Samuel Frickleton VC

Samuel Frickleton VC

Samuel Frickleton VC, about 1918.

A rifleman in the 3rd Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, Samuel Frickleton took part in the attack at Messines on 7 June 1917. Following the detonation of mines, the New Zealanders advanced up the ridge and into the town. Frickleton’s battalion was held up on the outskirts of Messines village by several machine-guns firing from the other side of the artillery barrage. With his company suffering heavy casualties, Frickleton (himself slightly wounded) decided to take care of the guns himself.

Calling his section to follow him, Frickleton advanced through the barrage to one of the machine-gun posts. The smoke and noise of the shelling concealed his approach until the last moment. He lobbed in a grenade, rushed the post and killed those inside. With his comrades providing covering fire, he then rushed a second machine-gun post some 25 metres away, killing its crew and destroying the gun.

Other NZ VC recipients who fought in Belgium

Frickleton then led his men through the village, clearing out Germans lodged in the ruins and other prepared positions. Wounded a second time, he was carried from the battlefield and later evacuated to England. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his courageous leadership – 'By the destruction of these two guns,' the citation read, 'he undoubtedly saved his own and other units from very severe casualties'.

Frickleton returned to New Zealand in June 1918 to a welcome from the mayor of Auckland 'attended by thousands of citizens who showed the greatest enthusiasm'. The Auckland Weekly News reported that 'Frickleton, who was given a tremendous reception, was carried shoulder high to his car amid cheers from the crowd.' His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Army Museum in Waiouru.

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3 comments have been posted about Samuel Frickleton VC

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Posted: 29 Apr 2015

Hi, I am Amy Symons, Sam is my grandfathers uncle. A few years ago they had a special ceremony for Sam in Blackball and they have a type of memorial in the workermens club there now. I think all medals are in a museum, l will find out more from dad and get back to you. :)

James Kerr

Posted: 23 Feb 2009

Hi, Im from the village where Sammy was born Slamannan. I am trying to get a memorial for him in our village.


Posted: 24 Oct 2008

The Fighting Frickletons Although Samuel Frickleton was the only soldier who enlisted from the West Coast to ever be awarded a Victoria Cross, there is remarkably little record or commemoration of him there. Blackball, where he lived and worked as a coal miner, has no memorial – perhaps a reflection of its strong socialist and anti-militarist tradition. The town’s memorial to those killed in the two World Wars was unveiled only in 2008, and includes the name of Samuel’s brother William Frickleton – one of five brothers from Clifford Street, Blackball, who volunteered for service in the army during World War 1. Local memory is not kind to the Frickletons. Historian Brian Wood notes that they were regarded as an unruly family – a larrikin group, remembered in the town as the Fighting Frickletons. Scottish background Samuel’s parents were Samuel and Elizabeth Freckleton, both born in Lanarkshire, Scotland in the 1850s. Note that the family name was spelt with an e rather than an i. Samuel senior was a coal miner, and Elizabeth bore him at least 11 children: Jane (born 1878) Marion (born 1880) John (born 1882) Henry (born 1885) Mary (born 1887) William (born 1889) Samuel (born 1891) James (born 1893) Thomas (born 1894) Herbert (born 1896) Alexander (born 1897) It is possible that one or more other children died as infants. The youngest (Alexander) may have died as a child because he is not mentioned after the 1901 census, when he was three. As the boys grew up, they followed their father into the coal mines. In the 1901 census, Henry (16) and John (19) were listed as miners, while the younger children were still at school. By 1912 all the boys and their father were in the mines. Blackball days In February 1912 William emigrated to New Zealand, and got a job in the Blackball mine. He apparently sent back positive accounts of the job prospects in New Zealand. In early 1913 Samuel senior died. Elizabeth and the four younger boys (Samuel, James, Thomas and Herbert) set off for Blackball, and arrived in Greymouth on the SS Ruapehu. By the middle of 1913 there were five Frickleton brothers working at the Blackball mine. They lived in a house in Clifford Street, Blackball, where their mother kept house. William’s name is spelt as Freckleton on his 1912 shipping papers, but he and the other members of his family were consistently known as Frickleton in New Zealand. All five Frickleton sons enlisted as volunteers in the army during World War 1. After training they were sent overseas. Their military files are available through Archives New Zealand. As they were all working miners, it is surprising that none were selected for the Tunnelling Corps, but perhaps that was an option they didn’t want. Their sister, Mary Freckleton, married Peter Symons in Scotland, and had four children. He died about 1915, and Mary emigrated to New Zealand with her children to live with her mother. She married James Buchanan of Blackball, and had three more children. The Frickletons at war William served at Gallipoli and then in France where he was badly wounded on 30 September 1916. He died of his injuries two months later After a few months overseas Samuel clearly had breathing problems, diagnosed as TB. He was sent back to New Zealand and discharged as medically unfit on November 11 1915. He was determined to get back to the war, and persuaded the army to allow him to re-enlist in April 1916. He was sent to the western front at the end of 1916, and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in the battle of Messines on June 7 1917. His medical problems recurred, and he was returned to New Zealand in June 1918. James was wounded at Gallipoli, and also suffered from rheumatism. He was invalided home in 1916. Thomas was wounded in battle, and discharged in February 1916 Herbert was wounded in France, and discharged from the army in January 1918. After the war The four surviving Frickleton sons returned to New Zealand between 1916 and 1918. Samuel was commissioned as an officer and remained in the army until 1927 when he was forced to retire through illness. He died in Lower Hutt in 1971 after a long illness. James emigrated to South Africa, and died about 1957. Thomas was the only son to return to the West Coast. He lived in Blackball and Nelson Creek, remained unmarried, and died in 1959. It is not clear if he returned to work as a miner. Herbert lived in Bluff, and died in 1929. Their mother, Elizabeth Frickleton, lived on in Blackball , and died on 12 April 1941 Her daughter, Mary Buchanan, died on 12 January 1943. Some of her descendants (both Buchanans and Symons) may still live on the West Coast today. New Zealand VC winners are commemorated in naming the streets of Greymouth, and Frickleton Street is one of these. The only other memorial to Sam Frickleton on the West Coast is in the mural outside the Greymouth Star building. Contributed by Margaret Hurst & Simon Nathan