Charles Robert Samways was born in July 1896 in Ealing, west London where he lived until he emigrated to Australia in April 1913 at the age of just sixteen. With a profession stated as labourer, Charles enlisted in to the AIF on the 7th July 1915 and after initial training at Broadmeadows Camp, Charles sailed from Melbourne on the RMS ‘Osterley’ as part of the 5th reinforcements, 22nd Battalion. On arrival in Egypt he was hospitalised twice, first with enteritis for three weeks and then just two weeks later he was admitted again this time with dysentery for sixteen days. Charles re-joined his unit on New Year’s Eve just before the 5th/22nd were Taken on Strength into the 22nd Battalion on 8th January 1916. The battalion continued to train in Egypt before sailing for France on the ‘Llandovery Castle’ (later to be controversially sunk as a Hospital Ship by a German U-boat), arriving at Marseille on the 26th March as one of the first Australian units in France.
The first few months were spent in the relatively quiet ‘Nursery’ Bois Grenier Sector around Armentieres, but that was all to change in July 1916 with the start of the Somme offensive, and on 26th July the 22nd was in to the battle at Pozieres, the most bloodiest and costly battle fought by the AIF. On the night of the 4th/5th August the 22nd Battalion ‘went over the top’ for the first time in the war and it was during the attack by his ‘C’ Company on the German OG2 defensive line that Charles was wounded with a gunshot wound to the right foot and right hip. Pte Samways was at first evacuated to 3rd Casualty Clearing Station at Puchevillers before being transferred to 22nd General Hospital, Camiers and then via the Hospital Ship ‘Newhaven’ to the Carrington Hospital in Nottingham. After a short stay at the 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield, Pte Samways was discharged to the AIF Depots on 5th September 1916, first at No.2 Command Depot Weymouth then to the 6th Training Battalion at Rollestone.
It was during his time at Rollestone that Pte Samways went Absent Without Leave for the first time, for which he had 12 days pay deducted. During January and February 1917 Pte Samways was admitted twice to the Fargo Hospital with influenza, eventually being marched out to the 6th Training Brigade at Larkhill on 13th February 1917. A month later Pte Samways was marched in to No.2 Command Depot at Weymouth where he again went AWL for which he received nine days Field Punishment No.2 with forfeiture of 18 days pay, and then on 30th June he was marched in to No.1 Command Depot at Perham Down. It was while at Perham Down that Charles was reunited with his mate 2394 Pte George Stephens (photograph right, standing, with Charles, sitting) of the 5th/22nd and on 30th August the two of them went Absent Without Leave for 41 days during which a Court of Inquiry held on 22nd September 1917 declared the two men illegally absent until apprehended on 9th October. Despite being absent for over a month neither of them received a Courts Martial, possibly on account of the Australian courts and detention centres now overflowing with charged men, plus the increasing issue of replacing the casualties from the Third Ypres offensive. The AIF Depots therefore ordered their release on 1st November for return to their unit and the front. On 19th November 1917 Pte Samways and Pte Stephens re-joined the 22nd Battalion, now refitting and training in the quiet area around Mount Kemmel in Belgium.
Pte Samways poor discipline continued in 1918 when in January he was awarded three days Field Punishment No.2 for leaving the lines during parade, a charge of ‘conduct to the prejudice of good military discipline’. Just before the battalion was about to leave Belgium for the Somme and to help halt the dangerous German Spring Offensive, Pte Samways was again taken sick, returning just before the 22nd Battalion made its highly effective attack at Ville-sur-Ancre on the 19th May. However he was again struck down with dysentery on 4th August that would keep him away from the front line for the rest of the war. While in England on leave when the Armistice was signed on 11th November, teaming up with his old mate George Stephens the two of them went Absent Without Leave again for a month, but this time the two of them received a Field General Courts Martial resulting in 40 days Field Punishment No.2.
On 8th February 1919 while the AIF was in France and repatriating its troops, Pte Samways was transferred to the 2nd Australian Transport Company where he acted as a Driver. Charles sailed from France on 12th April for England and returned to Australia on the ‘Rio Negro’ on 29th May 1919 and for discharge in September. Upon his return to Melbourne Charles started to see his best mate George’s sister Daisy and on the 29th December 1920 the two of them were married, with George, now by this time also back in Melbourne with his English wife Minnie, as his best man.
Charles, working as a chauffeur, and Daisy set up home in Blyth Street, Bourke, Melbourne and were soon joined by Daisy and George’s father Frank following the death in 1920 of Frank’s wife Polly at the early age of just 45. In 1922 Daisy gave birth to a daughter Dorothy Grace and two years later to a son Frank. In 1941 Dorothy sadly died of rheumatic fever at just nineteen years of age, an event that impacted Daisy very heavily. Four years later Frank Stephens died at the age of 75.
Charles was a very meticulous man, a person not to dish out praise freely and hence would be observed as sometimes being over critical to his son, and as time went on Frank became very close to his mum and soon developed her skills as an astute financial and business person. Charles, Daisy and Frank lived together, moving to Maribyrnong and then Strathmore in the Melbourne suburbs, until Charles died in 1977 at the age of 80. Daisy and Frank ran a delicatessen business and then Frank went into partnership in a furniture making business. Not having been married and with no children Frank together with his mother spent a lot of time devoted to animals. Daisy lived to the grand age of 90, passing away in October 1993.
Frank remained living in the family home in Strathmore when on one winter’s evening he slipped and fell while putting some bottles out, and where he remained out in the cold until the next morning. Frank contracted pneumonia and despite being in hospital for some while he sadly died in August 2007 at the age of 82. During their life the Samways’ had developed a sizeable wealth through investments in property in the locality plus stocks and shares, and upon his death and not having any known living descendants Frank Samways left the bulk of his estate to be divided between the Melbourne Lost Dogs Home plus the local RSPCA. During his latter years Frank would visit the Lost Dogs Home and it was his wish that upon his death the money he bequeathed would be used to purchase land and to build a Veterinary Clinic that would be used to treat the sick animals that came into the centre. The Frank Samways Veterinary Clinic opened in December 2012, and was visited by the project author in 2015 (photograph above of the plaque and below of Greg Stephens – George Stephens grandson – outside of the centre).
Following Frank’s death and having been left with the Samways family possessions, family friend Alex Burnside contacted the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance and donated Charles’s WW1 memorabilia for safe keeping and preservation for generations to come. Included within the collection are Pte Samways medals – including his father Robert’s Boer War medal -, dog tag, hymn book, payment book plus menu cards signed by the men of his ‘C’ Company at Christmas 1918 – see the set of photographs above of the collection. Also Charles Samways is photographed sitting front row eleventh from the left in the banner photograph of this web project.