Frederick Charles Jenkins Saunders was born on 24th August 1894. Although his father Edward was born in Topsham, Frederick's step grand fathers came from Winkleigh families. Edward moved with his mother and step father Thomas to North Tawton where Thomas was a Stone Breaker but died between 1871 and 1881. As Edward was now the eldest in the family, the responsibility of looking after his mother and the family fell to him. It appears that Edward was quite an entrepreneur because the census shows that he went from being a wool carder to a clock maker by the time he was 25. Outside the big cities it was usual for the working parts of damaged long case clocks to be reassembled to form new clocks, and new cases were available from Germany quite cheaply. Shortly afterwards, Edward had moved back to Winkleigh and set himself up as a photographer and cycle builder opposite the Seven Stars Inn. There was a growing demand for these professions as family picture postcards were used to pass on brief news of family and personal events in addition to letters, and cycle transport also gained popularity.
Frederick was the sixth of eleven children in the family. Frederick’s mother Eliza Jane, although born in Bondleigh, came from parents both born in Winkleigh. Eventually, Eliza’s father returned to live in Winkleigh with Eliza until he married again. They lived in Rope Road which was the straight piece between Lower Town and Farmer Frank’s Lane. Eliza married Edward Saunders some time later.
Frederick did not join the Royal Navy until he was nearly age 23. It appears that he was conscripted, and on 27th June 1917 he went directly to HMS President II as Office Standard III. HMS President was an accounting base which moved fairly frequently. When Frederick joined, the shore establishment was at Crystal Palace, but a month later the establishment was moved to Mullion in Cornwall. It was not long before Frederick was transferred to HMS Daedalus Royal the Naval Air Station at Lee-on-Solent on 21st October 1917. Naval aviation had begun on 30th July when The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) had opened the Naval Seaplane Training School as an extension to the seaplane training station at nearby Calshot. Initially, aircraft had to be transported from their temporary hangars to the top of the nearby cliff, then lowered by crane.
On 1st April 1918, the RNAS combined with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) to form the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Lee-on-Solent Naval Seaplane Training School became an RAF station. Consequently Frederick was transferred to the Royal Air Force. Naval aviation training continued at Lee-on-Solent throughout the 1920s under the RAF with both Calshot and Lee-on-Solent providing training in operating seaplanes - initially using the wartime Short Type 184s and, from late 1921, the new Fairey IIID. On 1 April 1924, the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Air Force was formed, encompassing those RAF units that normally embarked on aircraft carriers and fighting ships (including those at shore bases such as Lee-on-Solent).
It is not known at the time of writing when Frederick left the RAF, although he should have been eligible for demobilisation sometime in 1919 (RAF records will be obtained soon). Nor is it known what became of Frederick in later years. It is possible that his office experience together with his additional education after leaving school could have benefited him in civilian life more so than that of his previous occupation as a boot repairer.
8 May 2012