Friday, November 16, 2012

Herbert Saunders - Part Four - WW1

Herbert's family: Wife Faith with daughters Clara (standing) and Alice (seated)

Herbert and Faith Saunders brought their new baby Clara with them to Vancouver from Winnipeg in 1911, and the 1911 Census shows them living there in the boarding house of Faith’s mother, Emma Green Cook, on Venables Street. Also living there are four of Faith’s siblings, Edward William, Samuel, Alfred Godfrey, and Mary Eliza. Herbert is working as a clerk in a shipping office. By November 1912, Herbert and Faith are back in Winnipeg for a short time, where their daughter, Alice May, my grandmother, is born. (Faith, Clara, and Alice, seated, are shown above). They are back in Vancouver in 1913, where Herbert works as a stevedore, and becomes a Charter Member of the Vancouver A Division Veterans of the Royal North West Mounted Police.

Herbert did not talk about his World War One experiences, so they were always a mystery to his family. The only correspondence extant between Herbert and Faith at this time are some postcards, which had only the word, “Herbert”, on them. Fortunately, his World War One military record survives so that we can finally know what went on.

He enlisted in 1916 in Vernon, British Columbia, for World War One, after having been in the 30th British Columbia Horse Militia for fourteen months. He joined the 238th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, the Canadian Forestry Corps. This was a special corps of the Canadian Armed Forces, which helped reduce the need to import timber to England from North America by logging local forests and milling the timber. As a member of this corps, Herbert appears to have spent the entire war in England and Scotland as a “sawyer”. He arrived in Liverpool after an eleven day voyage on the S.S. Scandinavian on September 22, 1916. He appears to have been stationed in London and Witley, Surrey in 1916, and by October 10, 1917, he is in Carlisle, Cumbria, near the Scottish border, where he seems to be until 1919. He is hospitalized for a week in April 1918 in Leith, Edinburgh, for an injury to a finger on his left hand. He is awarded a good conduct badge on August 13, 1918. He embarks from Liverpool to return to Canada on May 7, 1919 on the S.S. Celtic, and is discharged from the corps on May 19, 1919, the reason given being “demobilization and a wife”.

Family lore is that Herbert visited his “sisters” at some time during the war. It appears that during W.W.1, the only sister he has still living in the Liverpool area (Bootle) is Elizabeth (Lizzie) Saunders Dayer with her husband and children. His brother, Alick, and his father, James, who has remarried, are also living in Bootle. It seems that his two other sisters, Henrietta Saunders Windsor and Lily Saunders are both living in Somerset again. Which of his family members he actually met with is not clear. It seems most likely that he would have had easiest access to his family in Bootle, as he arrived at and departed from Liverpool, but he was also for a time further south in England.

It is also not known whether Herbert knew at the time that his eldest brother, Albert John Saunders, had been killed in action on August 4, 1918, in northern France, at the age of forty. Albert is buried in Houchin British Cemetery in Pas de Calais. He had been a private in the King’s Liverpool Regiment, and left behind a wife, Frances J. Cooke, whom he had married in 1917 in Chard, Somerset.

Herbert’s wife Faith and his children moved from Vancouver back to Winnipeg during the war, where her mother and some of her siblings appear to have been living at the time. The Herbert and Faith are back living in Vancouver by 1920.

He worked as a lather for the rest of his life, and lived in the same house in south Vancouver from 1935 onward. Herbert and Faith had two more children, Herbert Edward and Verna Doreen. Herbert worked at North Vancouver Ship Repairs during W.W.II, from 1942 to 1945, where naval ships were built. He had re-applied to the R.C.M.P. in 1939, possibly to help replace officers who had gone overseas. He continued working as a lather until about the age of eighty, when he fell and broke his hip due to an unsteady scaffolding which someone else had built. He was still had a full head of white hair in old age, and walked every day from his home to the Fraser River until his injury. I remember his roses which he grew in front of the house on East 23rd Avenue. He died at the age of eighty-two in Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver. Cause of death was “arteriosclerotic heart disease”. He is buried in  Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver.

As for further contact with his family in England, there is evidence that his brother Alick tracked him down through the R.C.M.P. in 1926, (there is a letter from him in the North West Mounted Police file), and received what appears to have been Herbert’s correct address at the time. Alick also wrote to the Liverpool Sheltering Home in 1926 to try to find him. I believe it is likely that Alick was able to write to Herbert, and that Herbert received his letter. A family tree completed by one of Alick’s descendants in England indicates that Herbert’s English family lost contact with him in about 1938.

Great Grampa as I remember him

To close the story of Herbert, it seems fitting to tell a story about him and Faith, which was told to me by my grandmother, Alice Saunders Sanderson. One day, Herbert brought home a huge box of raspberries. Faith thanked him for them, and made a raspberry syrup out of them. They would mix the syrup with water to make a kind of raspberry drink, which the family drank all winter. The next year, Herbert brought home another huge box of raspberries. Faith thanked him, and then quietly buried them in the garden.

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