Lieutenant Samuel Simpson Hunter




Samuel Simpson Hunter was born on 14 April 1893 at 18 Victoria Street, Londonderry, the third of nine children of baker Douglas Hunter and his wife Fanny (nee Browne). By 1911 he was living with his family at Victoria Street and working as a factory clerk.

Hunter enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Londonderry on 4 September 1914 (No.1106). He embarked for France with a small reinforcement draft for A and C Squadrons on 18 December 1914. However he became ill with eczema the following month and was evacuated to England, where he was treated at the 2nd General Hospital in Leeds. By May he was fit for light home duties and rejoined the regiment at its base depot at Antrim.

Later that year it was found that his eyesight was poor. A pair of glasses was provided and he was allowed to remain in the regiment.

In November 1916 Hunter, together with around 100 other North Irish Horsemen, volunteered to transfer to the Royal Irish Rifles (No.40876). The transfer took place on 7 December, and the same day they embarked for France, where they joined the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, on the Somme front. Hunter was posted to A Company. He was promoted to lance corporal on 16 January 1917.

The following month he left France for the UK, having been accepted as a candidate for a commission in the infantry. After a period of leave, on 7 April 1917 he reported for duty at No.15 Officer Training Battalion, Romford. On 1 August he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Later that year or in early 1918 he returned to France, where he joined the 1st Battalion in the field.

The battalion diary notes that on 4 March 1918 "2 Lt Hunter patrolled Bosche wire in front of B1a."

When the Germans launched the Spring Offensive on 21 March 1918, the 1st Inniskillings were on the St Quentin front, in the 'Battle Zone' (the second defensive line, behind the Forward Zone). Hunter, posted to C Company, later described the action on this and the following day:

"Stood-too" all night of 20/21/3/18 in the village of Le Hamel. We had Bde order to man the "Battle Zone" at 5.30 AM 21/3/18 "C" Coy were alloted "Counter-Attack" position. A&B Coys the Front line positions, D Coy had the Reserve position in the Redoubt 350 [yards] (about) behind "C" Coy. We got to our position under heavy Art Fire and gas shells. The weather condition was bad, very misty, poor visibility. "C" Coy arrived at their position 5.30 AM 21/3/18. The enemy Barrage got to the 1st line positions 7.AM 21/3/18, which were garrisioned by our 2nd/Bn Rl. Innis Fus. they held out until 10.30 AM 21/3/18.

The enemy Barrage still creeping on at the same time he was shelling our "Back Areas" and Artillery Positions like mad, he did considerable damage. The enemy attacked our Front positions (A&B Coys) at 6 pm 21/3/18. this attack was repulsed with considerable casualties to them. "C" Coy sent up two platoons to re-inforce our front line (A&B Coys). No more attacks on our front, everything quiet night of 21/22/3/18. Enemy made determined attack on A&B Coys at 9 AM 22/3/18, another platoon of "C" Coy were sent up to re-inforce A&B. We held them at Bay until 1.30 pm 22/3/18, then we retired to our Reserve or last position namely the "Redoubt" held by "D" Coy. We had considerable casualties getting to the Redoubt, as he had gone through on our Rt. Flank. Having reached the Redoubt the order was re-orginize, which was very quickly carried out. I took command of the remaining men in "C" Coy, my "Coy" Commander having been killed reaching the Redoubt.

The enemy were following up in great numbers. He surrounded us on three sides, the North side being no good for him to attack. He then shelled us with heavies for ¾ hrs then tried to rush us from the S.E of the Redoubt, we repulsed this with bombing parties.

He then changed his tactics by scouring our parapets with heavy concentrated M.G. Fire. We had considerable casualties. We had been expecting re-inforcements, none came.

The Commanding Officer Lt Col Crawford D.S.O. at this point got wounded, which put him out of action for the time. Capt J. McMechan M.C, took command of the Battalion and did splendid work. Meantime our ammunition had given out.

The enemy then tried to Trench Mortar us out of the place, he did very much damage.

We were holding up his attack to very considerable advantage from this isolated position (Redoubt). No communication on any side. All the officers remaining decided to have a consultation, to see if it was advisable to hold any longer. We decided to give in, all our ammunition gone, no communication, no Re-inforcements. We gave in at 4.30 pm 22/3/18.

The last order from Brigade was "Stick at all costs".

No communication with Bde after 11 pm 21/3/18.

Artillery support very poor after 10 pm 21/3/18.

When captured, the enemy were nine kilos behind us.

I may say a word about my C.O. Lt. Col Crawford D.S.O. He was very brave and cool under murderous shell & M. Gun fire, for which he certainly deserves some recognition.

According to the battalion's war diary, the fighting on these two days had cost five officers killed, one wounded, fourteen missing, one wounded and missing, and 531 men missing. Only 46 men escaped.

Hunter remained a prisoner for the rest of the war. He was held at Rastatt POW Camp in Baden and Schweidnitz Camp near Schlesien.

After his release following the Armistice he returned to the UK, arriving on Christmas Day 1918. He was promoted to lieutenant on 1 February 1919 (an automatic step). On 3 July 1919 he married Mary Jane McCoy at Plymouth. For a time Hunter was attached to the 21st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, at Wissant in France. He relinquished his commission on 17 April 1920 and returned to the UK.

On 24 October 1922 Hunter was appointed a lieutenant in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Regular Army Reserve of Officers (Class I) (with seniority from 10 August 1921). He also served in the Ulster Special Constabulary. He sought promotion to captain in 1925, but this was declined due to his age. Soon after he applied to the War Office to re-enlist in the regular army, as "I am a disbanded officer of the 'A' Class Ulster Special Constabulary, and owing to being unable to find employment I am desirous of re-joining again in the ranks." This too was rejected.

In 1928 Hunter emigrated to the USA, where he lived at Providence, Rhode Island. In 1934 he formally resigned from the Regular Army Reserve of Officers, as he had become an American citizen. He requested the honorary rank of major, but this was declined, as he had never held that rank.

Hunter died on 14 January 1964 at Vero Beach, Florida.


Newspaper image from the Belfast Evening Telegraph kindly provided by Nigel Henderson, Researcher at History Hub Ulster (