Remembrance Sunday: John William Saunders 1875 -1920

My great grandfather, John William Saunders, was born on 22nd October 1875 in Cleveland Street, Bethnal Green, London.

He died, aged 45, on 31st October 1920. He is buried in Chingford Mount Cemetery – and has a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone. He had been a Rifleman in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. His death certificate states that he died from mediastinal growth (a tumour in the central chest cavity) and tubercular disease of the lungs.  The certificate also stresses under “occupation”  that he was a carrier’s carman – “Ex Army”.

The CWGC headstone for my great grandfather, John William Saunders. (Chingford Mount Cemetery, London E4)

From the Silver War Badge Records on Ancestry I learned that he had enlisted on 7th July 1916 and was discharged  from the 17th Battalion of the KRRC on 2nd January 1919.  The Silver War Badge was issued to UK service personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness during World War 1.

The badge, sometimes known as the Discharge Badge, Wound Badge or Services Rendered Badge, was first issued in September 1916, along with an official certificate of entitlement.  It was designed to be worn on civilian clothes: by wearing it, a man not in uniform could show that he had done his bit and was no longer physically able to continue. The badge was accompanied by a certificate which gave the man’s full name, service number, and unit. The certificate also bore the serial number of the badge.

A Silver War Badge

John  was presumably called up under the Military Service Act 1916, which introduced conscription for the first time in the war.  An extension to the Act in May 1916 meant that any man who had been at any time resident in Great Britain since 4 August 1914 who had attained the age of 18 but was not yet 41 was now eligible for the call-up.

Prior to 25th May 1916 the scheme applied only to unmarried men, but now John was eligible and must have received his call up papers sometime in June 1916.   It must have been a devastating blow for the family and it would have been very hard for John to leave his wife Emily and their 7 children.

I assume that although John returned home after his discharge in 1919 he was never again a well man – whether he worked again  I don’t know.    The only consolation is that, unlike so many others,  he did get home to his family and they were able to support him in his final years.

A general view of part of Chingford Mount Cemetery where John William Saunders is buried.

Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday in November, is the day traditionally put aside to remember all those who have given their lives for the peace and freedom we enjoy today. 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
(Laurence Binyon, 1914)

About familyhistoryfootsteps

I have been researching my family history for several years. I'm particularly interested in social history and enjoy learning about, and trying to understand the context of our ancestors' lives. From the mid 1800s onwards most of my direct ancestors lived and worked in London.
This entry was posted in Saunders and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Remembrance Sunday: John William Saunders 1875 -1920

  1. Jane pegg says:

    I am very interested to know who writes these blogs as you have the same ancestors as me! My 4 x g grandparents being Nathan Saunders and Eliza Bunce, their son John William (1848-1890) being my 3 x g. grandad and their son Robert Albert, 1879-1906) being my late grandads dad.
    I read the blogs with great interest.

    Jane Pegg

    • Hi Jane

      Thanks for commenting on my blog! It’s good to hear from a relative – I will send you an email with my contact details so that we can share information. I’ve neglected the blog a bit this year but it’s good to see that it is still generating interest and linking me with family members. I’ll be in touch later this week.


      • Lynn says:

        Hello Anne,
        Just to let you know that mum and I visited the war graves on Sunday. The War Graves Commission have “tidied up” the area and had a single flower and cross placed on headstone… Mum and I placed a rose on great-grandad’s stone. I have some photos of the event if you would like to see them…
        Best Regards

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.