The Fallen of Ewhurst and Ellen's Green, Surrey  
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  Samuel Frederick Saunders 


Munitions Worker.
Killed in the Silvertown Munitions (TNT) Factory Explosion, London 19/01/1917

Buried in East Ham Cemetery, London.

 Remembered on :
Ewhurst War Memorial,  Memorial Plaque and Book of Remembrance
The Silvertown Memorial, London



SAMUEL FREDERICK SAUNDERS was born in Barnton, Cheshire in 1866, the son of Elizabeth Saunders and brother of Harry (b1865) and Lizzie (b 1869)(1).  Samuel lodged for a time at Kirkdale, Liverpool, where he was employed as a shipwright (2). In 1894 Samuel married Jessie Plumb (born 1871 Whitley, Cheshire(3))and by the time of the 1901 Census he was living with his wife, Jessie  in Ilford the North East of London. Samuel's given profession was Foreman Carpenter, and he was employed at the Brunner Monds Chemical Works, Silvertown (subsequently closed in 1912).

The Saunders subsequently moved to Ewhurst between 1900 and 1906, where Samuel became the landlord of the Windmill Inn on Pitch Hill and ran a successful building firm. He also held the extraction rights for sandstone in the quarries on the east side of the road opposite the Windmill Inn. Sandstone is still being extracted from these quarries today.  Samuel and Jessie had three children, Mabel Nellie (b1904), Harry Golden (b1900) and Doris Mary (b1897) (4).

Samuel and Jessie Saunders in Cheshire, circa 1894
(reproduced with the kind permission of John Ledger)

Following destruction of the Windmill Inn by fire on the night of 7th November 1906, Samuel moved his family into a new house which he had constructed on the south side of Ockley Road near the bridge over Cobblers Brook .

The Windmill Inn, Ewhurst, after the fire of 7th November 1906
(reproduced with the kind permission of Nigel Balchin)

With the First World War, Samuel was directed back to work at the Brunner Mond Chemical Works, which had been re-opened in September 1915, having been converted to the production of the explosive T.N.T.  At 18.52 on Friday 19th January, 1917 a fire in the factory lead to a huge explosion which was heard as distant as Southampton and the shock waves of which were felt all over London and Essex. The resultant fires could even be seen from Guildford.  73 people, including Samuel, lost their lives as a result of the explosion, and over 400 were injured. The scale of the explosion is illustrated by an estimate of damages made in 1917 which totalled £2.5 million, involving approximately 70,000 properties.

The Silvertown area following the explosion

A brief entry in the Surrey Advertiser (3/02/1917) from Samuel's wife and family  expresses  thanks  for the great sympathy they received following their great loss, an indication of Samuel's standing in the Ewhurst village community. Samuel was laid to rest in East Ham Cemetery, in London.

Aged 50, Samuel is the oldest casualty on the Ewhurst and Ellen's Green Memorial.

Samuel's son, Harry, was 15 years old when the First World War commenced. He served with the Royal Flying Corps, and is believed to have been initially based near Ripley, Surrey. He served in France as a pilot, and at one stage was brought down on the German side of the lines. Having spent a night in a deserted chateaux, Harry managed to regain the British lines. He survived the war and became an engineer. On the outbreak of the Second World War Harry became involved in the design and construction of large fuel tanks, and latterly the secret fuel line that was laid underneath the English Channel in 1944, codenamed PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean). (5)

(1) 1881 Census
(2) 1891 Census
(3) 1881 Census, Jessie Plumb, daughter of Edward & Mary Plumb, Marriage registered in Bridge, Kent August 1894 (Free BDM)
(4) Doris Saunders married Denis Ledger, of Burstowes Croft, Ewhurst. Denis served in the Royal Navy during the First World War. (presumed to be Doris Mary from BDM records.)
(5) Information regarding and all photos of Samuel reproduced with kind permission of John Ledger, Samuel's grandson.












Andrew Bailey, Ewhurst, Surrey