John Llewellyn Saunders was born in Dunedin in New Zealand’s South Island on 12 January 1891. His mother, Jeanie Hutchison, had emigrated from Scotland, while John’s father William had Welsh roots. John was educated at Otago Boys’ High School, leaving it in 1907 to commence his studies at the University of Otago Dental School. He graduated in 1913, then making his way north to Christchurch, helping to established the first dental department in the local public hospital.
As John’s biographer Brooking notes, the outbreak of the First World War saw John join the Otago Infantry Regiment.
Described as a ‘keen and zealous’ officer, he served with distinction at Gallipoli and on the western front. He rose to the rank of major, was twice wounded, and was made a DSO in 1917. After returning to New Zealand he married Gwendolen Beath Beaven in Christchurch on 22 October 1918; they were to have two daughters and a son. In 1919 he joined the well-known Christchurch dental practice of Horace Suckling.
Laster on in his life John made a number of other important contributions, also playing an important role during the Second World War. To learn more about these later parts of John’s life, please visit Te Ara.