Category Archives: Soldier

Amyas Sampson (1899-1918) and Michael Sampson (1889-1959)

Amyas Sampson
4 August 1914, the day that Britain declared war on Germany, was also the fifteenth birthday of Amyas Sampson (see photo, left, seated with his mother and brother). Amyas was the younger son of John Sampson (1869-1931), Librarian of the University of Liverpool. On 8 August 1918 Amyas, by then a Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps, was reported ‘missing in action’. He was never seen or heard of again. His elder brother Michael (b. 1889), invalided out four times, returned safely with a Military Cross and bar.

The John Sampson archive at the University of Liverpool contains correspondence between the brothers and their parents. Many of John Sampson’s frequent letters to his wife at the family home in Wales were written in the Tate Library, now part of the University’s Victoria Gallery & Museum. One file in the archive contains letters from Amyas: postcards he sent as a child; letters from Beaconfield School, near Runcorn; letters from Canada (where he worked at the Merchant’s Bank of Canada in Ontario until he was eligible for military service in August 1917); letters from his training for the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto and Texas; and a telegram announcing his posting to France in May 1918.

In August 1915, Amyas was on holiday in Edinburgh. He reports on his journey: ‘I did not feel inclined for sleep. Grannie and Grandpa seemed to sleep alright. The train had been so full of soldiers, who were sprawling everywhere, that we were forced to travel in a first-class carriage which we had all to ourselves.’ John Sampson’s 1915 letters are full of Michael’s war service in France, the anti-German sentiment in Liverpool, and the reported ‘extermination’ of the Liverpool Scottish regiment.

In October 1916, Amyas wrote to his mother: ‘I have a safety razor. I thought it would save me a lot if I got one, so I do shave myself. Up till now the ceremony has been only a monthly one.’ In contrast, his father’s letters of 1916 include war news from Michael, who was injured in the battle of the Somme.

In March 1917, Amyas wrote to his father from Canada: ‘I think I had better write to the General Manager [of the bank] at the end of April saying that since I shall be eligible for military service in August I shall be obliged to leave ‘for three years or the duration of the war’. Please write and tell me what you would like me to enlist with when the time comes.’

His father’s letters in 1917 carry war news from his both his sons, Michael in the army and Amyas, from August a cadet in the Royal Flying Corps in Canada.

Sampson last letterAmyas’s last letter to his mother (see envelope, right) is dated 8 August 1918. In it, he tries to reassure her: ‘There was a wonderful push this morning. It will be in tomorrow’s papers I expect. We heard a furious bombardment all night. I don’t think it will affect us very much, but I shall send you a postcard every other day for a while so that you needn’t worry.’

His father’s letters of 1918 carry news of Michael’s Military Cross, his first sighting of an aeroplane over Liverpool Cathedral, and his anxiety about Amyas, then missing in action. Sampson has convinced himself that Amyas is a German prisoner of war. In 1919, his letters comment on the Spanish flu epidemic and the strikes (and increasing motor traffic) in Liverpool. There is no news of Amyas.

The bad news finally came on 3 February 1920. Sampson wrote to his wife that day: ‘I had the enclosed certificate from the War Office this morning. Poor little Am!’

Amyas Terrell Sampson, b. 1899, Lieutenant, Royal Flying Corps d. 1918? and Michael Trevisky Sampson, b. 1889, Temporary Captain, Lieutenant, then Temporary Major, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, d. 1959, are the sons of John Sampson, University Librarian (1869-1931) and Jessie Margaret Sprunt.

This profile was submitted by Katy Hooper, Special Collections and Archives, University of Liverpool, and is based on material from the University Archive.

John Sampson’s archive can be searched via the website of the Special Collections & Archives, University of Liverpool Library.


