“The Mad Aussie”
Donald Teale Saville
Born 22.12.1903 Portland NSW
Son of John and Isabella Saville
Educated All Saints College, Bathhurst – Friends School, Great Ayton (UK)
DFC Citation (With No.104 Squadron)
Within two weeks of his arrival in Malta this officer completed numerous sorties. By his splendid leadership and untiring efforts,he has contributed materially to the success obtained by the squadron he commands. In November 1942 at night, he took part in three attacks on enemy airfields in Tunis. In spite of heavy opposition and bad weather the objective was bombed from low level. The next night he participated in 3 attacks on Comiso airfield where a large fire was started. His determination and courageous example has inspired his fellow pilots.
DSO Citation (With No.218 Squadron)
This officer has completed a very large number of sorties and has displayed outstanding determination to achieve success. He is a fearless commander who invariably chooses to participate in the more difficult sorties which have to be undertaken. Whatever the opposition ,Wing commander Saville endeavours to press home his attacks with accuracy and resolution By his personnel example and high qualities of leadership ,this officer has contributed materially to the operationally efficiency of the squadron.
02.05.1927: Air Cadet
01.05.1927: Flying Officer
30.04.1939: Relinquished rank of Flying Officer
Promotions RAF (Peace-time)
14.02.28: Pilot Officer
02.11.1928: Flying Officer
Promotions RAF (War-time)
27.09.1939: GDB Pilot Officer
27.09.1940: Flying Officer
09.10.1940: Flight Lieutenant
01.07.1941: Acting Squadron Leader
04.08.1942: Acting Wing Commander
27.09.1939: No.2 FPP
01.05.1940: No.4 FPP
01.07.1941: No.11 Ferry Flight
05.09.1941: No.12 (Bomber) Squadron
02.121941: No.458 RAAF Squadron
27.02.1942: RAF Station Holme upon Spalding Moor (Awaiting posting overseas)
02.05.1942: No.2 Flying School
14.06.1942: No.104 Squadron (Middle East) Commanding Officer
14.02.1943: No.1 Personnel Disposal Unit (Pending posting to the UK)
26.03.1943 : No.1657 Conversion Unit
30.3.1943: No.218 (Gold Coast) Squadron to Command
Donald Teale Saville is on record having completed 9 operations while operational with No.12 Squadron. He undertook a further 6 operations with No.458 RAAF Squadron, all of which were flown from England. While with No.104 Squadron it is believed he completed a further 32 operations against targets in North Africa and Italy. This figure if correct ( Don may have flown more op’s but did not record them in his Log Book) brings his total to 47 operations prior to commanding No.218 Squadron. The final total of operations flown by Wing Commander D T Saville DSO DFC is 57 in you include the Air Sea Rescue flight on April 11th.
Operations Flown with No.218 (Gold Coast) Squadron
|28.03.1943||BK702||HA-O||St Nazaire||2nd Pilot to S/Ldr Beck|
|06.04.1943||BF505||HA-Z||Mining||Duty Carried Out|
|08.04.1943||BK687||HA-R||Duisburg||Duty Carried Out|
|11.04.1943||R9244||HA-S||Sea Search||Duty Carried Out|
|16.04.1943||EF365||HA-U||Mannheim||Duty Carried Out|
|Hit by flak, gunner injured|
|20.04.1943||EF505||HA-Z||Rostock||Duty Carried Out|
|12.05.1943||BK688||HA-A||Duisburg||Duty Carried Out|
|29.05.1943||BK712||HA-D||Wuppertal||Duty Carried Out|
|Group Captain Barnes 2nd pilot|
|19.06.1943||EH892||HA-U||Le Creusot||Duty Carried Out|
|Machine gunned factory|
There can be little that has not been said about Wing Commander Donald Saville DSO DFC. There are few squadron commanders that instil such respect and admiration from all ranks as this diminutive 40-year-old Australian, he may have been small in frame but his energy and bravery held no bounds. He commanded No.218 Squadron for a relatively short time but his influence and style of commander left a mark on everyone who served with him. Author and former friend, Francis Roy Chappell produced a wonderful book titled BOMBER COMMANDER. I would strongly recommend that anyone interested in learning more about Wing Commander Saville DSO DFC obtain a copy. Two former flight commanders of Don Saville, S/Ldr Geoff Rothwell DFC and bar and Ian Ryall DFC and bar had this to say about their former commanding officer:
Ian Ryall : He was a good CO- the type that made Bomber Command tick by giving the lead both on and off duty. He liked a pint and was always there with the boys when there was a night off. I had a lot of commanding officers, but HE was the most outstanding without a show of doubt!
