His mother died in 1904 when he was five and his father took him to live at Marlesford Rectory to live with his grandparents. He ran away from home and was sent to HMS Worcester training ship (now Thames Nautical Training College). Shortly after the outset of the First World War, he joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman.
He was demobilised in 1920 and went to Join the British South Africa Police in Southern Rhodesia (later Rhodesia now Zimbabwe).
He married 1926, in Umtali, Rhodesia, Margaret Lucy Alice Crosbie (born 1898 and died 1932 in Fish Hoek, Cape Town, South Africa, daughter of Leslie Wren Crosbie and Millicent Kathleen Lucy Ethel Johnston and niece of Benjamin Maturin Johnstone).
He married 11 November 1933 in Rhodesia, Joan Muriel Airey (born 18 February 1905 at Camberwell, London. She was the daughter of Walter Miles Airey (1878-1938) and Beatrice Eleanor Hearn (1882-1964). She died 13 November 1979) 2. Together they had issue as follows:
- Zia Allison Flora Dickson Sandes who was born 10 May 1935, married Peter Conrad Blackmore and lived in Howick, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. She died 30 January 2011 at Pietermaritzburg, Kwazulu Natal of multiple organ failure after surgery.
- Richard Samuel Dickson 'Dick' Sandes
He retired from the British South Afica Police" and became a curator for the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. After his second wife died in 1979 he moved to Johannesburg, South Africa to live with his daughter Zia.
He died in Springs, Gauteng, (then Transvaal) South Africa 17 July 1984.