Saturday, September 24, 2011

Remarkable new SAS publication

A close British acquaintance who has long helped me with my research introduced me to this news today:

It appears that the SAS Regimental Association has seen fit to publish a diary of sorts that was put together by a unnamed member of the SAS, who had experience that seems to date back to the origins of L Detachment. It has been published to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the SAS and raise money for the association, and limited copies are available in the Britain for nearly 1,000 pounds (and available only to Her Majesty's Forces and the Special Forces Club at that pric). A range of different editions are available, with the Navigator Edition, signed by the man himself, posting at a handsome £1750.

What a remarkable advance in the history of the Regiment, and the men who served it so well. It's very coincidental that I just finished reading the book, "We Won a War," which details some of the exploits of UK soldiers during the Oman counterinsurgency.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sun azimuth tables

It's pretty remarkable that after years of hunting for the azimuth tables required to employ the Howard MkIII Sun Compass purchased about seven years ago, I found a .pdf of them tucked away online.

They are available, free, on a website called I had previously purchased at Ebay auction a CD-ROM of what was advertised as sun tables, but the disc was crap and only made my disc drive shudder as though it was going to explode. No joy there.

Today I was looking online at Howard Sun Compass information, and saw an incomplete one for sale on Ebay. Included in the auction was a CD-ROM of the tables (it may have even been the seller who sold the crap copy years ago), and that was where I picked up the title of the book and name of the author.

For too long I had thought that the tables were nothing more than a nondescript government survey office pamphlet. Most people I corresponded with on forums and guestbooks had heard of the tables, but never seen them before.

Alas, the wonder of the internet and Google. I ran a search string using "Davis sun tables" and out churned a number of hits that took me to Amazon and some old book sellers. I did the same back at Ebay and found nothing. Then I added the simple word "download" to my query and found a copy available at the archive site:

Sometimes, what you are looking for is right under your nose.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Today represented perhaps the single greatest movement forward with the project, as I had the opportunity to speak with Sadler for approximately an hour, across a long-distance telephone connection to the UK.

Despite his disclaimers that his memory has grown a bit dime, I found him as sharp as ever when he answered the many questions I posed regarding his service with the SAS, and how it was that he came to become a navigator.

It is probably an indicator of his self-effacing manner that he considered himself an amateur at the business of navigating. He did concede that the breed of men who served with the SAS in those formative years, and who serve in current times, have a dash of skill, bravery, and sense of adventure that makes them successful when going up against greater odds.

I'll probably post additional updates and cover some of the topics we discussed, but for now, it's back to the notes for organization and further research.

The embedded picture is from the tour he (by this time a major) was invited on, along with other members of the SAS, of the US in June, 1945. They were touted as heros of the North African and European Campaigns, and rightly so.

Monday, February 28, 2011

More success

I have been on leave from my military duties for some time, and just had the opportunity to log on to the .mil network in order to check my email. As I browsed the new arrivals and deleted ones that were related to my previous billet, I came across one that I misread when I first saw it sitting in my Outlook queue.

"Mike Sadler" were the first words that I took note of, and I continued on to the business of removing others. As I filtered through the remaining new emails a bit more carefully, I realized that I had seen the name of the sender, not the subject line of the email. I opened it quickly and there it was, a reply from Major Mike Sadler himself!

I have yet to reply, but Sadler offered to take a call at my convenience, and apologized for the lack of correspondence, along with the fact that his memory has faded with the 70 years that have passed. The first thing I think I will tell him is that he, of all people, rate privacy and a certain degree of lapse in memory. He has no doubt forgotten more than I will ever know about the subject of navigation.

Friday, February 25, 2011


As it often happens in one's career in the military, you leave an organization that meant a lot to you, in terms of many things. Most of them tend to be intangible, like the opportunities to stand on a expanse of virgin sand that has probably not seen a human tread on it before your presence, where you realize that your profession gives meaning to your life.

I recently left what is likely my last light armored reconnaissance battalion for a billet at one of our infantry schools. While I welcome the break from the grind of preparatory training and eventual deployments, I miss the men who make up that fine battalion already. I have had the opportunity to stand on some remarkable patches of dirt and see some amazing things, just as I did with the first LAR battalion I served with from 2002-2005.

One of the captone operations we conducted was a 160 kilometer raid to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border of Bahram Cha, in order to disrupt insurgent cross-border activity and prevent them from using the Bahram Cha bazaar as a hub for the trafficking of drugs, weapons, foreign fighters and other insurgents. The task force assembled to conduct the mission was immense, by just about every measure imaginable, and movement down and back took its toll on men and machine. I've traveled quite a few long stretches in the variants of the Light Armored Vehicle, the Operation Steel Dawn II was no different. Sadly, that will probably be the last time I traverse the battlefield in one of those beautiful vehicles.

Just a few months after I stepped down from that vehicle, I was saying goodbye to my battalion and my commander, a man who allowed me to be the second-in-command that he needed, and to help forge the unit into the fighting force it was capable of becoming. I gave that man a copy of The Barce Raid: The Long Range Desert Group's Greatest Escapade, by Brendan O'Carroll, to commemorate his joining the ranks, so to speak, of the desert raiders. I inscribed a note of thanks for the opportunity to work with him, and shared the link to this blog. A link to video shot by a combat correspondent is here:

Monday, January 3, 2011


Well, despite receiving a lead on Sadler's proper mailing address, I became otherwise wrapped up in preparation for another deployment, and the information lay dormant for almost a year.
As I was dredging through my email, I pulled up the information again and asked a British acquaintance to give it a check. Turns out that it is accurate, and my friend even had a brief chat! Well how about that?

I've sent a letter off, asking if we might have a chat or two of our own, and I am excited to see what the reply holds.

This post also allows me to add a clarification to my inaugural post. In it I stated the following:

My initial interest in Sadler stemmed from a read of The Phantom Major: The Story of David Stirling and the SAS Regiment, by Virgina Cowles. This interest grew after my reads of various books detailing the exploits of the Long Range Desert Group and their loose affiliation with the SAS before Stirling acquired his own transport. As someone who has languished over a map with sweat dripping from my brow as I plotted the next leg of my course, I wanted to know more about Sadler. I felt the larger historical and military audience would benefit from learning how Sadler learned to navigate, what standard operating procedures he observed, and how he applied his craft in the harsh conditions of the blistering sands.
I was browsing through John W. Gordon's book "The Other Desert War: British Special Forces in North Africa, 1940-1943" today, and was reminded that there was no loose affiliation involved, but rather a fairly well-formed, close relationship. My previous statement was thoroughly incorrect.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I am reminded of my interest in land navigation...

When I was just a young boy, one of my favorite books was Treasure Island, by Robert Loius Stevenson. I can faintly remember my deep interest in the nature of the treasure map that sits centerpiece to the story, and the unique landmarks such as Spyglass Hill. I must have studied that map easily one hundred times as I read the book several times, or simply thumbed to the map to daydream about piracy and treasure.

The Mike Sadler Project is a passion for me because I have always enjoyed the challenge of terrestrial navigation. I have found the business of plotting a location on a map, charting a course to that point, and the following that azimuth to a destination, a fairly easy process. Perhaps it is because of my early interest in Treasure Island. In any case, this ease and enjoyment has been part of the impetus behind the The Mike Sadler Project, and the attempt to highlight his uncanny skill at traversing hundreds of kilometers with confidence and skill.

This effort remains on track. Is is a slow track, but this project continues on. Once my post-deployment leave kicks off, I hope to move further along than I am now. Wish me luck!