There seems to be some confusion over the date of death of Lieutenant Rev. Frederick Edward Barwick Hulton-Sams, with some sources (e.g. Commonwealth War Graves website, Soldiers Died in the Great War) giving his date of death as 30th July 1915 and others (e.g. his memorial plaque, Soldiers’ Effects register) as 31st July 1915.
Similarly, there is confusion over his date of birth, with some sources reporting it as 21st November 1881, and others as the 22nd or 23rd.
He was the eldest of the three sons and five daughters of Rev. George Frederick Sams and his wife Sarah Beatrix (née Hulton) and was baptised by his father at Emberton parish church, Buckinghamshire on 9th December 1881. He was educated at Bedford Grammar School 1893-5 before attending Harrow and then going on to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a boxing blue.
He was ordained as a clergyman at St Paul’s, Balsall Heath, Birmingham and served as a curate there. The local connection is that he also apparently served as curate at the Mission Church, Kingswood, Lapworth, which was in the Solihull Rural District at the time of the war. The Mission Church was founded in 1886 by William Lees, primarily to cater for domestic staff employed by the gentry. The present building in Station Lane was built in 1902 and is now the Lees Chapel independent evangelical church.
After his time at St Paul’s, he moved to Australia and worked as a Bush Brother in Queensland for five and a half years, where he became known as “The Fighting Parson” owing to his readiness to fight anyone before he gave a sermon.
He left Longreach, Queensland at Easter 1914, and was given some local gemstones as a leaving present. The Brisbane Courier, Wednesday 15 April 1914 (available free of charge on the Australian Trove website) reported his departure from Queensland:
The Shire Hall was crowded this evening on the occasion of a Cinderella and social in aid of the Anglican Church (our Longreach correspondent telegraphed yesterday), and friends and admirers presented the Rev. Hulton Sams with a case of Queensland precious stones, comprising opal, sapphires, rubies, topazes, aquamarines, &c. and a purse of sovereigns. Dr. Michod, who made the presentation referred to the great popularity Mr. Sams enjoyed, and to the regret they all felt at his departure. He expressed the wish that Mr. Sams would return to Queensland.
Mr. Sams, who received an ovation, referred to the number of send-offs he had been given. The thing which struck him most in Queensland was its possibilities. He knew quite a number of men who at one time carried their swags and were now men of influence. By their own grit and perseverance and the seizing of the opportunities which offered they were able to do this, and all honour to them for having got on so well. Such a thing was impossible in England. Another thing was the magnificent hospitality extended, not only to himself, but to other members of the brotherhood wherever they had gone. No matter whether it was at the station homestead or at the drover’s or the fencer’s camp, they were cheerfully welcomed.
He heartily thanked them for their gifts, and though he would not promise to return for good, he felt sure that, all going well, he would revisit Queensland in about three years. At the conclusion of his speech three hearty cheers were given for Mr. Sams. Mr. Sams will leave here next Thursday, breaking the journey at Barcaldine, and departing the following day for the South.
He spent a short time in Sydney before sailing for England aboard the S.S. Suevic on 20th May 1914. On the outbreak of war, he tried and failed to obtain an Army chaplaincy, so enlisted with the Bedfordshire Regiment as a private soldier. Prior to enlisting, he apparently sent the opals he had received to his English sweetheart, Alice.
He quickly obtained a commission with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, and was killed, aged 33, at Hooge, Belgium, whilst crawling from cover to get water for his wounded men.
He is commemorated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and on the village war memorial at Emberton, as well as on memorials inside Emberton parish church.
After his death, his heartbroken fiancée, Alice, had the opals that he had sent to her set into a chalice, which she sent to the Bush Brothers. It is still in use today.
The “Fighting Parson” continued to be remembered in Queensland, as this poem by “Ballarat Jim” published in Brisbane’s Worker on 3rd January 1944 shows:
THEY REMEMBER HULTON-SAMS
Roundabout the Barcoo country,
And the Thompson River zone,
Where the shearers are ‘deuce artists.”
And straight punch good to own;
Where the musterers boil quart pots
At the lunch camps near the dams.
There are men who still remember
Fighting Parson Hulton-Sams.
He was just a plain Bush Brother
When he joined his Outback flock.
Using Longreach as a centre.
And the sunlight for a clock.
But the men who mustered cattle.
And the blokes who shore the lambs,
Very soon began to know him
As the Fighting Parson, Sams.
Far and near the swagmen met him.
On his gospel tours abroad.
And the pickers-up and tar-boys ,
Heard him preach about the Lord.
But the bullies and the bashers,
And the skiting, flash ‘I ams,”
Learnt another sort of lesson
From the Fighting Parson, Sams
He would speak to ‘slouchers’ softly.
In the way most parsons do.
Trying earnestly to lead them
To his Christian point of view.
But if he could not dissuade them
From abusive hells and damns,
He would hit them hard and often,
Would the Fighting Hulton-Sams.
Outback men who loved their milling,
In a manly kind of way . . .
Donning boxing gloves and sparring
Just to while away the day …
Always found a happy partner
In their pugilistic slams,
And a master of the glove game.
In the Fighting Hulton-Sams.
Self-defence and sheer enjoyment
Were synonymous to him.
So he taught the lads to ‘use ’em’
With an extra-special vim:
Thus, wherever went his pupils —
Breaking horses, sinking dams —
They were always most respected
Proteges of Hulton-Sams.
At the height of Hulton’s preaching
And his bouts for charity,
Kaiser Bill, in 1914,
Set his Prussian butchers free.
So the cleric joined the Forces
Where true manhood never shams.
And embarked for distant battles
Did the Fighting Hulton-Sams.
And it’s said the gallant parson,
Lies beneath the poppies red,
Where the soldiers of the Empire
With their Allied comrades bled.
But he lives in Outback stories
And the inland epigrams.
For the raconteurs remember.
Fighting Parson, Hulton-Sams.
If you have any more information about Rev. Hulton-Sams’ time in Lapworth, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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