Derek Jones isn’t related to Lt. William Reginald Sanborn.
He doesn’t have any connections to London, Ont., which is where the WWI soldier was born and raised.
But the police officer from Hampshire, England took off the day from work Wednesday so he could drive two hours to the largest military cemetery in the UK to honour Sanborn’s life.
“I thought it was appropriate to remember this young Canadian airman that was thousands of miles from home when he lost his life at the tender age of 22,” Jones told London Morning as he stood at a Brookwood Cemetery memorial, which recognizes the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers.
Jones made the trip on the 100-year anniversary of Sanborn’s death.
The Canadian soldier died in a plane crash near the English village of Bashley on February 7, 1918.
This year also marks the 100-year anniversary of the end of the first World War.
“To remember one single life in a year when we’re commemorating hundreds of thousands of lives … Hopefully his memory will live forever,” said Jones.
Finding Sanborn’s story
So how did a U.K. police officer become determined to honour the life of a Canadian soldier?
It all started with a newspaper clipping.
Jones has spent more than 10 years researching WWI casualties.
But when he read an article from 1918 detailing the death of Sanborn, it piqued his interest. He had never come across the crash before in his research.
He contacted the City Clerk’s Office in London, Ont, who provided more information about Sanborn’s life.
Jones learned the WWI soldier enlisted in the Canadian infantry in 1915 at the age of 20.
After spending time in the trenches in France, Sanborn transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as an officer cadet. He was promoted to lieutenant and then was appointed as flying officer less than a month before his death.
Jones tried to find Sanborn’s family, but hasn’t had any luck yet.
“[My] message to family would be that he’s not forgotten, that his sacrifice is appreciated both at home in Canada and in the U.K.,” said Jones.
Jones submits Sanborn’s name
To make sure Canada recognizes that sacrifice, he submitted Sanborn’s name to London’s commemorative street name program.
Jones says he has heard back from the city with the news a street will indeed be named after Sanborn in the coming months.
It’s a point of pride on the anniversary of Sanborn’s death, which Jones spent in quiet reflection at Brookwood Cemetary.
Sanborn was actually buried in Canada, but his name is engraved in the large memorial at the U.K. grave site.
“All I can see is white headstones, each engraved with a name of a young man that went off to war and never came back,” said Jones while standing in front of the memorial.
“To honour this young man who gave his life for peace, the security we live in today, it’s a small price to pay,” said Jones.