Edmund Sanctuary Turner, was the third son of Rev. William Turner of Blacktoft, Yorkshire, and his wife Harriet (neé Swales of Ripon), and the grandson of Dugdale Turner and Sarah Sanctuary, hence his unusual middle name. He was born on 19 November 1885 at Gainford, County Durham. An older brother, Harold Francis Dugdale Turner would also go on to serve and survive the war.
Edmund Turner attended St John’s School at Leatherhead from 1896 to December 1903. There he played in the 1st XI Cricket and Football teams in 1903 and was awarded full colours for Football. The school magazine, The Johnian, records that Turner was 14th monitor and a member of North House.
After leaving St John’s, Turner attended Hatfield Hall, Durham University, and was awarded a B.A. in Classical Literature in 1907. Throughout his university career Turner was a part of the Durham Colleges football, cricket and rugby teams. The earliest recorded matches Turner participated in were in Durham Colleges A.F.C. in October and November 1905. During this period his success as a footballer and cricketer was frequently recorded in the university’s Journal: in a match between Durham Colleges and the Bohemians on 24 February 1906 Turner was moved into the forward line, and Durham Collages won 9-2, Turner scoring two of the goals. Hatfield Hall Association Football Club reported, “the prospects of the H.H.A.F.C. are unusually bright this season. Of the four colour-men who are up, Turner, at half, is considerably improved, and ought to make an efficient captain. We are pleased to say that he is playing for the ’Varsity.”
A photograph survives from this time, of Turner (second from the left on the front row) in the Hatfield College football team. Seated on his right is Ronald Mutimer, who like Turner, went on to teach at Darlington School. He too was killed in action on 23 July 1917 while also serving in the Royal Garrison Artillery. By 1911 Edmund Turner was boarding at 34 Larchfield Street in Darlington. There he taught mathematics at Darlington Grammar School.
After War broke out in August 1914 Edmund Turner enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery as a gunner. He then served with the Expeditionary Force in France, entering the theatre of war with his unit on 19 May 1915. He was promoted to corporal and then to second lieutenant, gazetted on the 25 Sept 1915. After a period of officer training at home he returned to the front in August 1916 where he joined the 116th Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery, which was contributing to the intensive shelling during the Battle of the Somme. He was killed in action on 21 August while on his way up to his battery’s observation post. (His death is mis-dated on his Commonwealth War Graves record as 1 August 1916.)
Major J. Samuels wrote: “I was Commanding Officer of Lieut. Turner from the time he was commissioned in the 3/1 Welsh RGA until he was sent to the front. May I record that he was a pattern officer and beloved by his brother officers and men and his untimely death is deeply regretted by us all”. Information from the archives of St John’s School also states that his C.O. wrote how struck he was by Turner’s coolness under fire and by his keenness.
Edmund Turner was first buried in Vernon Street cemetery but later re-interred in Dantzig Alley British Cemetery at Mametz, and is commemorated on rolls of honour compiled by St John’s School, Leatherhead, Darlington Grammar School, Darlington Town Council, Du Ruvigny, and Durham University. He is also remembered on war memorials at St John’s School and St Peter’s Church, Redcar. There is a memorial plaque to him in Holy Trinity Church, Blacktoft. Short biographies are also published by the North East War Memorials Project and by Judith Walker.