Great Britain’s last surviving original SAS hero has been awarded the highest honor for bravery 74 years after he parachuted into the Nazi-occupied France. In a private ceremony at the French Embassy in London, Colonel Antoine de Loustal presented pensioner Mike Sadler, 98, with the Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur for his heroic act of bravery during WWII.
Colonel de Loustal, who presented Mr. Sadler with the red-ribboned medal said simply, “We shall not forget. We will never forget.”
Mr. Sadler’s amazing story began in 1941 when he joined the Long Range Desert Group, a reconnaissance unit based in the North African desert. Mr. Sadler became the unit’s top navigator as he was able to adeptly guide raiding groups across bare expanses of desert.
In December 1941, Sadler was part of a team of six who sabotaged 24 aircraft and a fuel dump following a raid on the Wadi Tamet airfield. He also guided 18 jeeps filled with twin Vickers K machine guns along 70 miles of desert to within 200 feet of Sidi Haneish airfield without lights or a map.
He went on to fight with the SAS in Italy and France before setting up an intelligence unit. On August 7, 1944, he parachuted into Loire as part of Operation Houndworth. The mission was to was to destroy fuel depots, encourage local resistance, and prevent Panzer divisions traveling north. His group was divided into two Jeeps when it was attacked. The other jeep fled while Sadler provided cover before retiring. As a result of his defense of the group, Sadler was awarded the UK's Military Cross for gallantry.
After accepting the French honor, the 98-year-old Sadler said: “I’m afraid I can’t give a speech because I can’t read any notes as I can no longer see.” He added, “I do remember the people who didn’t survive, and who didn’t have the chance to receive this great honor.”
In 2014, former French President François Hollande ordered that all surviving British soldiers who helped in the liberation of France should be awarded the Légion d’honneur.