Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sgt (Flight Engineer) Henry Sadler

No 514 Bomber Squadron motto: Nothing can withstand
Maurice Morgan-Owen with his crew of Lancaster II DS682 JI-N. Identified are: Back row left to right - unknown Airman, F/Officer Morgan-Owen, Sgt Herbert Stanley Hayward, F/Officer George Alexander Jacobson, RAAF. Other three Airman are any of the following - Sgt Alfred Douglas Tetley, Sgt Henry Sadler, Flight Sgt Alan W. Green, and Sgt F. Barrett

Sgt Henry (k/a Leo) Sadler was killed on the night of 22/23 April 1944. He was in Lancaster II DS682 JI-N, the full crew, who were all killed, being:

Flying Officer Maurice Linden Morgan-Owen, from London, aged 20
Sgt Henry Sadler, from Birmingham, aged 25
Flight Sgt Alan William Green, from Quinton, Warwickshire, aged 23
Flying Officer George Alexander Jacobson RAAF, from Gunalda, Queensland, aged 27
Sgt Ernest (Sunny) Gledhill, from Bradford, aged 22
Sgt (Mid-Turret Gunner) Alfred Douglas Tetley, from Harrogate, aged 23
Sgt (rear Gunner) Herbert Stanley Hayward, from Bishop Stortford, aged 27

They took off from RAF Waterbeach at 2258 Hrs but crashed in the sea. Sgt Sadler, who was washed ashore on 21 June 1944, and Sgt Teteley are buried in Sage War Cemetery, near Oldenburg; the rest of the crew are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Full details of the last mission of Lancaster II DS682 can be found here. There it is stated that:

"DS 682 was supposed to return to Waterbeach at 03.00 on Sunday the 23rd of April. At 02.56, an SOS message was received from the aircraft. Their position was over the sea, approximately 70 miles west off the Dutch coast. Nothing more was heard from the aircraft. According to the acting Squadron Leader at the time, Barney Reid, at first light an Air Sea Rescue aircraft was despatched to look for the crew. Barney Reid personally took part in this. However, despite good visibility, nothing was found."

They were part of one of the great pre-invasion raids on targets on the hinterland of the invasion coast, stretching back into the Reich. On the night of 22/23 April 1944 596 aircraft -323 Lancasters, 254 Halifaxs, and 19 Mosquitos, of all except 5 Group, took off for Düsseldorf. The losses however were high, 29 aircraft (16 Halifaxes and 13 Lancasters) amounting to 4.9% of the force, mainly caused by night-fighters which penetrated the bomber stream wreaking havoc.

This story has demonstrated how unreliable records can be. In Avro Lancaster - The Definitive Record, 2nd edition, by Harry Holmes, Lancaster II DS682 is recorded as being with 115 Squadron, and that it landed at Ford after being hit by a Ju88 during the night of 5/6 September 1943. Philip Moyes, in Bomber Squadrons of the R.A.F. and their Aircraft also lists DS682, coded KO, with 115 Squadron. But although 115 Squadron did take part in the great Düsseldorf raid, they were based in RAF Witchford, not RAF Waterbeach. The only Lancaster lost by 115 Squadron that night was Lancaster III ND753 KO-K, piloted by P/O R.E. Chantler. These books contain an imense amount of data and errors are to be expected in such long detailed lists. The sollution is to cross-check everything, and in this particular case even the Commonwealth War Graves Commission record for Sgt Sadler is wrong, giving his date of death as 23 July 1944, but with correct squadron, whilst for the rest of the crew they give the correct date of 23 April 1944.

The crew photograph is from a website dedicated to the memory of Ernest 'Sunny' Gledhill and the Men He Flew With in the Photo Gallery here.

Sage War Cemetery - Click to enlarge
Sage War Cemetery - Click to enlarge.

(Correct data from The Bomber Command War Diaries, by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt, and from Volume 5 of Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War - 1944 by W.R. Chorley)

So who was Sgt Henry Sadler? Tom Canning will explain.


Blogger Tomcann said...

Flght Engr Henry ( Leo) Sadler was my wife's eldest brother who lived with the family at their home in Alum Rock Birmingham until an Air Show at Castle Bromwich gave him the "flying bug" saving up 2/6d for a flight of a few minutes.
Eventually he joined the Fleet Air Arm and served on HMS Eagle in the China Seas prior to the war.
Some time later he was transferred to the RAF as a flht Engr and flew Lancasters and flew many missions.
During a spell in the NE he met and married Joan with whom he had a daughter who will now be in her
The family were devastated and particularly my wife Veronica who was in charge of the office of the Dead and Missing Airmens effects and was one of the first to know that her brother had been killed, and during a compassionate leave, informed her family.

Wednesday, 26 April, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...


Can you identify Henry in the group photograph? Click on it to enlarge it. My guess is that he is the first standing on the left.

