Please attend funeral of 101-year-old WWII veteran, begs friend

Charles Saunders with his telegram from the Queen on his 100th birthday(Photo: Royal British Legion)

The friend of a 101-year-old World War II veteran who died without any surviving family has appealed to members of the public to come to his funeral.

Former Welsh Guardsman Charles Saunders signed up to the War effort in December 1939 at the age of 21 and served until January 1946.

He spent four of those years as a prisoner of war at Stalag VIIIB/344 Lamsdorf, now called Lambinowice, in Poland, after being captured during the Battle for France in 1940. 

He outlived all of his immediate family, leaving behind only friends when he died at the Royal British Legion's Maurice House care home on July 7. 

Philip Baker, who became friends with the veteran while visiting the care home, is asking people to attend his funeral when it takes place in Broadstairs, Kent, on July 23.

For those unable to come, he suggested a donation in his memory to the Royal British Legion. 

Baker wrote on Facebook: "If you can, please help them to make sure that Charles receives the honour he deserves as an heroic soldier who fought and suffered for the freedom of us all.

"Maybe you can attend the funeral service, if you live near enough. Otherwise, perhaps you can send a floral tribute or card."

Saunders was captured while trying to return to England from Boulogne, in France.  Under heavy bombardment, the boat that was supposed to take him and the other soldiers back to England cast off before they could board, leaving over 1,000 men stranded at the harbour.

Speaking at his 100th birthday celebrations on 23 December 2017, he recalled: "We had to drive off the Germans and hold our position for nearly 48 hours. It was hard fighting and many of us didn't make it out from there." 

He and three others found refuge in an abandoned house where they lived for 10 days off sugar and wine before being taken by French locals to be sheltered in the house of an old lady. However, they were eventually betrayed to the German authorities and sent off to POW camps in Poland. 

He kept up the prisoners' spirits by playing the fiddle and forming a band with some of the other inmates.

He added: "I very often think of the lads we left behind, including many of the prisoners of war."

The funeral will be held next Tuesday at 10am at St Andrews Church, Reading Street, Broadstairs, Kent, CT10 3AZ.