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 (click to enlarge) which shows the route of the first part of our Zillebeke tour.  Down near the bottom left hand corner you can see that “Spoilbank” is 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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26 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.

  9. M P Burchell says:

    You asked me to give you a nudge if I don’t hear from you. I know it’s cheeky but did you get the chance to ask the Boyde family about the sketch. I would obviously acknowledge and thank them in my book.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello again. Frankly, I wish more people would do the nudge thing. No problem at all. Now, I will not bore you with whys and wherefores of last year, but I will make a call tomorrow or Friday, and if that call gives me the next phone number, I shall make a further call – this sounds balmy – and see where we get to. Any other info on the book I should know?

  10. Paul Burchell says:

    Thanks a lot, it would mean a great deal to me. Its the nearest image I can find of what it would have looked like. Grandad was in the 19th Division, he got the DCM in April 1918. Later in September 1918, when he was fighting with the 2nd Wiltshire’s, he got shot by a Sniper and got the ‘Blighty one’. We have the bullet.

  11. Sid from Down Under says:

    That is amazing Paul (the bullet). My father lost half a lung and had shrapnel in the other which they wouldn’t remove. He carried it for the rest of his life. He also had several holes elsewhere that I could poke my finger in.

    Regards the Spoilbank sketch – I would thing Copyright has long expired (probably varies with country but I think it is pretty well standardised now)

    Do you know MF?

    • Paul Burchell says:

      No I don’t know MF.
      Having completed a book on my Grandfather, I am currently trying to get permission to use some photos/maps. There are copyright issues with some.
      It can be a costly exercise.

      • Magicfingers says:

        I am working on it. I have a call to make this very evening!

        • Sid from Down Under says:

          Apologies Paul, my shorthand – I meant the question to be addressed to MF such as: “MF, do you know the answer?”

          I see MF is now making inquiries – but I will be surprised if copyright has not long expired. Good luck with your book – what years does it cover and how many pages?

          • Magicfingers says:

            Far from it. As this is the first time this image has been used anywhere, copyright has only just begun. This image belongs to the family of the man who drew it, and they own the copyright, and no one else can use it, except for me as I have permission. I know one of them, although I haven’t seen him in ten years. It is their property. On another tack, I have just realised that this post contains the very first post from one ‘Sid Breeden of Western Australia’, as he was known at the time, and here we are, some 284 ‘Sid from Down Under’, as he is now known (with the occasional variation), comments later. And still he is faceless……..

      • Magicfingers says:

        Paul, are you still after using this picture? No, I haven’t forgotten, and have been trying to do something about it. And I have a plan, but only you can decide if you wish to consider it……..

    • Magicfingers says:

      Copyright is hugely complex, Sid. But I’m afraid you are totally wrong in saying that copyright is likely to be long expired. For example, some images are copyrighted for 70 years after the death of the photographer. So, I am 18, and I take a photo in 1918, and I live to be 100, therefore I die in 2000, and my photograph is therefore copyrighted until 2070. I repeat, 2070. That is just one example. I could go on about this for hours……

      • Sid from Down Under says:

        Sorry mate, I’m not “totally wrong” – I’ve been involved in several copyright matters and as previously stated, it varies from country to country and “year” – for example Australia:

        Until 1 January 2005, copyright generally lasted for the life of the relevant creator plus 50 years. (Note: not your 70).
        There were various exceptions to this rule, including:

        • where a work was not published, performed or broadcast during a creator’s lifetime; and

        • where something was published anonymously or under a pseudonym, and the identity of the creator couldn’t reasonably be ascertained.

        (In each of these cases, copyright lasted for 50 years from the end of the year the work was, with permission, first published, performed or broadcast.)

        Under the Free Trade Agreement with the United States, Australia agreed to extend the general duration of copyright. As a result, the rules now are that copyright generally lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years and where duration depends on year of publication, it lasts until 70 years after it is first published.

        The Free Trade Agreement did not, however, include any obligation to revive copyright if copyright had already expired. This means that if, under the old rules, copyright had already expired by 1 January 2005, it stays expired and the material can be used freely under Australian law. (That’s where the 50 year rule applies)

        Hope the above clarifies

        • Magicfingers says:

          I am not going to argue the point. I have had to be aware of copyright issues most days for twelve years in my last job. I know what I am talking about.

          • Sid from Down Under says:

            So do I – the legalistic copyright laws might appear complex to some but once broken down into plain English components, copyright is quite simple (as I exampled) and I’m pleased to see above that after one year you have finally given an explanation to Paul’s inquiry – albeit 19 minutes after what I’m responding to here, so lucky I saw it.

            You know why I am “faceless” (like are most on your blog) – you know my preference is to include my face and that I do not trust the process and lack of security with your required Gravatar. I am able to have my photo exclusively, simply and safely on another blog (no Gravatar) but sadly not yours. Also I find it frustrating that I cannot include a hyperlink like others.

            After 284 posts and you, by highlighting, exposing my original name I have reached the conclusion that now is the time for me to retire from your blog. Quite appropriately on the site of my first and now last post.

            Thank you for a great time, I have learned plenty …. and cheerio to all your friendly and knowledgeable regular readers.

  12. Magicfingers says:

    Sorry Sid, you’re going a bit mad mate. Your first posts had your name on them, as you can clearly see. Nobody has highlighted anything; nothing on this post has changed since the day you first posted a comment, with your name clear for all to see. As did your first six comments, which were changed to just Sid Breeden for the fifth and sixth. I have all the stats. On top of which, far from whatever way you chose to take it, I was actually ‘celebrating’ your comments, and nudging you to get on and get a picture as we had discussed it only recently.

  13. Chris Lloyd-Jones says:

    My relative stephen Jellicoe was killed in June 1915 and is buried in Spoilbank, here is an account of his death –
    The sad news has reached Mrs Jellicoe, who resides at 25 Railway Rd, Rock Ferry, that her son, Private Stephen Jellicoe off the 4th battalion Cheshire regiment, but who was attached to the 5th battalion, has been killed in action. His mother has received the following letter from Lance Corporal Arthur Pardoe. He writes “with the deepest regret I write these few lines, informing you of your son’s death. This sad fatality took place on the afternoon of the fourth inst., and although we exhausted every means available, he died the death of a soldier before we could get him to a dressing station. As his section commander he interested me much, for being an athlete myself I admired his capabilities. I do not think I shall ever forget that eventful afternoon, as it registered the serious casualty of all in my section. Whilst going on my tour of duty I visited Private Jellicoe’s observation post, and at the same time exchanged a few words with him. He reported the harassing attention of a German sniper on our left and said he intended keeping a sharp look out for him. Evidently, he had located him and indulging in a careful aim he pulled the trigger, but before that bullet could have reached its mark he received one in the forehead from the gun of a sniper cleverly concealed in the grass some 80 yards away. His departure is a big loss to me, for being a strong man he made work easy, and kept up our spirits by his cheerful disposition. I can well assure you he was well liked and respected by all his comrades out here.”

    Private S. Jellicoe, who was 20 years of age, set sail for France on February 15th and attained his 20th birthday whilst serving. Before the war he was an apprentice driller at Messers. Cammell Laird, and Co, and was a popular local athlete, having played football for the New Ferry team.

    The battalion war diary for the day simply states, 1 man died of wounds recieved in action in trenches near Ypres

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Chris. Stories such as yours add such a presonal touch. Much appreciated.

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