Major Mike Sadler: a hero’s journey from SAS to Antarctic explorer

A comprehensive understanding of Major Mike Sadler can be gained from his Wikipedia page. His profile showcases heroic deeds, an illustrious military career, and significant contributions after the war. A prominent member of the original wartime Special Air Service (SAS), Sadler was recruited in 1941 by the founder of the SAS, David Stirling. His bravery in conducting night-time raids in North Africa and being deployed into Nazi-occupied France post-D-Day was remarkable. His valour earned him the Military Cross, and his subsequent service in MI6 was equally commendable. The Antarctic even boasts a segment named after him.

Major Mike Sadler’s life is a testament to his exceptional service to the military, particularly his notable work with the SAS. Born in 1920, Sadler’s journey began in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where he worked on a farm after leaving school in 1937. When World War II broke out in 1939, he enlisted in the Rhodesian Army’s artillery unit. Soon after, in 1941, he was recruited into the SAS by David Stirling. His initial tasks primarily involved night-time raids on Axis airfields in Libya. However, his remarkable courage and skill set him apart, and he was soon parachuted into Nazi-occupied France after the D-Day Normandy landings in 1944.

Sadler’s contributions to the SAS were invaluable, navigating through the unknown desert terrains in the early years. His significant role in the first SAS raid on Wadi Tamet airfield in December 1941 cannot be overlooked. He continued to showcase exceptional leadership skills and bravery in Italy and France. After the war, Sadler’s adventurous spirit led him to the Antarctic, where he was awarded the Polar Medal for his survey efforts in the Falkland Islands’ Antarctic territory.

In 2018, Major Mike Sadler received France’s highest honour, the Legion d’honneur, acknowledging his bravery and exceptional contributions. His life story was portrayed in the BBC’s SAS: Rogue Heroes by actor Tom Glynn-Carney, further immortalising his legacy.

At the time of his death in 2024, Major Mike Sadler was 103 years old. His life’s journey, marked by significant global events, is a testament to his courage, dedication, and impact on military history.

Sadler’s personal life was as remarkable as his professional one. As the last surviving SAS member from World War II, his life was marked by remarkable achievements. Born in 1920, Sadler was married twice. His first marriage was to Anne Hetherington in 1944, which ended after two years. In 1958, he married Pat Benson, who remained his wife until her death in 2001. They have a daughter, Sally.

Beyond his military career, Sadler’s post-war contributions included his work in the Antarctic survey, earning him the Polar Medal. He also served in MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service. His family life, intertwined with the complexities of wartime relationships and personal endeavours, reflects his life’s journey. His legacy continues through his daughter, Sally.