Profile

SAUNDERS, Mark
(Service number 25323)

Aliases
First Rank Private Last Rank Private

Birth

Date 18 October 1884 Place of Birth Pleasant Point

Enlistment Information

Date 27 March 1916 Age 31 years
Address at Enlistment Pleasant Point via Timaru
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Mark SAUNDERS (mother), Pleasant Point, via Timaru
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 5 inches. Weight 144 lbs. Chest measurement 33-36¼ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair brown. Sight - both eyes 6/6. Hearing and colour vision both normal. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth fair. Free from hernia, varicocele, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Not vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. Slight varicose veins, but not sufficient to cause rejection. Requires full lower dentures.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 14th Reinforcements, J Company
Date 26 June 1916
Transport Maunganui or Tahiti
Embarked From Wellington Destination Devonport, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Wellington Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European (Passchendaele)
Service Medals British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date

Discharge

Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations

Death

Date 4 October 1917 Age 32 years 11 months
Place of Death Passchendaele, Ypres, Belgium
Cause Killed in action
Notices
Memorial or Cemetery Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Memorial Reference V. D. 24.
New Zealand Memorials On Memorial wall, Timaru; Pleasant Point War Memorial; Pleasant Point School Memorial

Biographical Notes

Mark Saunders was born on 18 October 1884 at Pleasant Point, the fourth son of Mark and Phoebe (née Taylor) Saunders. Young Mark attended Waimataitai School, where he may well have been rewarded for first place in Standard II General Proficiency in 1890; and from mid 1894 Pleasant Point School, where he gained a prize for Standard IV in 1896. He left school on account of illness at age 15. His father served for some years on the Pleasant Point School committee and volunteered for school activities. He was the one who at the annual meeting of April 1899, “in a highly complimentary speech referred to the excellent work done by the teachers.” Later that year at the school concert, as acting chairman, he “addressed a few words of good advice to the children and parents.” He was then re-elected with the second highest number of votes. In 1902 Mr M. Saunders donated a special prize for the Pleasant Point prize distribution. Also in 1902, on the King’s coronation day, the Pleasant Point community enjoyed various celebrations – “One novelty for the Point was a cannon obtained by Mr M. Saunders, which astonished and startled the inhabitants frequently during the afternoon by its might roar.” Mr Saunders also served on the Pleasant Point Town Board. Mark Saunders senior was a rather inventive man who tried for many years to generate power from the waves at Dashing Rocks. He also applied for a patent for an improved harvesting appliance, and he devised an invention for facilitating the loading of produce at the wharf. In August 1914 he suffered a very badly mutilated hand in a serious accident on the eastern mole. He was also a good, patriotic man, interested in local affairs and contributing in 1915 to the Belgian Fund.

Mark was a member of the Pleasant Point Tennis Club, and an energetic secretary to whom much credit was given for a most enjoyable fund-raising dance in July 1913. In the Pleasant Point class conducted by the Timaru Sub-Centre of the Ambulance Association in March 1914, Mark Saunders junior received instruction in first aid to the injured and home nursing and hygiene, and obtained his first aid certificate. Training which was going to be significant in the following years. Two years later – on 27 March 1916, aged 31 years - he left for Trentham by the express and enlisted to fill the shortage in the 14th Reinforcements. Prior to leaving Pleasant Point, Mark Saunders and William Stickings were guests at a local function – dancing, supper, and a presentation. Private Saunders was given a gold medal suitably inscribed, which was pinned on by Miss D’Arcy. The soldiers were heartily applauded and acknowledged their gifts.

He was a labourer, single, Presbyterian and had resided at Pleasant Point since leaving school. He named his mother as his next-of-kin. Standing 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 144 pounds, he had a chest measurement of 33-36¼ inches. He passed the medical examination, although he suffered from slight varicose veins and he required a full lower denture. His complexion was fair, eyes blue and hair brown. Mark was admitted to hospital at Featherston Camp on 18 May 1916, suffering from gastritis, and was granted sick leave from 22nd to 31st May. He embarked on 26 June 1916 with Fourteenth Reinforcements of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force from Wellington and disembarked on 22 August at Devonport, England. He transferred to the Wellington Infantry Regiment in August at Sling, and in October he proceeded overseas to France, where all his service was to be.

Mark Saunders was reported wounded on 27 June 1917, per Casualty List No. 620. He had been gassed, in fact on 25 June, and was admitted to the New Zealand Field Ambulance. By 2 July he was able to rejoin his unit. Next the devastating news – Mark Saunders of the Wellington Infantry, had been killed in action on 4 October 1917 during the opening phases of the Battle of Passchendaele. He was just two weeks short of his 33rd birthday. At a meeting of the directors of the Pleasant Point Caledonian Society, in mid November 1917, the president referred to the death of a member of the Society, Private Mark Saunders, killed in action in France. Part of the correspondence for that evening was a letter and trophy forwarded by the late Private Saunders from France. The deceased soldier wanted the trophy to be allotted to ladies. A bicycle race was added to the programme for which the trophy was to be first prize. A vote of sympathy was passed to his relatives. All profits from the 17 December programme and evening entertainment were to be given to the Patriotic Funds.