Edmund (Ned) Goodchild (1893-1915), George Goodchild (1895-1987), Arthur Goodchild (1896-1963), relatives of Henry Finch

Suffolk_Regiment_Cap-BadgeNed, George and Arthur Goodchild were three brothers – my uncles – who volunteered to serve in Kitchener’s New Armies in 1914. All joined the Suffolk Regiment (see cap badge, left): George attested on 24 August in 7th Battalion, and Ned followed on 8 September in 9th Battalion, where he was joined a week later by Arthur. They all wrote frequently to their mother, who kept their letters, the last dated July 1916. These came to me on the death of my mother, their sister. With my cousins’ approval, I used them to write an account of their fathers’ army lives, now online at Why did they volunteer? As agricultural labourers, they clearly felt that army life could not be worse than farm work.

While Britain’s small regular army was despatched immediately to France, the New Armies remained at home to be trained up by inadequate numbers of senior officers and NCOs. Obsolete or non-existent rifles, no uniforms and poor accommodation in winter 1914-15 delayed the creation of battle-ready troops. Instead of the intended six months, George reached France after nine months and Ned arrived fifty-one weeks after enlisting.

Arthur’s war history was complicated. In 1914, he was fourteen months under-age and severely deaf since birth. He spent many days confined to barracks, sometimes (but not always) having failed to hear an order. In March 1915 he was transferred to 3/Suffolk, a Special Reserve unit at Felixstowe. Because he had refused to allow army surgeons to operate on his ear, Arthur believed he was classed as unfit for active service. But the decision was reversed, and he arrived in France at the end of July 1915, ironically a month ahead of Ned.

The war on the Western Front in 1915 was dominated by the British assault at Loos on 25-26 September. One of the great set-piece battles of the war, it was also one of the least successful. So great was the slaughter by German machine guns of British soldiers caught on open ground that German medical personnel were moved to come out and assist the wounded survivors to return to the British lines. For 9/Suffolk, the experience was shocking. Civilian soldiers of the New Armies required a gradual introduction to the trenches in order to acquire battle skills. But, having arrived in France on 31 August, 9/Suffolk was held near the coast for three weeks, then marched some 70 miles over four nights and thrown unprepared into the battle on 26 September.

In the aftermath, all three brothers were briefly in the vicinity of Loos, although they did not see each other. George’s 7/Suffolk took over trenches at Loos on 30 September. Arthur joined 1/Suffolk at Loos in September and went into action on 1 October. But the battalion was withdrawn a few days later. His experience of trench warfare was terrifying but brief and not repeated. By the end of October, 1/Suffolk was en route to Salonika in northern Greece, where the battalion dug trenches to protect against an attack that no enemy intended to make. Arthur remained there, bored but not endangered, until sent home for surgery on his ear in July 1916. His final war letter was written from hospital in Brighton where the surgery failed, and he was duly discharged from the army as unfit for further service.

Ned and George were less fortunate. On 4 November 1915 George received a leg wound in the Hohenzollern Redoubt at Loos. He wrote home: ‘When I got hit there were four of us standing close to each other, talking and smoking, Ford and Palmer they were on my left and they both got killed by the same bomb that hit me, the other fellow was on my right and he escaped.’ Invalided home, George thereafter battled with the medical authorities not to be returned to the trenches. ‘They will send me to France again if they possibly can, but not if I can help it… Scores of my old mates from the 7 batt. have been sent back again but they won’t get me back.’ George completed his war service on home duty in Britain and Ireland and was discharged in March 1919.

While George lay in hospital, news came that Ned had been killed on 19 December 1915. After Loos, 9/Suffolk had moved to the Ypres Salient, where the enemy launched the first phosgene gas attack. He was buried that night in a small local cemetery. But when permanent cemeteries were built after the war, there was no trace of his body for re-burial. His parents were informed of his death by letter dated 20 December – officers’ next-of-kin would receive a telegram – but they were still unaware of their loss when his mother next wrote to him on 28 December. In March Ned's last cigarettes1916 they received the balance of Ned’s pay owing to him (£5-14s-4d) and a small bag of his personal effects which included a cigarette case with his last three “ARF A MO” cigarettes. I found these undisturbed almost a century later (see photo, right).

