Airborne Engineers Association

Sandy Sanderson

 

 

Sandy Sanderson MBE by Froth Beer and Pete Ellis

 

Sandy Sanderson

Following a prolonged period of ill health Sandy (did any of his colleagues know his Christian name?) sadly passed away on 17 April 2018. A larger than life character, full of fun and wit, he was the ideal candidate for 9 Indep Para Sqn.

Of course his charm and quick thinking allowed him to escape the wrath of the SSM and various OCs. But beneath his seemingly uncaring and casual attitude he was without doubt a very intelligent individual. On leaving the Sqn he went on to become an extremely competent and talented Bomb Disposal instructor and was later awarded the MBE in recognition of his valuable service. So many anecdotes could be written about Sandy, but perhaps best kept within the memories of his former colleagues.

Froth Beer writes:
I first heard rather than saw Sandy. He was busy explaining how Nelson's Victory could be clapped in irons if she failed to get her bows through the eye of the wind. Then she would have to wear ship which, of course, takes a lot more sea-room. As I was trying to get some kip I was not enamoured. This was Crookham circa 1969 and within a very short time it became clear that Sandy was a one off. A few years later we were running the Squadron bar together and during this time Sandy introduced and taught me how to sail. There is one vivid memory I have of Sandy it was in Hong Kong 1974 , after climbing up the steps to board the airplane at the top he turned around and with a lordly sweep of his arm shouted "Chogs Away" racist I know, but Jim Snape and I fell about That's the last vivid memory I have of Jim too , may they both rest in peace.

I always thought I would see Sandy again, that such a life force would always pull through. Alas it was not to be, Marion and Sandy came to visit me in hospital in 1976 and I never saw him again.

Captain 'Sandy' Sanderson MBE - R.I.P 17 April 2017 Eulogy by Peter Ellis

Sandy and I go back to the early 1970s, I guess almost 50 years 'on and off'.
From our early 9 Indep Para Sqn days, a spell at 38 Engr Regt in Ripon, then to Bomb Disposal in 33 EOD Regt and connections to EODTIC (the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technical Centre), at Lodge Hill, we always enjoyed great respect for one another. Sometimes in the early days of sharing great danger but mostly in having much fun when we met, on that part of our journey through life.

Sandy joined 9 Sqn as a young airborne soldier, who became a real character from the onset. He loved people, pulling pranks and was very good at parties. Wherever you were, you could hear him before you saw him.

An intelligent and big strong lad with a tremendous sense of humour, he was most loyal and would never let anyone down. He also had a devil may care attitude and in the early years, figuratively speaking, he once or twice found himself on the wrong side of military law. But more of that later.

Brave and courageous, he matured very quickly and when we deployed to Northern Ireland during the early part of that long running conflict, he became an important asset to our team, ready for anything, but with just the right sort of caution when required.

During a few early 70s deployments, we were based at the old Antrim Bridging Camp from where we would deploy elsewhere in the province, or, to Belfast. Antrim was located at one end of Lough Nay, the largest expanse of inland water in the UK. Generally at weekends, unless you were on standby, there was an opportunity to some relaxation. Sandy was by then a very good sailor and he pleased to introduce others to the sport, and, he managed to teach me the basics of dingy sailing.

After some exploits on the water, we would then 'repair' to the Sqn Club, (Known as the Aviary, as on Saturday nights it would be full of 'birds' from Belfast). Saturday afternoons would involve a few beers, where those present would generally split into similar factions, as for our adversaries, the IRA, namely, the Official Yachting Association (OVA) -those who actually did some sailing and then the drinking - and the Provisional Yachting Association (PYA) - those who didn't sail but just did the 'drinking' bit. Great afternoons were had by all with some fun, singing and ribaldry between our factions, where Sandy could be found at the forefront, until the Orderly Officer called "Time".
During this tour Sandy was a member of my high risk search team. One particular memory of him where all our qualities were in play, happened when we were tasked to carry out an early morning occupied house raid on an IRA suspect's house down in the deepest 'Badlands Belfast'. During this escapade Sandy received the reputation of being the only person we knew who on record, 'was the only man who could honestly state that he sprained his ankle opening a door!'

