The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Lieutenant James Lionel Montague Sandy, No. 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, AIF, first World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.351
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 17 December 2017
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use
Source credit to This video recording of this ceremony will not be released to the Public.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on Lieutenant James Lionel Montague Sandy, No. 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, AIF, first World War.

This video recording of this ceremony will not be released to the Public.

Speech transcript

Lieutenant James Lionel Montague Sandy, No. 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, AIF KIA 17 December 1917
Story delivered 17 December 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lieutenant James Lionel Montague Sandy.

James Sandy was born in 1886 to James and Evaline Sandy of Sydney. The Sandy family ran the successful paint and glass business, James Sandy and Co., which had been founded by his grandfather, also named James.

After the young James Sandy finished his education at Newington College, he was appointed secretary of the family business, which continued to grow and upgrade its showroom on George Street.

Sandy enlisted immediately after the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914. By this time, he had been in the Citizen Military Forces for three years, and so was appointed as a second lieutenant in the Australian Field Artillery. Second Lieutenant Sandy sailed in the first convoy to Egypt on board the troopship Argyllshire, and served at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula as an original member of the 1st Field Artillery Brigade.

In June 1915, Sandy was sent to hospital in Alexandria for a haemorrhoid operation, an affliction from which he had suffered for a number of years. After the operation, he contracted blood poisoning, which caused a severe fever and multiple abscesses. One of these became infected and caused damage to his ankle, preventing him from running or walking for long distances.

Sandy was recommended for discharge, but began talking to the Royal Flying Corps, who confirmed that his ankle would not impede his ability to fly a plane. His application to join the Flying Corps was accepted, and he arrived back in Australia in June 1916 to begin pilot training at Point Cook.

After initial flying training, Sandy travelled to England, where he continued training until the No. 69 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps was sent to France – with Lieutenant Sandy as the Deputy Flight Commander of A Flight. Later renamed No. 3 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps, No. 69 Squadron flew British two-seat biplanes known as RE8s.

On 17 December 1917, Sandy was joined in his aircraft by Melbourne-born Sergeant Henry Hughes, who was making his first operational flight with No. 69 Squadron. Hughes was four years younger than Sandy; he had worked as a civil servant and spent a couple of years in the senior cadets before enlisting in August 1916. After training in Australia and England, Hughes had been promoted to sergeant in August 1917 – barely a year after enlisting – in order to complete the establishment No. 69 Squadron.

The pair was flying over the battlefield, ranging an 8-inch howitzer for the 151 British Siege Battery , when their aircraft was attacked by six German Albatros scouts. These were faster and more nimble than the RE8, and each carried a pair of forward-firing machine-guns. Against the odds, Sandy and Hughes managed to defend themselves.

With Hughes manning a Lewis machine-gun, while Sandy controlled the forward-firing Vickers machine-gun, they brought one of the German aircraft down, forcing it to land in the lines of the 21st Australian Infantry Battalion, where the pilot was captured.

Seeing that Sandy and Hughes were outnumbered and in trouble, another two RE8s from the squadron came to their aid before the remaining German aircraft retired. Captain Jones flew close to the aircraft flown by Sandy and Hughes, and, seeing that it was cruising normally, assumed that they were going to continue their work spotting.

But radio contact with the aircraft ceased, and it could not be found in its allotted area. The squadron tried to trace the aircraft and its crew without success, until they learnt that it had come down 75 kilometres away.

A postmortem later revealed that in the last seconds of battle, a single armour-piercing bullet had passed through Sergeant Hughes’s lung before going into the base of Sandy’s skull, killing them both instantly. The aircraft was at full throttle and continued to fly until it ran out of fuel and came down without further injuring either man.

James Sandy and Henry Hughes were buried in the Saint Pol Communal Cemetery Extension. While they were missing, Sandy had been recommended for the Military Cross, and Hughes for the Distinguished Conduct Medal – but the recommendations could not be posthumously approved. The German Albatros that they had forced down behind the Australian lines was salvaged, and today it can be seen in Aircraft Hall here at the Australian War Memorial.

James Sandy was 32 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among almost 62,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lieutenant James Sandy, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Duncan Beard Editor, Military History Section