Edgar Barnett Samuel: Died in German Hands

Although Nelson Samuel hailed from Yorkshire, his family moved to London when he was a child and it was there that he married his wife
in 1885. Nelson and Harriet had three children, Edgar, Edith and Frank, and were related, via Nelson, to the Bensusan family.

Edgar Barnett Samuel, born in 1886, was the son of Nelson and Harriet Samuel. The Samuel family lived in St John’s Wood in London, though Nelson was originally from Sheffield. Edgar was the eldest of three, having a younger sister named Edith and a younger brother named Frank. The family were well off, as the 1891 census shows the household had four domestic servants including a nurse, a cook and a housemaid.

In 1891-1901 they were based in Marylebone but had moved to Hampstead by 1911. The 1901 census shows us that Edgar, aged 15, was at a boarding school in Bristol. The boarding school was run by Joseph Polack, a Jewish minister, and his wife. The school was located at 1 Percival Road, Clifton, Bristol.

By 1911, Edgar is aged 25 and living in Hampstead, London with his parents. Edith and Frank are not listed at this address, however there are other occupants in the house. Rose Platnauer, a 43 year old widow with no occupation is living in the house. It is unclear who Rose is or what connection she has to the Samuel family. The household has two servants, one domestic and one cook. Nelson’s occupation is listed as a manufacturer of grammarphones, and Edgar is working for his father.

By 1917, Nelson had relocated to Hove. By this time, Nelson was 63 so had perhaps retired. This idea is reinforced as there is no evidence of his firm operating in Brighton. Nelson perhaps passed the business down to Edgar. Edgar later passed on the business in his will, which left £2812 to ‘Frank Samuel and Wilfred Sampson Samuel, manufacturers.’

When the First World War broke out, Edgar joined the 16th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. This battalion was a public school battalion, formed exclusively from public schoolboys and membership was by application only.

It is unclear precisely when Edgar enlisted as his enlistment papers, like many others, no longer exist. However, it is clear Edgar enlisted before conscription. A Roll of Individuals states Edgar enlisted ‘prior to 14.12.15.’ This is reinforced by Edgar’s medal card which shows his medal entitlement. As a recipient of the 1914/5 Star shows voluntary enlistment. This medal card also highlights Edgar began as a Sergeant before being promoted to Second Lieutenant.

Medal Card. Sourced from Ancestry.

Edgar served in the 16th Middlesex Regiment (aka The Duke of Cambridge’s Own). He was promoted from Sergeant to Second Lieutenant and was
awarded the 1914-1915 Star and the Victory medal. He was also ‘mentioned in despatches’ 2 – the most junior form of recognition, which was published in the London Gazette’.

Edgar’s battalion landed at Boulonge, France on 17th November, 1915. Here, they stayed in billets which was temporary accommodation. The battalion travelled to the front and began to engage in trench warfare in December. This meant Edgar became familiar with the routine of relieving others, manning the trenches before eventually being relieved. In January, the battalion had moved to Bethune, then to Cambrin, then to Annequin.

Little is known about Edgar’s service. His promotion to Second Lieutenant does signify Edgar’s ability. This is furthered as Edgar was ‘mentioned in dispatched.’ This is a junior form of recognition, in which the individual’s name is published in the London Gazette.

In the days preceding Edgar’s death, the war diaries report light conflict with a few soldiers being killed or wounded each day.

On the 30th Jan 1916, the division was still in Annequin. The diary reports an easterly wind, thick fog and very little shelling. It states enemy snipers were very active and were believed to be ‘lying in front of their parapet under cover of fog.’ The 16th battalion of the Middlesex Regiment were ‘heavily fired on.’ It seems the 16th battalion of the Middlesex Regiment were tasked with getting information ‘regarding new enemy trenches at their front.’ When listing casualties and deaths, the war diary writes ‘Middlesex Lt Samuel missing (believed killed).’

War diary sourced from Ancestry.

Official records state Edgar ‘died (in German hands)’ on 31 January 1916.

Roll of Individuals. Sourced from Ancestry.

The exact location of Edgar’s death is unknown. In the early years of the war, soldiers would bury their fallen comrades in small cemeteries close to where the individuals fell. Later, some smaller cemeteries were relocated to bigger sites. This was the case for Caberet Rouge British Cemetery, which was formed by concentrating smaller sites to make this larger site. This was done to ensure sites were accessible and could be maintained.

Concentration records show Edgar’s grave was exhumed and relocated to Cabaret Rouge. This concentration record also tells us Edgar was identified by a cross which was placed to signify his burial, fragments of his officers clothing and his tie. The document also lists items found to be ‘forwarded to Base.’ Edgar’s gold teeth were listed, with 3 from his upper jaw and 4 from his lower jaw.

Concentration Document. Sourced from CWGC.org
Edgar’s grave. Photo from findagrave.com

Aside is a photo of Edgar’s grave at Cabaret Rouge cemetery. Below the Star of David is an epitaph which states “God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave.”

The documents on the CWGC website state this epitaph was submitted by Mr F Samuel of 32 Worship Street, London. It can be assumed this is Edgar’s younger brother, Frank.

The reason Edgar has been researched as part of Shalom Sussex is because his name appears in relation to the Brighton Hebrew Congregation. The Book of Honour lists Edgar at his father’s address 12 Palmeira Court, Hove. 

Edgar Samuel’s Will – Source Ancestry

It seems likely that his father was a member of the Brighton Hebrew Congregation while he was living in Hove, given that Edgar is memorialised there. Edgar’s death was recorded in the Brighton Hebrew Congregation minutes of 6 Feb 1916. Edgar is also commemorated on the Brighton & Hove Hebrew Congregation WW1 Memorial Tablet.