Samuel Trick – The Barnstaple Grammar Old Boy

A few years ago we were visited by the relatives of Samuel Trick who died serving his country in World War One, just a few weeks before the start of the Battle of Passchendaele. The family were looking for the letters he wrote to his former school – Barnstaple Grammar School where he had been a scholarship student before the war. The letters chronicled his time during training and his subsequent deployment to France and Belgium.

He originally joined the Devonshire Regiment before being transferred to the Machine Gun Corps.

I have been transferred to the Machine Guns and have, in fact, been here in Grantham since the 12th May…From morn till evening, we hear nothing but the pip-pip-pip of the guns, and sometimes the boom of a hand grenade.”

I was disappointed when I first came here, at getting marked “unfit.” To-day, however, I went before a Medical Board, and was marked “fit,” so I shall be able to see some Active Service after all; I hope so at any rate.

Rock Magazine, July 1916

July 1916 Vol1 No12
Rock Magazine, July 1916

Samuel’s next letters were published in the April edition of the school magazine in 1917,

I have not made any steps towards a commission, as I think I shall do better in the ranks. Training in a cadet battalion would take some time and I am longing to go overseas. I have had over a year’s training as it is. I am shortly getting my stripes as a Transport Sergeant.

Rock Magazine, April 1917

His next letter was written from France.

We are waiting now for the time when we shall go up to the line. I have a couple of decent chums, and we are having a good time…I am getting on with the French I learnt with you – helped out, of course, with a little pidgin English. The country round here reminds me of our Exmoor, while some sandhills not far off remind me of Saunton – so I am really quite at home with the surroundings.

Rock Magazine, April 1917

Rock Magazine April 1917
Rock Magazine, April 1917

Samuel’s last letters to the school were published in the same magazine as his obituary. He wrote of a “terrific thunderstorm” and about meeting up with people he knew…

I have met several old comrades from different companies. These unexpected meetings are often sad as well as joyful. The other day, for example, I heard my name shouted, and, turning around, recognised an old comrade who was in my company nearly a year ago. He told me that the company had lost a good many men who I knew. He himself had only just left the hospital. These things make you think and feel tired of it all at times.

Rock Magazine, July 1917

In another letter he wrote

I have not had a day’s sickness for nearly twelve months…Yes! things look a bit brighter now.”

Rock Magazine, July 1917

In his last letter to his old school Samuel wrote from Belgium.

The country here is very flat, but at this time of the year rather pretty – except where the enemy artillery has devastated the country-side. I passed through a village the other day where every house was shattered, church, wayside shrines, everything.

Rock Magazine, July 1917

He ended his last letter…

I am glad to say I am well. I hope the old School is still “going strong”

S. Trick (Belgium)

Rock Magazine, July 1917

His obituary in the school magazine covered three pages. Samuel had not had the easiest of times during his schooling having to leave on a few occasions due to ill-health and financial pressures. This did not seem to stop him however, as he finished his schooling and had become a student teacher at Barnstaple’s Holy Trinity Boys’ School by the time war had broken out. A post he remained in until the July of 1915 when he joined the Devons.

He was 20 years old when he died.

It is with great grief that we have just received the sad news that “Sammy” Trick was badly wounded on July 10th, and died very soon after admission to the Hospital.

Rock Magazine, July 1917

Tributes to Samule Trick were also paid in both the local newspapers. The North Devon Herald had the following article.

Samuel Trick NDH 1917-07-19 8b (2)
North Devon Herald 19th July 1917 page 8 column b

If you would like to read the published letters in full or learn more about our collections and ways to view them please visit our website or contact us.

…Barum Athena

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