Today we remembered Haconby Memorial man, Harry Sandall of Stainfield, who was killed on 4th May 1917, one of two local men who died serving in the 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Harry Sandall was born early in 1898 in Irnham to George Sandall, born Kirkby Underwood in 1857, a farm labourer and his wife Emma Susannah Marshall, born in Kirkby Underwood in 1855.
George and Susannah were married in 1878 in Kirkby Underwood had the following children:-
• Lily May Sandall,
• Fred Sandall, 1880, Gosberton
• Herbert Sandall, 1882, Kirkby Underwood
• Lucy Sandall, 1884, Irnham
• George Robert Sandall, 1885, Irnham
• Ernest Edward Sandall, 1887, Irnham
• William Sandall, 1889, Irnham
• Emma Susannah Sandall, 1891, Irnham
• John Willie Sandall, 1892, Irnham
• Arthur Sandall, 1896, Irnham
• Harry Sandall, 1898, Irnham
• Plus 1 other child name is unknown, taken from 1911 census.
The family lived in Gosberton and Kikby Underwood before moving to Irnham. In 1909 Susannah had died and by 1911 Harry along with three brothers and a sister were living with their father in Stainfield.
No full service records for Harry have survived, It is expected that these would have been destroyed in the London warehouse fire caused by the WW2 Blitz as is the case with 60% of all Service Records.
Harry enlisted in the Army in Spalding and was first posted to the 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment (5057). Using a calculation based on his war gratuity payment we believe that he enlisted in December 1915.
Harry would have completed his training and then posted to his Battalion before embarking for France.
Although Harry started out his military service with the 4th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment (5057), by December 1916 he had already been posted to the 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment (27173).
Most usually a transfer of Regiment would occur after a man had been wounded and then classed as fit for service again, thus being posted to a Battalion where they would be most needed. As we are not sure when or why Harry was transferred to the 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, we can not really be sure of his movements during the war but can look at one record we have found and also the last month of his life through the Battalion diaries of his final posting to the 2nd Royal Warwicks.
On the 28th December 1916 the 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment were in Billets at Bertrancourt and on that date Harry was admitted to No 3 Casualty Clearing Station at Puchevillers. He reported as sick with inflammation of the Larynx and was transferred to a sick convoy with the No 14 Ambulance Team on 31st December 1916. This train left Puchevillers and travelled via Varennes where it loaded another batch of casualties before it arrived in Etaples at 16:00. Etaples was one of the major hospital bases for the British Army.
Harry re-joined his Battalion on a date unknown.
Our web site has more details about the April 1917 movements of the Battalion in training leading up to the attack on the 4th May that lead to Harry’s death.
Harry was serving with C company during his last days.
1st May 1917 – Billets and Ruins Courcelles
Parades:- Brigade Field Day at Ayette. Working parties:- 1 company under R.M.R.E at Crater, East end of Ablainzeville.
2nd May 1917 – Billets and Ruins Courcelles
Fine Day. Thorough inspections of all fighting equipment were held during the day. Operational Orders were issued at 6.30pm
3rd May 1917 – Mory Copse
Fine Day. The Battalion moved to Mory Copse on night of 2nd / 3rd inst, parading at A.16.d.30 at 1.10am., to take part in operations of 5th and 7th Corps and 1st Anzac Corps, who are to attack the Hindenburg Line at 3.30am on the 3rd May. The 22nd Infantry Brigade is at the disposal of G.O.C. 62nd Division as a reserve.
In accordance with B.M.390 the battalion moved to Railway Embankment in U.2.5.b and U.26.2 at about 6am, as the attack of 62nd Division was not successful. Battalion operation orders were issued at 6.45pm for an attack on Bullicourt.
1. A Company will be on the right and C company of the left. Objective of A Company V.21.d.9.6 to V.21.d.5.6. C Company will also form defensive flank from left to join up with right of defensive flank formed by the 1st R W Fus, D company will give 2 Platoons to A company and 2 Platoons to C Company for carrying and mopping up.
A company will establish a block in trench which runs North from V.22.c.9.6. C Company will also establish a block on the other side of Sunken Road about U.21.d.4.7. and also a strong point at this junction with Sunken Road at U.21.d.5.6. Patrols will be pushed forward to the front. B Company will deploy posts in rear of final objective. 1 of B Company’s Platoons will carry R.E. material. B Company will assist A and C companies in their attack if required.
2. Battalion Headquarters will be at C.2.d.9.9.
3. The battalion dressing station will be behind the embankment at C.2.b.1.9.
4th May 1917
The Battalion left the Railway Cutting in U.26.c at 12.30am on morning of 4th inst and was formed up in rear of Railway Line in U.27.c. at 1.50am. They moved from here to attack at 3.45am. Companies moved from Railway Cutting in U.26.c. to open ground North East of Ecoust in C.2.b under cover of embankment, from here they moved forward by Platoons to the line from where the advance was to take place.
A conference was held on operation orders No 125, issued by 22nd Infantry Brigade at 5.45pm, 3rd inst, and the salient points, objectives of Companies and boundaries were discussed and written down by O.C. Corps.
Communication was maintained by 3 methods viz:-
1. by Runners – with an advanced post at C.3.a.7.8 ,
2. By Signalling – a visual station was established at the Tank in front of Bullecourt about v.27.b.2.3. and also a receiving station at C.2.d.8.9. Owing to heavy fire and bad visibility the men who survived withdrew and reported at Battalion Headquarters at 8.30am. The signalling lamp was also broken by shell fire.
