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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. J G Sanders


James Gilbert Sanders was born in Richmond, Surrey on 19th June 1914. He was educated in Genoa, Italy until the age of 19. He returned from there and later joined the RAF on a short service commission, beginning his training on 25th November 1935.

He was posted to 10 FTS Ternhill on 1st February 1936 and after completing his training joined 111 Squadron on 10th August.

On 4th October 1939 Sanders joined 615 Squadron at Croydon as 'B' Flight Commander. On 15th November he led his flight when 615's Gladiators flew to Merville in company with those of 607 Squadron.



Sanders was flying a weather test on 29th December 1939 when he sighted a He111. Having chased it up to 23,000 feet and used up all his ammunition, he lost it in cloud. Hit by return fire, he crash-landed near Valenciennes, and was badly concussed.

On 17th May 1940 Sanders destroyed a Ju88 of 7/LG1 near Lille, one of three enemy aircraft he claimed whilst in France. However again return fire caused a forced-landing.

The squadron withdrew to Kenley on the 20th. He was made 'G' Flight Commander on 23rd May. It was made up of six Gladiators. The flight went immediately to Manston, where it was attached to 604 Squadron for operations. The flight returned to Kenley on the 30th and was disbanded. Sanders was awarded the DFC (gazetted 4th June 1940).

He destroyed a Me110 and damaged another on 22nd June but used up all his fuel in the engagement and had to land on the Isle of Wight in Hurricane P2487.

He was presented with his DFC by the King at Kenley on the 27th and probably shot down a Me109 on the 30th.

Sanders damaged two He111’s on 16th August, destroyed a He111 and a Ju88 and shared another Ju88 on the 18th, shot down a Ju88 and damaged a He111 during the night of 24th/25th August.

Sanders remained at Kenley when 615 Squadron was posted to Prestwick on 29th August. He was attached to 253 Squadron and flew three night sorties with it, on 9th, 13th and 25th September. In the early hours of the 25th he destroyed a He111.

The attachment to 253 ceased on 28th September and Sanders was then attached to 66 Squadron at Gravesend, to help form 421 Flight. In 421's ORB he is listed as one of 421's original pilots. After a few days he was attached to the Fighter Interception Unit.

On 14th October 1940 Sanders was given command of 422 Flight, which was attached to the FIU at Shoreham. The Flight formed the nucleus of 96 Squadron on its formation at Cranage on 18th December 1940. Sanders was made a Flight Commander in the new squadron.

In January 1941 he went to 257 Squadron but moved to 255 Squadron at Kirton-in-Lindsey in February. During the nights of 11th and 13th March Sanders probably destroyed He111’s and on 7th April he damaged a Ju88. On 23rd June 1941 he was posted away to 60 OTU East Fortune and in September he became Squadron Leader Flying there.

In June 1942 he was made Wing Commander Flying at 53 OTU Llandow and later at 61 OTU Rednal. Sanders was later Station Commander at Hunsdon, Zeals and Hutton Cranswick.

Sanders was serving with the SHAEF mission in 1944/5 and was in Brussels at the end of the war. He went out to the Far East and at some time he was OC Flying at Mingaladon airfield, Rangoon.

He returned to the UK in 1947 and was released from the RAF as a Wing Commander. Sanders went into the insurance business, with Crown Life of Canada.

He had a lifelong love of music and kept a family box at the Royal Albert Hall. One son served in the RAF as a Jaguar aerobatic display pilot.

Sanders died in August 2002.


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