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Thread: LT Ferrebee Sadler DLI RFC

  1. #1

    Default LT Ferrebee Sadler DLI RFC

    Some time, eventually, just once, your luck runs out!

    This was supposed to be the war to end all war’s.
    For so many that lost their lives from all nationalities this was not to be the case.
    In less than twenty five years time there would be a repetition of even greater proportions and loss of life.
    A truly ‘global’ war.

    The First World War was for many a totally new method of waging war,
    gone were the wide open lands with massed cavalry charges lances forward.
    The ground warfare of this era was a trench warfare, men on both sides died in the thousands
    for absolutely no overall gain of ground at all, or a massed ‘push’ gained a few 100 yards into the enemy trench system,
    only to be pushed all the way back again to their original trench line they started from,
    in some instances within hours by a swift counter offensive.

    Thrown into this madness like so many a young man,
    20 year old Second Lieutenant Ferrebee William Sadler
    only son of Frederick a Labourers Manager at the local ship builders,
    and Hannah Sadler a Nurse,
    living at West Park, Ferndene, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear,
    born 14th August 1895.
    Commissioned in September 1915 joining the 1/6th Battalion Durham Light Infantry
    and sent straight to the hell of the trenches.

    From records present he appears to have survived a number of ‘activities’ over the following nine months.
    To date no details of any specific action reports that he may have been involved in have been identified.

    At the end of 1916, the battle entered its most deadly phase -
    The Red Baron and German squadrons making mincemeat of the old fashioned British planes,
    nicknaming them 'Kaltes Fleisch' (cold meat) and reducing an RFC pilot's average life to just 18 hours in the air.

    Soon the RFC was known as 'the suicide club'.
    New pilots lasted on average just 11 days from arrival on the front, to death.
    By early 1917, the Royal Flying Corp was losing 12 aircraft and 20 crew every day.


    We find 2/Lt Sadler with his qualification as a Royal Flying Corps pilot number RFC13047
    Gaining pilot qualification status on January 12th 1917 and posted to 29 Squadron
    where he joins a yet to become awarded VC pilot, Lieutenant James Cudden.

    The first identified action report WO/17/248292 dated January 26th 1917
    tells of his (2/Lt Sadler) patrol providing air support to a photographic reconnaissance patrol,
    the sortie met with no opposition or enemy aircraft, thankfully his luck was with him.

    The second report in the file WO/17/284507 dated February 18th 1917
    tells of his first significant aerial combat where as part of an ‘aggressive patrol’
    his squadron met with ‘a number of enemy aircraft’ and in the ensuing combat
    he tells of three fellow pilots lost, he makes no mention of any enemy aircraft losses,
    again his luck was with him.

    His third report WO/17/288781 dated 29th March 1917
    was again as a consequence of an ‘aggressive patrol’ in which he mentions
    the loss of two colleagues and three enemy aircraft destroyed
    though he makes no mention of types of aircraft or if any are personal ‘kills’,
    …….his luck is still holding out.

    By this time 2/Lt Sadler has been in the Squadron a little over two months,
    sadly he was not to make another month……


    On 21st April 1917
    2/Lt Sadler as part of 29 Squadron is involved in yet another ‘aggressive patrol’
    when they were engaged by eight Fokker DR. I’s.

    With extracts provided from War Office records
    and reports written by two other pilots of 29 Squadron and referred to in his
    (2/Lt Sadler’s) file the following can be gained;

    2/Lt Sadler was flying a Nieuport Aircraft tail number A6797
    Performing ‘advance scout activities’ for the aggressive patrol.
    He actively engaged three Fokker DR.I’s of the leading enemy flight
    allowing the squadron wing to take up combat.

    2/Lt Sadler appears to have been hit twice by the three enemy aircraft
    but stayed in combat support until his aircraft was hit for a third and fatal time,
    his aircraft ablaze he crashed ‘some where over France’.


    There now follows a possible AAR to this action.........

    AAR ~ 2/Lt Ferrebee Sadler 21/04/1917

    Here we go again……….A P’s ~’aggressive patrolling’
    The latest scheme of madness from the desk jockey’s to take the fight to the enemy!

    These patrols are killing both men and machines at a greater rate than we can replace them,
    yet still the ‘Top Brass’ insist on these patrols, sometimes two a day and almost every patrol
    we loose at least one or two pilots, it is madness and unsustainable.

