THIS photograph of a young soldier of the First World War has been loaned to us by Arnold Farrington of Oldbury. It shows his father, Samuel Farrington, who left his home in Tividale to answer the call to arms.
Samuel was born on December 12, 1895, and he enlisted soon after his 19th birthday, on January 2, 1915. He served with the Royal Field Artillery and in the photograph he proudly shows off his riding crop and spurs, posing with his foot up on a chair.
According to his discharge papers Samuel was sent to France in 1915 and then later that year to Salonika.
The Salonika Campaign, also known as the Macedonian Front, is one of the less well-known theatres of the First World War. In October 1915 the British and French sent forces to the Greek port of Salonika, modern day Thessaloniki, to bolster the Serbians following the entry of Bulgaria into the war on the side of the Central Powers.
However, the Allies arrived too late to prevent Serbia being overrun by the combined armies of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. A front was established from the Adriatic coast to the Sturma river which remained largely static until the big Allied offensive of September 1918 that liberated Serbia and forced Bulgaria to surrender. By the end of the war a combined Serbo-French army had crossed the Danube and was threatening Hungary, while the British were marching unopposed on Constantinople.
It was while serving in this theatre that Samuel received a life-changing injury that saw him invalided out of the services.
At that time the British Army, like the other combatants, was largely depended on the horse for motive power. Motorised transport was growing but it was nowhere near as prevalent as the horse and so the army deployed thousands of horses, donkeys and mules to transport weapons, ammunition and supplies.
In the course of his duties Samuel Farrington was kicked in the head by a mule, an injury that almost cost him his life.
He was evacuated to Malta for medical treatment and once he had returned to Blighty he received further treatment at a hospital in Manchester.
Samuel's forehead was shattered by the kick and doctors inserted a silver plate to patch-up his skull. Even so, he was left with a permanent depressed cavity in his forehead, just above the nose.
He was honourably discharged from the army as medically unfit on November 2, 1917. For the rest of his life Samuel was plagued by painful headaches, which could be brought on by changes in temperature and by bending forwards. At a medical tribunal to determine the level of pension he was entitled to, he was asked to demonstrate tying his shoelaces. As he could not bend forward he had to put his feet up to the table to do it.
Arnold has a number of items from his father's war service including his Silver War Badge.
Sometimes known as the Services Rendered Badge or the Wound Badge, these were awarded to servicemen who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness.
The badge was first issued in September 1916, along with an official certificate. The silver lapel badge was to be worn on the right breast but only with civilian clothing, it was forbidden to wear it with military uniform.
The need for the badge arose from the practice of some women to present white feathers to apparently able-bodied men who were not in uniform. The wording on the badge reads "For King and Empire; Services Rendered". Over 1 million badges were issued.
Other items that Arnold has carefully preserved are the postcards his father sent from Malta to his sweetheart Mary Cox, known as Polly, whose father was publican of the Seven Stars in Tividale. They married in 1922 and had four children, of whom Arnold is the youngest and remaining member. The postcards show the Maltese traditional dress and landmarks of the Mediterranean island, a British possession from 1814 to 1964.
Arnold also has his father's discharge certificate and letters relating to his pension. A letter dated August 18, 1922, states that Samuel's disablement has been assessed at 40% and that he was to receive a pension for life of 16 shillings per week – a total of £41.12s. a year. As Arnold points out, with 20 million wounded in all conflicts, the cost to the exchequer would have been high at a time when the country was recovering from the cost of the war.
After the war Samuel worked as a ganger at Brades steelworks in Brades Village. He was a gardener, growing family produce in two greenhouses, and a lifelong socialist.
Have you WWI pictures or a family story to share with Bugle readers? Contact dshaw@black countrybugle.co.uk or write to 41 High Street Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.