John William Saunders

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, United Kingdom

General information

Last known residence:
Lafond, Alberta, Canada
Church of England

Army information

Canadian Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Vegreville, Alberta, Canada
 —  Canadian Infantry, 10th Bn. (Canadians)  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Vindictive Cross Roads, Passchendaele, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Distinctions and medals 2

Points of interest 4

#1 Place of birth
#2 Last known residence
#3 Enlistment place
#4 Place of death (approximate)

My story

John William Saunders, a former farmer, was born Dec. 21, 1876, in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Before the turn of the century, John emigrated to Canada. He and his wife Harriet Blakeman raised nine children and lived in Lafond, Alberta before the war. On April 6, 1916, he enlisted in Vegreville, Alberta. John William initially served as a private in the 202nd Battalion and went overseas with them, arriving in Liverpool on November 30, 1916. He was sent to France on May 27, 1917, to join the 10th Battalion Canadian Infantry, part of the 2nd Canadian Brigade, of the 1st Canadian Division.

On November 10, 1917, the 1st Canadian Division participated in the final assault of the Third Battle of Ypres, attacking with the 2nd and 4th Canadian Brigades. The 2nd Brigade was ordered to advance along the Mosselmarkt-Meetcheele Road and capture both Venture farm and Vindictive Crossroads. The attack was to be carried out by the 8th and 7th Battalions on the left and right, respectively, both of which were to start from the Mosselmarkt. The 5th Battalion was in support at Meetcheele and the 10th Battalion in reserve at Bellevue. On the afternoon of Nov. 9, the 10th Battalion moved to Bellevue in preparation for the next day's attack. This move was completed by 6:40 p.m. At 9:20 p.m., the Bellevue area was shelled for 19 hours, resulting in casualties. The war diary reports three gas shelling that night.

At 6:05 a.m. on Nov. 10, the attack began. By 7:30 a.m., the 7th and 8th Battalions had captured their objectives. The 2nd Canadian Brigade's new front line ran from Vocation Farm in the west, across Teall Cottage and the Passchendaele-Westrozebeke Road, parallel to it to a point about 300 yards north of the five-arm crossroads north of Passchendaele. In the afternoon, the 2nd Brigade was reorganized. The 10th Battalion took over the front line from the 7th and 8th Battalions. The 5th and 7th Battalions would take over the support line on the left and right, respectively, and the 8th Battalion moved to the reserve.

From then on, the situation remained stable, although the 10th Battalion moved up the front line some 100 yards that evening as a result of Canadian artillery falling short and causing friendly casualties. The night of November 10-11 was relatively calm, but on November 11 some German counterattacks were reported and repulsed. On the evening of Nov. 11, the 10th Battalion Canadian Infantry was relieved and withdrawn to Wieltje.

John William Saunders, age 40, was reported missing in action on November 11, 1917. This was later changed to "killed in action." His file detailing the circumstances of his death states that he was killed by an enemy gas shell while in reserve near Passchendaele. It further reports that his body could not be buried because of heavy shell fire on their position. It is uncertain whether Private Saunders was killed near Bellevue on the night of Nov. 9-10, or at Vindictive Crossroads between the afternoon of the 10th and their relief the following evening. Private Saunders has no known grave and is commemorated on panel 24R of the Ypres Monument (Menin Gate).

Sources 5

Personnel Records of the First World War (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC) RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1150 - 2).
Sources used
War diaries: 10th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC), RG9-III-D-3, Volume number: 4920, Microfilm reel number: T-10713, File number: 377).
Sources used
War diaries: 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC), RG9-III-D-3, Volume number: 4872, Microfilm reel number: T-10669-T-10670, File number: 208).
Sources used
War Graves Registers: Circumstances of Death (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC), RG 150, 1992-93/314; Volume Number: 158).
Sources used
War Graves Registry: Commonwealth War Graves (Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (LAC): RG150, 1992-1993/314, Box 39-244; Box: 50).
Sources used