James Lionel Montague Sandy

Australia Military Forces


BIRTH: 4 February 1885
Ashfield, NSW
DEATH: 17 December 1917 St Pol-sur-Ternoise, Pas-de-Calais, France
DEATH: 17 December 1917
St Pol-sur-Ternoise, Pas-de-Calais, France

OCCUPATION: Company Secretary

RESIDENCE: "Blenheim" Queen St Burwood, NSW


  • Burwood Endeavour RU 1907, 1908, 1909
  • Wests RL First Grade 1909


Player #40 is listed as V. Sands in the Wests First Grade Players Master List as well as the Rugby League Project. He was also listed as V. Sands in the team list that appeared in the Evening News newspaper in May 1909, however he appeared as J. Sands in team lists in the Evening News in July and August 1909.

A search of old newspapers prior to and after 1909 does not indicate that a player by the name of Sands played either rugby league or rugby union during this period. The only appearance of the name Sands occurs in Wests team lists in 1909. It is unusual for a player who makes First Grade level not to have had a playing history with a junior or other First Grade Club, which appears to be the case here.

A wider search has identified a player by the name of Sandy who played with the Burwood Endeavour Rugby Union Club in 1907, 1908 and 1909. This player was identified as James Lionel Montague Sandy. He was of the right age and lived in the right locality to have played for Wests in 1909. However there was an apparent conflict in that he also played with Burwood Endeavour Rugby Union Club in 1909.

A review of playing lists that appeared in newspapers in 1909 indicated that the names Sands and Sandy did not conflict on playing days (see below), other than on one occasion. It should be noted that team lists particularly from Burwood Endeavour did not appear on every playing weekend during 1909.

Team Lists 1909

1 MaySandyBurwood Endeavour
22 MayV. SandsWests
29 MaySandy / V. SandsBurwood / Wests
19 JuneSandyBurwood
26 JuneSandyBurwood
3 JulySandyBurwood
10 JulyJ. SandsWests
17 JulySandyBurwood
24 JulySandyBurwood
7 AugustJ.SandsWests


Note 1: The Rugby League Project only identifies V. Sands playing on 22 May and 29 May 1909.

Note 2: A Wests team list wasn’t found for the match on 29 May. It appears that Wests was one of the few Clubs that didn’t submit a team list to the newspapers which might suggest that the Club was having difficulty finding players.

Note3: V. Sands was recorded playing for Wests on 29 May but  after the match had been played. It is likely that he had been drafted from Burwood Endeavour, who had already selected him in their team, at short notice.

Note 4: J. Sands was recorded in Wests team lists on 10 July and 7 August but is not recorded as playing on these days in Wests Master List or the Rugby League Project. On 10 July Wests were short of players and had to “borrow” two South Sydney players and the match on 7 August was the last round of the competition and Wests had to “borrow” four Newtown players.


It appears from the above table that James Sandy and V. Sands/J. Sands were the same player but what was the reason for the use of a name variant? It is possible that James Sandy used a variant of his name when he played with Wests as he could not have returned to the Burwood Endeavour Rugby Union Team as he would have been considered a professional, and as such would have been banned from playing rugby union.

The Burwood Endeavour Rugby Union Team in 1909 was quite competitive and included players Tom Dowswell (Wests #79) and a young Frank Lane (Wests # 134) as well as Frank Lane’s older brothers, Henry and Alfred Lane.

James Lionel Montague Sandy was from a well known Burwood family that lived at “Blenheim”, Queen St Burwood. James Sandy’s father, James Montague Sandy, was the principal of James Sandy and Company who were merchants in white lead and oil and all house painting materials, including wall paper and glass. They specialised in polished, plate and sheet glass, including glass bevelling and silvering. James Sandy and Company acquired the Sydney Glass Company in 1892 and expanded operations to include factories in George St Sydney and at Redfern.

M. Sandy (senior) was elected chairman of the Merchants and Importers Committee of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, was a delegate to the General Council of the Chambers of Commerce of the Commonwealth of Australia and was honorary Treasurer of the Chamber. He was also an Alderman on the Sydney City Council, a life governor of the Imperial Institute of England and was a life governor of the Benevolent Society.

