Samuel Harvey VC

b. 17/09/1881 Basford, Nottinghamshire. d. 22/09/1960 Stowmarket, Suffolk.

Samuel Harvey (1881-1960) was born at 3 Annesley Place, Basford, Bulwell, Nottinghamshire on 17th September 1881, a twin with a sister Mahala. He was known as “Monkey” because of his sense of humour and practical jokes. His father was William Harvey, a farm labourer. His mother was Mary Ann nee Calver, a charwoman. The family moved to Ipswich and moved to various addresses. Samuel was one of nine children: Emily, Rose, William, Mahala (his twin), George, Frederic, Ellen, and Walter.

Samuel Harvey VC

Samuel was educated at the local village school and employed as a farm labourer like his father. He enlisted in 1905 in the 1st York and Lancaster Regiment, and served for seven years in India before transferring to the Reserve in 1912. He was recalled on the outbreak of war and went to France on 9th September 1914.

On 29th September 1915 in the “Big Willie” Trench near the Hohenzollern Redoubt, France, during a heavy bombing attack, more bombs were urgently required and private Harvey volunteered to fetch them. The communication trench was blocked with wounded and reinforcements and he went backwards and forwards across open ground under intense fire and succeeded in bringing up 30 boxes before he was wounded in the head. It was largely owing to his cool bravery in supplying the bombs that the enemy was eventually driven back.

He was gazetted for the VC on 18th November 1915, and was presented with his medal by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 24th January 1917. There is a story that when he was having his VC pinned to his chest, he winked at the Queen and said in a loud voice “Mine’s a pint.” He was wounded three times during the War and was transferred to 3rd (Home Service) Garrison Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers in Sunderland on 7th October 1916. The Battalion served in Ireland 1917-1918. He was discharged on 15th May 1918.

He found it hard to get regular employment due to his wounds and at various times was an odd-jobber, a gardener and then an ostler at the Great White Horse Hotel, Ipswich. He married Georgina Brown, and they lived together at 10 Adelphi Place, and did not have any children. She was a diabetic and died in 1948, and was buried in Old Ipswich Cemetery.

After his wife died, Samuel fell on hard times and lived in the Salvation Army Hostel in Fore Street, Ipswich for many years. He narrowly escaped serious injury when some guttering fell near him in 1953. In 1955 he injured his hip in a fall and was unable to walk. Eventually there was a public outcry and funds were raised to have him cared for in Heathfields Old Persons Home, Ipswich. He was taken to the VC Centenary Celebrations in 1956 in a wheelchair. He was described by Canon Lummis as “an Ipswich man – a rough diamond. He was a good looking young man, but a hard-bitten looking fellow when I met him.”

Samuel died of myocardial degeneration and senility at Stow Lodge Hospital, Stowmarket, Suffolk on 23rd September 1960. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Ipswich Old Cemetery, where a headstone was erected in 2000. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. Samuel claimed he lost his VC while sleeping in a wood near Ipswich after a drinking session. Miniatures of the VC and his other medals were found under his pillow after he died. There are several theories about the fate of his VC, either lost in the woods, traded in a pub or sold privately. Sadly, the whereabouts are not known.






Kevin Brazier – Image of Samuel Harvey’s grave and cemetery plan for Ipswich Old Cemetery.

Mark Sanders – Medal Card for Samuel Harvey VC.