    Behind the Squadron Leader and James (Lt McCudden) and George (Lt Ramsden)
    I am now the fourth longest serving member in the Squadron with just under three months flying,
    in that time how many have come and gone, ten, fifteen maybe more,
    the names and faces are for the most just a blur, a name on the Squadron roll.

    Added to the ‘entertainment’ are these new aircraft, the French built Nieuport's
    We are starting to get reports that in severe dives and climbs the top wing shudders
    and the rigging spar warps under the stress, some times the top wing rips clean off !
    As if we haven’t got enough to worry about with the Hun.

    It’s first light, 4 Nieuport’s of ‘A’ flight and 3 from ‘B’ flight take off,
    neither flight is at full strength, and yes you guessed it,
    yet again I am ‘scout’ ~‘Leader of the pack’
    Why going looking for a fight?
    It will come to us soon enough!

    ~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~

    We are just over a mile from the front line, almost sealing altitude,
    but the damn Fokker can still climb higher and quicker than us.
    A light cloud base and the rain has finally stopped,
    three days of continuous rain,
    the poor guys in the trenches......been there, done that!
    At least if we get back, we get back to a warm bath, bed and good food.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I glance across to my eleven o’clock…there they are, and closing fast, a wing of three
    Fokker’s I know my task, head straight for them, guns blazing giving time for the rest
    of the squadron flight to take up attack formation and engage…

    Click image for larger version. 

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    My god they are not breaking!
    They should break… one left, one right, one climbs….that’s their normal tactic…
    All three heading straight for me, I open fire,
    A blaze of bullets rip through my right wing, while another burst hits the top spar,
    wood and linen material torn apart, a large wood splinter pierces my right shoulder,
    The pain.....
    the oil...?
    The engine must have been hit, but there’s no smoke, no flames?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I wipe my goggles the Hun are gone, my god another flight of Fokker’s higher and to my eleven o’clock....
    this is BIG trouble, I bank and climb hard, the engine screaming the kite needs to hold together,
    God my shoulder, the pain, I am feeling dizzy, lightheaded and sick,
    The blood loss can’t be that quick can it?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I look down,
    Now I know why the aircraft is so sluggish not only has it taken significant damage…
    my right thigh is also ‘holed’…little or no response from my right side,
    I un wrap my scarf from my neck, and wavering about like a drunken fly,
    like my first hours in the cockpit back in flight training school, it seems a life time ago,
    using one hand and foot to try to control the aircraft as best I can,
    I wrap a loose scarf as a make shift bandage over and round my thigh.

    God its cold, no that’s me…blurred vision,
    come on boy get a grip…stay with it,
    I turn and look up,
    I see the boys and the Hun like a swarm of bees some looking in very bad shape,

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Above me I see a Fokker smoking badly,
    I climb, engage and let off a burst…it hits home,

    But the Nieuport is not even trying to behave as it should.
    A loud bang,
    another sudden sharp intense pain in my right arm,
    and flames,
    Both man and machine have been hit again,
    I didn’t see where it came from….?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I am spinning, rolling, turning out of control, falling from the sky,
    My face covered in hot engine oil, throat burning, choking,
    A final glance up, all I can see is a grey black haze,
    my goggles oil covered,
    and flames,

    Click image for larger version. 

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    No noise, as though everything is in slow motion,
    I know for me the game is over,
    Suddenly I am so tired…….

    I wont’ be coming home again mum,
    Tell dad I am sorry,
    a single tear,
    Fare well mum……………


    Lt James McCudden reports that during this action 2/Lt Sadler made one kill before his death.
    This statement is further supported by the action report of Lt George Ramsden R.F.C also of 29 Squadron,
    extracts from both of which are referred to in 2/Lt Sadler's file.

    However War Office and Royal Flying Corps regulations at the time stated that the pilot himself
    must be able to make the claim, ‘the kill’ or it would not officially be attributable.

    I have read that this was quite a common action by pilots to justify the loss of a fellow pilot
    and the Wing Co would where ever possible put this in the letter of condolence to the family
    in an attempt to ease the pain of their loss.

    The War Office report WO372/17/141382 states his death as ‘Killed in Action’ 21/04/1917

    Because of the nature of his death and the construction of the aircraft,
    as were they all at the time being built of wood, with cloth linen material for the wing covering,
    fire totally destroyed everything and no known grave exists.

    2/Lt Ferrebee Sadler is commemorated at the Arras Flying Memorial.

    Pause for thought:

    By November 1918, Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force
    casualties exceeded 16,000 killed, injured, captured or missing.