From the Timaru Herald, 17 June 1918 - A letter concerning the death at the front of Private M. Saunders, written by Private S. Venning to a friend in Pleasant Point, says: — “I wish to write to you to acquaint you with a few of the facts concerning the death of my esteemed friend, Mark Saunders. He and I had been closely associated almost for 20 months, and I felt his loss keenly, more so in view of the fact that he was a fellow stretcher-bearer.” The writer goes on to say that the New Zealanders were interested in a stunt on October 4 last, and later on about the 12th and 13th. On the 4th, 5th and 6th, his unit was “in it.” On the morning of the 4th all were in their relative positions before daylight, immediately prior to “hopping over." While the four stretcher-bearers were waiting for the barrage to lift, Fritzy was of course sending shells over too, and one of these hit four yards away from our shell hole, and buried and bruised a few of our chaps. Our job was to dig them out as they were completely buried. It was found that three of them would have to "go out" to the dressing station and the writer went with them. Mark, he learned afterwards, went on, and was first slightly wounded on the temple by a shell splinter - for which he ought to have “gone out,” but as it was not serious, he did not do so. A little later, when Mark and two other bearers were picking up a case another shell landed hear them, and Mark was fatally injured, and died within four or five minutes. The writer did not get near that spot again, but he sends these particulars, as a duty, seeing that they were fellow-workers as stretcher-bearers and friends from South Canterbury. “Mark had been in this work three months and was very popular all round, and I can assure you that the chaps in the company who knew him expressed their keen regret to me in their own way. He is much missed. Personally I got on very well with Mark, and regret his death very much. One thing at least it will be satisfactory and consoling to [know that] as a stretcher-bearer one does his part in these pushes as much as any. I'll just tell you what General Godley told us subsequent to Messines: ‘If anyone is deserving of recognition of services and reward, it is the stretcher-bearers.' Lately I was speaking to Captain Wells, the Padre who buried Mark, and he told me where he was buried, and that a neat wooden cross is on his grave. Our Company Commander was killed the same day, and is also buried in the same spot.”

Mark Saunders was buried in the Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. His name is inscribed on the Timaru Memorial Wall, the Pleasant Point War Memorial, and the Pleasant Point School Memorial. Private Mark Saunders was remembered in In Memoriam notices in the Timaru Herald. 3 October 1918 - Short of decisive victory, the sufferings and deaths of our sons and daughters, and of our Allies also, will have been in vain. 4 October 1919 - All the Allied dead, sick, maimed, and fit, soldiers, sailors, doctors, nurses, all others, by their sacrifices have made possible this new era, Are we worthy of it? 4 October 1920 - Like others, he died for the whole human race. Soon after the 1919 notice, Harry Saunders, a brother of Mark, was very seriously injured in an accident on Gray’s Hill Station. The medals - British War Medal and Victory Medal, plaque and scroll were all sent to his mother at Pleasant Point. He left a will which was probably never probated. It was signed in the presence two South Canterbury soldiers and dated 21 June 1916. He appointed his older brother Eustace Saunders and John Maze of Pleasant Point as executors, and left all his money and belongings to his mother, and in the case of her death, to his sister Mrs R. Edwards and his brother Harry Saunders.

Anzac Day was fittingly celebrated in Timaru on 25 April 1920, when solemn tribute was paid to the honoured dead. A large wooden cross was erected on a rockery and a large laurel wreath, carrying the words “In memory of our fallen comrades”, was placed by the Returned Soldiers’ Association at the foot of the cross. In his address Pastor Nichol paid a warm tribute not only to the men of Anzac but to all who had gone forth so valiantly to fight that we might live in peace and safety. During the playing of “The Dead March”, wreaths which had been sent were arranged at the cross. Among these were wreaths in memory of two brothers and their nephew - Mark Saunders, C. W. Saunders and Albert Bennett Saunders. The Battalion Band played the “Last Post” and the ceremony closed with the National Anthem.

The Pleasant Point War memorial was unveiled in September 1921 in an impressive ceremony before a large crowd. Sited in a commanding position, it is an imposing monument constructed largely of Coromandel granite, the steps of light grey unpolished stone. The names are engraved by fine chiselling on the die of polished rich dark grey granite, surmounted by a timber cross. Beneath the inscription – “Our Glorous Dead. Their Memory Liveth for Ever.”- are engraved the names, including those of M. Saunders and C. W. Saunders. Mark was a brother of Charles William Saunders, who died of disease in 1915, and another brother, Eustace, also served in World War I. Their nephew, Albert Edward Bennett Saunders was killed in action in 1917 at Messines, aged just 20 years. And a cousin, William Saunders, served in World War I, suffering severe wounds.

Sources

Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [20 October 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives ref. AABK 18805 W5550 0101929) [24 April 2014]; CWGC [21 October 2013]; Timaru Herald, 20 December 1890, 28 December 1896, 26 April 1899, 7 November 1899, 12 August 1902, 23 December 1902, 8 July 1913, 13 March 1914, 11 August 1914, 28 March 1916, 29 May 1916, 16 July 1917, 16 November 1917, 17 June 1918, 3 October 1918, 4 & 10 October 1919, 26 April 1920, 4 October 1920, Sun, 14 July 1917, 19 October 1917, North Otago Times, 16 July 1917 Temuka Leader, 17 September 1921 (Papers Past) [23 October 2014; 06 March 2015; 24 May 2015; 17 December 2015; 30 January 2018; 06 & 17 February 2018]; School Admission record (South Canterbury Branch) [2015]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [24 May 2015]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to

TS

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