Sgt T Sadler RAFVR. 103 Sqdn
Tom Sadler qualified as an Air Gunner at No 9 Bombing and Gunnery School, Penrhos between April and June 1941. He was then transferred to 12 Operational Training Unit at Benson and in August 1941 and on completion of his course posted to 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds in August 1941. At this time he was 31 years of age which was well over the average for aircrew. A member of B Flight throughout his tour, his first Flight Commander was S/L I K P Cross who was shot down in January 1942 and taken prisoner by the Germans. S/L Cross was active in the legendary Great Escape from the prisoner of war camp at Sagan in March 1944. He was soon recaptured and murdered by the Gestapo along with 50 of his fellow escapers.
Flying the Vickers Wellington throughout his tour, Sgt Sadler completed his first operation to Kiel as front gunner in the crew of P/O Allen on the night of the 19/20th August 1941. In September he joined the crew of P/O Lawson flying as rear gunner and flew his first operation with them on the night of the 11/12th September 1941 in a raid on Le Havre. Sgt Sadler flew 9 operations with this crew, the last being on the night of the 24/25th October 1941 to Frankfurt when the crew had to turn back after crossing the Dutch coast due to oxygen failure.
He flew a 1 operation with Sgt Giles and crew on the night of the 26/27th November 1941 to Emden and then joined the crew of Sgt Tett and competed 16 successful operations with them.
This crew consisted of :-
Sgt J Tett RCAF
Sgt A T Little RCAF
Sgt White RAFVR
Sgt T Elliott RAFVR
Sgt T Sadler RAFVR
Sgt J V Chicoine RCAF
Above - L to R - John Chicoine, Tom Sadler and Tom Elliott
Their first operation was on the night of the 28/29th December 1941 against the German naval port of Wilhelmshaven. 3 night raids were undertaken in the next month on the heavily defended French port of Brest where the German battle-cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the light cruiser Prinz Eugen had sought refuge.
These 3 ships broke out of Brest on the 12th February 1942 and sailed up the English Channel back to Germany with a massive sea and air escort in a brilliantly planned operation to get back to the relative safety of the German ports.
Sgt Sadler flew as front gunner on this day with the crew of Sgt Pugh as the RAF and Royal Navy made strenuous efforts to intercept the German naval units. This proved largely unsuccessful due to the poor visibility and the heavy defense although both the battle-cruisers were damaged by mines laid by 5 Group aircraft.
He resumed normal operations with Sgt Tett and crew, mainly against German targets, although he was called upon to fly as front gunner with S/L Godfrey and W/O Fulbrook. Sgt Sadler’s final operation with 103 Squadron was as front gunner in the crew of yet another pilot, P/O Smith, on the night of the 8/9th May 1942 in an attack on the town of Warnemunde and the nearby Heinkel aircraft factory.
In all Sgt Sadler flew 32 operations in his tour with 103 Squadron with a total of 8 different pilots which is quite unusual. It had been a very demanding tour with most operations against heavily defended French and German targets. Of Sgt Tett’s crew Sgt Little, Sgt Elliott and Sgt Chicoine were killed on the night of the 2/3rd July 1942 in an operation to Bremen.
Sgt Sadler was posted to 27 OTU at Lichfield for a spell on training duties but took part in the second of the Thousand Bomber Raids on Essen on the night of the 1/2nd June 1942. Following this he was posted to 142 Squadron in North Africa for a second tour of operations and completed this on the 5th July 1943. His final total of operations flown was 69.
Tom Sadler survived the war and finished with the rank of Flight Lieutenant and his old pilot Johnny Tett also survived the war but sadly both passed away some years ago.
We are very grateful to the late Derek Sadler, Tom’s son, for the photographs used in this item and the draft of the text which is as a small tribute to his late father and those that flew with him.
Item written by David Fell