Samuel Meekosha VC

b. 16/09/1893 Leeds, Yorkshire. d. 08/12/1950 Blackwood, Wales.

Samuel Meekosha (1893-1950) was born at 3 High Street, Leeds, Yorkshire on 16th September 1893. The family moved to Bradford when he was just two. His father was Alexander Mikosza, a Russian/Polish tailor from Suwalki, Poland, who anglicised his surname to Meekosha and settled in Bradford. Samuel’s mother was Mary Catherine Cunningham nee Mason, a tailoress. She had married Martin Cunningham in 1886, but he passed away in 1890, and she married Alexander in Leeds in 1892. They were married until her death in 1936, when Alexander re-married to Charlotte Dore. Samuel was one of seven children.

Samuel Meekosha VC

Samuel was educated at St Joseph’s RC School, Bradford and was a member of Sedburgh Boys Club there. He was employed as an office worker by Messrs J Emsley & Co of Parkside Mills, West Bowling, Bradford and later by the Ivel Boot Company, Manchester Road, Bradford. He enlisted into 6th West Yorkshire (Territorial Force) on 20th February 1911 and was mobilised on 5th August 1914. He was promoted to Corporal in February 1915. He initially undertook defence duties on the Lincolnshire Coast until 9th April, when the Battalion moved to Gainsborough in preparation for service overseas. He went to France on 16th April and was promoted to Sergeant later that year.

On 19th November 1915 near the Yser, France, Corporal Meekosha was with a platoon of about 20 NCOs and men holding an isolated trench. During a very heavy bombardment six of the platoon were killed and seven wounded, while the rest were more or less buried. When there were no senior NCOs left in action Corporal Meekosha took command, sent for help and in spite of more big shells falling within 20 yards of him, continued to dig out the wounded and buried men in full view of and at close range from the enemy. He was assisted by Privates Johnson, Sayers and Wlkinson who were all awarded the DCM. Their courage saved at least four lives.

He was originally decorated with the DCM ribbon by General Sir Herbert Plumer at Ypres in December 1915. The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 4th March 1916. He left France in November 1916 and was commissioned into 1/5th West Yorkshire on 27th June 1917. He served in France from August to December 1917 and was wounded in the right wrist and left temple in October. He was then promoted to Lieutenant in December 1918 and appointed Station Accountant Officer and temporary Captain on 15th May 1919.

After demobilisation, he transferred to the Corps of Military Accountants as a Captain and Accounts Officer 6th Class on 31st January 1920 with seniority from 19th November 1919. He retired on 17th March 1926 as a Captain Regular Army Reserve of Officers with seniority from 15th January 1919.

Samuel married Bertha Elizabeth Charlotte nee Duval on 16th November 1916 in Bradford. Samuel and Bertha had three children: Felix Samuel (born 1919), Sidney Alexander (born 1920) and Mary Cecilia (born 1922). Samuel bought a wholesale tobacco business in Bradford with financial assistance from Bertha. The business started well but, when rental costs proved too heavy, she had to turn the family home into a place of business. Bad luck and debts forced them to sell in 1929. He left his family and moved to Birmingham where he worked on a commission basis. He found employment as a sales representative with John Player & Sons, covering South Wales. After the 1929 VC Reunion Dinner, he was offered a number of jobs in London, and attended the funeral of John Crawshaw Raynes VC on 16th November.

With the outbreak of World War Two, he was recalled on 24th August 1939 and on 15th January 1940 transferred from the General List, Miscellaneous to the West Yorkshire Regiment in the rank of Captain. He transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps on 26th October, and was appointed Acting Major in October 1941. Later that year, unhappy with the attention he received due to his distinctive surname, he changed his name by deed poll to Samuel Ingram. His eldest son, Felix, was the only member of the family to retain Meekosha.

His wife Bertha died on 5th August 1945, having been in a mental institution for some time, and Samuel remarried to Constance Emily Ingham on 16th September 1945 at Leeds Registry Office. Samuel died at home at 2 Penrhiw Villas, Oakdale, Blackwood, Monmouthshire on 8th December 1950 after suffering a heart attack while attempting to start his car. He was cremated at Glyntaff Crematorium, Pontypridd and his ashes were scattered on Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire.

In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, War Medal 1939-45 and Defence Medal 1939-45. He did not claim the last two, but after his death his daughter Mary did claim them. After his son Felix died in 2000, his widow sold the VC at auction at Sotheby’s on 3rd May 2001. It went to a private buyer for £101,000 (hammer price £92,000).