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Family kept the faith over fate of WWI soldier

Section:  Dumfries and West  | Tags: , , , ,

A HUNDRED years after WWI a Dumfriesshire community has been retelling its own story of a father who refused to believe his son had been killed in France.

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The Chancel at St Brides’s Church in Sanquhar symbolises the miraculous return of Captain Hamish Weir Samson MC (Military Cross) who was missing, feared dead for nearly three months.

The 22-year-old, who served with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, fought in the Battle of Arras in northern France.
On the morning of May 3 1917 Captain Samson led C Company in a failed dawn raid on two German trenches – and didn’t return with an eyewitness reporting seeing him fall to the ground.
Although his body was never recovered, his family were told to expect the worst.
But his father John, who was managing partner of Sanquhar and Kirkconnel Collieries, never gave up hope that his “gallant” son was still alive and for three months pestered the War Office for news.
The family were informed on July 22 that Captain Samson had been in fact killed . . . only to receive the opposite message a few days later.
He had actually been captured and was being held in a Prisoner of War Hospital in Germany, recovering from shot wounds.
Hamish wrote to his family later that month saying he was being treated well under the circumstances, adding: “The camp itself is quite a nice one, though necessarily confined so that we do not get much exercise.
“I am living in a room with two other English captains and we endeavour to make it as comfortable as possible during our stay here.”
He spent the rest of the war in a variety of POW camps and eventually returned to Scotland in December 1918.
To celebrate his son’s miraculous survival, John Samson made a large donation to the church to extend the building.
The oak panelled Chancel was constructed in 1929-30 and has a stunning stained glass window. It features a plaque on the wall which gives thanks to the Glory of God for the “preservation” of the decorated soldier’s life.
His name also adorns a roll of honour of all the men from the Sanquhar area who fought in the Great War.
Commenting this week, Rev Bill Hogg said: “It’s an inspiring story of family loyalty and hope coming to a joyful conclusion.”
And session clerk Duncan Close added: “His survival and return home indicates a very brave and resolute soldier.
“Today, 100 years after Captain Samson’s miraculous escape from death, we have a truly magnificent memorial to one soldier’s survival, and the family faith that refused to believe he had been lost.”
After the war, Hamish worked for his father’s company then trained as a stockbroker. He married and had two children.
In WWII he served in the Home Guard in Inverness.
He died in Sussex in 1971 aged 76.

* Do you have a family story about WWI? Let us know by emailing fr@dngonline.co.uk

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