Wednesday, 26 April, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Peter -
we have studied all of the pictures in the album of Morgan-Owen and there is not one photo of Henry Sadler - further Veronica has dragged out the same album copies which her nephew obtained many years ago and again - no photo of Henry.
A further detail is that Henry and Joan were married at the Rosary R.C. Church at Saltley Birmingham which was the parish of the family.
Henry also joined the Fleet Air Arm in 1936 serving at Singapore - Ceylon - Malta and Crete being one of the last off that stricken ship.

Thursday, 27 April, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

The caption to the photograph I posted reads "Maurice Morgan-Owen with his crew (Sunny's final crew). Identified are: Back row left to right - unknown Airman, F/Officer Morgan-Owen, Sgt H. Stanley Hayward, F/Officer George A. Jacobson. Other three Airman are any of the following - Sgt Alfred D. Tetley, Sgt Henry Sadler, Flight Sgt Alan W. Green, and Sgt F. Barrett"

So it would seem that the reference to Sgt Henry Sadler is wrong, then.

Thursday, 27 April, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

I think I may have sorted out why two highly respected authors list Lancaster II DS682 as being with No 115 Squadron.

Here is the full history of the plane's nineteen known missions:

3 July 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-Y Ops Cologne

24 July 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-Y Ops Hamburg

2 August 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-Y Ops Hamburg

10 August 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-Y Ops Nuremberg

12 August 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-Y Ops Milan

16 August 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-Y Ops Turin

23 August 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-Y Ops Berlin

24 August 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-Y Mine laying West Frisians

30 August 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-Y Ops Munchen Gladbach

31 August 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-Y Ops Berlin

3 September 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-Y Ops Berlin

5 September 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-Y Ops Mannheim. On this raid it was hit by a JU88 fighter. It was then out of operational service for over two months. At this stage it had clocked a respectable 246 flying hours.

16 December 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-A Ops Berlin

23 December 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-A Ops Berlin

29 December 43 Lancaster DS682 KO-A Ops Berlin

14 January 44 Lancaster DS682 Ops Brunswick

27 January 44 Lancaster DS682 Ops Berlin

24 March 44 Lancaster DS682 KO-A Ops Berlin

22 April 44 Lancaster DS682 JI-N Ops Düsseldorf

DS682 is the serial number, it was one of 200 Lancasters ordered from Armstrong Whitworth in 1941 and built as Mk II from September 1942 to October 1943. DS682 was fitted with Hercules XVI engines.

The letters KO are the code letters allotted to 115 Squadron 'A' Flight, and JI are the code letters for 514 Squadron.

So it looks like it was with 115 Squadron practically all of its operational life and was transferred to 514 Squadron only a few days before it was lost.

Thursday, 27 April, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Peter -
The change of squadrons probably hastened the aircraft's end after such a fine record of nineteen missions, they were so close to landing when they were lost, and to only have two corpses to bury would indicate a devastating end for the others.
My wife Veronica is most appreciative of your efforts to trace this event and she sends her thanks in the hope that she can thank you personally on her next trip to the U.K.

Thursday, 27 April, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

Tom, I do not think that the change of squadron for Lancaster II DS682 would have had any bearing on its short life with 514 Squadron. Their maintenance personnel were second to none and it would have had a thorough check both before and after transfer.

There was a tremendous air battle over Düsseldorf that night with German night fighters successfully penetrating the bomber stream. The loss was consequently high, 4.9%, although not as high as many other raids, for example the Berlin raid of 23/24 August '43 with a 7.9% loss, or the Lützkendorf raid of 14/15 March 45, with a Lancaster loss of 7.4%. Bomber Command judged a 7% loss to be acceptable for an important raid.

For what it's worth, 115 Squadron flew 4,678 Lancaster sorties with a loss of 110 aircraft (2.4%) with a further 22 Lancasters lost in crashes, whilst 514 Squadron flew 3,675 Lancaster sorties with a loss of 66 (1.8%), with an additional 14 destroyed in crashes.

I am pleased to have uncovered a few facts for Veronica, although I do think you should contact the CWGC to have Sgt Sadler's date of death corrected (it was in April, not July) and his age inserted (he was born in Brighton on 21st October 1918), and to ascertain from them that his headstone bears the correct dates.

Doing this bit of research was a pleasure and brought back memories of the old BBC WW2 People's War days. One of the most satisfying there, for me, was A Spitfire Pilot and a Brave Soldier: The Story of a Quest where again starting from the wrong year I managed to track down a Spitfire subsequently culminating in the pilot and the soldier who saved him meeting after sixty years.

Friday, 28 April, 2006  
Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

I must say our Peter does like something to get his teeth into and in the process I think we have all benefitted at some time or another from his ability to get to the very nub of the matter.

Research at its best and, as my old Sgt.Major used to say,

"Well done, that, there, man !

Friday, 28 April, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...


Cheque's in the post.


