As there is no trace of aT E J Saunders, it is believed that this refers to Eli Joseph Jenkins Saunders, the elder brother of Frederick Charles Jenkins Saunders who also appears on the Roll of Honour. Eli Joseph Saunders was born in the summer of 1889. Although his father Edward was born in Topsham, Eli’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.
Eli was the fourth of eleven children in the family. Eli’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.
Eli, by then aged 27, married Elizabeth Gay in June 1916. He was enlisted into the Royal Flying Corps on August 1st 1917, Service number 222078, and then re-mustered on 2nd January 1918, twice in fact on the same day with numbers 159855 and 128491. Eli's skills as technical ground crew were obviously important, and his role was obviously adapting to what he could most usefully contribute . On 1st April 1918 the Royal Flying Corps was amalgamated with The Royal Naval Air Service to become the new Royal Air Force.
Eli died in 1951. His grave is in Winkleigh Churchyard, very near to our Memorial Cross.
12th October 2017