Born in Colchester, in 1889, Samuel was part of the very first cohort of boys to join Ilford County High School on 1st July 1901. He lived at 40 Cranbrook Road in Ilford with his brother and sister. His father, Samuel, was a hairdresser and his mother’s name was Annie. Although his parents had eight children, only three survived infancy. His brother, Harold, also attended the school.
He left the school in September 1903, aged 14, to take up a job in business. In the 1911 Census, Samuel is recorded as a 21 year old journalist.
In the Spring 1916 edition of the school magazine, Chronicles, it mentions that, “Two very Old Boys – comparatively speaking, of course, have joined the 3rd Essex (Regiment). They are A. Miller and S. W. Tucker…Private Tucker, No. 26396 left in 1903 has been a busy journalist.”
He regularly wrote for the school magazine. In the Summer 1916 edition, he wrote an article titled, ‘An Old Boy’s Retrospect (and other things).’ It included his memories of the school (both as Park Higher and Ilford County High School) and the school magazine. He also tried to inspire patriotism for the school and the war, claiming, ‘It should not be forgotten that patriotism is born in your home and nurtured in school.’
In the Autumn 1916 Chronicles, Samuel wrote another article for the school magazine, ‘Life in the Army at X- a recruit’s impressions.’ He explained how he began his army career on 23rd February 1916, arriving at the camp in a snowstorm, ‘a raw day for raw recruits.’ He also described the fearsome sergeant-major known as “Iron Head” and bayonet drill.
A letter from Pte. Tucker also appeared in the Autumn 1916 Chronicles. He wrote;
‘I have now been in what our men call a “big do.” I do not know whether this differs from ‘a big push,’ nor am I greatly concerned thereat. But one thing I know, and that is that the struggle in which I have just borne a small part will be remembered throughout history, and wherever the English language is spoken.
Fritz received one of the surprises of his life. I daresay you have read of the tremendously strong subterranean fortress which had defied all our efforts for two years. Well, it fell into our hands in just over an hour. Who’s the fellow who talks of ‘one crowded hour of life’ being ‘worth an age without a name’? Scott, I think. It was undoubtedly a crowded hour. Our attack was superb. As calmly as if on a training parade they advanced over No Man’s Land and assaulted the enemy’s trenches. Our barrage effectually prevented him from getting at us. He had simply the alternative of fighting his way back through our barrage as it lifted, or of surrendering ignominiously, and for the most part he chose the latter course. I was a bomber in the engagement, and gave Hans some of Mill’s best in his dug-outs.
Some of the prisoners had plenty of cheek left in them, and were particularly ‘saucy’ to quote our boys, when asked for souvenirs. They actually said ‘Next time’ or ‘Next War’!’
By February 1918, he was a second-lieutenant in the 3rd Norfolk Regiment. When he died on 13th September 1918, his regiment was attached to the 29th Battalion King’s (Liverpool Regiment). He was killed, aged 29, and buried at Aire Communal Cemetery in Pas de Calais in France.
Samuel most likely died of wounds gained during the Battle of Havrincourt. This was a successful, though fairly minor British attack fought on 12 September 1918 in the face of declining German opposition. Three divisions of Sir Julian Byng's Third Army captured the village of Havrincourt, although defended by a numerically superior German force comprising four divisions. By this late stage in the war the decline in fighting will of the German armies was becoming marked.
Success at Havrincourt coincided with victory at around the same time by the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) at St Mihiel under Pershing - the first major attack planned and executed by the AEF and, on 18 September, at Epehy. Taken together, these successes encouraged British Commander-in-Chief Sir Douglas Haig to bring forward preliminary operations directed against the German Hindenburg Line.
Chronicles reported his death in the Autumn 1918 edition by publishing what was to be his last ever letter, with an introduction from the editor/headmaster;
‘The genial writer of the following will write no more. Lieut. S. Tucker has been killed in action. In him the Army loses a most zealous and efficient officer, and I a personal friend. He had a conscientious objection to war, and therefore volunteered in the present war because he felt it his duty to help to make it the last.
“This is being written on the firestep, ‘somewhere in France.’ This is my third time in the line since I last wrote, and my experiences have been as varied as they have been thrilling. My first time in was in a system of ‘peace-time trenches’; old hands will enlighten you on this. It was in a famous part of the line that had been quiet since 1915, but where the Hun was only about 50 yards away, and where large trench-mortars enlivened the passing hour. The most extraordinary feature was the system of deep tunnels, amazingly lighted with electricity. Fancy sitting in the front line with electric light at your door. One of these tunnels ran to a famous city on the one hand, and to a mining centre on the other. There were various branches, some running under the Hun lines. If the Hun attacked, all you had to do was to close one end and catch him bending elsewhere, or you could let him in and then isolate him.
We weren’t in this sector very long. Our present position is quite a different kind of system, and was once part of the Boche line. It abounds in deep dug-out, evil-smelling, and not improbably containing entombed men. Of course, these dug-outs are uninhabited. We have had our share of shelling since we have been here, and it isn’t a pleasant experience. The Hun has a dodge whereby he camouflages gas-shells with H. E. and a gas which entices the unwary to remove their respirators through fits of coughing and sneezing…
As to my men, they are perfectly splendid.
This morning at ‘stand-to’ a most unusual thing happened- a covey of partridges flew over No- Man’s Land. We shall have to organise a shoot- for partridges instead of Huns. It would improve the mess-table in these hard times…”
Research by Andrew Emeny, History Teacher at ICHS
ICHS school records and magazines
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Ilford County High School started life as the Park Higher Grade School in 1901 in Balfour Road, Ilford. It was renamed Ilford County High School (or initially County High School, Ilford) in the years after the school’s management was transferred from Ilford School Board to Essex Education Committee in 1904.