King Edward’s School and the Great War

Memorial Roll of Honour 1914 - 1918


Saundby, William Spencer FitzRobert

Second Lieutenant ▪ Royal Flying Corps

William Spencer FitzRobert Saundby, born on 2nd April 1898, was admitted to King Edward’s School in September 1912, having previously attended West House School. The 1901 Census shows that William was living with his mother, Mary, his father, Robert, a consulting physician, and two siblings at 80, Hagley Road. By 1911 he was boarding with many other West House schoolboys at 63, Wheeleys Road, Edgbaston.

At School, William was a pupil of the Modern School, which offered a curriculum with an emphasis on scientific rather than classical subjects. Although he performed below average in most of his subjects, he was a strong scientist, placing 5th in his class of 22. The Chronicle shows that he was also keenly involved in the School’s Debating Society.

After leaving School in 1914, William went to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst as a Cadet, obtaining his commission in 1916 as Second Lieutenant with the Yorkshire Regiment, attached to the Royal Flying Corps. The exact circumstances of his death are uncertain. The King Edward’s Service Record states that he was killed in an accidental mid-air collision with another British pilot as they both dived on the same enemy aeroplane on 17th November 1916. However, it has been reported on the Great War Forum that German flying ace, Leutnant Walter Göttsch, claimed to have shot down a British plane of the same DH2 model flown by Saundby, south west of Ypres. Though the first explanation is considered more likely, the dispute reflects the complexities of documenting air warfare at its primitive stage.

William’s body was never recovered but he is commemorated on the Arras Flying Memorial. He left his estate of £532 to his father. William’s older brother, Air Marshal Sir Robert HM Saundby (OE), was awarded the Military Cross in 1917 for destroying a German Airship off Harwich, and went on to become a distinguished RAF officer whose career spanned both World Wars.