Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Samuel Lee

Samuel Lee :

Samuel Lee : Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Orange Free State', 'South Africa 1902'

Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Orange Free State', 'South Africa 1902'

Samuel was born between October and December 1881 in Manchester. His father was called Kenneth and his mother was Elizabeth. He was their eldest child, although Elizabeth's son (his stepbrother) Joseph Thorpe was 7 years older than him. Thomas, Kenneth and Dorothy were his younger siblings. The family were members of the Church of England.

In 1891 the family lived at 30 Caledon Street in New Cross, Manchester. Kenneth worked as a railway engine cleaner and Elizabeth was a cotton weaver. Joseph worked as a striker at a smith's. Ten years later the family, except Joseph, lived at 17 Back Lloyd Street in New Cross. Kenneth was now a general labourer and Samuel was a hewer in a coal mine.

He was also a soldier. The Boer War had been raging in South Africa since October 1899. Hundreds of thousands of British soldiers had been sent to the country to fight a far smaller number of Boer guerrillas. Samuel joined the 6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the 28th December 1900. This was a unit of the Militia. After his initial training Samuel would return to his home and job. Normally he would only attend a short period of training every year, but the needs of the Army in South Africa meant that he could expect to be called up to fight there.

When he enlisted Samuel was 5 feet 2 1/4 inches tall and weighed 109 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, light blue eyes and dark brown hair. He was given the service number 7473.

Many Militia battalions had been called up to fight in South Africa, and the 6th Battalion's turn came in January 1902. Samuel was embodied on the 6th and arrived in South Africa with the rest of the battalion during March. They saw little fighting, and spent most of their time manning blockhouses and the fences between them. These were intended to restrict the movements of Boer guerrillas, and force them to fight the British. It was a successful strategy and the war ended on the 31st May. The 6th Battalion returned to the UK that September.

Samuel must have taken to military life because on the 20th February 1903 he enlisted in the Regular Army. He decided to stay in the Manchester Regiment and was given the service number 8604. All we know about his service between then and the outbreak of the First World War in early August 1914 is that he had been promoted to Corporal.

When war broke out Samuel was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Jullundur, now called Jalandhar in the Indian Punjab. The 1st Battalion was quickly mobilised and set sail for Europe on the 27th August. They arrived in France on the 26th September and were soon in combat around Festubert.

Conditions on the front line during the early part of the war were bad. It was wet, cold and dangerous, and for soldiers used to the heat of India things must have been even worse. The 1st Battalion took part in heavy fighting around Festubert and Givenchy throughout the rest of 1914. They lost many soldiers trying to stop the German attacks, and then trying to recapture the territory that had been captured.

On the 12th March 1915 Samuel and the 1st Battalion took part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. Starting in late April the battalion took part in the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium. They took heavy casualties again before the attack ended during May. The rest of 1915 was much quieter, although conditions in the trenches were still difficult and dangerous.

After taking more casualties in the Battle of Loos during September the 1st Battalion was withdrawn from the front on the 10th November. It was ordered to sail for Mesopotamia, now called Iraq, and arrived there on the 8th January 1916.

Samuel did not go with them. At some point during the fighting in France and Belgium he had been wounded and evacuated to the UK. We don't know what had happened to him. By early January 1916 it was clear that he would not recover enough to return to the front, so on the 4th he was discharged as 'no longer physically fit for war service'. He was given a Silver War Badge with serial number 100865 to show that his discharge was honourable.

The rest of Samuel's life is a mystery. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in October 1951. As well as his Queen's South Africa Medal, Samuel was also awarded the 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914', the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council