    You may recall a previous AAR I penned concerning Flt Lt George Wheeler Croft
    his details I discovered while researching 2/Lt Ferrebee Sadler,
    it appears that Lt Croft was posted to 29 Squadron where he also lost his life…..

    As Churchill was to utter years later;
    Never in the field of human conflict,
    Has so much,
    Been owed by so many,
    To so few’.

    R.I.P 2/Lieutenant Ferrebee Sadler R.F.C 21/04/1917.
    My Grandfathers Cousin.


    Thanks go to;
    The staff at the National Archives office, Kew,
    The Forces War Records office, MoD Kentigern House, Edinburgh
    And our very own JohnBiggles for the loan of the Neiuport for the photos!

  2. #2


    A very nice report, and tribute to your distant relative Simon.
    Was this a simple portrayal of the action or did you actually draw cards for the result?
    "Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you're scared to death."

  3. #3


    Rob, Sir
    Thank you for the kind words.
    I was fortunate enough to gain some 'extracts' from the reports of the mission
    though very little exists, from this and a lot of poetic licence I drew up the AAR
    Being such a new member to the forum and indeed the hobby I regret total
    ignorance to the reference you make about using cards ?
    Perhaps when at either Triples Sheffield, or another show one of the more
    experienced members will kindly explain this to me ...
    Thank you for your kind words

    I am off to Belgium on the 23-27Th June to the Menin Gate and the following
    day the Air memorial to seek out his actual name on the plaque, and lay a



  4. #4

    Thumbs up

    That was a wonderful Tribute Simon.
    Great work.

    "Its a fine line indeed between going out in a Blaze of Glory or having Crashed & Burnt!"
    Member Australian Society of WW1 Aero Historians

  5. #5


    Nice one Simon, I think Rob was asking if you staged it or played it and drew the damage cards.

    "He is wise who watches"

  6. #6


    Yes I was trying to ascertain if any damage cards were used or if it was just staged to reflect the exact situation as far as it was known.
    "Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you're scared to death."

  7. #7


    Quite another aspect of your superb story came up quite by chance last night whilst Mrs K was having her usual Sunday evening telephone call to her brother. He was tidying out some old photos this week and came across one of an uncle Eileen had never met because he was killed in the war. Nothing unusual there, except she did not know anything about him. The photo was of him in his Para uniform, just before he left for Arnhem.
    That was where he perished. He is now buried in the War Graves cemetery at Oosterbeek. I must have been very near to his grave when I went there many years ago, two years before I even met Eileen.
    Strange old world.
    "Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you're scared to death."

  8. #8

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    Hi Simon. I was browsing Ferrebee a few days ago and came across this. I know a little more about him if you're interested. I won't go into detail now until I know you've seen this thread but, just as a teaser, Ferrebee was a pupil at Tamworth Grammar School, the modern equivalent of which I taught at until recently. Please reply and I'll tell you more. David

  9. #9


    Excellent tribute to a long lost relative Simon.

  10. #10


    Greetings David

    I would love to know all you can tell me
    it will be added to the family album

    look forward to hearing from you

    As always

    Simon Comben
    I feel the need....for speed!

  11. #11

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    Simon, we play WoW/WoG as a game, but you have shared some of the personal reality behind it. Thanks.

  12. #12

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    Default Ferrebee Sadler

    Quote Originally Posted by Maverick View Post
    Greetings David

    I would love to know all you can tell me
    it will be added to the family album

    look forward to hearing from you

    As always

    Simon Comben
    Hello Simon

    Until I took early retirement a couple of years ago I was Head of Maths at Landau Forte Academy QEMS, a secondary school in Tamworth, Staffs. The old Tamworth Grammar School is on this site and a part of it is still used today - the Music Dept is sited here. Since the early 1920s there has been a memorial to the old boys hanging in this part of the school honouring the fallen of both world wars. I have had a lifelong interest in WW1 (blame Biggles!) and was very disappointed to see the state that the memorial had become, particularly after an arson attack a few years ago had damaged it. The fire also completely destroyed the original honours board. I spent some time refurbishing the memorial, made (or, more correctly, had made) a replacement honours board and produced a display with all the information I could find of all the old boys.

    Anyway, I digress.

    34 old boys lost their lives in WW1 and just one of them was in the RFC - 2nd Lieutenant Ferrebee Sadler. Because of my aforementioned interest in the RFC (both Biggles AND Mannock particularly) I was drawn to Ferrebee and tried to find out just a little more about him. Not much I'm afraid but here goes.

