Charles Samways was born in Yeovil, Somerset, in the summer of 1893, the oldest of three children to leather dresser George Samways and his wife Martha.
Sadly, little documentation on Charles’ life remains. The 1911 census lists him as living in a small house to the north of Yeovil town centre with his mother and younger brother – his sister Nellie having passed away in 1903 when she was just a toddler. Martha was working as a dressmaker, Charles as a glove cutter, but George does not appear on the document.
War was approaching, and Charles was keen to do his bit. While full details are not available for his military service, it is evident that he enlisted as a Private in the Somerset Light Infantry, and that he did so at some point before the summer of 1918. He joined the 12th (West Somerset Yeomanry) Battalion, which was initially based in the Middle East. The battalion arrived in France in May 1918, and soon became embroiled on the Western Front, including at the Second Battle of the Somme.
The Western Chronicle reported that “Private C Samways… [was] in hospital at Warrington, Lancashire, suffering from wounds in the head and hands. He was struck by a piece of shell when going ‘over the top’, and the fact that he was wearing a steel helmet undoubtedly saved his life.” [Western Chronicle: Friday 13th September 1918] It went on to state that he was “progressing favourably.“
Within weeks, Charles was recovering at home, although this was sadly not to last. He passed away from ‘disease’ on 6th November 1918, aged just 25 years old.
Charles Samways was laid to rest in Yeovil Cemetery, finally at peace.
The specific cause of Charles’ death is not documents. However, given that his father George also died at home around the same time, it seems likely to have been one of the many lung conditions – influenza, tuberculosis, pneumonia – that became prevalent as the war came to a close.