'A life very well lived' - Royal British Legion legend dies aged 100

Derek Saunders MBE who has died aged 100

Derek Saunders MBE who knew his onions and much more besides, having an interest in many spheres including politics, football, and breeding birds. - Credit: Supplied by family

An ex-serviceman, who was made an MBE for his 58 years of voluntary work for the Royal British Legion, has died aged 100.

Derek Duncan Saunders MBE was treasurer for the charity’s Norwich branch for over half his life and laid the wreath at the local cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday for many years.

Derek Saunders MBE has died aged 100

Derek Saunders is remembered by his family as a man who moved with the times. He served with the RAF during the Second World War and was treasurer for the Royal British Legion's Norwich Branch for 58 years. He laid the wreath at the local cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday for many years. - Credit: Supplied by family


Born in Banham, Norfolk, Derek joined the RAF aged 19, and served for four years in India, Burma, and Sri Lanka during the Second World War.

Derek Saunders MBE who has died aged 100

Derek Saunders joined the RAF aged 19 and served for four years during the Second World War in India, Burma, and Sri Lanka. - Credit: Supplied by family



Later, he settled with his wife Kathleen and children Bridget and Andrew in Norwich. He was a loyal supporter of Norwich City FC, as well as an avid breeder of canaries, for which he won dozens of awards.

Derek worked for construction firm Tilbury Group – now Interserve – for 36 years.

He retired in 1985, but kept many of his ex-colleagues as close friends for life.

After retiring, he moved to Diss with his wife, who sadly died 11 years ago.

A prolific and lifelong gardener, Derek kept a flourishing vegetable garden in Heywood Road well into his 90s.

Derek Saunders MBE who has died

Derek Saunders was a keen gardener who never let the grass grow under his feet. His family described him as 'a man for all seasons.' - Credit: Supplied by family

When he was 97, he appeared on BBC Gardeners’ World as one of the oldest gardeners in the country.

After moving to Cromwell House care home in Norwich three years ago, he readily adapted to a new community. He soon became the home’s resident quizmaster, organising notoriously tricky quizzes for his peers spanning sport, nature, current affairs, and politics.

Derek Saunders MBE who has died aged 100

Derek Saunders, a prolific and lifelong gardener, kept a flourishing vegetable garden in Heywood Road well into his 90s. - Credit: Supplied by family


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Throughout his life, he maintained a keen interest in news, and enjoyed discussing the Sunday morning political shows with friends and family.

He was thrilled when, for his 100th birthday, BBC presenter and political journalist Andrew Marr sent him a video message congratulating him on reaching the milestone.

Derek Saunders MBE has died aged 100

Derek Saunders, far right, with his parents and siblings. He has died aged 100 after living a life full to the brim with interests and passions. - Credit: Supplied by family

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Derek’s family said of him: “He was a man for all seasons. It's to his enduring credit that he was open to change. He didn't cling to old beliefs and sought to embrace new and current ways of understanding life, people and changes in culture.

“He was very proud of his family and saw his grandchildren as his arrows into the future.”

In 2016 he became a great-grandad to Freya, and became known as ‘super-grandad’. Days before he passed away, he was delighted to know he had become a great-grandad for a second time, to baby Maria in New Zealand.

Derek died on February 19, leaving daughter Bridget, son Andrew, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Derek Saunders MBE has died aged 100

Derek Saunders MBE has died aged 100. He served in Burma, India, and Sri Lanka during the Second World War. - Credit: Supplied by family



Despite Covid-19 restrictions, his family said they arranged a very special funeral service reflecting upon his life, with music played by relatives, seasonal flowers, and paper poppies in tribute to his work for the British Legion.

His family said: “He will be very much missed, but his legacy of gardening, community spirit, and loyalty to family and friends lives on.

“His was a life very well lived.”

Donations given in memory of Derek for Halsey House Amenities Fund may be sent to c/o Rosedale Funeral Home, 63 Victoria Road, Diss, Norfolk, IP22 4JE. Cheques made payable to ‘RBL - Halsey House’.
 

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