13785 Private Edward Saunders, 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, later 35430 Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and 436852 Labour Corps
Born on 26th March 1889 in Studham
Died on 21st October 1957 in St Paul’s Hospital, Hemel Hempstead
Edward Saunders was born in Studham, Bedfordshire, the fourth of the 5 children of Alfred Saunders and Emily née Caplehorn. His father, who had formerly served in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, was by then an Agricultural Labourer.
His siblings were:
- Alfred, born 9th April 1883
- Lucy Emily, born in 1886
- Ellen, born in 1887
- William Henry, born in 1894
The 1891 Census shows the family living at 2 Byeslips, Studham. His father was an Agricultural Labourer and his mother a Straw Plaiter. Alfred, 7 and Lucy, 6 were at school. Ellen was then aged 4 and Edward 2.
However, by 1901, Edward’s family lived in Kensworth Road, Studham. Edward, 12 and William, 7, were still at home with their parents but their older siblings had moved away. Edward’s brother Alfred was then serving in the 2nd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps in the 2nd Anglo-Boer War in South Africa. He had enlisted as a Bugler at the age of 13 years 11 months and, at the age of 16½, was reputed to be the youngest Boy Soldier at the Siege of Ladysmith.
Employment and Service in the Militia 5
Between 19th November 1907 and 20th June 1908, Edward served as a Private in the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, Service Number 6024. When he attested, he was a Groom working at Studham House. He was 5 feet 7½ inches tall, weighed 123 pounds and had a 34 inch chest. He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair.
On 9th April 1910 Edward Saunders married his cousin Ellen Emma Saunders, daughter of John Saunders of 35 Ringshall. They then lived with Ellen’s father at 35 Ringshall and their son Alec Edward Saunders was born on 6th November 1910. He was baptised at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 5th March 1911.
The 1911 Census shows the family at 35 Ringshall; John worked as a Gardener and Edward as a Farm Labourer.
Edward and Ellen’s daughter Edna Kathleen Saunders was born at Ringshall on 20th September 1914 and was baptised at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 1st November 1914. However, her father Edward volunteered for War Service less than two weeks before her birth.
On 3rd September 1914 Edward Saunders, aged 27 years and 6 months, attested for the Bedfordshire Regiment at Hertford to serve for the duration of the War. He was by then 5 feet 8½ inches tall, weighed 137 pounds and had a 35½ inch chest. His complexion was dark, his eyes hazel and his hair dark brown.
He was one of 16 men on the Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour who volunteered for the Bedfordshire Regiment in the first month of the War. 12473 William Wells volunteered on 26th August followed by 12589 William Grant, 12591 George Cash and almost certainly 12593 Charles Batchelor on the 27th. 13330 Frank Dove R.I.P. and 13724 Horace Halsey then joined on or before 3rd September 1914 and a further 10 men attested on 3rd September. These were 13785 Edward Saunders, 14374 Harold Catt, 14532 John Mayling, 14553 Victor Collier, 14546 Frederick Purton R.I.P., 14457 Ernest Bearton, 14575 Arthur Maunders, 17221 Bertie Purton, 17231 Herbert Fenn and 3/8219 Jesse Holland.
On 15th September 1914, Edward was posted to the 4th (Special Reserve) Battalion as a Private, Service Number 13785. Harold Catt, Victor Collier, Arthur Maunders and John Mayling served in the same Battalion. They were based at Bedford at the outbreak of war, then moved to Felixstowe to provide home defence around Harwich as well as drafts of men for the front line battalions. Edward remained in that battalion until 30th April 1915.
Then, on 1st May 1915, Edward was transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment and posted to France, where the Battalion was involved in the Battle of Festubert in May and then the Second Action at Givenchy in June.
However, on 25th September 1915, the first day of the Battle of Loos, Edward was wounded in the left thigh. He returned to England on 29th September and spent the next 3 months in hospital.
On 24th November 1915, Edward’s brother 112 Company Sergeant Major Alfred Saunders, 2nd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, died of wounds at No 2 Field Ambulance, Noeux-les-Mines near Bethune, France. He had been in France with the B.E.F from 13th August 1914. Alfred’s wife Lilian travelled from her home in Folkestone to Victoria Station in London on November 25th 1915, to meet her husband, who was due home on leave. When he did not arrive, her worst fears were confirmed; she later learned he had died the day before from a bullet wound to the head. He is buried at Noeux-les-Mines Communal Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France; he is also named on the Roll of Honour at St Mary the Virgin, Studham.
Edward’s Convalescence 7
Having been released from hospital, Edward spent time convalescing at Shoreham until 13th April 1916. Whilst there, he forfeited a day’s pay and was confined to barracks for three days for overstaying his Pass from Midnight 13th February to 8pm 14th February 1916. Edward saw no further service overseas but continued to serve at home from 14th April 1916 for the remainder of the war.
On 14th April 1916, Edward re-joined the 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment at Felixstowe. Then, on 10th July 1916, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion, also at Felixstowe/ Landguard, with which he remained until 15th December 1916.
However, on 16th December 1916, Edward was transferred to the 13th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, in which he served as a Private, Service Number 35430, until 23rd October 1917. That was a Home Service Battalion, then based in Southend.
Brother William Killed in Action 14
On 7th October 1917 Edward’s younger brother Private William Harry Saunders, Service Number 29372 1st/8th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, formerly 45331 Suffolk Regiment, was killed in action in Belgium. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial and is also named on the Studham War Memorial.
One Sunday evening in late October or early November 1917, Mrs Sue Whitman, mother of Arthur Whitman who at that time was still regarded as missing in action, wrote a letter to her husband Joseph Whitman, which has survived. The letter included the information: “…another of the Saunders and Fred Grooms son married at Studham is killed”. The Saunders was Edward’s brother William.