Arthur spoke for all the brothers when he wrote in 1915 that ‘if I get out of the army alive I shan’t work on the land if I can get anywhere else’. After the war, he and George returned to live close to my grandparents in Suffolk, but not as farm labourers. By the time I knew them, Arthur had his own house-building business while George worked for an engineering company in Ipswich.

Private Edmund Leonard Goodchild, 9th Battalion Suffolk Regiment (1893-1915), Private George Goodchild, 7th Battalion Suffolk Regiment (1895-1987), Private Arthur Goodchild, 9th Battalion Suffolk Regiment (1896-1963), infantrymen; relatives of Henry Finch, Senior Fellow, School of History (via Economic History and Latin American Studies), retired 2001

Tom Heald (1889-1980), relative of Anne Wolff

Tom HealdMy father, T.L.C. Heald (far left in the photo), enlisted in August 1914 as a Private in the 5th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment (Territorial Force), and left for France as a 2nd Lieutenant on 14 February 1915. Apart from when he was wounded in 1917, he served continuously on the western front until February 1919, ending the war as a Staff Captain. He was awarded the Military Cross, and was twice mentioned in despatches. When he died in 1980, aged 91, I found in the attic a shabby black case fastened with rusty clasps which had formerly been used for holding old 78 records. Attached to the handle was an old luggage label on which was written simply ‘My War’. Inside, there were a number of small khaki clothbound notebooks with squared paper, containing an almost daily account of his experiences at the western front from February 1915 until early 1919. Soldiers were forbidden to keep private diaries, meaning that those who disobeyed this rule left behind much that was valuable.

The diary entries, factual and at times laconic, only occasionally revealed my father’s deep feelings. One such time was when his childhood friend Basil Walker, a tall kindly man with whom my father had volunteered the previous August, was killed at Ypres on 10 May 1915. He wrote: ‘The worst day of my life. Upset me frightfully. […] It does seem hard that poor Basil should be taken. I shall never meet a better man as long as I live. He was hit in the head whilst chatting to the officers in front of their dugout. Suppose his head must have been too high though some say the bullet came through the parapet. He knew nothing about it. He is very much missed by the battalion. Went up the trenches at night to see Hartley and get Basil’s things. We put him in the dressing station for the night.’

As the war drew to its close, and like many others, my father’s mood became deeply depressed. On 16 August 1918, he wrote: ‘My birthday. I am 29. Good heavens nearly 30 and no prospects and no wife. The longer this war goes on the worse it will be for me. What chance has a man of thirty, untrained in business, of getting work at a decent rate of pay when the war is over?’

After the war, my father worked in a cotton business in Egypt, returning to England in 1924. In 1932 he took up the profession of solicitor. Then, in 1937, he was given the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and raised the 6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment (Territorial Force), which he commanded until 1940. At the age of 50, he became Officer commanding troop ships which transported soldiers to other theatres of war.

In later years, my father hardly mentioned the war, and I always felt that he had tried to bury the remembrance of it in the unconscious as being too painful to recall. For a long time afterwards, he suffered recurring bouts of trench fever and endured vivid nightmares of bombarding shells, dreaming that he was buried beneath the debris. The dreams became particularly acute at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. When he was very old, and the dreams had faded, he once remarked: ‘If you have been through the Somme, nothing is quite the same again.’

Thomas Lane Claypole Heald, b. Southport, 1889, Private, Second Lieutenant, then Staff Captain, Cheshire Regiment, d. 1980, is the relative of Anne Wolff, née Heald, BA Egyptology and Italian (1973), MA (1993).

This story is based closely, with her permission, on material in Anne Wolff’s book Subalterns of the Foot: Three World War I Diaries of Officers of the Cheshire Regiment (Worcester: Square One Publications, 1992). It has been edited by Kay Chadwick. Tom Heald’s diaries are held at the Imperial War Museum, London.


