WING COMMANDER REX SOUTHERN SANDERS OBE (1922-2017) WWII medal group comprising DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) engraved with date 1944, AFC (Air Force Cross) engraved with date 1953 & Bar, 1939-45 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Burma Star, Defence medal, War Medal, GSM (General Service Medal) with Asia 1945-46 bar, with miniatures, Royal Canadian Air Force Observer's and Air Gunner's Flying Log Book commencing 12th August 1942 - 29th July 1954 detailing various operations with signed certification that F/Lt R Sanders had completed his first tour of operations consisting of 33 1/2 sorties including Berlin, Royal Air Force Pilot's Flying Log Book commencing 18th November 1941 - 23rd May 1942, Royal Air Force Flying Log Book for navigators, air bombers, air gunners, flight engineers commencing 6th August 1954 - 21st November 1962, together with Legion of Honour French order of merit, cased Bomber Command ribbon, cased medallion recognising service in early Cold War overflights 1950-56, DFC and AFC cases ETC Provenance: direct from family Obituary written by Graham Pitchfork for The Telegraph:
Spy Flight’s Navigator Dies aged 94
Wing Commander Rex Sanders, who has died aged 94, was the lead navigator of a select nine-man RAF team that flew USAF reconnaissance aircraft on a series of top secret, and highly risky, spy flights deep into the Soviet Union in the early 1950s.
London-born Rex Sanders joined the RAF in April 1941 and trained as a navigator in Canada. After completing his training in the UK he was posted to No.78 Squadron based in Yorkshire and operating the four-engine Halifax.
Within a few weeks of his arrival, Bomber Command embarked on its most intensive period of operations with the beginning of what became known as the ‘Battle of Berlin’. Sanders made a number of sorties to the ‘Big City’, which he described as ‘quite difficult’. He also attacked other major cities before the bombers were switched to targets in France in preparation for the D-Day landings.
On the night of June 5, 1944 he attacked gun batteries on the Channel coast unaware that the air and sea invasion was about to begin. He recalled, “Coming back my radar showed the Channel chock-a-block with ships. I told the crew: 'This is it'.” Sanders was rested after completing thirty-three operations. In eleven months his crew were only the third in their squadron to complete a full tour of duty. Well over half had been lost. He was awarded the DFC. After the war he specialised in navigation and in 1951 he was selected for a ‘special flight’. In August three RAF crews flew to a USAF base in Louisiana to train on the North American RB-45C four-engine jet reconnaissance aircraft. The leader of the team was Squadron Leader John Crampton and Sanders was his navigator. In the following February the crews were briefed on their secret flight codenamed ‘Ju-Jitsu’. Four RB-45Cs were flown to an RAF base in north Norfolk where they were shorn of their USAF markings and repainted with RAF roundels (one aircraft was to act as a spare). After Crampton and Sanders had flown a practice flight along the Berlin Air Corridor to test the Soviet reaction – there was none – Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave approval for the top-secret flights. The three aircraft took off on April 17, 1952 and headed for Denmark where they refuelled from airborne tankers. Crampton then turned south east for Russia flying at 36,000 feet. Electronic intelligence was gathered and photographs taken of the targets and, after an uneventful flight, the aircraft landed back at Sculthorpe after a ten-hour flight.
The three crews returned to normal duties but the special unit was reformed in April 1954 for another series of flights. On the 28th, Crampton and Sanders headed for Kiev; the longest of the three flights. Sanders had just taken some photographs when the RB-45 came under anti-aircraft fire. Realising that his aircraft had been identified and was being tracked by ground radars; Crampton applied full power and turned west, towards Germany, some 1,000 miles away. General Vladimir Abramov, Commander for the Kiev region, revealed in later years that he had ordered MiG fighter pilots to try and ram the spy aircraft but they were unable to reach 36,000 feet to intercept the RB-45C.
This highly clandestine Cold War episode remained a closely guarded secret until 1994 when the BBC and the Daily Telegraph disclosed some details. Sanders was among retired RAF personnel interviewed on BBC's Timewatch programme a few years later. The RAF and USAF commanders considered the flights valuable and Crampton and his crews were decorated, Sanders receiving the AFC, adding a Bar for the second flight.
After completing the RAF Flying College Course, when he made a hazardous flight to the North Pole in a Canberra, Sanders specialised in guided weapons before he served in charge of operations on a Thor Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile Site in Norfolk.
After two years as the Air Advisor to the Pakistan Air Force he assumed command of RAF Aberporth on the Welsh coast from where air defence missiles, including the Bloodhound surface-to-air guided missile, were tested.
His final appointment was a five-year tour in the MOD Operational Requirements Directorate. His secret work resulted in his appointment as OBE. He retired in December 1977.
(Photograph 9 of Rex Sanders included in the obituary - not included in lot)
Auctioneer's Note: Wing Commander Rex Southern Sanders DFC AFC & Bar OBE was a Royal Air Force navigator who won a DFC for his service during the Second World War and an AFC for his part in secret photographic and radar reconnaissance missions behind Soviet lines during the Cold War in the 1950's. Operation Jiu Jitsu - the cover story was that the RAF was evaluating the mid air refueling capabilities of the RB-45 when secretly vital intelligence was being gathered on the Soviet infrastructure, defences and offences. Sanders was the lead navigator of a select nine-man RAF team that flew USAF reconnaissance aircraft on a series of top secret, and highly risky, spy flights deep into the Soviet Union in the early 1950s. In August 1951, three RAF bomber crews flew to a USAF base in Louisiana to train on the North American RB-45C four-engine jet reconnaissance aircraft. The following February the crews were briefed on the operation. Four RB-45Cs were flown to an RAF base in north Norfolk, where they were shorn of their USAF markings and repainted with RAF roundels. Comments: viewing in person highly recommended