- William Edward Sanders
William Edward Sanders VC, DSO (
7 February 1883- 14 August 1917) was a New Zealanderrecipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Aucklandon 7 February 1883to Edward Helman Cook Sanders and his wife Emma Jane Sanders, née Wilson, Sanders was a highly experienced and intelligent sailor, having worked on steam and sailing ships since 1897. The outbreak of World War I found him in Britain, having just survived the wrecking of his sailing barque in the North Seaand he spent the next year as a Merchant Navyofficer on the troopships "Moeraki" and "Willochra". He rapidly became bored with this service, and in June 1915 Sanders was gazetted an acting lieutenantin the Royal Naval Reserve. It was in this rank and position that he served until 1916, when he was granted a position on a Q ship operating against German submarines in the Western Approaches. He was first given the "Helgoland", but in February 1917, when he was 34 years old, he was put in command of the "Prize", a German sailing barque seized in 1914 and now employed as a lure against submarines.
30 April 1917about 180 miles south of Ireland, in the Atlantic, Lieutenant Sanders was in command of HMS "Prize", a three-masted topsail schooner(one of the Q ships) when she was attacked by German U-boat "U-93" and badly damaged by shellfire. After the 'panic party' had taken to the boats and the ship appeared to be sinking, the U-boat approached to within 80 yards of her port quarter, whereupon the White Ensignwas hoisted and the "Prize" opened fire. Within a few minutes the submarine was on fire and her bows rose in the air, whilst the "Prize" was further damaged. The U-boat disappeared from sight, and was believed to have been sunk by the crew of the "Prize" and by several of the German crew (including her captain) who had been blown or jumped into the sea.
Amazingly, neither of the crippled ships had sunk, with the "Prize" being towed in flames back to
Kinsale, while the "U-93" struggled back to the Syltnine days later after a dramatic escape effort through the British mine and destroyer barrages off Dover. Four months later the "Prize" was lost, when patrolling with the British submarine "D-9" in the same area. In this instance, the " U-43" spotted the ships and was attacked in a very similar manner to her compatriot. Her captain had been warned by the survivors of "U-93", and so did not engage too closely, instead, firing two torpeodes into the fragile "Prize", blowing her to pieces. Rescue craft were unable to find a trace of her crew when they arrived in the area, long after the U-boat had escaped.
Thus was Lieutenant (later
Lieutenant-Commander) Sanders killed in action, at sea in the Atlanticnear southern Ireland, on 14 August 1917, along with his entire crew. In June 1918, Sanders' father received his son's V.C. and DSO from the Governor-General of New Zealandat Auckland Town Hall.
There are many memorials to Sanders, including an exhibit of photographs and his citations at Takapuna Primary School, which he attended, a bronze tablet in the church at Milford Haven, the home port of the Prize, and The Sanders Memorial Scholarship at the University of Auckland for children of members of the Royal Navy or the Mercantile Marine. The best-known memorial is the
Sanders Cupfor interprovincial competition between 14–ft centerboard X-class yachts, still contested to this day.
Monuments to Courage(David Harvey, 1999)
The Register of the Victoria Cross(This England, 1997)
VCs of the First World War - The Naval VCs(Stephen Snelling, 2002)
* [http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Park/7572/nzvcross.txt New Zealand Troops who have won the Victoria Cross] "(brief biography details)"
* [http://www.teara.govt.nz/1966/S/SandersLieutenant-commanderWilliamEdward/SandersLieutenant-commanderWilliamEdward/en "Encyclopedia of New Zealand article"]
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