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Burford Sampson (1882–1959)

by Kevin Newman

This article was published:

Burford Sampson (1882-1959), by Broothorn Studios, 1937

Burford Sampson (1882-1959), by Broothorn Studios, 1937

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24096161

Burford Sampson (1882-1959), soldier and politician, was born on 30 March 1882 at Launceston, Tasmania, son of Joseph Tasker Sampson, grocer, and his wife Emily Louisa, née Pollard, both English born. Sampson left Launceston High School at 15. He helped his widowed mother in the family grocery store at Launceston, then worked on the Cocker farm at Upper Barrington.

In 1901 he worked his passage as a stoker to South Africa. He served with the South African Constabulary (1901-03)—as a mounted trooper and later as a detective in the Orange River Colony and Matabeleland, Southern Rhodesia—and with the British South African Police (1903-07). A good horseman and horsemaster, he distinguished himself as 'a good shot, cheerful and determined, showing coolness and courage quelling a native riot'. Sampson returned to Tasmania in 1907, worked as a farmer, sawmiller and yardsman, and joined the 92nd (Launceston) Infantry, Australian Military Forces. On 3 June 1910 he married Jane Frances Cocker (d.1932) at Launceston with Methodist forms.

In December 1914 Sampson joined the 15th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, as a second lieutenant and was promoted captain in May 1915. As a platoon commander at Gallipoli, he was in the thick of the fighting around Courtney's and Quinn's posts, and was twice wounded. In France, as a company commander, battalion second-in-command and acting brigade major, he fought in many battles, commanding the 15th during the major offensive of August and September 1918. Again wounded, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and mentioned in dispatches. Discharged in Tasmania in March 1920, he worked as a sawmill manager and immigration officer. He commanded the 51st (later 12th) Battalion, A.M.F. (Launceston Regiment), in 1922-31 and helped to form the Remembrance (Legacy) Club (1922).

In 1925 Sampson stood for the Senate as a National Party candidate, claiming he had been motivated by Billy Hughes. Strongly supported by ex-servicemen, he headed the primary count against four sitting Nationalist senators. Apart from his advocacy of a White Australia, a strong British Empire, the rights of ex-servicemen and Tasmanian State rights, his central concern was defence, a subject which dominated his Senate speeches. He strongly and consistently advocated compulsory military service. Defeated in 1937, he was re-elected in 1940 and defeated again in 1946. Sampson was a member of the parliamentary delegation to Canada (1928), of the select committee on the central reserve bank bill (1930-31), and of joint committees on electoral law and procedure (1926-28), public works (1929-31) and war expenditure (1944-46). He was chairman of committees and Senate deputy president in 1935-38.

A tall, handsome man of ruddy complexion with sandy hair parted in the middle, 'Sammy' or 'Burf' was a born leader. Well-built and athletic, he was a cricketer, rower and golfer; he also enjoyed dancing. A Freemason, he was a member of the Australian Red Cross Society and of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. He was a deputy director of recruiting for the 2nd A.I.F. in 1940-41 and retired as honorary colonel in 1942. Respected as a soldier in war and peace, he was a popular politician, regarded as totally honest and straightforward.

Sampson moved to Sydney in 1950. He died on 5 June 1959 at Pennant Hills. His ashes were interred in Carr Villa cemetery, Launceston. On 23 September 1941 at St Kilda, Victoria, with Anglican rites, he had married a widow Dorothy Jackson, née Gibbons, who survived him with two sons of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Broinowski (ed), Tasmania's War Record 1914-1918 (Hob, 1921)
  • C. E. W. Bean, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, vols 1, 6 (Syd, 1921, 1942)
  • T. P. Chataway, History of the 15th Battalion A.I.F. (Brisb, 1948)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Commonwealth), 1926, p 30, 1927, p 1124, 1947, p 3511
  • Examiner (Launceston), 17 May 1921, 8 Aug 1922, 11, 14, 16, 19, 25 Nov 1925, 21, 24 Mar 1927, 10-19, 21, 30, 31 Dec 1931, 25 Oct, 3 Nov 1937, 14-21 Sept, 16 Oct 1940, 6 June 1959
  • Mercury (Hobart), 10-19, 17 Dec 1931, 4 Nov 1937, 14-21 Sept 1940, 6 June 1959
  • Advocate (Burnie, Tasmania), 14 Dec 1931, 16-18 Oct 1940
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Kevin Newman, 'Sampson, Burford (1882–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Burford Sampson (1882-1959), by Broothorn Studios, 1937

Burford Sampson (1882-1959), by Broothorn Studios, 1937

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24096161

Life Summary [details]


30 March, 1882
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia


5 June, 1959 (aged 77)
Pennant Hills, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.