Memories of Spoilbank

I thought you might like to see this.  Drawn by Lieutenant (and later Captain) H. M. Boyd, Royal Engineers, and kindly lent to me for use on this site by a member of his family (who naturally holds the copyright), it shows the area referred to as “Spoilbank” early in 1917.

Take a look at this trench map which shows the route of the first part of our Zillebeke tour. Down near the bottom left hand corner you can see “Spoilbank” clearly marked, just south of the Ypres-Comines Canal, with the green dot signifying Spoilbank Cemetery, directly opposite on the northern side of the canal. You can even see “Blighty Bridge”, as Captain Boyd refers to it in the sketch, crossing the canal if you look carefully.  “Not to be used in daylight”.  Indeed not.

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10 Responses to Memories of Spoilbank

  1. Mrs Baldrick says:

    What does it mean “R.A.P.” (just close to the Spoilbank sign)? Pardon my ignorance!
    You are right, I enjoyed seeing this. It gives a human dimension to the whole story…

  2. Magicfingers says:

    Hello Mrs B! We’re home!! R.A.P. stands for Regimental Aid Post (note the [red] cross on the door). You will also notice a little sign further left, also with a cross, and with the word “wounds” on it, pointing towards the R.A.P. Now you know. I have some other unseen sketches and paintings from the same collection for future use, so watch this space…

  3. ARTHUR FARLEY says:


  4. My late father was in the Australian 16th Battalion and was at Spoilbank, as he recalls the date was February or March 1917 which would be the period for this wonderful sketch. He helped bring down a German plane with Lewis Gun then he ripped a piece of camouflaged canvas off the wing for a souvenir. He gave this piece to me in November 1976 and I still have it as a precious piece of memorabillia. I would be very pleased to hear if anyone has information of this 1917 event?

  5. Magicfingers says:

    Most interesting Sid, and what a fascinating piece of memorabilia to own. While we are talking, and even though I am on the other side of the world to you, I know you Mr Breedon! We met last summer. And if you can’t work out who I am, I might tell you next week after I return from a long weekend about to be spent in Flanders fields. I might even be driving right past Spoilbank in just a few days time, and I will certainly be within a mile of it! Funny old world.

    • Thankyou MJS and I deduce the abbreviation SHC applies. Please do let me know. I’m still battling with my project and you’ve probably seen my articles in your local print and electronic newspapers. I’m sure you will enjoy your Flanders visit. Maybe you could spend your holiday carrying out a dig to find the plane remains and send me a photo of the exact spot (just joking). I also have numerous other WW1 memorabillia given to me by my father. I only wish the Internet was available prior to his death because he would have really enjoyed the old maps and photos of the time. He was later severely wounded on the Somme but that’s another story. BTW my surname is all “e” as in Breeden (different branch to the “o”)

  6. Magicfingers says:

    Right first time Sid. And how I could possibly have included you with those Breedons is beyond me (note to self: sloppy work. Must do better next time). I’d be most interested to hear about your father’s Somme experiences one of these days. Anyway, must get packing……literally.

  7. In due course MS let me know your email address to send a description of the wounding at Sailly Laurent followed by the long period of repair, recuperation and repatriation. Also the lead up to his volunteering for WW1. Back then it was a “given” for especially Free Colony Western Australian “Colonials” to be partiotic to the Motherland. For day to day living they had a superb attitude and camaraderie eeking out a living during times when it was much harder than most of us these days could ever understand. No roads, only bush tracks. No cars only horse and buggies. Then finally some motor vehicles that could average only seven MPH on the tracks. Remarkable times!

  8. Michael Paul Burchell says:

    My Grandfather Ernest Burchell Pte 320252 of the 6th Wiltshire Regiment, had his first combat day in the Trench at Spoil Bank on the 4/10/1917. What a day to have your 29th birthday. I am currently writing a book on my Grandad. This might sound a bit cheeky but do you think the member of Captain Boyd’s family might give me permission to use this photo for my book?

    • Magicfingers says:

      Being a great believer in the ‘don’t ask don’t get’ theory, I like your cheek. Leave it with me Michael – I cannot promise because I know there are some health issues now involved, but I might be able to do something. And, quite seriously, feel free to give me a nudge if you have heard nothing in a few weeks time. I have a lot on the go at the moment.

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