Above: Inscribed "Yours Fraternally" to an unknown recipient by Gunner Samuel Branch in 1908, this photograph depicts Branch in all his fraternal splendor wearing a sash, apron and assorted jewels (medals) of the Independent Order of Rechabites.
J. David - Photographer
Jhansi, British India
While we know that No. 17050 Gunner Samuel Branch attested with the Royal Field Artillery on 15 July, 1901 precisely when he was enrolled in the Independent Order of
Rechabites, or reached the regal post of Chief Ruler in the fraternal order will in all likelihood remain shrouded in mystery. Branch’s service records do provide us with details regarding his military career.
Branch was born at Plaistow, Essex, England around 1883 the son of Henry and Elizabeth Branch. Prior to his enlistment he was employed as a groom and was a member of the 15th Essex Volunteer Rifles.
He was posted to India on 22 September 1903 and would remain there performing garrison duty with 14 Battery until February 1909. For at least two years he served with the regimental military police while in India. He would not venture overseas again until 22 August 1914, when he deployed to France with the British Expeditionary Force. He received a furlough on 5 November 1916 and married Missed Sarah Paul at Glasgow on 5 December 1916. He remained in England until 17 November 1917 when he returned to France, remaining deployed until after the end of the war. He returned home on 22 March 1919 and was discharged on 31 March 1920 after 18 years, 260 days with the colours. He was never promoted.
All of Branch’s active field service took place during World War One and he was entitled to the 1914 Star with the “5th Aug. - 22nd Nov. 1914” clasp and the British War and Victory Medals. When discharged his character was listed as “exemplary” and he stated a desire to enter police work after discharge.
Branch and his wife took up residence in her home town of Glasgow where he found employment not as a police officer but instead with the Royal Mail – a highly respected
government post which many former soldiers aspired too. The couple became parents of twin boys – Alexander Saul and Richard William – who were born at Glasgow on 16
With twin sons, an army pension and a well-paying job with the Royal Mail, all must have been well with the Branch family. That was until some years later in 1935 when former
gunner Samuel Branch was dismissed from the post office for dishonesty. A letter included in his service papers file states that Samuel Branch, No 17050, Royal Field Artillery had been dismissed for “Theft from the post.” It must have been a devastating blow to the family, not to mention a profound embarrassment. Nothing is said if criminal charges were ever filed against Branch.
One could ponder all day as to what circumstances night lead to man throwing away not only his career, but also his reputation and family’s well being. The dismissal letter dated 11 October 1935 in the last reference I can find concerning the former Chief Ruler of the Independent Order of Rechabites.