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5689  Private James Blair Saunders
C Company
The Black Watch(Royal Highlanders)
13th November 1916 

Hunt6aPrivate James Blair Saunders.jpg

He was born on 25/09/1984 at 9.55pm at 16 Hendry's Wynd, Kirkcaldy, Fifeshire, Scotland.  His parents were

James Saunders(04/10/1865-16/02/1947) and Janet Rankine Blair(04/07/1864-26/12/1940). They were married on 12/11/1886.

James jnr. had 5 brothers, Peter(17/11/1888-30/06/1942),Thomas Blair(27/06/1892-07/06/1921),Alexander Blair(12/03/1897-1965), David(03/10/1899-04/11/1918) and John(20/05/1906-13/09/1947).

He also had 3 sisters, Agnes Yates(08/02/1887-06/05/1979) and Isabella Cook(25/11/1890-04/12/1940) and Janet Rankine Blair( born on 20/07/1902).

In the 1901(Scottish) census, the family were recorded as living at 23 High Street, Kirkcaldy. James snr. was employed as a cotton beamer(winds the warp on the roller before putting it on the loom in the textile industry * World through the lens )

In the  1911(Scottish) census , the family were shown to have moved to 48 Balfour Street, Kirkcaldy. James snr. was still employed as a cotton beamer in a linen factory. James jnr. was also now working, as an apprentice grocer.

When the war broke out in 1914, there is no record as to when James enlisted into the 1/6th (Perthshire) Battalion The Black Watch(Royal Highlanders) or indeed when he was sent to France.  

Fifeshire Advertiser – Saturday 25 November 1916

Fell In the Attack

Mr and Mrs James Saunders, 5 Marion Street, Ramsay Road, Kirkcaldy have the sympathy of the community in the loss they have sustained by the death in action of one of their soldier sons. Private James Saunders, Black Watch. He was killed in an attack on the German trenches on Monday 13th inst. And the sad news was conveyed to them in the following letter from his Company officer. Pte Saunders was one of three sons who have taken their part in the war.


Dear Mrs Saunders – I regret exceedingly that I have to convey to you the sad news of the death of your son James, who was in

C Coy. of this Battalion. He fell when taking a gallant part in an attack on the German line last Monday. He was a fine soldier, fearless, and ever capable.

The interment took place near to where he was hit.

You have our deep heartfelt sympathy in this time of sore bereavement.

Your Sincerely

Thomas E. Young Major, O.C.

James was awarded the 1914-1918 British War and Allied Victory medals. 

Four of James' brothers were also with the Colours, below are details of their involvement.



He enlisted in Kirkcaldy on 28/04/1915 as Private 2104 in the Highland Cycle Corps. Unfortunately whilst during training he suffered an illness( I have not been able to discover what it was) that was serious enough for the Army to discharge him from service as no longer physically fit for war service(Para392(xvi)K.R.) on 14/04/1916.

He was awarded a pension of 7/-6d a week from 30/05/1917.  

Hunt6bPeter Saunders.jpg

 Peter, 7581 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders sent to France on 19/12/1914

Awarded meritorious service medal (The Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) is a British medal awarded to sergeants and warrant officers of the British armed forces for long and meritorious service. From 1916 to 1928, eligibility was extended to cover both valuable services by selected other ranks irrespective of length of service, and for gallantry not in the face of the enemy.) *

Fifeshire Advertiser – Saturday 09 June 1917

Honours For Gallant Fife Soldiers

Kirkcaldy Sergeant Mentioned in Despatches

Acting-Sergeant Peter Saunders, Cameron Highlanders, son of Mr James Saunders, 5 Marion Street, Ramsay Road, Kirkcaldy, has received special mention by Sir Douglas Haig for his gallantry in the Somme battle last summer. In a letter to his father, Sergeant Saunders writes; - “ Did you see in the papers that I am mentioned in despatches? It was for my work on the Somme last year, having been brought to the notice of somebody or other. I have only done what I hope always to be able to do – my duty”.

