Hepburn and Jeanes - Photographers
The London Studio, Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Bewhiskered with great Victorian flair this beautifully conditioned cabinet photograph depicts Captain David Sampson of the Grahamstown 1st City Volunteers not long before the advent of the Anglo-Boer War.
Born on the Isle of Jersey on 11 December 1828 he journeyed to South Africa with his family while still young. Like many early colonial emigrants records regarding Sampson's family are not easy to come by.
He is said to have had already begun his military career in South Africa by 1846 during the Seventh Cape Frontier War, where according to an obituary published in 1903 he was attached to a unit of the Royal Engineers and then Stubb's Rangers. The same article mentions him engaged once again during the Eighth Cape Frontier War in 1850. If his obituary was correct it would seem that Sampson would have been entitled to the 1853 South Africa Medal but an examination of the concerned medal roll(s) has not turned up an appropriate record.
Between serving with the local volunteer units Sampson became a respected citizen of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. He ran a farrier business in Grahamstown and was successful enough to enter horses in the local races. He was also elected Councillor for the City of Grahamstown a post he held from 1873 until his death in 1903.
Appointed a 2nd Lieutenant of the Grahamstown 1st City Volunteers 14 December 1875 and then Lieutenant on 15 July 1876. Promoted Captain during the Ninth Cape Frontier War (1877) he conducted patrols in the Pirie and Fish River Bush while in command of the Mounted Infantry Company of the Grahamstown 1st City Volunteers seeing action at Thaba N'Doda.
Sampson was entitled to the 1877-79 South Africa Medal with the clasp "1877-78". The 1877-79 Medal Roll makes no mention of any earlier campaigns and it would seem that he was entitled to the earlier South Africa Medal the later roll would have noted this and simply listed his clasp entitlement to the earlier medal. He wears this medal in the above photograph
which has been retouched by the photographer giving the ribbon the appearance of the British South Africa Medal - a medal that Sampson was not entitled to.
Sampson was not involved in any way with the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 but was again in action during the Basutoland War (1880-81) during which he was in command of the Second Relief Contingent. The 14 December 1800 issue of the London Gazette lists Sampson as being severely wounded at Lerothodi's Kraal. In Twenty-Five Years Soldiering in South Africa, the
author H.V. Woon mentions the incident surrounding Sampson's wounding: "The 1st City were the principal sufferers in the day's fight, about 15 of them being killed outright and ten badly wounded. Capt. Sampson, their commanding officer, had a very narrow escape. A Basuto rode up to him and fired point-blank at his chest; but it was a muzzle-loading weapon and evidently, the bullet had not been rammed home, for although it struck him full on the chest and burnt his coat, the bullet only bruised him severely and did not penetrate". For this service Sampson was entitled to the Cape of Good Hope General Service Medal with the clasp "Basutoland".
His lifelong civil career as a farrier was put to use during the Anglo-Boer War during which he held the appointment of Veterinary Captain with Gorringe's Flying column. He was entitled to the Queen's South Africa Medal with two clasps: "CapeColony" and "South Africa - 1901".
David Sampson's wife was named Hannah who predeceased him in 1891. The couple had at least one child, a daughter named Jemima Jane Sampson. Over seventy years old by 1900, Sampson passed away in 1903 not long after the end of the Anglo-Boer War and one wonders if the hardships of military service at his advanced age had anything to do with his death so
soon after the end of the war.
Captain David Sampson's three medal group sold at auction in South Africa in 2009.