Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Petty Officer First Class William Harris Saunders, the Royal Navy, was killed in action aboard H.M.S. Mantis during the Mesopotamia Campaign.
H.M.S. Mantis was a British insect-class river gunboat, a small and well-armed ship which was designed for in-shore and shallow waters. They were also known as large China gunboats to disguise the intention to use them on the Danube against Austria-Hungary. H.M.S. Mantis was one of the first four to be built, and all actually used in the Mesopotamia Campaign during the Great War.
On the day of Petty Officer First Class Saunders’ death, H.M.S. Mantis was situated near Kut el Amara on the Tigris River. They were fired upon in the morning by the enemy who were using machine guns on the riverbank. In the late afternoon the log book records “close action with large Turkish retreating force” during which time Petty Officer First Class Saunders was killed by gunfire from the shore. The pilot, whose name is unclear due to damage to the records, is noted as Native, and he also was grievously wounded and subsequently died. Several officers and crew were wounded but survived. At eleven o’clock in the evening, a burial party left the ship, but it is not noted where the bodies of the two men were buried.
William, from Faversham in Kent, was 24 years old. He is remembered on the Basra Memorial.