b. 24/06/1894 Tulse Hill, London. d. 24/05/1961 Romsey, Hampshire.
Alfred James Terence Fleming-Sandes (1894-1961) was born at Northstead Road, Tulse Hill Park, London on 24th June 1894. He was known to his colleagues as “Sandy”. His name is often seen as Arthur rather than Alfred, but this error was started in the London Gazette entry for his VC on 18th November 1915. It was corrected to Alfred a few days later on 26th November. His father, Alfred Francis Fleming Sandes, originally came from Dublin, Ireland. His mother was Grace Emily nee Routh and they married on 29th March 1893 at St Augustine’s Church, Honor Oak Park, London. The couple had one other child, Eileen Doris Fleming-Sandes born in 1896.
Alfred was educated at Dulwich College Preparatory School and King’s School, Canterbury from 1907-13, where he was a member of the Cadet Force. The school also had William John Vousden VC as a former pupil. He enlisted with 1/28th London Regiment (Artist’s Rifles) on 5th August 1914 and went to France on 26th October. He was commissioned into 2nd East Surrey on 9th May 1915 whilst serving in France.
On 29th September 1915 at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, France, Second Lieutenant Fleming-Sandes was sent to command a company which was in a very critical position. His men, very much shaken by continual bombing and machine-gun fire, were beginning to retire, but the second lieutenant collected a few bombs and jumping on the parapet in full view of the Germans, only 20 yards (18 m) away, threw them. Although severely wounded almost at once, he continued to advance and throw bombs until he was again wounded. This act put new heart into his men and saved the situation.
He was badly wounded and spent a long time convalescing. The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 15th January 1916. He became an instructor with No 5 Officer Cadet Battalion at Trinity College, Cambridge and was then employed by the War Office. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 1st July 1917 and acting Captain from 14th November 1918 until 4th January 1919. He returned to France in October 1918 and was to be demobilized in January 1919, but insisted on and worked at the War Office until he was discharged on 7th September 1919.
Alfred was a master at Copthorne School, Sussex in 1919 before moving to the Sudan, where he joined the Education Department of the Sudanese Government. He was back in Britain for a time in 1922 as a guest at the wedding of Benjamin Geary VC, as was George Roupell VC. He attended Gordon College in Khartoum to study law. He was seconded to the Political Service in 1924 and became Assistant District Commissioner at El Nahud. He was then appointed District Judge Sudan in 1926 and was called to the Bar (Gray’s Inn) on 17th November 1927. He became fluent in Arabic and in 1932 became a Provincial Judge. He was awarded the Order of the Nile 4th Class in June 1932. Much of his work at this time was settling disputes over White Nile lands and registering titles in preparation for the opening of the Jebel Aulia Dam in 1937.
When he retired in 1944, he returned to Britain and became Chairman of the Pensions Appeal Tribunal of England and Wales 1945-1958. Alfred died suddenly at the White Horse Hotel, Romsey, Hampshire on 24th May 1961. He was cremated at Torquay Crematorium, Devon, where his ashes were scattered.
In addition to his VC and Order of the Nile, he was awarded the 1914 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, War Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. His medals were stolen from his bungalow in Sudan, but the case in which they were kept was recovered still containing the VC. The other medals were replaced. He left his medals to his wife for the duration of her lifetime. They were offered to the Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment after her death. The medals are held by the Surrey Infantry Museum, Clandon Park, Guildford and survived the fire that severely damaged the building on 30th April 2015 as they were held in a bank.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: QUEENS ROYAL SURREY REGIMENT, GUILDFORD, SURREY.
BURIAL PLACE: TORQUAY CREMATORIUM, TORQUAY, DEVON. ASHES SCATTERED
Alfred Fleming-Sandes' medals on display at the Queen's Royal Surrey Regimental Museum, Guildford (on their website).
All Saints Church, Kingston upon Thames
War Illustrated, 4th December 1915
Freemasons Memorial, London (Brian Drummond)