Sunday, 26 January 2014

Tantalizing clues...

My husband never met his grandfather, Alfred Joseph Saunders, as he died many years before he was born. All he knew about him was that was born in Fulham, and had been a joiner.

The other day we came across a set of postcards which Alfred had sent to his young daughter while he was in France during WWI. The postcards, 17 in total, generally depicted children, often holding flowers and expressing sentiments such as Anniversaire or Bonne Fete. 

One read: "My darling little girl, I hope you are keeping well also that you will have a happy Xmas. I suppose you will have all your little friends into tea. With love and kisses, from Dada xxxxxxxx"

All the cards expressed similar messages of affection, from a loving father to his daughter and only child.

On closer inspection, some of the cards had an address - Hut Q, RAF Vendome, France. His service number was also recorded on a few.

Vendome was the site of the Royal Naval Air Training Establishment (RNATE) formed in April 1916. Two years later in 1918, the service was merged with the Royal Flying Corps. (RFC) and became the RAF.

A brief check on the forces war records database listed a A.J. Saunders as an engineer. As a joiner, his skills may have been used in the maintenance of the wooden bi-planes of those early days. No doubt I shall find out more as I research our WWI ancestors, as is my intention during this centenary year of 2014.

But for now, our intrigue was piqued by two other postcards in the pile. These were dated August 1929 and were posted in the UK, from Patching in West Sussex. One showed the Music Pavilion, Worthing, the other was of Patching Pond showing the pub, The Horse and Groom.

The Horse and Groom Inn, Patching Pond,
now renamed The Worlds End

So why was Alfred doing in Patching?

One of the messages read: I arrived all right, Bus into Patching (8.30) You can get a bus to anywhere from Patching. Love Dad. Added almost as an afterthought at the top of the postcard were the words Keeping fine.

But was he? And did his trip have anything to do with what happened three weeks later? Did he visit the south coast for health reasons?

Sadly, on 29th August 1929, Alfred Joseph Saunders died of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) aged only 45. No doubt leaving behind a very broken-hearted daughter.


  1. I would love to hear what you find! All I had when I began searching for my g-grandfather over 15 years ago was his name but Today I have a lot more than that. Such an interesting 9pre-)occupation ..

    1. Hello Helen, thanks for stopping by! I'll certainly post on the blog when I find out the next gem.
      Yes, it's quite addictive, isn't it? And mulit-layered as you peel something back and either discover something unexpected or find another question to answer. It's rather like those Russian dolls - you open one only to find another one inside!
      Good luck with your searches. I hope you'll look in again.