I am trying to unravel the mystery of the war service of my wife's grandfather, Arthur Sams during World War One.

Arthur enlisted at Liverpool on 30 November 1914 (listing his mother, Martha, as N.O.K.).  His Attestation Paper is available online (barcode 8076184).  However it also records that Arthur was discharged  just two months later, on 22 January 1915.  No reason for the discharge is given.  His file contains no other information and no other records relating to Arthur are listed in the NAA online.  His service number on the Attestation Paper is given simply as "Depot".

The mystery is that other information indicates that Arthur DID indeed serve during WW1 in Europe.  Three of his brothers also enlisted -- William Frederick Sams (Service Number 1762), Herbert Cecil (SN 2975) and Richard Hector (SN 2727).  One letter from brother William back to their mother, Martha, written from France in February 1917 and published in the Forbes Advocate at the time refers to Arthur serving alongside them in France.  Another letter from Richard in April 1917 and published in the Forbes Advocate under the headline "Four Brothers in Khaki" states that Arthur "is in England".

Can anyone help me solve this mystery?  Presumably Arthur re-enlisted a second time and the letters from his brothers suggest he went on to fight in France, but why is no record of this service available?  Any suggestions or guidance where else to look would be greatly appreciated.

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Comment by Debra on April 3, 2013 at 2:49

Hi Daniel,

This record seems to be for your Arthur, unless there was a Martha Sams and a Martha Sands both living in Farrand St, Forbes!

SANDS Arthur Henry : Service Number - 2662 : Place of Birth - Sydney NSW : Place of Enlistment - Liverpool NSW : Next of Kin - (Mother) SANDS Martha

It would be interesting to know what he was discharged for the first time.


Comment by Daniel Maurice on April 3, 2013 at 13:44


Thanks so much --- Arthur Sams and "Arthur Henry Sands" are definitely the same person!

Do you have any idea why the Sams file (barcode 8076184) concerning his original enlistment contains no reasons for his discharge, without even a Service Number being issued?

Also how could Arthur have re-enlisted under another name and served for three years in the AIF using a false name?  I understand that ID checking was less rigorous a century ago but it still seems amazing that he could get away with it.  His mother, Martha, must have been aware of the deception as the file shows that correspondence was sent to her addressed "Martha Sands" and of course so must his three brothers serving with him in France.

Other research I've done has established that Arthur was indeed a "colourful" character, having been born under the name "Arthur Conway" (Martha's maiden name) and dying known as "Arthur Robinson", (taking the name of the first and real husband of Ellen Connelly with whom Arthur took up after returning from the war and with whom he fathered three children, although the two never legally married).  Any ideas of where and how I could find out more about this man and his time in the AIF would be very much appreciated.


Comment by Debra on April 3, 2013 at 15:18

Hi Daniel,

I actually haven't seen a record before that didn't have a reason for discharge or at least say "not dishonourable".  His vital stats seem to conform to the requirements of the time (age, height, chest measurement etc.)  He seems to have been a bit of a lad, but usually they do make a note if a soldier is discharged just for attitude problems.  He just doesn't seem to have gone through to actual enlistment.

The AIF Project website is offline at the moment but they do have a list of soldiers with their known aliases.  It was not unusual, and many men enlisted under a different name for a variety of reasons.  The only time they seem to have done additional identity checking was if the soldier appeared to be particularly younger than stated.



Comment by Daniel Maurice on April 3, 2013 at 15:53

Many thanks Debra.  You have been very helpful to get me so far in solving this family mystery.  Daniel

Comment by DULCIE HODDER on April 30, 2013 at 13:08

Hi Daniel, My G/father enlisted under anoyher name & served at the Somme. He went through life as an older man with it & even gave the name to 2 sons. He also had no record of enlistment at first, but then I did manage to find his service records. DULCIE.

Comment by Daniel Maurice on May 8, 2013 at 18:51

Dulcie, thanks for your comment.  It confirms Debra's point that it was by no means unusual for men to sign up for the AIF using "fake" names for whatever reason.  It does however make finding their records later a real chore!  I'm glad you were able to get them for your grandfather.  Best regards, Daniel

Comment by amanda louise dell on January 26, 2014 at 20:14

Hi Daniel

My grandfather was Herbert Cecil Sams there are still a couple of people alive who may know the answer to this

I have contacted them and will leave a comment when I hear back from them.


Comment by Daniel Maurice on January 27, 2014 at 22:34


Thank you so much for your post.  I would be very grateful for any and all information you might have about Arthur Sams or his parents (your great-grandparents), Harry Sams and Martha Conway of Forbes.

I would love to have the chance to speak to you sometime as I have many questions about the Sams family history.  Do let me know if you are interested in chatting.

Best regards, Daniel

Comment by amanda louise dell on February 1, 2014 at 13:13

Hi Daniel

contact me any time.  I probably don't have much info pop died when I was small but may be able to point you in the right direction.  His daughter my mum and his son both died young so I missed a lot of this.  I got interested when my kids started marching on Anzac day and would wear both their grandfathers medals.  Pretty amazing 4 brothers in the same war and all look like they liked going AWOL.  If you throw Herbert Cecil Sams into the computer it takes you to a soldier settlement link and letters that my pop wrote.  2 or 3 of them ended up with soldier settlements at Back Yamma in Parkes.    Do you know anything about the chinese conection that the surname was once Ah-sam and that they came from Ballaratt.  My email is mandydell10@gmail.com give me a call when you are ready.


Comment by Jacinthe on July 13, 2017 at 20:47

The AIF project site is offline at the moment, but they have a column of soldiers with the known alias. It is not uncommon for many people to enlist in different names for various reasons.


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