William Adams (1888-1960), relative of Aly White

William AdamsWilliam George Adams (seen on the right in the photo), my great-grandfather, was born at Brockwell Farm on the Chequers estate near Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire, in 1888. His father, George, apprenticed his young son to a butcher, a profession that William hated as he loved animals and could not stand the abattoir. William did not last very long in butchery, and ran away around the age of 16 to join the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry, where he worked for a few years before he was discovered by a boy he knew from back home, who had also joined up. William’s father pulled him out of the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry at vast cost. Between then and the beginning of the war in 1914, William worked on the farm with horses. Maids and Harper, a Croydon firm, were impressed with his handling of the horses and offered him a job in their timber yard. So he moved to Croydon, where he met May, my great-grandmother.

William married Dorothy May Scutt in October 1914, not long after the outbreak of the war. Two daughters followed, Edith May (b. 1915) and Doreen Margaret (b. 1916), whose early childhood William would miss as a result of the war. He joined the 13th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment in August 1914, and was sent to France not long after signing up. He was shot in the arm and gassed quite early in the war, and spent time in hospital. At the time of my grandmother Doreen’s birth in December 1916, William was posted as missing. May, my great-grandmother, received a telegram saying he was dead. But fortunately this was a mistake and he did eventually return home. On one of his leaves, the first thing he said to her was “Don’t touch me, May, I am lousy!” He didn’t even go into the house until he had stripped down and washed himself off.

William was a first-class shot and signalman, for which he was paid an extra five shillings per week. He was encouraged to go for promotion by his commanding officer, but refused, for he was a gentle man who did not wish to be responsible for other people. After his refusal, he was sent to Cologne in Germany, with the Army of Occupation. He did not return home until September 1919. My grandmother was almost three years old and did not know her father. She cried when he came home and it took her a few days to approach him.

After the war, William enjoyed family life, gardening and going for long walks in the country. He was a country man who knew about wild flora and fauna. He became quite claustrophobic after the war and didn’t like to be enclosed, especially in the cinema. Presumably this was due to his early gassing experience, which left a lasting impression on him. William died in January 1960 in Croydon.

William George Adams b. 1888 Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire, d. 1960 Croydon, Surrey, Private 13th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, is the relative of Aly White, Administrator, School of Histories, Languages and Cultures

William McGarry (1883-1948) and William Shaw (1894-1941), relatives of John McGarry

William McGarry and William Shaw, my grandfathers, both lived around the London Road and Everton area of Liverpool around 1900. Both served in the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment in World War I. This is their story.

William John McGarry, my paternal grandfather, was born in Ireland in 1883 and came to Liverpool at a young age with his father, John McGarry, who was a docker.  William enlisted in Liverpool on 2 January 1915 as number 3276 in ‘C’ Company, 2/5 King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, and was renumbered as 201076 in early 1917. The address he gave at the time of his enlistment was 28 Date Street, Seaforth. He gave his occupation as a shipper, and is listed as height 5′ 6″, weight 140lbs with good physical development, religion Roman Catholic. Between 1915 and late 1916, whilst stationed at Canterbury and Woking, he was punished a number of times, mainly by being confined to barracks for overstaying his leave pass. He was posted to France on 13 February 1917 (sailing from Folkestone to Boulogne), and returned for a Corps William McGarryLewis Gun Course four months later in June that year. The photograph (left) shows the soldiers on that course. My grandfather is seated far right. The expression on these faces says it all.

William rejoined the Battalion in July 1917 and was posted to 2/7 King’s (Liverpool) Regiment on 25 January 1918. According to his record and the Battalion War Diary I have managed to obtain, he was wounded and admitted to 3 Australian General Hospital on 3 September 1918. The Diary details the movements of the battalion and all the names of the trenches in which he was positioned. By all accounts, he was a character of strong will, and was pleased to serve his country alongside twenty other loyal employees and willing volunteers at the Diamond Match Company, Litherland. The employer guaranteed all these men employment on their return after the war. William survived physically, and went back to his old employment when disembodied1 on 9 March 1919. Sadly, in 1941, the factory where he worked was bombed, and he moved to the parent building in Garston, which still stands today.

