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William Edward Sanders

Lieutenant Commander W.E. Sanders from The Auckland Weekly News, November 28, 1918. - No known copyright restrictions
Lieutenant Commander W.E. Sanders from The Auckland Weekly N … Read more


  • Title
  • Forenames
    William Edward AWMM
  • Surname
    Sanders AWMM
  • Ingoa
  • Also known as
  • Service number
    WWI 1261 AWMM
  • Gender
    Male AWMM
  • Iwi
  • Hapū
  • Waka
  • Rohe
  • Religion

Civilian life

About birth

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  • Birth
    7 February 1883 AWMM AWMM
    Auckland, New Zealand AWMM
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Birth notes
  • Address before enlistment
  • Post war occupation
  • Next of kin on embarkation
    Mr E.H.C. Sanders (father), St Paul's Street, Auckland, New Zealand AWMM
  • Relationship status
    Unknown AWMM Single AWMM


Wars and conflicts

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  • War
  • Campaign
  • Armed force / branch
    Navy AWMM
  • Service number
    WWI 1261 AWMM
  • Military service
    Royal Navy AWMM
    HMS Prize Q-ship AWMM
  • Promotions/ Postings/ Transfers

Military decorations

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  • Medals and Awards
    • Victoria Cross (VC) AWMM
      Victoria Cross: On 30th April 1917 about 180 miles south of Ireland, Lieutenant Sanders was in command of HMS Prize, a three-masted topsail schooner (one of the 'Q' or 'mystery' ships) when she was attacked by a German U-boat and badly damaged. After the 'Panic party' had taken to the boats and the ship appeared to be sinking, the U-boat approached to within 80 yards of her port quarter, whereupon the White Ensign was hoisted and the Prize opened fire. Within a few minutes the submarine was on fire and her bows rose in the air. Prize in spite of her damage, was later towed into harbour. AWMM
    • Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) AWMM
    • Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) AWMM
      London Gazette 14/09/1917 AWMM

Training and Enlistment

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  • Military training
  • Enlistment
  • Occupation before enlistment
  • Age on enlistment


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Prisoner of war

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  • Capture details
  • Days interned
  • Liberation date
  • Liberation Repatriation
  • POW liberation details
  • POW serial number

Medical history

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  • Medical notes
    Killed in Action, Cause of Death AWMM

Biographical information

Biographical information

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  • Son of Edward Helman Cooke Sanders and Emma Jane Sanders, of Russell, Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

    Attended Nelson Street.

    He went to sea on coastal ships around New Zealand. Held Extra Master's Certificate (Mercantile Marine). Kotiti, Hinemoa, Craig Line, Joseph Lane.

    When war broke out he went to England and joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a Sub-Lieutenant in April 1916. Served on "Q-ships" which looked like inoffensive sailing vessels but were heavily armed with hidden guns. Their task was to lure German submarines to the surface.

    12 February 1917 , Sanders commanded HMS "Prize", which in a successful action in April 1917 destroyed a German Submarine. After the battle he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and awarded the Victoria Cross. Two months later he was involved in another action for which he won a DSO (Distinguished Service Order).

    August 14, 1917 The "Prize" was torpedoed and sunk by a German Submarine (U-boat 48). All were lost.

    Remembered on the Takapuna War Memorial, The Strand, Takapuna.

    Victoria Cross held by the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland, New Zealand. Introduced towards the close of 1914 by the British and French - and later deployed by the Italian and Russians navies - Q-Ships were deployed as an initially although decreasingly successful anti-submarine weapon.Alternatively referred to as Special Service Ships or Mystery Ships, the purpose of Q-Ships was straightforward: to trap enemy (usually German) submarines. Invariably comprised small freighters or old trawlers they were loaded with hidden guns in a collapsible deck structure.In practice U-boats would hail Q-Ships flying (in the case of the Royal Navy) the merchant red ensign and, in the period before the implementation of Germany's policy of unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917, a so-called "panic party" would apparently abandon the Q-Ship prior to the usual German policy of approaching the enemy vessel so as to sink it with the minimum depletion of ammunition. At this stage the use of torpedoes to sink relatively small vessels was officially frowned upon. Thus with the U-boat effectively lured towards the apparently abandoned vessel the Q-Ship would run up the white ensign and the deck structure would be collapsed by the remaining ship's crew revealing a series of up to four manned guns, which would immediately open fire. Initially successful the Q-Ship ploy resulted in the sinking of some 11 enemy U-boats by the British and French.As the war progressed production of Q-Ships notably increased so that by the war's close the British alone deployed 366.However the Germans quickly developed a certain caution in approaching small enemy vessels, wary of decoys. Torpedoes were increasingly used to sink Q-Ships at longer range; and with the introduction of unrestricted submarine warfare the crews of Q-Ships were not given time to abandon ship before being fired upon.The British lost 61 Q-Ships in total.By 1917 the effectiveness of Q-Ship deployment was minimal and the overall endeavour could not be termed a success. (Source =

    Auckland War Memorial Museum Scars on the Heart WWI "Sea Dogs" display includes his Victoria Cross which has a blue ribbon, the DSO and the memorial plaque. Also displayed is a sword presented after the action against U.93 and a quote " I am very sorry to say this business gets on one's nerves. Can you imagine three weeks and over at sea, waiting and watching; we never have our clothes off until we return to base; we never know the pleasure of a real sleep; only snatches of it, it is I assure you, enough to kill an iron man, let alone a human being"

    RNR Awarded the VC for action in April 1917 - killed by U-boat when in action aged 34 - Plymouth Naval Memorial VC & DSO AWMM
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About death

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  • Death
    14 August 1917 AWMM
    Age 34 AWMM
  • Date of death
  • Age at death
  • Place of death
  • Cause of death
  • Death notes
  • Cemetery
  • Cemetery name
  • Grave reference
  • Obituary
  • Memorial name
  • Memorial reference



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  • Memorial name
    • Plymouth Naval Memorial, Devon, England AWMM
    • Auckland War Memorial Museum, World War 1 Hall of Memories AWMM
    • Dunedin, Victoria Cross winners' plaque, Queens Gardens, Dunedin, New Zealand AWMM
    • Sanders Memorial Cup, Sanders Cup (cup and sailing competition in commemoration) AWMM
    • Memorial street name: Sanders Avenue, Takapuna, Auckland AWMM
    • Family grave memorial, Purewa Cemetery, Meadowbank, Auckland AWMM
    • Family grave memorial, O'Neill's Point, 122 Bayswater Avenue, Bayswater, North Shore, Auckland AWMM
    • Takapuna War Memorial, The Strand, Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand AWMM
    • Takapuna War Memorial, (ex RSA Roll, on a boulder), The Strand, Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand AWMM

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