b. 08/07/1894 Leeds, Yorkshire. d. 04/04/1950 Leeds, Yorkshire.
George Sanders (1894-1950) was born at 7 Thornton Place, New Wortley, Leeds, Yorkshire on 8th July 1894. His father was Thomas Sanders, an iron tool maker, and his mother was Amy nee Hargreaves, who was a wool filler. His parents married in 1882. When Amy died in 1904, Thomas re-married to Amy’s sister, Martha Elizabeth Bland in 1908. George had six siblings, and he was the youngest.
George was educated at Little Holbeck School and afterwards was an apprentice fitter at Airedale Foundry, Hunslet. He was a member of the choir of St John’s Church, Holbeck. He enlisted on 9th November 1914 and went to France on 16th April 1915. He was appointed unpaid Lance Corporal on 4th October and promoted Lance Corporal 11th November 1915. He was in hospital with conjunctivitis between 1st-4th April 1916. He was then appointed Acting Corporal on 15th April.
On 1st July 1916 near Thiepval, France, during the Battle of the Somme, after an advance into the enemy's trenches, Corporal Sanders found himself isolated with a party of 30 men. He organised his defences, detailed a bombing party, and impressed upon the men that his and their duty was to hold the position at all costs. Next morning, he drove off an attack by the enemy, rescuing some prisoners who had fallen into their hands. Later two bombing attacks were driven off, and he was finally relieved after 36 hours. All this time his party had been without food and water, having given their water to the wounded during the first night.
He was recommended for the VC by the CO of the Royal Irish Rifles. He was promoted to Corporal on 15th July. On 10th August, he was wounded in the face by shrapnel and temporarily deafened, but returned to duty just five days later. He was promoted to Lance Sergeant at the end of the month. He returned to England on leave and was presented with the VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 18th November.
He applied for a commission and left France in January 1917, where he joined the Depot and was posted to No 8 Officer Cadet Battalion at Lichfield on 8th March. He was commissioned in 2nd West Yorkshire on 27th July and was attached to 1/6th Battalion. Appointed acting Captain 20th December whilst commanding a company.
On 25th April 1918 at Kemmel Hill, he was in command of C Company 1/6th West Yorkshire Regiment. After the enemy had penetrated the front line he organised his men in support and held them up for some time inflicting heavy casualties. Although he was then wounded in the leg and right arm he continued to fight with his revolver in his left hand and at one time was seen on top of a pill box rallying his men and firing his revolver point blank. He was gazetted for the Military Cross for this action on 16th September 1918.
He was taken prisoner in the same action and held on Rugen island in the Baltic until released after the war on 16th December. He returned to Britain on Boxing Day 1918 and was immediately promoted to Lieutenant. He was demobilised the following March and relinquished his commission in September 1921.
George had married Nellie Newby in Leeds on 5th April 1920. They had two children, Kenneth George born in 1921 (later served in World War II), and Margaret born in 1927. George was employed as a foreman at Meadow Lane Gas Works under Leeds Corporation after the war, as was William Butler VC. George attended the funeral of fellow VC, John Crawshaw Raynes on 16th November 1929, together with ten other VCs. During the Second World War, he was a Major in 8th West Riding (Leeds) Battalion, Home Guard, from February 1941.
George died at St James’ Hospital, Leeds on 4th April 1950. He was given a full military funeral before being cremated at Cottingly Crematorium, Leeds, where his ashes were scattered. In addition to his family, the service was attended by four VCs (William Butler, Albert Mountain, Wilfred Edwards and Charles Hull).
In addition to his VC and MC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45 and George VI Coronation Medal 1937. His medals were held privately until they came up for auction at Dix Noonan Webb on 1st-2nd March 2017. They were purchased by the Ashcroft Trust for £288,000 and are displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
(SOLD FOR £288,000)
BURIAL PLACE: COTTINGLEY CREMATORIUM, BEESTON, YORKSHIRE. ASHES SCATTERED.
A replica VC displayed at the Prince of Wales Own Regimental Musuem, York.
Now in the Ashcroft Collection, Imperial War Museum
Leeds VC Memorial
Images of Sanders medals courtesy of the DNW auction website (Medals on sale on 1-2 March 2017)
Leeds VC Memorial