Geoff Rothwell : I remember how I admired the way he was able to run the squadron so effectively without relying on tight discipline and many others did in his position. It was a free and easy atmosphere which brought the best out of the crews. Click here to read a tribute to W/Cdr Saville by Geoff.
Both Ian and Geoff were experienced bomber captains and cast from the same mould as Don, it says a lot about Don that men such a Ian and Geoff still after 70 odd years hold their former CO in such high regards. Just how much Wing Commander Saville’s loss meant can be seen in the letter below sent by Group Captain Barnes Station Commander RAF Downham Market.
Operation 24th / 25th July 1943 : Hamburg
Short Stirling Mk.III BF567 HA-P departed RAF Downham Market at 22:21hrs loaded with 1 x 2000lb HE – 4 x 4lb SBC + 1 x 4lb SBC – 6 x 30lb SBC and headed towards the English east coast. Aboard the Stirling was Flight Sergeant Hugh Beavis flying as 2nd pilot, this was the 21-year-old Kiwi’s first operation. The crews navigator was Pilot Officer William Brighton RAFVR, this was his first operation with the squadron commander. The Wireless Operator was Flight Lieutenant Thomas Stanley DFC. Stanley was the squadron Signals Leader and like Brighton had never flown with Donald, he was awarded his DFC almost a year previously while with No.218 and was by July 1943 an experienced veteran. Bomb aimer was the equally experienced Flying Officer Cedric Eyre RAF VR who was on his second tour. Cedric’s usual pilot was the recently posted and tour expired S/Ldr Howard Saunders DFC, Cedric like the others had not flown with Donald prior to this operation. The mid upper gunner was the squadron Gunnery Leader Flight Lieutenant John Birbeck RAF VR DFC. John had flown with the C/O on several previous operations. Flight engineer, Pilot Officer Thomas Fairgreive RAF DFM, it is believed that Pilot Officer Fairgreive was on his second tour with the squadron, he had only operated once prior with Don. The final crew member was the rear gunner Flight Sergeant Adam Howat RAF VR. Adam Howat’s usual skipper was S/Ldr Rothwell, however Rothwell was posted on completion of his tour. It would appear that Sergeant Howat had a few trips to complete prior to posting, he too had not flown with the commanding officer before. The crew were to be a part of the 3rd wave over Hamburg scheduled to attack between 01.10hrs-01.26hrs. The Stirling was attacked by a night fighter flown by Fw Hans Meissner of 6./NJG3 at 01.10hrs crashing 1 km SW of Einfeldon while on the run into target, the Stirling was well ablaze with two engines on fire and beyond hope of saving, realising this, Wing Commander Saville ordered “Get away boys”’, it was his last words.
Francis Roy Chappell in his book BOMBER COMMANDER states that four of the crew managed to bail out before the Stirling with its brave pilot still at the controls crashed near Einfeld, 5kms north of Neumunster. Of the four survivors three were hung by hostile civilians upon capture. Only Flying Officer Cedric Eyre RAF VR survived to become at PoW. These hangings, have not been confirmed.
The crew are buried in the Hamburg (Ohlsdorf) Cemetery, Germany. It is believed they were initially buried in Neumunster.
For details on Don’s early operational career, I would recommend the following No.458 RAAF Association web site and tribute page : Click Here to be taken to the No.458 RAAF Squadron Association.