Roy Broughton Sanderson 17 April 1918

Roy Broughton Sanderson was the Headmaster’s eldest child, born in Dulwich in 1889, three years before the family came to Oundle. He officially entered School House in 1898, at the age of 9 and left, some 10 years later in July 1908. He was Head of School, Captain of the XV and a prominent swimmer. In his last year, he won the Ferrar Challenge Cup and the Royal Humane Society’s Medal for that sport. He also rowed for School House, but the Laxtonian reviewer was not impressed. “Sanderson is still clumsy and apt to disturb those rowing behind him but he has greatly improved on last year.” Nonetheless he was part of the winning School House crew in 1906.

Academically, he was clearly his father’s son. He won prizes for Maths and owned a book about ellipses, written in French. He won a scholarship in Maths and Mechanics to Queens’ College, Cambridge where he was later Captain of the College XV. After serving a pupillage with the chief engineer of the London and North Western Railway, he was appointed to the staff of the Royal Naval College, Osborne, Isle of Wight.

When war came, he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery as a 2nd lieutenant and went to France. There, he was seriously wounded and invalided home for a year, during which time he married. It is said that the marriage was opposed by Jane Sanderson, Roy’s mother and that at the wedding she told his bride, Margaret, in her usual abrupt manner “No babies. No Babies”. The wedding picture seems to confirm the antagonism between the two ladies, with Roy looking isolated and his father trying to call for three cheers.

Returning to the Front in February 1918, he was promoted to Lieutenant and was attached to an artillery battery, equipped with 6” Mk VII howitzers. He was stationed near Kemmel in Belgium, which was strategic high ground commanding views of the flat valley of the River Lys. Once there, their first task was to dig deep gun pits. An artillery captain later wrote: “Deep pits must be dug for the guns, and slopes cut into these pits by which the said guns may be hauled in and out. These pits must be floored with an elaborate platform and their sides revetted, to prevent them falling in. Most difficult of all, they must be roofed over with as much earth as such roof beams can be made to bear.”

On 9th April, the German Offensive began and Roy’s Battery were told to turn their guns, which could fire more than 8,000 metres to try to halt German progress. The next day, the enemy had taken the village of Ploegsteert and Roy’s battery had to withdraw “with the enemy in closed proximity.” By the 12th April, the guns had been moved back again. Amidst the confusion of these exhausting withdrawals, Roy wrote to his wife that rations were very low and he and his men were eating ginger biscuits sent by his mother. During the night of 15 and 16 April the withdrawal continued as far as Mont Noir. On the morning of 17, Roy’s battery received heavy shelling and Roy was seriously wounded. He was evacuated some 15 miles to the nearest Casualty Clearing Station, but died the same day.

Roy Sanderson was buried in Haringhe Military Cemetery, not far from Ypres. On his headstone his parents wrote; “God Bless Thee Wheresoe’er In This Wide Universe, Thou Art today”. He was 29 years old at the time of his death and left a widow, Margaret. They had been married for just four months. It is said that his father intended to appoint him Head of Workshops if he had survived the War.

C Pendrill
Yarrow Fellow