[Death of Sandy and Hughes]

Place Europe: France
Accession Number ART93192
Collection type Art
Measurement Sheet: 40.3 x 60.6 cm
Object type Work on paper
Physical description watercolour heightened with white on paper
Maker Simpson, Joseph
Place made France
Date made 1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain


On 17 December 1917, Lt Sandy and his observer, 559 Sergeant (Sgt) Henry Francis Hughes, of South Yarra, were flying over the battlefield ranging an 8 inch howitzer for the 151 British Siege Battery when their RE8 aircraft was attacked by six DVa Albatros Scouts between Deulemont and Armentieres. In the ensuing air battle the pilot of one German aircraft, Lieutenant Rudolph Clauss, was wounded and forced to land in the lines of the 21st Australian Infantry Battalion where he was captured by the Australians, while in the battle above, Lt Sandy was joined by another 3 Squadron RE8 flown by Captain (Capt) E J Jones and Lt K C Hodgson. The two RE8s fought the Germans for about ten minutes until a third RE8 flown by Lt's H N Wrigley and J R Blair appeared and the five remaining German aircraft retired.

Capt Jones flew close to Lt Sandy's aircraft, still cruising normally on its "beat", and concluded they were continuing their work spotting for the howitzer battery. Radio contact with Lt Sandy's aircraft ceased and the aircraft disappeared from its allotted area. The squadron tried to trace the aircraft and its crew without success until they were notified by No 12 Stationary Hospital at St Pol, a straight line distance of 75 kilometres south west from the scene of the aerial combat with the German aircraft, that an RE8 had crashed 8 kilometres north east of St Pol, near the Bruay to St Pol road. Lt Sandy and Sgt Hughes had been killed by a single armour piercing bullet that had first passed through Sgt Hughes and then Lt Sandy, killing them both.

The aircraft was at full throttle and continued to fly until it ran out of fuel and crashed. Both men are buried in the St Pol Communal Cemetery Extension, Lt Sandy in grave H8 and Sgt Hughes in H10. While still missing, Lt Sandy had been recommended for an immediate award of the Military Cross and Sgt Hughes the Distinguished Conduct Medal; the recommendations were not approved.

The Albatros that was forced down behind the Australian lines, serial number D.5390/17, was salvaged and later claimed by Australia and is now in the collection of the Australian War Memorial.

Joseph Simpson studied at the Glasgow School of Art and exhibited throughout his career with the Royal Scottish Academy and with the Royal Society of Watercolour Painters. In 1918 he was commissioned as the official war artist for the R.A.F. and was stationed in France. After the war, Simpson's art was exhibited abroad in Munich, Venice, Florence and Stockholm.