Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
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13890   Private Robert Sands
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 15/06/2017
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: 9th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (British Army)
Died: 08/05/1916 (Killed in Action)
Age: 23
Summary      
Robert Sands was the second son of William and Ellen / Eleanor Sands. Robert was born about 1893 in Tamlaght, Coagh, County Tyrone. He was one of ten children. The family lived in Coagh. His father was a labourer. Before joining the army, Robert was a member of Coagh Company of Ulster Volunteers, and was a member of Drumconvis LOL 794. Private Robert Sands was killed in action on the night of 7th/8th May 1916, soon after a successful trench raid against the enemy.
Private Robert Sands
Further Information
Robert Sands was the second son of William and Ellen / Eleanor Sands. William Sands married Eleanor Marks on 22nd April 1884 in the district of Cookstown.
Robert was born about 1893 in Tamlaght, Coagh, County Tyrone. He was one of ten children.
The 1901 census records Robert as age 8, living with the family at house 10 in Aghaveagh, Coagh. Robert’s father, William Sands, was a labourer.
The 1911 census does not list Robert as living with the family at house 3 in Urbal, Coagh, Tyrone. His father was a farm labourer, as was his older brother.
Family: William Sands, Eleanor Sands, William John Sands (born 29th June 1884), Charlotte Sands (born 19th August 1886), Maggie J Sands (born about 1889), Robert Sands (born about 1893), Sarah E Sands (born 5th September 1894), David Sands (born 2nd January 1897), Fredrick Sands (born 30th December 1899), Harriett E Sands (born 7th December 1902), Samuel Sands (born 14th May 1905), Herbert Sands (born 20th September 1906).
Before joining the army, Robert was a member of Coagh Company of Ulster Volunteers, and was a member of Drumconvis LOL 794 and acted as Chaplain there. He had one other brother on active service with the army.
Robert Sands enlisted at Finner Camp in Donegal.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 5th February 1916: for the Glory of Coagh
Newspaper Report
Private E McGuckin, No 3 Company, 9th Inniskillings, writes from the Front:-
‘Just a few lines from a few of the Knuts from Coagh, serving abroad with the 9th Inniskillings. There are a good number of us here, and we are all in the best of form. We are at present behind the firing line resting, wearing away the effects of our Christmas dinner, which upset the whole Battalion for quite a long time. We expect to get back to the trenches again shortly, and I can tell you we will show the Huns what Coagh can do. Our section is in charge of Corporal Mitchell, and it includes such well known local men as Johnny McMullan, Robert Sands and James Hudson, and they are all waiting for the day to charge the Hun trenches and bring glory to Coagh. James Hudson is complaining to the billet right now, in very strong language, about those who still refuse to do their duty. We hope when they se this in the paper, and see how happy we are, they will at once dawn the khaki. I will close now, wishing every success to the good old ‘Mid’, which is eagerly looked for here every week.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 26th February 1916: A Call from the Trenches
Newspaper Report
“Fall in! Fall in! We’re out to win!” the country calls today;
The raging hun, his worst has done, and soon he’ll have to pay.
We dozed a bit, before we hit, but now we’ll face about,
With open eyes and brave allies, to knock the beggars out.
Then bustle along with a cheery song, as long as there’s work to do
For Kitchener’s lot are on the spot, with plenty of work for you.
We’re on the scene ‘til France is clean and brave little Belgium free,
We’ve started the job in earnest and we’ll finish it on the ‘spree’.
We are not great at Hymns of fate, but this we are gained to swear-
We’ll make them howl, for fighting foul, and beat them by fighting fair;
To keep our word may seem absurd but that’s what Briton’s do,
And they may bet our teeth are set, to see the business through.
So pull up your boot and learn to shoot, and march with the army swing,
Get thoroughly fit to do your bit along with our Gracious King.
We’ve got it in hand to sweep the land as Jellicoe swept the sea,
We’re starting the job in earnest and we’ll finish it o the ‘spree’.
Then off we’ll go to face the foe, who laughs at old John Bull?
But some must stay to work and play, and keep the convoy full.
They serve King George in mine and forge, although they can’t be here,
So while we spend the shells they send, we’ll give them all a cheer.
Then Stand to the front and bare the brunt, for ours is the team to stay
And now that we’re in, we mean to win, whatever the croakers say.
We carry a pill for Kaiser Bill, for all the Allies agree
They’ll stick to the job in earnest, ‘til they finish it on the ‘spree’.
No 13890 Private Robert Sands, 9th Inniskilling Fusiliers, Somewhere in France
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 15th April 1916: Coagh Soldiers at the Front
Newspaper Report
Private Edward McGuckin, a native of Coagh, in a letter to the Mail dated 22nd March, says that all the Coagh boys are well and in good fighting form, although they have been constantly in the trenches for the past eight weeks. They are well accustomed to jack Johnstons, whizz bangs, trench mortars, and such other scrap as the ‘Germhuns’ treat them to. Private John McMullan is going strong, so strong in fact that he has been nicknamed the ‘whizz bang’. Other Coagh boys are known as ‘Rifle Grenade Sands’, ‘Trench Mortar Currie’ and ‘Barbed Wire Hudson’. Another chum from Aughnacloy, and well known in Coagh, is George Marshall. As the letter was been written he was singing mournfully in the dugout ‘I want to go home’, but his comrades know well that he does not want any such thing, at least until he sees the Huns in final retreat homewards. They had the din of guns instead of drums on Patrick’s Day. They were all glad to see that Constables Howe and Ryan had joined the colours, and wish them the best of luck. Sands and Hudson feel rather sore about some recent marriages, and fear there won’t be any Coagh girls (left) when they return victoriously home. The writer concludes by wishing the good old ‘Mid’ every success.
