With the departure of Herbert and Sandford with the 40th Battalion in July 1916, William Lawler and his wife Martha had three sons at the Front. Hubert would return in September 1917 about the same time as Eric, the fourth son would enlist with the 13th Light Horse Regiment.
Sandford enlisted 24 February 1916, but before he could be accepted into the A.I.F. needed to have surgery for an inguinal hernia. Sandford had spent three years with the cadets prior to enlisting.
Prior to departing England for the Front with the Machine Gun Section, Sandford was promoted to the rank of lance corporal. Soon after arriving at the Front he was promoted again to the rank of corporal.
On 12 April he was wounded in action—sustaining a bruised shoulder. Three days later he was reduced to the ranks following an appearance at a General Court Martial at Armentieres for drunkenness. Before the month is out though he was promoted to the rank of corporal and would have his hands badly burned. The Lewis Gun team of which Sandford was a part, was attached to the 39th Battalion who were holding the front line. Just before daybreak on 30th April, the enemy put down a heavy barrage on the trenches in front of the Wood at St. Yves, apparently with the object of getting into the mine saps … and blowing them in. A few of the enemy actually got into the 39th Battalion trenches, but the main attack was broken by a Lewis-gun team of the 40th Battalion. No. 89 Private S.H. Lawler and No. 314 Private H. Evans, worked this Lewis gun, and fired 752 rounds in the enemy attacking party with great effect. Private Lawler continued to fire his gun, although his hands were badly burned by the gun running hot. Both of these men were commended by the Divisional Commander in Divisional Orders for their gallantry on that occasion.
Corporal Lawler would be wounded again at Messines, this time sustaining a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He was evacuated to England and re-joined the battalion on 14 October 1917.
On 28 July 1918 he was transferred to the 2nd Training Brigade and attended the School of Musketry. He was placed on the Permanent Cadre and remained in
England until being returned to Australia for discharge.
In later life Sandford was living at Mermaid Beach Queensland.
Within days of Sandford being finally accepted, he was joined by his older brother Herbert. Herbert was at 26 year old seaman who had also recently had surgery for an inguinal hernia. He had attempted to enlist before but had been unable to pass the medical on that occasion.
Herbert had also spent time in the cadets and then the militia being taking his discharge. Herbert was allotted to ‘A’ Company with the 40th Battalion.
Despite suffering ill health, due to the appalling conditions at the Front, which saw him hospitalised on a number of occasions, Herbert was promoted through the ranks to that of sergeant by February 1917.
From 7 to 14 May 1917 the 40th Battalion were garrisoning the Front line near St. Yves. According to the Battalion diary the enemy active during the whole period; situation otherwise normal. Frank Green, the Battalion historian noted that on 7th May considerable damage had been done to the trenches and the battalion had sustained sixteen casualties. Was Herbert Lawler one of these with his gunshot wound to his left arm? Within days he was evacuated to England for treatment and took no further part in hostilities returning to Australia for discharge.
On the front page of his attestation paper the name of his next of kin has been changed to that of his wife Frances