Alexander William Sanders (known as Will), his twin brother Joseph Henry (known as Harry) and his sister Sabina were born and brought up in Shipton Gorge. The family lived at Vine Cottage in Cuckoo Lane. They went to Shipton Gorge School and the picture below, taken circa 1900 outside the school, includes all three children, although it is not possible to identify them individually. They were brought up by an aunt (Mrs Matthews) as their father was in the navy and it is believed their mother died in childbirth. On the original photograph the words SHIPTON GORGE SCHOOL can just be made out on the chalkboard held by one of the pupils.
Both boys saw active service in the armed forces in the Great War (1914-18). Will was in the 1st Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment. Harry survived but Will died on 2 May 1915 at Hill 60 near Ypres, as a result of the second chlorine gas attack ever mounted by the Germans in which the Dorsets suffered over 300 casualties, of which some 150 died. His death was reported as follows by Bridport News:
PRIVATE A.W. SANDERS POISONED BY GAS
The sad news of the death of Private Alexander William Sanders No. 6614 of the Dorset Regiment by poisonous gas on May 2nd reached his father and relatives on Friday and great sympathy is felt for the family in their bereavement. By command of His Majesty the King, a letter of condolence has been sent by Lord Kitchener, and Mrs. Matthews, an aunt, has received a letter of sympathy from his lordship the Bishop of Salisbury. The deceased was only 21 years of age, of good physique, and of great promise. He was a keen bellringer at the parish church, and joined in the ringing on the last Sunday he was in England before joining the Expeditionary Force in France. We offer our sincere sympathy to the family of this gallant young soldier.