Some of the research on the Commonwealth War Graves has been fairly straightforward – information has been readily available on sites like Ancestry, or the death has been unusual or sudden enough for it to have made contemporary newspapers.
Other times, the search goes on for a while and only the tiniest of leads manages to turn up some information.
Private Stanley Sansom falls firmly into the second category.
In a corner of Sherborne Cemetery stands a gravestone. It is dedicated to 20023 Private S Sansom of the Dorsetshire Regiment. He died on 31st March 1921, aged 27 years.
Searching just on a surname doesn’t turn up a great deal, even for one as seemingly uncommon as Sansom.
My default first sites for this research are the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Find A Grave. Both sites, however, list the soldier’s name as Sanson, even though the stone clearly says Sansom.
The FAG site provides no other information, although the CWGC page does name the soldier’s father, Thomas Sanson of Sherborne. Again, an Ancestry search does not bring anyone by that name in Dorset.
My next option is usually the British Newspaper Archive; no Sansons are recorded, but the surname Sansom does turn up just after the date on the stone:
Mrs Sansom desires to thank all friends who have expressed sympathy with her in the sad bereavement she has sustained by the death of her husband.Western Gazette: Friday 22nd April 1921
Nothing conclusive, but it did suggest that Sansom may be the correct spelling.
Back on Ancestry, Thomas Sansom doesn’t turn up anything, but a random check on the surname and specific date of death did show a few family trees for a Stanley Sansom, born in 1892. Again nothing conclusive here, particularly as none of the trees include any military records or spouses, but there was enough information to collate an overview of his life.
Stanley Sansom was born in September 1892 in Sherborne. He was one of six children to Thomas Sansom, a glove cutter, and his wife Jane.
The cloth business was a large employed in the Dorset town, and after leaving school, Stanley became an apprentice tailor.
There don’t appear to be any records of Private Sansom’s military service. However, he enlisted in the Dorsetshire Regiment, and his Service Number identifies that he served in the 1st/4th Battalion.
According to the Dorsetshire Regiment records, this battalion sailed for India on 9th October 1914, so Private Sansom must have enlisted at the outbreak of hostilities.
After a year’s training, his battalion moved to the Eastern Front, where soldiers saw action against the Turks in what is now Iraq. From what records there are, it can only be assumed that Private Sansom survived the war pretty much unscathed and returned to England in 1918 to be demobbed.
There is no record of Stanley marrying, so whether the Western Gazette’s article relates to him, or to another Sherborne Sansom is unclear.
All that can be confirmed is that Private Stanley Sansom died on 31st March 1921, aged 27.
He lies at rest in the cemetery of his home town in Dorset.
As I was writing this post, I happened to notice an additional inscription at the bottom of Stanley’s gravestone:
Also of Private J Sansom, Dorsetshire Regiment. Died at Basra June 1916
Stanley had a younger brother, Jack, who also enlisted in the 1st/4th Battalion. The brothers were shipped to India and Mesopotamia together; while Stanley came home, Jack died in battle and is buried in Basra War Cemetery. He was just 20 years old.