    2nd Lieutenant Ferrebee Sadler was the son of Ferrebee and Hannah Sadler of "Standon" Ashby Road, Tamworth. Ferrebee was an old boy of Tamworth Grammar School, which he attended between the years 1903 to 1909. He served as a pilot, being attached to the Royal Flying Corps from the 9 Durham Light Infantry, and was the first Tamworth man to fly over Tamworth. Ferrebee had only been in France for five weeks when he met his death after his Nieuport XXIII aircraft, number A6797, was shot down by Leutnant Karl Emil Schäfer of Jasta 11. Schäfer was a German air ace who had shot down 30 Allied aircraft when he too met his death on 5 June 1917. In the action in which Ferrebee lost his life, two other aircraft from a six-man flight of 29 Squadron were shot down by Jasta 11 as soon as they reached the front, with both pilots also losing their lives. Although there is no article regarding his death in the Tamworth Herald, the edition of 28 April 1917 contains reference that Ferrebee had been reported missing.

    The following, full of difficult abbreviations I'm afraid, was kindly sent to me from someone who had a copy of 29 Squadron records.

    A6701 Nieuport 17 (SFA N2746).2 AD dd ex makers engine-less in packing case 29 Sqn dd ex 2 AD by Lt Pascoe 27.3.1917 (engine T4691J) and crashed into 60 Sqn a/c taking off 10.50hrs 5.4.1917 with Lt F Sadler OK (flying time 6 hrs 10 mins). 2 AD wrecked ex 29 Sqn 6.4.1917 (engine T4691J). 60 Sqn dd ex 2 AD by Lt Sherwood 28.7.1917 (engine T2701J). 1 AD dd ex 60 Sqn by Lt Horn 10.8.1917. 29 Sqn dd ex 1 AD by Lt Meek 15.8.1917 and LIA near Ypres on 06.18hrs patrol 18.8.1917 with 2Lt WB Styles POW wdd (engine T2701J, flying time 13 hrs 10 mins).
    A6797 Nieuport 23 (SFA N3340).2 AD dd ex Paris by Lt de Marmier 25.3.1917 (engine T6468J). 29 Sqn dd ex 2 AD by Lt Sadler 5.4.1917 and LIA near Fresnes on 16.30hrs OP 21.4.1917 with 2Lt F Sadler KIA in combat – possibly by Ltn K Schaefer, Jasta 11 (engine T6468J, flying time 20 hrs 55 mins).
    B1516 Nieuport 17 (SFA N3473).
    1 AD dd ex Paris in packing case 31.3.1917 (engine 100510). 29 Sqn collected ex 1 AD by Lt Sadler 10.4.1917, delivered 11.4.1917 after forced landing and forced to land damaged after combat on 15.15hrs escort patrol 23.4.1917 with 2Lt JD Atkinson OK (engine T2733J, flying time 21 hrs 45 mins). Machine remains and shelled to destruction by enemy fire.

    One final point of interest, Simon. To commemorate the centenary of WW1 three years ago I conducted an assembly to try and instil a tiny bit of interest in the school's history and WW1 to this generation's increasingly apathetic teenagers (bless 'em all!). After telling what I knew of the old boys I was approached afterwards by a (then) year 10 girl called Olivia who told me that she was related to Ferrebee. I think he was her grandmother's uncle - so her great great uncle. I don't know if you're aware of that side of your family but I suppose it wouldn't be right to give her surname here.

    If you're interested, if we can somehow inform each other of our contact details (I'm new here) I could send you a photo of the war memorial in school that features Ferrebee's name.

    I hope this has been a little informative, Simon.

    Best wishes.


  13. #13


    What a fantastic piece of information. Just caught up with this thread as I missed the original posting.

    If you could David please post a picture of the memorial on the site.

    Simon what a find and a fitting AAR. Do you know why he moved from the DLI to the RFC?
    See you on the Dark Side......

  14. #14


    Hi David

    yes please any and all further information would be very much appreciated

    As always

    Simon / Maverick
    I feel the need....for speed!

  15. #15


    That was a moving and imaginative tribute to your Grandfather's cousin, Simon. All too often we forget that it was real people who died.

  16. #16


    Welcome to the Aerodrome, David. It was interesting that you came across the same pilot in your investigations.

    May I suggest that you go to the Report for Duty section on this website and introduce yourself.

  17. #17


    Very nicely done AAR with graet pics and narrative!!


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