29 September 2000

First World War Victoria Cross winner, Samuel Harvey, who fell on hard times and was subsequently buried in an unmarked pauper's grave, was honoured today, 29th September, with a headstone, 40 years after his death and 85 years to the day after his heroic VC action.

The ceremony was carried out in the presence of The Worshipful the Mayor of Ipswich and the Mayoress; relatives of Samuel Harvey; representatives of his former regiment, The York & Lancaster Regiment; and members of the Western Front Association, who raised funds for the memorial. The Honour Guard comprised The Association for Military Remembrance "The Khaki Chums", music by The Community Wind Band, and bugler Bramwell Scott of the Salvation Army.

It was seperate lines of enquiry that coincided to lead to today's ceremony. Michael Brown, researching the Great War, came to the Old Cemetery Office to ask if he could take photographs relating to the other Ipswich VC winner, Sergeant Arthur Saunders of the Suffolk Regiment. Miss Lynn Burroughs in the Office drew his attention to the unmarked grave of Samuel Harvey.

The Chairman of the Suffolk Branch of the Western Front Association Stuart Bufton was approached and he readily agreed to raise the matter at the next Branch meeting. The Branch enthusiastically supported the idea and a committee was formed, which included Chris Matson, co-author of a book recounting the stories of all who won a Victoria Cross on the Western Front in 1915, who generously made his own research available. A fine example of cooperation and cross-information.

The new headstone was dedicated at the graveside of Samuel Harvey at Ipswich Old Cemetery. He died penniless on 23rd September 1960, aged 79, in the former workhouse at Stow Lodge Hospital, Stowmarket, Suffolk, where he had been a patient for 16 months. His only possessions were his VC miniature medal group which were next to his pillow.

Samuel Harvey was a 34-year-old private in the 1st Bn, York and Lancaster Regiment during the bitter fighting near the Hohenzollern Redoubt at Loos.

For the award of the Victoria Cross:

[ London Gazette, 18 November 1915 ], Loos, France, 29 September 1915, 8273 Private Samuel Harvey, 1st Bn, York & Lancaster Regiment.

For conspicuous bravery in "Big Willie" trench on 29 September 1915. During a heavy bombing attack by the enemy, and when more bombs were urgently required for our front, Private Harvey volunteered to fetch them. The communication trench was blocked with wounded and reinforcements, and he went backwards and forwards accross the open under intense fire and succeeded in bringing up no less than thirty boxes of bombs before he was wounded. It was mainly due to Private Harvey's cool bravery in supplying bombs that the enemy was eventually driven back."

Samuel Harvey was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 24th January 1917. An appeal has been made for information on the whereabouts of Harvey's VC, which was lost by him some time later.

Medal entitlement of Private Samuel Harvey - 1st Bn, York & Lancaster Regiment

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
  • Knight, Legion of Honour ( 5th Class ) ( France )
  • Cross of St George ( 4th Class ) ( Russia )


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Iain Stewart, 30 September 2000