Private Robert Sands was killed in action on the night of 7th/8th May 1916, soon after a successful trench raid against the enemy. The 9th Battalion Inniskillings came under a heavy bombardment in retaliation. 19 other men lost their lives that night, including John McMullan from Coagh and Robert Little from Cookstown. Two other men died of their wounds the next day.
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 19th May 1916:
Private R Sands, son of Mr William Sands, Urbal, Coagh.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 20th May 1916: Coagh
Newspaper Report
At a special meeting of Coagh L.O.L. No 188 on Tuesday, the secretary reported the deaths in action of Privates John McMullan and Robert Sands. Private McMullan, who was a respected member of this lodge and also a member of R.B.P. 243, is one of the first members of the lodge to lay down his life for King and country. On the motion of Br. Thomas J McKeown, W.M., seconded by Br. S McCombs, D.M., the secretary was instructed to forward a letter of sympathy to the relatives of the deceased.
Robert Sands is buried in row D, grave 45 at Authuille Military Cemetery, France.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 27th May 1916:
Newspaper Report
SANDS – May 7, killed in action, Private Robert Sands, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the beloved son of William and Mrs Sands, Urbal, Coagh, aged 23 years.
‘His warfare is over, his battle fought,
His victory won, though dearly bought;
His fresh young life could not be saved;
He slumbers now in a soldier’s grave.
We loved him in life; he is dear to us still,
In grief we must bend to God’s Holy will;
The trial was great, the loss heavy to bare,
The angels, dear Robert, will tend you with care.’
Deeply regretted by father, mother, sister and brothers (one of the latter in active service).
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 27th May 1916:
Newspaper Report
Newspaper Report
Intimation has been received that Private Robert Sands, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, formerly of Urbal, Coagh, was killed in action on the night of 7th May 1916. The sad intimation was first conveyed to his sorrowing parents by a letter received from Corporal W T Mitchell of the same regiment, who also belongs to Coagh. The deceased soldier was only 23 years of age and before joining the colours in September 1914 was a member of Coagh U.V.F. He has been in the war-swept area since October 1915 and seen some hot fighting. Corporal Mitchell’s letter to his sister was as follows:
‘I’m very sorry to inform you of the death of your brother Robert, who lost his life on the night of 7th May 1916. It was during a heavy bombardment of our lines and his death was instantaneous, so he suffered no pain. He was the favourite of the platoon, whose members all join with me in offering our heartfelt sympathy in your sad bereavement.’
In a letter to Robert’s father, his Commanding Officer writes:
‘Dear Sir, I wish to convey to you the sympathy of all the ranks of the Battalion in the sorrow that has come to you by the death of your son Private R Sands. The battalion carried out a successful raid on the enemy’s trenches last Sunday night, inflicting severe loss on them. We were subjected to a very heavy bombardment for 3˝ hours, and we had considerable casualties. Your son was a gallant soldier and a good comrade, and we mourn his loss. The battalion was thanked on parade today by the Army Corps Commander for the gallantry shown by the ranks. Yours faithfully, A Ricardo, Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.’
At a meeting of Drumconvis L.O.L. No 794, of which he was a member, and acted as Chaplain prior to enlistment, the keenest regret was expressed at the news of his death, and it was resolved that a letter of sympathy be sent to the relatives. The deceased has another brother at present in France.
Robert Sands printed will card
Robert Sands handwritten will
WILL : In the event of my death during active service, I give the whole of my property money and effects to my father William Sands, Coagh, Co Tyrone, Ireland. Private 13890 Robert Sands 9th Royal Innis Fusiliers. Dated 4 October 1915. Witnessed by Private Thomas Girvan.
The CWGC record Private Sands as the son of William and Ellen Sands, of Urbal, Coagh, Co. Tyrone.
Read more
Relevant Cookstown Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Aghaveagh, Coagh Coagh Census listing in Aghaveagh, Coagh 54.619412 -6.610333
2 Urbal, Coagh Coagh Census listing in Urbal, Coagh 54.645742 -6.621062
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 1901 Census lists Sands Family 1901 Census lists Robert as age 8 at house 10 in Aghaveagh, Coagh
2 1911 Census lists Sands family Does not list Robert as living with the family at house 3 in Urbal, Coagh, Tyrone
3 Corporal Mitchell Sent a letter of sympathy to Robert's sister
4 Mid Ulster Mail dated 02/05/2016 Details of Robert Sands including photo
5 National Archives of Ireland Last Will and Testament of Robert Sands
6 National Archives UK Medal card can be purchased here
7 Private John McMullan Died on same night under heavy bombardment
8 Private Robert Little Died on same night under heavy bombardment
9 War Graves Photographic Project Photo of Private Robert Sands' grave can be purchased here
10 www.longkeshinsideout.co.uk Details of the Sands brothers including photos
Cookstown District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2010-2018