3. Pigeons – One pair was released and one pair died of shell shock.
At 6am the Corporal in charge of Battalion Runners was sent forward to try and discover the positions and strength of Companies, also if possible to obtain written messages from officers.
At 10am the Sergeant in charge of scouts and 2 men were sent to try and locate posts, find numbers of men, Lewis Guns, etc., in each position held by the companies. At 12.30pm Lieut W.C. Fowler M.C. (Battalion Intelligence Officer) was sent forward and corroborated the statements brought back by runners and scouts. Any exact position and strength of posts held in front of V.27.c., 40 men under N.C.Os. Both these parties were digging in. There were also scattered posts of men unable to move owing to fire and scattered about in shell holes between v.27 central and village, it was not possible to ascertain their exact numbers.
Also 60 men had been collected and reformed at place ordered behind Railway Embankment in C.2.a.9.9. After 2pm dispositions were as follows:-
V.27.Central, a post of 3 Lewis Guns and 10 men
Dug in front of Railway Embankment, 2 officers and 100 other ranks. These were connected with 1st R.W. Fus on their left by a Lewis Gun post under Sgt at V.27.c.6.6.
120 other ranks were collected at C.2.a.9.9.
Finding from these reports that both flanks of party in V.27.c were in the air, Lewis Guns and Snipers were pushed forward to guard flanks and gain touch with 1st R.W. Fus.
At dusk the numbers of men on the embankment in V.27.c had been increased to 160 other ranks. Afterwards a party of 1 Lewis Gun and 15 other ranks came in who had been attached to 1st R.W.Fus.
The strength of the Battalion going into action was 20 officers, 609 other ranks. After the action the strength was 8 officers, 362 other ranks.
Only 3 junior officers were left out of those who carried out the attack.
The steps taken to re-organise and ascertain the strength of the Battalion were as already stated and with sentries posted to stop any stragglers and direct them, 1 at Battalion Head Quarters and another at C.2.b.6.8.
The positions of Battalion Headquarters and company headquarters during the attack were:-
Battalion Headquarters were at C.2.d.9.9
Company Headquarters moved forward with the attack, later in the day one was established on Railway Line about V.27.c.0.5.
Explanations as to cause of attack passing a failure:-
1. Concentration probably observed by enemy as he put down heavy barrage at 3.30am which had to be passed through.
2. Sudden alteration of plans which only allowed hurried consultation with O.C. Companies at 3.40am on place of deployment.
3. Position held heavily by machine guns and second belt of wire uncut on front attacked by battalion.
4. It appeared that the village was honeycombed with dug-outs and underground passages which allowed the enemy to get behind our men, 1 Sgt described it as being in a maze.
5. The fact that the enemy outranged us with his egg bombs.
6. The difficulty in obtaining information was very great owing to open nature of the ground and to the larger number of machine guns and snipers. 50% of Runners becoming casualties.
7. The extremely heavy enemy shelling on whole front in addition to 3 heavy barrages which he put down along the line of attack from V.27.a.8.2 to V.27.d.2.4.
8. The smoke and dust caused by shelling made it difficult to see any distance.
At 5.30pm it was agreed that the Battalion in conjunction with the 1st R.W. Fus should push forward strong patrols into Bullecourt. About 200 men were collected and Captain V Sharkey M.C. was placed in command. These pushed forward to the Sunken Road at the west end of the village and at 11pm commenced to attack. The enemy held his fire until they reached the 2nd belt of wire, which was uncut, and then opened strong rifle fire and machine gun fire which caused heavy casualties.
Communication was impossible as the signalling lamp was broken by shell fire and both pigeons has died of shell shock. The attack was a failure.
Casualties for the day were as follows:-
Killed – Lieut J. S. Harrowing. M.C., 2nd Lieut A.G. Fawdry.
Wounded – 2nd Lieut H. Toft, 2nd Lieut W.E. Frost, 2nd Lieut R.G. Hudson, 2nd Lieut N. Miller, 2nd Lieut W.E. Ward, 2nd Lieut J.E.W. Rance M.C.
Missing – Lieut N.A.M. Ring, 2nd Lieut E. Heatherington, 2nd Lieut F.G. Burrell, 2nd Lieut H.H.H. Lister.
Killed – 13
Wounded – 141
Missing – 82
Wounded at Duty – 5
Total of above 241
5th May 1917 – Railway Embankment
Fine Day. The 22nd Infantry Brigade were relieved by the 20th Infantry Brigade in the evening. The Battalion left the Railway Embankment at about 9pm and marched to a camping ground at Mory-Abbaye where they remained the night in bivouacs.
6th may 1917 – Billets and Ruins Courcelles
Fine day. Companies marched at Courcelles independently leaving camping ground at 10am, and took over the same billets as vacated on the night 2/3rd inst. Remainder of day spent cleaning billets and equipment and making up deficiencies in fighting equipment.
Harry Sandall was posted as missing and later presumed killed in action on the 4th May 1917 as a result of the failed attack of that day.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
In Memory of Private Harry Sandall, 27173, 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment who died on 4 May 1917 Age 19. Son of George Sandall, of Stainfield, Bourne, Lincs. Remembered with Honour Arras Memorial.
harry is also remembered on the memorial in St Andrews Church Haconby.
He was one of nine cousins from the local villages to sign up. Harry’s cousins John Thomas, Edmund, William and Robert Wilson Wyer also fought and were killed in WW1. Edmund, William and Robert can be found on our page dedicated to the Haconby War Memorial and John on the Kirkby Underwood War Memorial.
We will remember them