It was this event, and the noise of the Liverpool Blitz in 1941, which caused a severe mental breakdown. According to my father, this manifested itself when William would shout out while walking the streets. It is quite easy to imagine how the events of World War II could affect a World-War-I trench veteran. Perhaps we should bear in mind his anxiety with three sons all serving at that time: one was James (my father), a Royal Marine and a D-Day survivor, aged 19; then there was George, who was based with the RAF in Singapore; and finally John, who was with the Merchant Navy. The three sons all lived into their mid-80s, but my grandfather died aged 66 in 1948. He was survived by nine children in total, and was grandfather to a famous Liverpool son, my cousin and poet Roger McGough.

William ShawWilliam Shaw, my maternal grandfather, was born in 1894. According to family birth certificates, he was a private in the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment in March 1916, and, by April 1917, by the time my mother (pictured standing in the photograph, right) was born, a Lance Corporal (number 11571) in the 1st Battalion.  I have no other war details of him, as I can’t seem to access his war records. Can anyone advise? I would be most grateful. I did find some information on his medals (he was awarded the Victory, British and Star medals), but I am not sure that can tell me much.

Like my other grandfather, William Shaw survived but suffered tragedy as a latent consequence of the Great War. According to my family, he took his own life during the Liverpool Blitz in 1941, when he heard the news of the death of his son John (Jack), who is seated in the photograph (above right). John was serving in the North Africa campaign driving a truck which was hit.

1. ‘Disembodied’ is a specific Army term for the demobilization of soldiers in certain types of service, notably the Territorial Forces.

William John McGarry (1883-1948) and William Shaw (1894-1941) are the relatives of Dr John McGarry, Lecturer in Parasitology, University of Liverpool.

If you can help John to find details of William Shaw’s war service, you can contact him at

Tom Garmory (1893-1940), relative of Kay Chadwick

Tom GarmoryThomas McGuffog Garmory, known as Tom, was born in Kirkcudbright, Scotland in 1893. He was the fourth of seven children, five boys and two girls. He is my first cousin, twice removed, and part of my extensive Scottish family. On leaving school, Tom served an apprenticeship with a local grocer, Mr Dalziel. In 1915, at the age of 22, he left his job and enlisted on 2 June as a Private in the 17th Highland Light Infantry. He was sent to France in November 1915, and was wounded at the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. Once recovered, he transferred to the 8th York & Lancaster Regiment and returned to the battlefields in France, first as a Corporal, before being promoted to Sergeant. By 1918, he was in Italy, where he fought in the Battle of Asiago on 15-16 June 1918. His actions here earned him the Distinguished Conduct Medal for Conspicuous Gallantry, as his citation explains:

“For a long period during operations he was responsible for guiding ration parties to their destination each night, and in spite of very heavy hostile shelling, he succeeded in getting all rations and stores through. On many occasions he went out alone to find lost parties, and always showed a complete disregard of personal danger.”

Tom survived the war, and returned home to Scotland, where he married Helen Slavin in 1923. They had seven children, four of whom are still living (as of November 2013). But Tom himself died young at the age of 47 in 1940. I do not know if his death was related to war injury or trauma. But it is a possibility, since the psychological and physical impact of the First World War stretched far beyond the end of the fighting in 1918. The photograph is a little faded, but, even so, I can clearly see my mother in him.

Tom Garmory, b. Kirkcudbright, 1893, d. Dalziel, 1940, Sergeant, 8th York & Lancaster Regiment, is the relative of Dr Kay Chadwick, Reader in French Historical Studies, CLAS.