George Samson VC

Last year we posted a short article about Dundee’s WW1 VC recipient Hugh McKenzie. Now we bring you an story of a Carnoustie VC veteran. A story brought to our attention thanks to what appears to be an insignificant letter.

George Samson was born in Carnoustie in 1889. After leaving school he worked on his uncle’s farm near Arbroath, but tried to run away to sea (he was rejected). After this he had a restless life. He spent a year on an Argentinian cattle ranch, served in the Kings Own Scottish Borders, sailed on whaling ships and then joined the merchant navy. By 1912 he had managed to end up in Turkey driving mail trains. On the outbreak of war he quit his job and joined the Royal Navy in Malta. He was assigned to serve on the HMS Hussar.

He gained his Victoria Cross for his actions on 25th April 1915. Under heavy fire he secured light fittings and attended the wounded on board the Hussar – he himself was wounded by machine gun fire. He was hit with 17 bullets. The surgeons could only get out 4. Unsurprisingly, he was not expected to live. After recuperating in Egypt he was returned to the UK. He then spent time in Aboyne. On 5th October 1915 he was awarded his VC at Buckingham Palace. One day whilst out of uniform and walking around town he was handed a white feather.

On 31st December 1915 he married Charlotte Glass of Aboyne, whom he had no doubt met during his recovery. They went on to have two children. He was discharged from the Navy and took up a job in Aberdeen. After the war he tried to join the Army for service in Russia in 1919 but was denied. At some point he appears to have moved back to Carnoustie to live with his parents.


The Den of Airlie, known later as the Ulanga

This brings us to the letter. There is no date and we don’t know who it is addressed to. We found it amongst some papers of James Brebner – the first rector of Harris Academy but it does not appear to be written to him. George is referring to the Den of Airlie. This was a ship bought by C Barrie & Sons in 1921. It was previously named Santa Clara and was renamed Den of Airlie on 23 December 1921. It sailed to Asia on 13 January 1922, so this means that the letter was probably written in the first couple of weeks of January 1922. He didn’t get a job on the Den of Airlie. He was however successful at getting a job on the Dosina, an oil tanker built by the Caledon ship yard.


A year later George was taken ill whilst aboard the ship. He was transferred to the SS Strombus to return home. He never made it. He was taken to Bermuda where he died on 23 February 1923. He was buried with full military honours. His medals are on display at the Imperial War Museum in London.

You can read more about him here.

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