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Percival Ralph Sampson, Rifleman Kings Royal Rifle Corps

​Percival Ralph Sampson was the sixth son of Police Sergeant Alfred Sampson and his wife Alice. Ralph, as he was known was born while his father was posted to Sawston. His birth was registered in early 1884.

Born: Sawston, Cambridgeshire early 1884

Fell in action: 30 November 1917

Ralph married Annie Wheeldon in early 1912 at West Ham, then in Essex. In the 1901 census he appears as an 18 year old footman at Elmhurst (part of West Ham), so perhaps they originally met when Ralph was quite young.  The couple lived at 262 Cherry Hinton Road in Cambridge, not too far from Ralph’s widowed mother who lived at 152 Blinco Grove.

By 1911, Ralph was working as a Combination Man at the College.

We do not know precisely what a Combination Man’s duties were, but Ralph’s previous employment as a Footman suggest that perhaps he carried out similar duties for the Fellows of the day. At that time the Fellowship numbered sixteen, so they would have had the chance to get to know Ralph well, a fact perhaps reflected in their later provision for his widow and family. Ralph would certainly have formed part of a member of a close-knit College community. Coral Morgan, daughter of the Master Dr H.A. Morgan recalled: “We liked meeting our friends in the Courts – an occasional early Don or undergraduate, cheerful young kitchen porters, with lovely breakfasts on trolleys, or on trays upon their heads and kind-faced bustling bed-makers” Memoirs of Henry Arthur Morgan by Iris L. Osborne Morgan 1927.

It isn't certain when Ralph enlisted, but there is reference in the College Conclusions book to Fellows agreeing to make a weekly payment of half a crown to Annie in his absence in May 1916.  This was about the date that the Military Service Act extended conscription to married men, so he may have just been called up.

This support continued after Ralph’s death. In August 1918 Fellows agreed to continue paying Mrs Sampson “her husband reported to have died in Germany”.  We can surmise that the couple had at least two children, as in 1925 the Fellows agreed to continue to make the payment until their youngest child reached the age of 16 years.

Ralph was reported missing after the Battle of Cambrai and officially confirmed dead by the Germans nearly a year later.  Commonwealth War Graves records show that he was identified by his name written on a scrap of paper and left in a bottle by his body. They record that he was 34 years old when he died.

We believe that Annie survived her husband by many years. We have found a death registration at Cambridge in 1967 for Annie A Sampson, born in 1886. She was 81 at the time and had lived for almost 50 years after his death. 

You can email us on ww1-project@jesus.cam.ac.uk, go to our First World War homepage, or find us on Lives of the First World War.

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