13 December 2007

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Petty Officer George Samson,
Royal Naval Reserve ( SS 'River Clyde' )

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • Medaille Militaire ( France )

The Victoria Cross and campaign medals awarded to Petty Officer George Samson, Royal Naval Reerve ( SS 'River Clyde' ) a Gallipoli 'V' Beach award, have been sold at auction by Dix Noonan Webb for a hammer price of £210,000. The group was purchased on behalf of the Michael Ashcroft Trust, the holding institution for Lord Ashcroft's VC Collection.

As the River Clyde grounded, the lighters that were to form the bridge were run out ahead, and the troops began to pour out of the holes in her sides and down the gangways; but the lighters failed to reach their proper stations. A gap was left between two of them which it was impossible for the men to cross, and scores were shot down as they stood helpless on the uncompleted bridge. Commander Unwin and Able Seaman William Williams made a line fast to one of the drifting lighters and, dropping over the side, waded through the water and towed the barge towards a spit of rock that gave direct access to the shore.

Midshipman George Drewry, of the Royal Naval Reserve, was already in the water wading ashore to make a land end of the towing rope. In the meantime, Commander Unwin and Williams had nearly reached the rock with the lighter in tow when they found the rope they had was not long enough. Drewry at once went back to the ship to get another length, and while the other two were waiting, Williams was shot as he stood breast-deep in the water. Unwin carried him back to the lighter but Williams was already dead. When Drewry returned with the rope it did not take long to make the lighter fast, and then the troops began at once to pour across the shot-swept bridge.

Presently a shot severed the lashing rope, and again the lighters went adrift. Midshipman Drewry was onboard the inshore barge, but was struck in the head by a fragment of shell, but he hastily bound his wound with a soldier's scarf, and jumping overboard with a line between his teeth, swam towards the other lighter. Once again the rope was too short but Midshipman Malleson threw himself over the side and succeeded in making the connection again; but once more it was broken, and although Malleson made two further attempts to carry a rope he was unsuccessful.

Another hero of this costly exploit was Seaman George Samson, Royal Naval Reserve, who remained on the lighters the whole of the day, busying himself among the wounded and giving all the assistance he could to the officers as they carried the lines from lighter to lighter.

For the award of the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 16 August 1915 ], Gallipoli, Turkey, 25 April 1915, Seaman George McKenzie Samson, Royal Naval Reserve ( SS 'River Clyde' ).

The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the grant of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Officers and men for the conspicuous acts of bravery mentioned in the foregoing despatch.

  • Commander Edward Unwin, Royal Navy
  • Midshipman George Leslie Drewry, Royal Naval Reserve
  • Midshipman Wilfred St Aubyn Malleson, Royal Navy
  • Able Seaman William Charles Williams, Royal Navy ( posthumous )
  • Seaman George Mckenzie Samson, Royal Naval Reserve
Summary: At Gallipoli, Samson was on board River Clyde, a tramp steamer that was attempting to land 2000 troops onto V Beach, when lighters forming the bridge between the steamer and the shore began to drift apart. Under fierce machine gun fire, he busied himself among the wounded and offered assistance to those repairing the bridge. He was hit over and over again, and when he returned to England, his body still contained a dozen pieces of shrapnel.

George Samson was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 5th October 1915.

The River Clyde's surgeon, Dr P Burrowes-Kelly, DSO, commented "Samson was most prominent through 25-26 April. He effected many daring rescues of the wounded, stowed them carefully away in the hopper, and treated them himself until medical assistance was forthcoming. In the intervals he devoted his time to attending to snipers and was prominent in the close fighting on 'V' beach on the night of 25 April. He was eventually shot by a Maxim machine-gun and wounded in nineteen places."

Post-war Samson found employment back in the Merchant Navy, sailing out of Dundee as Quarter-Master of the tanker Dosina, and it was in this capacity that he fell ill during a voyage to the Gulf of Mexico in early 1923. Transferred to the S.S. Strombus, bound for Bermuda, he died from double pneumonia on 23 February, and was buried with full military honours in the military section of the island's Methodist Cemetery in St. George's, Bermuda.


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Iain Stewart, 14 December 2007