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528399 Sergeant John Sanderson 966 Squadron Royal Air Force
His service career began:
From September 1922 to 1929 he was in the Northumberland Fusiliers and from 1929 - 1934 Army Reserve.
He Served in Germany, British Army on the Rhine.
Based in Cologne, Courier duties between Cologne & Brussels
In January 1936 he
joined the R.A.F. and was in No.26 Sqadron Based at Prestwick then Catterick.
In 1937 he was posted to
R.A.F. Habbaniya - Iraq where he contracted Malaria, with recurrent bouts.
In December 1938 he
returned to UK on compassionate leave as his father died.
In September 1939 he
was at No.1 Balloon Training Unit at Cardington with 936 Squadron.
In 1940 he was
posted to No.966 Squadron at Sheffield and later to Newport, Wales.
In May 1942 he was posted to No.972 Squadron at Haifa and Palestine.
In February 1943 he was in No.977 Squaron at Gaza and Alexandria
In October 1943 4 Beach Balloon Detachment (NWAAF)
K Balloon Unit - BENGHAZI
X Sqdn - AUGUSTA, Sicily. north via Catania.
Jan 1944 (X Sqdn renamed 986 Sqdn) (transferred via Messina to Reggio in Italy)
249 Wing Sqdn based at VOMERO HEIGHTS, NAPLES.
127 SP - 3 GSTS - 56
Jun 1945 970 Sqdn
101 Personnel Dispersal Centre
Date of Release from the RAF was 1st November 1945.
Some interesting anecdotes of his time in the service:
1) Alongside their Balloon rigging duties, crews had the rigours of desert life to contend with - Immunisations,
Malaria, Flies, DDT, Salt tablets and
Sandstorms! Not to mention the frequent delicate aroma of camel carcasses.
2) Dad often wryly laughed about an incident that occurred on a desert airstrip - a German aircraft came in for
a low attack strafing run; Dad & the crew beat an instant retreat, racing for a protective slit trench. Unfortunately,
one shell landed in the trench they were making for - the resultant blast lifted Dad off his feet, landing him
away. One time his sprinting skills didn't benefit him!
3) Arrival of mail from home boosted morale. Censorship of letters was resented but always understood.
4) While meals could be monotonous and unappetising one seemed to provide some tasty fare - several cans of
vegetable soup were heated gently, into which a few cans of cubed bully beef were stirred -delicious!
5) During the sea crossing from N. Africa to Sicily, in sweltering heat they took advantage of a halt south of
Malta / Gozo, for a welcome dip in the
Med, diving off the side of the Landing Craft into the cool water.
6) Sicily had endured severe fighting; Dad related the difficulty of moving north along the eastern coast road.
Temporary shallow burial of numerous bodies increased the problems of hygiene & disease.
7) During their advance northwards in Italy they had camped overnight near an orange grove; a hidden sniper
started firing from the darkness, narrowly missing some of the men, attempting to locate his position they started
lighting matches from cover, while watching for gun flashes. Once located, they concentrated fire on that area.
At dawn they located the dead sniper - sadly, a young boy with a stolen service rifle!
8) By the time the 986 Sqadron reached Naples, it was to find that the retreating German garrison had blown the
sewage system and the fresh water aqueduct, epidemics were rife. Many men in the Squadron, especially
family men, befriended some of the local Italian families, helping out with occasional rations & medicine.
Contact was maintained with these families for many
The following photographs have been kindly submitted by the daughter of John Sanderson and are subject
to copyright. Please be patient these will take some time to download.
528399 Sgt John Sanderson 966 Squadron astride a motorbike at Tredegar Park, Newport
The building behind him were used as accommodation
528399 Sgt John Sanderson 966 Squadron
966 Squadron, presumably at Tredegar Park
966 Squadron, presumably in Egypt as the floor looks sandy and some of them look a bit warm!!
RAF transport with armour, presumably
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