Friday, 28 April, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Ron - I can only agree 100% with you regarding Peter's ability to sort out the facts of many tales - this is why I usually call him the "Oracle" - good plan to contact the CWGC to ask them to change although as Ritson pointed out - pulling teeth is much easier.
I am surprised at the 7% casualty rate for bombers - I thought it was much higher.
I am reminded of the Commander of the 8th Army - Lt. Gen Oliver Leese
who boasted before the Gothic line battle that he had 2000 Tanks and could afford to lose 50% of them. Did our hearts good to hear that ! As it was my Brigade lost 32 tanks that month - equal to damn near 19%.
Then there was 25th Bde - 1st Armd Div- 6th Armd Div - 5th Cdn Div - 7th Armd bde - 2nd Armed bde - and many others so he probably did hit his 50%.
Probably why he was shipped off to Burma and a Tank man - Mc Creery took over !

Friday, 28 April, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...


The 7% attrition rate for an op was often far exceeded. Don't forget that that applied to a single bombing raid.

Air crews had to carry out 30 operations over enemy occupied territory; targets in France counted only as half an op, and early and aborted ops didn't count at all. Only about 35% survived a first 'tour', put another way the average mortality rate was 65%.

After a first tour, crews went to OTUs (Operational Training Units) or HCUs (Heavy Conversion Units)for at least six months to train other crews (there too there was a very high casualty rate). After this they had to undertake a second tour of 20 ops. If they managed to survive all of that they were not asked to fly on operations again - unless they wanted to. Amazingly many did. These were known as 'old lags' and many went on to complete 70, 80, 90 or more ops until finally they were either killed or the war ended.

What has always truly fascinated me about bomber crews was that those of Bomber Command were stationed in Britain, mainly in Lincolnshire where I live now. Between ops they were down at the local pub, saw normal life, slept in beds with sheets, endured being called 'the Brilcream Boys', yet every few days had to face death. The strain must have been tremendous.

Friday, 28 April, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Yes I can see the high mortality rate on that basis Peter.
I just wonder if anyone ever calculated the high mortality rate in the Infantry when it was common to accept 100% casualties per battle of say seven days. Plus the strain of trying to sleep in a flooded slit trench after digging through rocks and ice without hot food for days on end. Then having to do all over again the following day ?
Not that the bombers were ever envied their bacon and eggs and sheets and pillows as the Infantry always said that they would not fly nor would they ride inside a Tank.They weren't called the PBI for nothing.

Friday, 28 April, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

These can only be subjective judgements, Tom. Personally, I think I would find being stationed in the UK between ops a great strain. Others, of course, might think it 'cushy'. And all airmen, both Allied and Axis, were volunteers.

Those who couldn't endure it were first treated with sympathy, usually a talk with the Group Captain, followed by a spot of leave. If that didn't work they were given a spell in the Air Crew Correction Centre at Sheffield for a dose of strict discipline. Those who flatly refused further air ops after this were dealt with harshly and graded 'LMF' - Lack of Moral Fibre - and regarded as cowards. They were stripped of their wings and removed from the flying station and posted to menial ground duties. If they had only done a very few ops they were dismissed from the RAF and immediately called up for service in the infantry.

As to how we regard danger, it seems to me that we can broadly be divided into agoraphobic and claustrophobic groups. Few airmen would swap places with a submariner, and vice-versa.

You say that it was common to accept 100% casualties per battle of say seven days in the infantry. Surely that was extremely rare. I cannot think of a single instance, although it may have approached that in some Soviet punishment battalions.

The 2nd North Staffs had nearly 50% casualties fighting in the Gullies at Anzio in the second night: of the 40 officers and 664 men defending Buonoriposo Ridge only 17 officers and 364 men were alive in the morning. The 5th Grenadiers also took heavy casualties that night, of 800 officers and men they were reduced to 25% and the front line men to 10%. But even now it is difficult to work out what infantry losses were because of constant replacements. D'Este has produced convincing figures to show that at Anzio in the dreadful Gully battles, which much resembled the Somme in ferocity, the official figures are all underestimated. The official figure for the 5th Grenadiers is 50%, but Carlo D'Este basing his figures on actual casualty rates, puts the figure at 74%. Similarly, the official figure for the 6th Gordons is 35%, which D'Este puts at 54%. These battalions were in the 1st Infantry Division and D'Este disputes the figures for all the other 1st Division rifle battalions.

These very high rates of attrition in the three-day battle for Caroceto and the 'Factory' typified, in D'Este's words. the bad feeling and misunderstanding between Penney (C/O British 1st Div) and the incompetent Lucas. By the morning of 11 February '44 Penney had reported that the ability of the 1st Division to hold out without reinforcements was nearing an end. Penney was then in a Catch-22 situation. Lucas ordered him to hold out in positions which were manifestly untenable giving him only token reinforcements, but when he failed to do so Lucas had the gall to soundly criticise him fore not making the most of his situation. And this is from an American historian. The point I am making here is that high infantry casualty rates in WW2 were often the result of poor or downright faulty generalship.

Saturday, 29 April, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Having looked through some of the figures about Bomber Crews, the casualty rate in WW2 was really high.

You have done some good research on this. Accurate details about the RAF in WW2 seem to be sometimes more difficult to find than for the Army, Navy or even Merchant Navy. The stories I researched and posted about the RAF for the "People's War" took a lot of time and effort compared to some other ones.

Each airman lost belonged to somebody's family.

Saturday, 29 April, 2006  

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