Sunday, August 20, 2006

Chailey Regular killed on the Somme

George Saunders was born in Barcombe, Sussex around 1886. He appears on the 1901 census living at Littleworth, Barcombe, Sussex. The family was headed by George Saunders (aged 44, born at Glynde, Sussex and working as an agricultural labourer) and his wife Eliza (aged 51 and born at Ashington). Children living with them were: Thomas Saunders (aged 21, an agricultural labourer), George (aged 14, an agricultural labourer) and Henry Alfred Saunders (aged ten, a scholar). All three boys had been born at Barcombe. There were also at least two sisters who were not at the family home. Rose Eliza Saunders (aged sixteen) was working as a general domestic servant in Lewes. Her sister Emily Saunders was also working as a general domestic servant at Curd’s Farm, Barcombe. Like their brothers, both girls were born at Barcombe.

George enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment at Brighton, probably around 1906. Unless he had extended his service with the colours, he would have been on the Army Reserve when war was declared but in either event he proceeded overseas with the 2nd Battalion almost immediately, arriving in France on 12th August 1914. Chailey Parish Magazine first notes him serving his King and Country in October 1914 and by the following October updates this information to include his regimental details and the fact that he had been wounded on 29th January 1915 near Ypres.

In January 1916 the parish magazine notes that he is now a corporal and that he has since returned to duty in England. By April 1916 it notes that he is in France; by June 1916 it notes that he is a sergeant.

On 29th September 1916, The East Sussex News published a short article on him:

Acting Sergeant G Saunders of Station Road has been officially returned as missing. He went to France with the First Expeditionary Force in August 1914, was wounded a few months afterward and came to England. He returned to France but a short time ago and has been missing since 16th August last. He was in the Royal Sussex Regiment.

In fact George had been killed in action on 17th August, a fact duly noted in the parish magazine in September 1917. It had listed him as “missing” since October 1916 but by now it must have been officially assumed that he had been killed in action.

George has no known grave and is commemorated on pier and face D of the Thiepval memorial in France. His brother Henry Saunders who was killed seven weeks earlier is also commemorated at Thiepval.

George’s medal card records his rank as acting sergeant and his number as 8389. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes his rank as sergeant and his number as L/8389. Both brothers are commemorated on the village memorial on Chailey Green.

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