James Sanders was born on 17th April 1889. One of nine children, his parents were William and Emily Sanders. William worked for a clay company in his home town of Kingsteignton, Devon. He had various roles, including caretaker, inspector and messenger.
William’s son, however, was after bigger things in life and, on 17th July 1907, he enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry. James’ service records show that he was 5ft 6ins (1.67m) tall, had light brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion.
Based out of Plymouth, Private Sanders signed up for an initial period of twelve years. During this time, and throughout the war, he served on six vessels, including 30 months on HMS Argyll (where he was based for the 1911 census) and more than five years on HMS Colossus.
In April 1919, Private Saunders returned to land. When his initial contract was up, he re-enlisted, this time remaining at the Naval Dockyard in Plymouth.
James’ trail goes a little cold for the next couple of years, although he continued in his role with the Royal Marine Light Infantry. On the night of the 28th March 1921, however, he encountered some trouble. The local newspaper reported on the subsequent inquest.
Kingsteignton Man’s Mysterious Death
At an enquiry held at Teignmouth on Saturday afternoon into the circumstances attending the death of Private James Sanders, RMLI… who was found drowned in the river Teign on Friday, it was stated that deceased and seven other Kingsteignton men on Monday visited Teignmouth to attend a football match, at which Sanders acted as touch-judge.
After the match they went to a public house, where deceased had three or four pints of beer and some spirits, which made him unsteady.
They left to catch a bus, but at Station Road deceased turned back. One of his companions followed him, but could not persuade him to return, so he left deceased on his own to travel back home.
The man considered Sanders was in a condition to look after himself. An open verdict was returned.Wester Times: Friday 8th April 1921
Private James Sanders died on 28th March 1921, aged 31 years old. He was laid to rest with his father, William, who had died in 1908, in the graveyard of St Michael’s Church in Kingsteignton.