Thursday 4 January 2018

A soldier of the Boer War: Samuel Taylor Saunders 1880-1902

Samuel Taylor Saunders was my 2 x great uncle. He died on 4 January 1902, while serving his country in the Second Boer War. This is his story, which I am publishing today, the 116th anniversary of his untimely death.

He was born in St Helens, Lancashire on 20 August 1880, four days after the death of his brother, Samuel Taylor, who was just 11 months old. He was baptised on 26 September 1880 in St Helens.

In the 1881 Census, he was living, aged 7 months at 44 College Street, St Helens with:

  • his father, Henry Saunders, aged 26, an unemployed joner born in Whiston
  • his mother, Mary Saunders, aged 28, a dressmaker born in St Helens
  • his sister Annie Taylor Saunders, aged 8, born in St Helens
  • his brother Henry Saunders, aged 6, born in St Helens
  • his sister Cicely Saunders, aged 3, born in St Helens
By the 1891 Census, he is still living at 44 College Street, St Helens:
  • Henry Saunders, aged 36, joiner, born Prescot
  • Mary Saunders, aged 39, born St Helens
  • Annie Saunders, stepdaughter (to Henry), aged 18, born St Helens
  • Henry Saunders aged 16, born St Helens
  • Samuel Taylor Saunders, aged 10, born St Helens
  • Thurston Saunders, aged 7, born St Helens
  • Cicely Taylor Saunders, aged 5, born St Helens
  • Harold Saunders, aged 1, born St Helens
(He had another brother, Leonard Saunders, my great grandfather, born after this Census.)

Samuel Taylor Saunders worked at Beechams Pill Factory in St Helens as a joiner, as did his father and brother, both Henry.  On a leaflet in St Helens Archive, dated 20 July 1895, S T Saunders appears on a list of single men going on Beecham's Annual Excursion to Blackpool.

One newspaper cutting has him working as a joiner for Herbert Helsby.

On 29 January 1901, a week after the death of Queen Victoria (note the oath on the next image), he was recruited into the 32nd Company (Lancashire Hussars) 2nd Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry, to fight in the Boer War in South Africa. He was a trooper, number 21868. 

While in South Africa, Samuel wrote numerous letters to his mother, Mary. From these letters we know:

  • he was a dispatch rider. He rode from Wind Pump Belmont Luckhoff (now a merino sheep farm in Orange Free State), a distance of 21 miles, having his own choice of horse. He mentions Springfontein, Orange River and Transvale.
  • They caught 19 Boers and 11 the next day. Samuel caught one Boer by almost walking on him as he lay buried under grass, and had "the pleasure of saying hands up".  The Boer was carrying explosive bullets, which were banned in warfare.
  • In December 1901, Samuel was in Quaggafontein (Kwaggafontein), near Colesberg, South Africa. The storms brought severe flooding, meaning they had to swim across rivers.
  • They were trying to catch "De Wit" (De Wet) but failed. Samuel blamed Colonel Barker and was "disappointed in commanders" and intellegence. They had only captured 42 out of 800 of De Wit's men.

Samuel Taylor Saunders died on 4 January 1902 of enteric fever, a form of typhoid, together with broncho pneumonia and cardiac failure. His "Form of Information of a Death (an equivalent of a death certificate, issued in South Africa) has his name wrong, as Samuel James Saunders. He had been in hospital for 12 days, from 23 December 1901.  

His last letter to his mother was dated five days before he was hospitalised, on 18 December 1901, and was full of information about swimming in flooded rivers. The letter was received well after his death.

According to the British Medical Journal of 18 January 1902, during the Boer War in 1901 alone, 1673 men were killed in action, 664 died of wounds, and 4088 died of disease.

Letters to Samuel's mother from his fellow soldiers say that he was "beloved" by those who "loved his dash and pluck" and "good temper" and his "hail fellow well met expression". One said he was a "man in every sense of the word and in defence of his countrymen".

"Samuel Taylor Saunders 21868, Private, Imperial Yeomanry Hospital Corps died at Maitland. Commemorated in Cape Town (Maitland) Cemetery, Cape Town, South Africa."

His name is on the Maitland Boer War memorial, Western Cape, South Africa, which commemorates the men who were buried, or buried elsewhere and reinterred in this cemetery. The memorial was erected by the South Africa War Graves Board.

Samuel Taylor Saunders is also on the Roll of Honour in St Helens Town Hall. His is also especially mentioned as part of the hospital / medical team "Volunteer Army Nursing Service Reserve, Imperial Yeomanry, 32nd Company Private S Saunders".

Samuel is also on the Boer War Roll of Honour at Holy Trinity Church, Southport. The 32nd Company 2nd Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry stayed in Southport prior to leaving for South Africa, some staying in the Scarisbrick Hotel on Lord Street. The Times (Southport?) of 5 January 1900 said that men of this unit who had volunteered for service in South Africa were to be billeted in Southport with 90 men and 6 officers expected.

According to press reports, at least one church parade before embarkation was held at Holy Trinity Church during their period of training. 

The 2nd Battalion arrived in South Africa in February 1900, and was disbanded in 1908.

Samuel was originally in the 82nd Company Infantry Yeomanry which later became the 32nd Company.

Samuel's register of soldiers effects state the following:

  • Born in St Helens
  • Death Date 4 January 1902
  • Death Place: Wynberg
  • Rank: Private
  • Regiment Imperial Yeomanry - 21868 32 Co
  • Date enlisted - 29 January 1901
  • Employment - cabinet maker
  • Next of Kin - mother
Money to: 
  • Clerk of Guardian, Prescot £2.4s.8d for support of father (now deceased)
  • Mother Mary - £29.14s.4d
  • Brother Thurston £3.3s.3d
  • Sister Annie £3.3s.3d
  • Sister Cicely £3.3s.3d
  • Brother Henry £3.3s.3d
Samuel Taylor Saunders posthumously received the Queen's South Africa medal.  The whereabouts of this medal is unknown.

Featured Post

Richard Kelsall Glenton of 58 Falkner Street Liverpool

Popular Posts