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Sam's Medal

by Mabel Constanduros and Michael Hogan (1933)
Illustrations by John Hassall

Sam meets the king and queen
"Tha' must be Samuel Small," said King.

Sam goes to the king to receive a medal for bravery, and despite his apparent cavalier attitude to people he meets on the way (guardsman, Archbishop and Prime Minister), Sam was probably over-awed by the experience: "And stood in 'oly 'ush" ('holy hush').

The bravery medal was for saving his sergeant's life during the Battle of Waterloo, for which he was to receive the Victoria Cross.

In the end, Sam didn't get his medal, for two daft reasons: Firstly, he gave an honest answer to the king, and secondly the V. C. was instituted during the Crimean war, 50 years after the Battle of Waterloo.

But Sam knew his priorities.

You've 'eard of Samuel Small, per'aps?
A lad of bull-dog breed,
Oo saved 'is Sergeant-Major's life;
(A most unusual deed).

At Waterloo 'e fought and bled,
And when the war was won,
The King a medal struck for Sam,
Because of what 'e'd done.

So Sam came up to Palace Gates,
In famous London Town;
A Sentry in a Busby 'at
Was walkin' up and down.

The Sentry stopped and looked at Sam,
"Excuse me, mate," said he.
"Might you be Private Samuel Small?"
And Sam said, "Ay, that's me!"

"Well, go on in," said Sentry, "Quick!"
And gave the gate a slam,
"King's got a medal there for thee!"
"I know 'e 'as," said Sam.

Well, Sam pushed open Palace Door
And stood in 'oly 'ush;
He found himself inside a room,
All marble busts and plush.

Archbishop in a red cocked 'at,
And breeches white and blue,
said, "ls your name Sam Small, my lad?"
"It is", said Sam, "'Ow do!"

"Don't loiter, then," says Bishop, sharp,
Like nursemaid wi' a pram.
"The King's got medal there for thee.'
"I know 'e 'as!" said Sam.

Sam meets the Archbishop
Sam meets the Archbishop

Upstairs Sam met Prime Minister,
A top-'at on 'is 'ead.
'Is trousers they was velveteen;
One leg was blue, one red.

"'E glanced at Sam all 'aughty-like
And asked 'im, "Might you be
A man called Private Samuel Small?"
And Sam said, "Ay, that's me."

"Well, don't keep King all night," 'e said,
"Surprised at thee I am.
E's got thy medal there, 'as King."
"I know 'e 'as," Said Sam.

But when Sam came on King and Queen,
His awe he couldn't smother;
For there sat King - one hand held th' orb
And sceptre was in t'other.

Sam grasped the situation like
In less than half a jiff,
He gave a very smart salute
And knocked his 'at skew-whiff.

"Tha' must be Samuel Small," said King.
"That's reet," said Sam, "I am."
"Well, I've a medal 'ere for thee."
"I know thou 'ast," said Sam.

"Don't be impatient, Sam," says King,
"Before 'tis 'anded you,
There's certain grave formalities
Which must be gotten through.

"The V.C.'s granted Samuel Small
(The King began to read),
For savin' Sergeant-Major's life;
(A most unusual deed).

Sam meets the Prime Minister
Sam meets the Prime Minister
Sergeant waving a jar of rum
Sergeant waving a jar of rum

"Dragged 'im to safety under fire
When serving in the line.
Now tell me, Sam, 'ow came you do
This deed so brave and fine?"

"Well now," said Sam, "'twas like this 'ere -
That Sergeant-Major come
Towards our trenches, very drunk,
A-wavin' jar of rum.

"And just as we was lettin' forth
A loud triumphant shout,
A darned great gun - excuse me, Queen -
Went off and laid 'im out.

"I rushed and grabbed the precious jar;
'E seized me round the 'tum'
(Your pardon, Queen). So 'e got saved
As well as jar of rum!"

"But if there'd been no rum," said King,
"Though death might sound his knell,
Thou would'st 'ave done that same brave deed?"
"I would!" said Sam. "Like 'ell!'

"Did you 'ear that?" said King to Queen.
She said, "Indeed I did!"
"Don't give 'im ruddy medal then!"
And nor they never did.

Saving rum and sergeant's life
Saving rum and sergeant's life

One of the most popular stories of Waterloo; Les Misérables


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