Harry Francis SAUNDERS

Saunders Harry CWGC gravestone at Pozieres Simon Haynes 3

Harry Saunders's Commonwealth War Grave at the Pozieres British Cemetery, northern France; image courtesy of Simon Haynes.

Harry Saunders was born in Oxford on 28 April 1886, the second son of Samuel (a house painter born in 1860/61 in Liskeard in Cornwall) and Lydia Maria (née Sturch, born in 1860/61 in Haseley near Thame). The couple were married in 1883/84 and had six children, all born in Oxford: William (born 1884/85), Harry (1886), Herbert (or Bertie, 1888/89), Florence (1889/90), Ethel (1891/92) and Cecil (1893/94). Harry was educated at the National [Anglican] School in the village of South Hinksey.

Harry's eldest brother William became a waiter and valet. At the age of 14 Harry was working as an errand boy but by 24 he had risen to become a printer with the firm Alden & Co, on Cornmarket. He was a keen footballer and was on the winning team for the Oxford City Junior Football Cup in 1907-8.

Harry was 28 when war broke out; he volunteered on 5 September 1914 and joined the 1/4 Battalion of the Oxf & Bucks Light Infantry as a Corporal, service no. 2851. He served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders from March 1915. In August 1915 the Oxford Journal Illustrated reported that Harry had sent home this 'interesting souvenir' from the trenches.

Harry was killed in action on 23 July 1916, aged 30, at the Battle of Pozieres on the Somme. Richard Cherrill, William Ingram, Percy Palmer and Arthur Whiteley were all killed in the same battle on the same day. Pozieres was a village in the German second line and was only captured after an epic struggle on 23 July by a joint British-Australian assault. The fighting around the village and beyond continued for many weeks afterwards.

Harry was buried at the Pozieres British Cemetery at Ovillers La Boisselle in northern France and commemorated on the Wall of Remembrance there. The chaplain of his battalion wrote: "He was one of our best NCOs [non-commissioned officers] and had he lived undoubtedly he would have received his third stripe, as he was always of the greatest possible help."

Harry's two younger brothers also fought in the War: Herbert was a Lance Corporal in the 1/4 Battalion of the Oxf & Bucks Light Infantry (service no.200745) and Cecil was a Private in the 1st Battalion of the Welsh Fusiliers (service no. 108675). Both survived. In June 1923, when he was 35, Herbert married Flora Tyrrell, the widow of Walter Tyrrell, at St Matthew's church.

In March 1923, when she was 31, Harry's younger sister Ethel married a hairdresser, Percival Cross, from Paradise Street in St Ebbe's, at St Matthew's church. Ten years later Harry's sister Florence, by now 43 but still living at home and working as a house keeper, married Rueben Heard, a widowed bookbinder from Frenchay Road in North Oxford.

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