He makes no mention of what he has been honoured for, but it is known that Sergeant Saunders, who is in charge of a Lewis gun section, did splendid work during the severe fighting, and also carried his wounded Lieutenant out of the trenches to the dressing station under heavy fire.

Sergeant Saunders came from India with the Camerons and was invalided home the first winter with frostbite. He is an old member of the 4th Kirkcaldy Boys Brigade.

There were four sons of this patriotic family originally with the colours. Alexander enlisted in the H.C.B. but was discharged; Thomas Saunders was transferred from the A.S.C. to the infantry and is now a lance-corporal; and Private James Saunders, Black Watch, was killed in action in November last.    


Hunt6dthomas Saunders.jpg

 Thomas enlisted 16/01/1915 140 Private Scottish Horse as a driver later transferring

as Rifleman 202031 2nd Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps Served with B.E.F. from 30/06/1917 to 03/02/1918  when he was wounded by a bullet to his forehead and a gunshot wound  that caused a fracture to his right forearm.

 He was admitted to 53rd General Hospital Boulogne before being transferred to Eastbourne

Military Hospital on 24/04/1918,where he stayed until 23/05/1918 before being transferred once again to 2nd Scottish General Hospital, Edinburgh, where he stayed until he was discharged on 14/07/1918. Due to his injuries, Thomas was no longer physically fit for war service and so was discharged from the army.

He was awarded a weekly pension of 17/6  from 15/07/1918 to 13/08/1918 then rising to 22/- a week, that was to be reviewed after 24 weeks. 

It is clear Thomas never fully recovered from his injuries, as he died only 3 years later on 07/06/19121 with the cause of death  being a cerebral abscess that had been caused by that gunshot wound to his head.

Hunt6c David Saunders.jpg

David, an apprentice joiner – 351/2 inches chest, 5 ft 7 inches Fair hair, Blue Eyes,

Fresh Complexion

enlisted on 14/09/1917 served from 02/12/1917. His last posting was to Coastal Motorboat Base

on Osea Island (Essex) from 19/06/1918 to his death

Clyde Z/8952 Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Royal Naval Depot Crystal Palace.

He died of Influenza & Bronchial Pneumonia

Buried in Abbotshall Burying Ground Abbotshall, Kirkcaldy, Fifeshire

Sec. 428. in plan of New Churchyard

Fife Free Press & Kirkcaldy Guardian – Saturday 09 November 1918

 Young Kirkcaldy Navy Man Dies In Hospital

Mr and Mrs James Saunders, 5 Marion Street, Ramsay Road, Kirkcaldy, received the sad intimation on Friday night that their fifth son. Seaman David Saunders was lying seriously ill at Osea Island Base, Maldon, Essex. His parents left next morning to see their son and were at his bedside on Monday when he breathed his last. He had a repeatedly experienced his great liking for the Navy, which he joined some 13 months ago when only 18 years of age, having previously been employed with Messrs J.& J. Wishart, Joiners, Milton Road. He was greatly liked by all his companions for his invariably kind and courteous disposition. Seized with influenza while on duty, and pneumonia setting in, his illness proved fatal. Much sympathy is felt by a wide circle of friends for Mr and Mrs Saunders in the loss of their son. Who was a young man of good promise. Four brothers of deceased joined the army, one of whom James Saunders was killed in action on 13th November 1916; Lance Corporal Tom Saunders, King’s Royal Rifles, wounded in France now discharged;  Private Alexander Saunders, Cycle Battalion, discharged through illness two year ago; and Quarter – Master Sergeant Peter Saunders, 1st Cameron Highlanders – a regular soldier – who has seen service in China , India and elsewhere and is now serving in France, where he has been for the last four years, having only been home once on leave during that period.

Fife Free Press & Kirkcaldy Guardian – Saturday 08 November 1919

In Memoriam

Saunders – In unfading memory of Seaman David Saunders, who died at Osea Naval Base, November 4th, 1918; also Pte. James Saunders, 1-6th Black Watch, killed at Beaumont Hamel, November 13, 1916, beloved sons of James and Janet Saunders, 5 Marion St., Kirkcaldy.

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