It went like this, we silently formed up in the early hours outside this particular small terraced house. Having been briefed that the suspect was high on the wanted list and probably "Would not come quietly". So armed to the teeth, Sandy as our biggest bloke, in the role of 'entry man', we made a forced entry via the front door. The routine was for Sandy to boot the door open and then the remainder of the team would flood the house and make the necessary arrests, and then to remain and carry out an intensive search to seek evidence of terrorism (Weapon, documentation etc.)

The door took some breaking down, but Sandy eventually succeeded, followed by him hopping about with big yelps of pain. But typical of him he followed me, dashing up the stairs to the main bedroom where by torchlight we found the suspect tucked up in bed with his wife. Both were scared out of their wits to find two aggressive armed figures present. We duly arrested the suspect, took him down stairs and handed him over to the awaiting intelligence officers.

In a further twist to this story, it transpired later that the man we found and arrested was in fact the brother of the suspect that we had gone to arrest (but who had been in bed with his sister-in-law) whilst the IRA man in question had recently `run away to sea' to avoid capture.

Sandy had a soft spot for animals and Belfast seemed to have lots of stray dogs running around the tad areas'. Often our duties involved fortifying downtown Security Forces locations (Schools, factories and unoccupied houses). During one of these tasks Sandy took a shine to a scruffy little dog with very short legs. He decided to give it a home and with his sharp sense of humour named him "Stumpy". Despite being illegal, Stumpy became a member of our section and accompanied Sandy for quite a while but needed to be kept out of sight of the SSM. More than once I would find that Sandy had tucked Stumpy in my bed — fleas and all!

Sandy liked to tell stories. Whilst still in 9 Sqn and shortly after he married Marian, they settled into a house and he was sent on a course to Chatham. Sometime during the course he was reported AWOL, eventually he reappeared and was sent back to the Sqn to 'face the music'. At the time I was orderly Cpl for the SSM Taff Anthony, known as the "Gripper", whom Sandy had got to know quite well, mainly for the wrong reasons. Being reported as AWOL is always dealt with by an appearance on `OCs Orders'. This particular session turned into a bit of a farce where the Gripper ended up not being best pleased.

With me as his escort, Sandy was marched into the OCs office in double quick time to hear the charges presented. When it came to Sandy to explain himself he paused, and then in his typical style, said," Well sir, my wife has been looking after a horse, but she had to go away, so I had to leave the course to look after it myself". With the exception of the Gripper, all present in the room began to chuckle and at this point he threw us out of the office with threats we would all be in jail if we could not be serious — and were then marched back in.

Sandy always loved to push his luck and now back in front of the OC it was inevitable that he was be found guilty of AWOL and received the appropriate sanction. Asked by the OC if he had anything to add, Sandy replied, "As no one was going to be home, could the Sqn cancel my milk delivery please. Cue, uproar again. You couldn't make it up.

We moved on in our careers, and later we met at 38 Engr Regt as members of the Sgt's Mess, where of course within the Regt as a SNCO he had become a very good leader with a great reputation for professionalism, rising to all challenges presented as he climbed the promotion ladder. His men loved him and both he and I would meet at a number of mess social occasions which would involve in a few beers — where he still had his element of great fun.

Much later I was posted to 33 EOD Regt where I had to attend and pass the pretty stiff 8B1 Bomb Disposal Officers course held at Lodge Hill, Chattenden. Here I met up once again with Sandy (by now retired from the regular army, but was both a captain in the TA EOD and in his daytime job, was one of the two resident experts at EODTIC at Lodge Hill, where he had become one of Europe's military experts on WWII bombs, their locations and most importantly, how to deal with them when found. It was fitting that he was awarded an MBE for his many years of EOD work.

Loyal as ever to his comrades, he gave up some of his precious time to spend a couple of evenings with me in the RE bomb disposal museum, to assist in my skill of identifying dozens of different munitions and fuses, essential for me to pass the course.
Later during my Bomb Disposal Officer duties in following up on some WWII bomb clearance operations, it was Sandy who we would ring up or indeed visit, to describe exactly what we had found, whereupon he would then advise on the preferred procedure to make such very old munitions safe. His expertise and knowledge was second to none and the success of these operations owed much to him.

Sandy was a great bloke in every respect and will be sadly missed by all who had the honour to know him.

 

 

 

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