1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

Frederick William Sanders

Contributed by: Carol Waddington, on 2008-11-06

Frederick William Sanders
First Name Frederick William
Surname Sanders
Year of Birth 1873
Year of Death 1916
Regiment East Yorkshire Regiment
Place of Wartime Residence Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Frederick William's Story

My Grandfather Frederick William Sanders a Private in the East Yorkshire regiment was killed in Northern France on 27th September only a few days before my mother was born on September 12th 1914. He didn't get to know that he had another daughter as the letter was returned unopened. As a child I was told very little about my Grandfather other than the cook house in which he worked had suffered a direct blow and his body had never been found.

Mum lost her mother to TB when she was only 6. The family was split up, her elder sibling were given a home by relatives, but, so the story goes, they didn't want my mum as she was too little to work in the family butchers. She spent some unhappy time in an orphanage, where the remembrance of unkindness stayed with her well into her eighties. She was, however, taken in by a kindly well-to-do family who brought her up as their own, but only gave her scant knowledge of her birth family.

Upon coming across my mother's birth certificate, which contained Fred's regimental number I wanted to know more about how he came to his end. This fragile pink and cream document was to be the beginning of a long and fascinating journey for me, finding out about a family which had been totally lost to memory, a family whom no-one had spoken of for almost eighty years, who little by little began to emerge from the census returns, and from the National Archives.

My only primary source was my mother's birth certificate and a much scratched photo of Fred. So in 1992 my quest began for more information about the grandfather I had lost in the Great War. I wrote to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and was rewarded with details of Fred's burial place. By then mum was in her late 70s and didn't feel she could make what would be an emotional journey to France. She and her elderly sister shed tears, when hearing about his grave, mainly because he had lain there all these years and they hadn't had a chance to tend his place of rest. I was able to reassure them with photos of the beautifully cared for British War Graves site in the corner of Vendresse Churchyard in the department of the Anise, which I visited with my husband in the spring of 1992. Later I visited the regimental museum in York to try and find out why Fred was in France so very early in the war.

The regimental diaries of The East Yorkshire regiment state that Fred's battalion went abroad about the 8th September and journeyed through France by foot and train. On the 12th September the day of my mother's birth Fred's battalion slept in a sugar-beet factory. What an experience it must have been for him, a saw grinder from Sheffield to be marching through the French countryside hearing a foreign language and eating the food that France was to give him and his fellow soldiers. How this journey was to change the course of the lives of so many including that of my new born mother.

Granddad was killed during the battle of The Aisne, defending a ridge along which runs a road called the called Chemin des Dames. I have driven along this ridge and have looked down the long grassy hill up which The East Yorkshire regiment must have fought, most not knowing for what the cause. In the National Archives I have looked at the maps carefully drawn in red and blue pencil, entitled The Position of the 1st Division on night of 20/21st Sept. 1914 and seen written on the map: Vendresse the village where Fred is buried.

When I visit this small cemetery I feel touched that he was buried in a village churchyard. Maybe the local people had buried him there. But with the hindsight of history I feel sadness knowing as we all do that the tiny churchyards in French villages were to become totally inadequate for the millions that were to be killed here during the following years.

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