M. Sandy and Company was also active in the sporting arena, sponsoring a Company cricket team in the Moore Park Association and a Company rugby union team in the Wednesday half holiday competition. James Sandy’s youngest brother, George ‘Montague’ Sandy, known as Edward Sandy, played rugby union for The Kings School in 1915 and 1916.

James Sandy was educated at Newington College Stanmore arriving there in 1898. He played with Burwood Endeavour Rugby Union Club for three years and was recorded  playing  two First Grade games with Wests in 1909. His football career was relatively short as he appeared to have taken an interest in the family business and was recorded along with his brother Harold as Company Secretary in 1912. That year both brothers made a trip to New York as representatives of James Sandy and Company.

James Sandy enlisted with the AIF in August 1914 and was posted to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Ammunition Column. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, which was not unusual for enlistees that held responsible positions in civilian life. He sailed in the first convoy to Egypt on board the HMT Argyllshire.

James Sandy served in the 3rd Battery at Cape Hellas on the Gallipoli Peninsula but was wounded and evacuated to hospital at Alexandria, Egypt in June 1915. He was reported dangerously ill in July with a septic right ankle and sent to England. The infection in James Sandy’s ankle left him with stiffness and a permanent limp. This disability was reviewed in December 1915 by a Medical Board in London which determined that James Sandy was permanently unfit for general service, but fit for home service.

James Sandy returned to Australia and could have served the war out at home, however he found an area of service where he would not be impeded by his affected ankle and so volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps. He was sent to Point Cook, Australia for training in June 1916 and returned to England by the end of the year. He was posted as a pilot to the 69th Australian Air Squadron (later No. 3 Squadron AFC),  based in France.

On 17 December 1917, James Sandy and his observer, Sergeant Henry Hughes, took off from their base in Bailleul France in their RE8 biplane on an artillery observation mission over the German lines. Returning to their airfield, they were attacked by six German Albatross scout planes. Instead of trying to escape, Sandy and Hughes fought back and forced one of the German planes to land behind the Australian lines. This plane is now in the Australian War Memorial.

Sandy and Hughes continued the fight until they were joined by two more RE8’s after which the German planes withdrew. However, at some point in the battle, the Australians were hit. Captain E. J Jones, the pilot of one of the other Australian RE8 planes, flew close to Sandy’s plane and saw that it was cruising normally and concluded that they were continuing their work, spotting for the Howitzer Battery.

However, observers on the ground saw the plane fly in increasing circles and eventually disappear over the horizon. The plane was missing until it was found the following night, largely intact with Sandy and Hughes strapped in their seats, in a field 50 miles from where the initial batlle occured.

A subsequent report from the Squadron states; “From a post mortem on the bodies of the men, conducted at the N0.12 Stationary Hospital near St. Pol, and an examination of the scene of the crash, it would appear that both pilot and observer were killed in the aerial combat, and the machine flew itself in wide left hand circles until the petrol supply ran out.

An armour piercing bullet had passed through the observer’s left lung and thence into the base of the pilot’s skull. Medical opinion was that the pilot had been killed instantly and the observer had made no attempt to use the auxillary joy stick and that the throttle was open when the machine crashed. The theory that the plane flew itself in wide circles was supported by fact that the wind that day was north-east, which would cause a south-west drift.” Stories after the war referred to this incident as the “Ghost Flight of R.E.8.”

While still missing, James Sandy was recommended for an immediate award of the Military Cross in recognition of his gallant fight, and Henry Hughes for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. However this was ultimately not approved by higher command.

Both men were buried in the St Pol Community Cemetery, France. James Sandy is buried in grave H8 and is comrade Henry Hughes in grave H10.

James Sandy is remembered in Memorials at;

  • The Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT – Panel 187
  • Burwood War Memorial Arch, Burwood, NSW
  • The Newington College Chapel Walkway, Stanmore, NSW
  • Newington College World War 1 Honour Roll, Stanmore, NSW
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