On 24th October 1917, Edward transferred to the Labour Corps in which he served as a Private, Service Number 436852, until his demobilisation on 13th March 1919. From 24th October 1917 until 5th July 1918 he served in 449 Agricultural Company, based at Taunton. Then, from 6th July 1918 until his demobilisation he was based at Bedford in 693 Agricultural Company. For his War Service, Edward was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Awarded an Army Pension 7
After his discharge on 13th March 1919, Edward continued to suffer from the effects of his wound. His Service Record contains a form entitled “First Award – Soldier” and date stamped 21st July 1920. That record shows that that he was then still considered to have 20% disability, as the result of the gunshot wound to his thigh suffered on 25th September 1915. From 20th December 1919 to 12th July 1921 he was therefore granted an army pension of 12 shillings and 8 pence per week. The pension included an allowance of 4 shillings and 8 pence per week for his wife and children.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
Edward Saunders is named on the Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. The original Roll gives his regiment as 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment but, on the basis of the evidence in his Service Record, this has been corrected to the Bedfordshire Regiment on the Centenary Revision of the Roll.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
Named on the Studham Roll of Honour
The Studham Roll of Honour names those men associated with the village who fought in the First World War. Those, like Edward, who survived have their names written in red. Those, like his brothers Alfred and William who died on active service have their names written in gold. Although Edward had moved to Ringshall on marriage, his mother was still resident in Studham, hence his inclusion on that Roll of Honour.
On demobilisation, Edward returned to 35 Ringshall, where he lived for most of the rest of his life and worked as a coal merchant and haulage contractor. He is shown on a 1925 photo of a Little Gaddesden British Legion outing. Lewis Hing is believed to be the man 2nd from the right other man but no one else has yet been identified.
Mr Saunders the Contractor 17
The book “A Century Remembered” includes reminiscences of Edward Saunders’ business in the 1930s and 1940s:
Mr Saunders lived at No 35 Ringshall. He had a lorry and a man (his son Alec in the 1930s) working for him. He delivered coal and wood. His yard was where Hall Farm is now. He also had a contract to collect the rubbish in the village for the Council. All in bins – there were no plastic bags in those days… Coal was often sold on a highly individual basis, a sack at a time brought by a small dealer – you had to pay for that sack before you could order another.
Edward’s son Alec worked with his father but died from tuberculosis in March 1936, aged 25.
In May 1940, Edward volunteered for the Home Guard, first known as the Local Defence Volunteers. He is named on P.C. Parker’s hand-written list as an original member of No. 1 Section, based at Ringshall.
Other First World War veterans who were members of the No 5, Little Gaddesden, Platoon of B Company, 7th Hertfordshire Battalion, Home Guard included: Albert Boarder, Walter Bunn, Donald Goodman, Horace Halsey, Joe Hing, Harry Hucklesby, Sidney (Jubal) Jones, John Mayling, Arthur Maunders, William Newman, Edwin Purton, Reginald Purton and Frank Rogers.
The Platoon also contained young men, most of whom were subsequently called up for military service. Among these were George Halsey, son of Horace Halsey; Leonard Hing son of Lewis Hing; Raymond Hing, son of Joe Hing; Fred Hucklesby, son of Harry Hucklesby; Fred Liberty, son of George Liberty; John Oakins son of Steve Oakins; Gordon and Maurice Purton sons of Reginald Purton and Arthur Whitman son of James Whitman and named after his uncle Arthur Whitman. The Platoon’s first Commander was Major James Neville Gray, K.C., D.S.O., father of Duncan Gray and in 1941, the Battalion’s Adjutant and Quartermaster was William O’Kelly.
On 3rd January 1942, Edward’s daughter Edna married Seth Janes, the youngest son of Fred Janes the Butcher from Hudnall. Seth’s eldest sister Edith had married Bernard Halsey in 1926 and his sister Marjorie had married Alban Stanbridge in 1934. Seth’s eldest brother Ernest Janes did not live to see his sisters or younger brother married, as he died of peritonitis in 1923 aged only 25. Alban Stanbridge and Ernest Janes are both named on the Little Gaddesden Rolls of Honour; Bernard Halsey‘s name has been added to the 2018 Centenary Revision of the Roll.
Edward and Ellen moved to Watford after the Second World War and were living at 133 St Albans Road, Watford when Ellen died on 29th January 1953. However, she was buried in the old churchyard of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 4th February that year. Edward then returned to 35 Ringshall until his death in St Paul’s Hospital, Hemel Hempstead on 20th October 1957.
Edward’s Obituary, published on Friday 25th October 1957, almost certainly in the local Hertfordshire, Hemel Hempstead Gazette and West Herts Advertiser, noted that he had died after a long illness.
His health had been very bad for 17 years but throughout that long illness he showed wonderful cheerfulness.
It also extended sympathy to his daughter and reported that he had lived at Ringshall for about 50 years and was well-known throughout the district as a coal merchant and haulage contractor.
8. Little Gaddesden Baptism Register 1813 – 1947
17. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge
18. Police Constable Parker’s list of Little Gaddesden’s Local Defence Volunteers, compiled in May 1940
19. ed. Brock, Capt. Alan St H, (1945?) 7th Hertfordshire Battalion Home Guard. A History of the Battalion 1940-44
20. Little Gaddesden Marriage Register 1926, 1934
22. Little Gaddesden Burial Register 1923, 1953, 1957
24. Obituary of Edward Saunders, 25th Oct 1957, believed to be from the Hertfordshire, Hemel Hempstead Gazette and West Herts Advertiser
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson