11 August 1917; Saturday

Arrived at Lumbres1 about 2.30. Raining and dark. Lay in the trees and slept for about an hour. Woke with the cold and tried to get some coffee but failed. Marched off about 6 o’clock and arrived at our destination about noon. Had breakfast on the way. Rained heavily several times on the way and we were fed up and pretty dejected when we arrived. Slept during the afternoon and immediately after it the S W B’s2 took over our billet and we had to go further up the village. I moved again into a guard room sort of place and we got some straw and it served for beds.

Name of the village is Nielle-le-Blequin3.

  1. Lumbres (A) is about 50km W of Bailleul and 11km WSW. of St Omer, off the N42 to Boulogne. 

  2. South Wales Borderers. 

  3. Nielles-les-Bléquin (B) is a further 7km in the same direction: 18km WSW. of St Omer, 30km from Boulogne – and just over 60km W. of Ypres; Michelin square E3. 

10 August 1917; Friday

Up at 7 o’clock and on parade at 8 o’clock. Did nothing in the afternoon. Holman and Harvey going on leave and are to stay behind in the camp. Moved off about 6 o’clock and marched through Bailleul. Band played well in Bailleul. Entrained at the station and waited until 11 o’clock before we moved off. 44 of us in one cattle truck and no room to lie down or move about. Spent a most uncomfortable night.

9 August 1917; Thursday

Up at 6 o’clock and saw Captain Crawford off. Received quite a lot of money in tips. Gibbons fighting† drunk. Squad next up and marched back to Berthen1 at about 4.30, arrived about 6 o’clock. Slept in the receiving tent with Harry Bascombe and Ben Jenkins.

  1. Berthen (B) about 7km NNW of Bailleul (A). 

6 August 1917; Monday

Up at about 7 o’clock. Kept busy all day. Off in the afternoon and went to the Church Army reading room and read two short stories from a magazine. On duty at night and did some French. Lay awake and talked to Freddie about churches and festivals of the church year.

Rumours of the Division going out and of the ambulance moving.

Although the diary is silent on the matter, 6th August 1917 was the day on which ALL’s Sheffield barracks friend, Ralph Kenyon Sandwith, was killed in action near Kemmel in Belgium.

The images here are of a postcard sized portrait of RKS which exists in ALL’s collection. The front is signed “Ralph K. Sandwith” and the back has an address in Louth, RKS’ home address presumably written by RKS himself, and a note in ALL’s hand about the date of the photograph (1915) and the circumstances of Sandwith’s death (at Kemmel in 1917). Private Sandwith was about 21 years old at the time of his death, and 19 years old at the time of the photograph.

See also all diary entries tagged “Sandwith” and Ralph Kenyon Sandwith at Lives of the First World War.

Autographed portrait of Ralph K. Sandwith from ALL’s archive.
Postcard bearing autographed portrait of Ralph K. Sandwith from ALL’s archive.
Reverse of postcard
Reverse side of postcard with the handwritten text “88 Upgate, Louth, Lincs” (right) presumably written by Sandwith himself – his home address – and “1915 – Killed at Kemmel 1917” (left), apparently written by ALL.