Bill was the younger son of William Henry Sanford and his wife Mary Cowen who married in Shanghai in 1913. She was an American whose father was, probably, a missionary, and he was English having been born in London in 1889.  It is thought that W.H. Sanford worked for Imperial Chemical Industries. Bill’s birth appears under a Vladivostok registration. He had an older brother and sister.

The three children and their mother sailed for Shanghai on 24 November 1923. The manifest shows their address as 40 Warren Road, London E7. They must have come home on leave in 1928 as they sailed for Shanghai, again, on the Patroclus in December 1928.

Bill returned to England with his brother and was a boarder at Bedford School. He played for the 1st XV in the seasons of 1936-37 and 1937-38. He Matriculated in 1938. He spent only one year at Christ Church. His sister recalled that he wrote poetry and “used to sit in the back garden translating from ancient Greek into English”.

He was at the 164th Officer Cadet Training Unit and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant to the 2nd Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment on 14 January 1940.

During the retreat from Dunkirk, all the men under him were killed. He returned but took his own life on 10 July 1940. He was only twenty.

He is buried in Exeter Higher Cemetery Sec. Z.K. Grave 2.