The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (5257) Private Samson Daniel Fox, 38th Battalion, AIF, First World War.
The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (5257) Private Samson Daniel Fox, 38th Battalion, AIF, First World War.
5257 Private Samson Daniel Fox, 38th Battalion, AIF
KIA 28 May 1917
No photograph in collection
Story delivered 1 June 2017
Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Samson Daniel Fox.
Samson Fox was born on 13 August 1893 at Cadell in South Australia, to Samson Daniel Fox senior, an Indigenous man from southern Victoria, and Eliza Bourne, a white woman from Kapunda, South Australia. While Fox has been recognised as Aboriginal, the Australian War Memorial has not been able to definitively connect him to his traditional lands. He had two siblings, Arthur and Alice, and his mother had children from a former marriage to an Aboriginal man named Charles Runga. Fox’s half-brother, Raymond Charles Runga, would go on to serve with the 6th Battalion and be awarded the Military Medal for an act of gallantry at Herleville Wood in France.
Despite living in a society that afforded them few rights and poor living conditions, Eliza’s three sons went on to enlist and serve during the First World War.
Samson Fox enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in June 1915 at Liverpool, New South Wales. He was allotted to reinforcements to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade and, after a period of training, embarked from Melbourne on the troopship Hororata in late September.
Before embarking, Fox was married, and the newly wedded Mrs Alice Ada Fox established herself at Yarraville in Victoria.
At sea Samson was posted as a driver before joining his unit on the Gallipoli peninsula in November, where he remained until the evacuation in late December.
In the early months of 1916 the AIF went through reorganisation and expansion in Egypt. Following this, Fox and his unit were transferred to France in mid-March. Arriving in Marseilles, they travelled by train to the “Nursery Sector”, a relatively quiet part of the line near the town of Armentières to acclimatise to conditions on the Western Front.
In darkness on 23 July, the 1st Australian Division made its first major assault on the village of Pozières supported by heavy artillery fire. The ruined village was taken in intense fighting, and enemy counter-attacks were repelled. The Germans responded by pounding the area with their artillery. The capture of Pozières was a significant achievement, but within five days the 1st Division had lost 5,000 men.
At Pozières the destructive power of artillery dominated the battlefield. Shrapnel tore men to pieces, high explosive blew them to bits and destroyed trenches, smoke covered the turned-up, stinking ground. It was the worst artillery shelling that the Australians experienced in the war.
In mid-October of 1916 Samson was serving as a gunner in the 1st Field Artillery Brigade. Conditions in the trenches were dominated by the rain, mud, and slush of the oncoming winter; the wet and the cold made life wretched. Samson was soon admitted to hospital suffering from “trench foot” – caused by standing for hours on end in waterlogged trenches without being able to remove wet socks or boots.
After a week of treatment he was evacuated to England and admitted to the 1st Southern General Hospital at Birmingham. After his treatment and a period of rest and recuperation, Samson spent some time with the 10th Training Battalion at Larkhill in Wiltshire, undertaking further military training.
In late March 1917, he travelled to France as a reinforcement for the 38th Australian Infantry Battalion, joining his new unit at Etaples in France.
At 2 am on the 28th of May 1917 a raiding party of seven officers and 214 other ranks went over the line near Ploegsteert in Belgium, attacking an enemy trench. There were 30 Australian casualties, some of whom were reportedly caused by friendly fire.
Samson Fox was one of those killed in action. He was laid to rest by Reverend T.P. Wood, at the Strand Military Cemetery at Ploegsteert. He was 23 years old.
Samson was one of a number of Indigenous soldiers who saw active service on Gallipoli and the Western Front. To date, 70 Indigenous soldiers have been identified who served on Gallipoli. While at home in Australia they could not vote and were not counted in the census, in the AIF they were treated as equals, paid the same as other soldiers, and generally accepted without prejudice.
Fox’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.
This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Samson Daniel Fox, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.
Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (5257) Private Samson Daniel Fox, 38th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)