b. 03/04/1891 Wellington, New Zealand. d. 24/08/1918 Grevilliers, France.
Samuel Forsyth (1891-1918) was born on 3rd April 1891 in Newtown, Wellington, New Zealand. He was one of four children born to Thomas Forsyth, who was a nightwatchman on the SS Maori, and Grace (nee Dalgleish). Samuel attended Thorndon School, then Terrace School, where he finished his education. He was working as a gold amalgamator for Monowai Gold Mining Company based at Thames before the outbreak of the First World War. Forsyth participated in charity work, volunteering for the Sailor’s Friend Society. He was also interested in the military and in 1910, joined the Territorial Force in which he served as a field engineer. He enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and left for the Middle East in October 1914 where he served in Gallipoli.
He was medically evacuated two months later due to ill health. He returned to active duty at Gallipoli and was lightly wounded during the August offensives later that year but remained in the frontlines. He was medically evacuated in November 1915 to the island of Lemnos and then onto England. On recovering his health, in April 1916 Forsyth was posted to the 3rd Field Company of the New Zealand Engineers, which was serving with the New Zealand Division on the Western Front. The same year he spent a period of leave in the United Kingdom and struck up a relationship with a Glaswegian, Mary Sked Gardner, who he later married. The next year, he was promoted to corporal. During operations around the village of La Basseville, he was noted for his service. By May 1918, Forsyth had attained the rank of sergeant.
Sergeant Forsyth was serving with the New Zealand Engineers, attached to the 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, when he was posthumously awarded his Victoria Cross for his actions on 24th August 1918. His battalion had been tasked with the capture of the village of Grevillers.
On nearing the objective, his company came under heavy machine-gun fire. Through Serjt. Forsyth’s dashing leadership and total disregard of danger, three machine-gun positions were rushed and the crews taken prisoner before they could inflict many casualties on our troops. During subsequent advance his company came under heavy fire from several machine guns, two of which he located by a daring reconnaissance. In his endeavour to gain support from a Tank, he was wounded, but after having the wound bandaged, he again got in touch with the Tank, which in the face of very heavy fire from machine guns and anti-Tank guns, he endeavoured to lead with magnificent coolness to a favourable position. The Tank, however, was put out of action. Serjt. Forsyth then organised the Tank crew and several of his men into a section, and led them to a position where the machine guns could be outflanked. Always under heavy fire, he directed them into positions which brought about a retirement of the enemy machine guns and enabled the advance to continue. This gallant N.C.O. was at that moment killed by a sniper.
Forsyth was buried with full military honours at Adanac Military Cemetery, France, and he was also commemorated on family graves in Karori Cemetery, Wellington, New Zealand, and in Linn Cemetery, Glasgow, Scotland. His VC was presented to his wife Mary by King George V at Buckingham Palace in November 1918. Following her death, and having never had children, Forsyth’s medals which included not only the VC, but also the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and the Victory Medal, were inherited by a nephew. They were sold in 1982 to a collector in Melbourne, Australia. His medals were purchased privately in 1992 by Michael Ashcroft and are now displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: ADANAC MILITARY CEMETERY, FRANCE.
PLOT I, ROW 1, GRAVE 39
Kevin Brazier -Cemetery Plan.
Thomas Stewart – Image of Medal Group at the Ashcroft Gallery