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There is a post script to this story, firstly, during my research, I discovered that there was indeed someone still living who had known Sam, one of his sisters-in-law, who I had never heard of. She was the wife of his brother Frederick who is mentioned in the Reports page. I met Mabel in 1987 and she kindly gave me a postcard Sam had sent to her after his promotion to sergeant (the one which mentions a sausage!). She died a year later aged 91.

Secondly, and this seems to me to be an astonishing coincidence, I was attending a meeting of a military collectors society in Peterborough one night when a dealer, and non-member, who had no idea who I was and knew nothing of my great uncle, brought a few items in to sell. He showed a number of people including me an old Queen Mary cigarette box, the type given to troops by her for Christmas 1914. He told us he had bought it from someone who’s father had taken it and its contents from his dead friend during the First World War. Inside was a small piece of shrapnel, a 1915 halfpenny which had been badly dented by a bullet and a report cut out from an old newspaper entitled: “DIED A SOLDIERS DEATH.”

I have no explanation for what happened that night, I had said nothing to the dealer beforehand, my name isn’t even Yerrell, but since I bought these items (for 5.00), I do feel that part of Sam has finally come home.

Damaged Halfpenny

1915 Halfpenny

Queen Mary's Box

Queen Mary’s Box 1914

Shrapnel

Shrapnel

Newspaper Cutting

Article torn from Peterborough Advertiser 1916


Although the story above seems difficult to believe, an even greater coincidence was to occur later. My wife’s godmother, a Mrs. Parker, had heard through my mother-in-law that I had an interest in Sam Yerrell. Mrs. Parker then produced a number of other items which she gave to me. She told me that her mother had been a girlfriend of Sam’s and the items shown below were given to her mother by Sam during the period they were together.

Prayer Book Set

A set of Prayer and Hymn books given to his girlfriend in 1913

Collar Badges

Two Northamptonshire Regiment collar badges soldered together to make a ‘sweetheart’ brooch

Book of Common Prayer
Sam Yerrell at Camp

Sam (second from right, back row) at camp before the war


While walking through the local shopping centre where I work one day, an elderly gentleman who I had never met before and have not met since, stopped me and pushed a plastic bag in to my hand saying that the object inside had been in his possession for many years and thought that I would appreciate it more.

On looking inside the bag I found Sam Yerrell’s death plaque, one was sent to the next of kin of each man who was killed in action during the war.

Sam Yerrell's Death Plaque

Sam Yerrell’s Death Plaque


‘Bible Gems Birthday Book’ This book belonged to Sam’s Sister, Annie May, my grandmother. The book was for marking the birthdays of friends and family. Sam’s name is entered in pencil at the top, (very feint now) on his birthday, September 2nd.

The ‘Bible Gem’ (quotation) for that day printed opposite the entry reads: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and the household of God.”

I hope now that this is true, and Sam is “no more a stranger.”

Bible Gems Book Bible Gems Book Inside

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