1884 Frederick’s military career begins.
Following training at the Royal Artillery’s Eastern Division Depot, Frederick is posted overseas to Ceylon, (now Sri Lanka), where he served from November 19, 1884 until December 15, 1885.
From December 16 1885 until February 12, 1890 he is stationed in Hong Kong. On March 15, 1886 he is promoted to Gun Captain, but less than a month later we find the only blemish on his record when it is reported that from April 4, 1886 until April 9, 1886 he is awaiting trial. He is subsequently tried and imprisoned from April 10, 1886 until May 21, 1886. He forfeits his Gun Captains pay until November 10, 1887. Unfortunately there is no mention of the nature of his offence.
Frederick’s final overseas posting is at Malta from February 13, 1890 until October 30, 1891. On May 14, 1890 he extends his service for another 12 years before the colours. The remaining 22 years of his time in the army will be spent in England, primarily at Weymouth, Dorset.
On April8, 1894 at Weymouth, Dorset, Frederick Sams married Ada Ethel May House daughter of Tom House, a platelayer on the railway and Sarah Ann Samways from Maiden Newton, Dorset. It is interesting to note that in Frederick’s army record it states that he did this without taking leave.
Frederick and Ada had 4 children, Ethel Ivy Maud Sams on March 11, 1895, Effie Lillian Margaret Sams on February 15, 1897 who died the same year, William Henry George Sams on November 11,1899 and finally Alexander Edward Sams on December 2, 1901. In the 1901 census, Frederick, Ada, Ethel and William can be found at 19 Trinity Street, Weymouth, Dorset.
Following a re-organization of the Royal Artillery, Frederick Sams becomes a member of 22 Company, Royal Garrison Artillery. On October 25, 1911 Frederick was awarded his only known decoration, the King George V Coronation Medal.
After 30 years and 28 days of military service Frederick Sams was discharged from the Royal Garrison Artillery at his own request on April 11, 1914. Was it luck or did he see what the next 4 years would bring?
© Brian Tompkins 2007