John Sadler - Military Historian

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www.johnsadler.net 24th November 2014
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Douglas John Sadler
BA(Hons), M.Phil., FRHistS FSA (Scotl.)


My main specialism is in military history, I am an accomplished, author, lecturer, battlefield tour guide, heritage professional and historical interpreter.

For all those who like Bernard Cornwell style genre fiction, my current offering 'Blood Divide' a novel of Flodden is on the shelves, (Lion Hudson - ISBN 978 1 78264 089 9; e-ISBN 978 1 78264 090 S), loads of gratuitous violence and a fair amount of early Renaissance, sharp end medical gore. I hope you enjoy and remember; I need the money...

It does get a good review from 'War Online': 'So what about the novel? Well, it’s kind of Mills & Boon meets Flashman. The book appears to be almost Shakespearean at first glance. A list of characters and their offerings to the story appears on page one and a hint of a play looms. Now, I’m no fan of Shakespeare; shock horror and to my American cousins reading this nor do I live near London or know the Queen (though I do wear a bowler hat to work). But, I was somehow drawn to this novel and I shall make this clear again; it is fictional. The characters who have a ‘part to play’ in the book are based on genuine historical people who were at or involved some way in the battle. Thomas Howard – Earl of Surrey, George Darcy or King James IV of Scotland (soon to be disembowelled) to name but a few. The story is based on exploits that are, in some cases, though by no means all, fictional. Confusing?

Think EastEnders in the 16th Century with all the grit and drama and violence and bed hopping and you’ll go some way to prepare yourself for this ripping yarn.

It’s well written, thoughtful and Sadler, a veteran of many historical novels, rumbles on with just enough historical background to keep you informed and enthused. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t written by a mere storyteller. Mr Sadler clearly knows his history and uses it to full effect. The descriptive text of uniforms and weaponry are spot on, even the colours and textures are described by an author with wisdom on his subject. Something you don’t always get, even with authors of factual historical books. It rushes headfirst from gory, laddish fight scenes to pre-battle nerves and then abruptly stops into more meandering subjects of verse or politics or genteel pastimes of love and passion. That said I couldn’t put it down and I marvelled at every colourfully written chapter and verse.

You can smell the wet and damp soil, the sweat and the smoke . You can taste the earth and the blood on your lips and feel every fall and stumble. (Do not read this with sharp objects or hardwood furniture around you as you WILL hurt yourself whilst trying to re-enact the fight scenes). Ahem!

This book is one hell of a blistering read so be prepared to have scraped knuckles and bruised ribs as you feel every punch, sword blow and parry. As an experienced military book reviewer I was lucky, I escaped with just a black eye and one smashed light bulb in an over zealous bill hook lunge!'

For this autumn, however, I'm extending my story telling - I've been doing this for years but now, through Time Bandits I'm formalising the offer, lively stories from Greek Myths to World War Two, tales of mystery and suspense and all with a local interest.

Of my two current works jointly authored with Rosie Serdiville, our fifth and sixth published collaborations 'Ode to Bully Beef' was published in the spring and 'As Good as Any Man' was published by History Press in August

'Tommy Rot', our alternative Great War anthology was published by History Press last year and 'Ode to Bully Beef' followed this March, two volumes of soldier's doggerel and verse from each of the world wars. We've also completed 'As Good as Any Man' a fascinating biography and Great War diary of a black Tommy who served at Third Ypres. the story of how the diary was found is as interesting as the memoir itself. The diary was published by History Press in August.

Time Bandits is recruiting. We're looking for like minded individuals regardless of age, sex, colour etc who have a passion for history and like getting paid to indulge themselves. We cover all periods from Bronze Age to Cold War, across a wide range of locations. We thrive on fresh challenges. Training and kit are provided. If you are interested in historic combat, gunplay, clothing, textiles, medicine, food technology, equestrian, vehicles or craft based skills, then we'd love to meet you.

Good news for adult learners is that CLL has been superseded by a CIC which is offering an Explore type programme. On 26th April we staged a further session but with a difference; on terrorism with a simulated attack to follow!

I'm offering something new for the autumn - this will be looking at Frontiers, a bias towards the Anglo-Scottish border of course but setting this in the perspective of other frontiers, what these mean in the modern context and what we learn (if anything) from history.

I do offer a whole range of local and family history courses which I've delivered in libraries, to WI & focus groups, usually an hour to an hour and a half, daytime and evening, rates are 100.00 per session.

Our historic murder mysteries always go down well and we've performed these at the Keep, at DLI Museum and Segedunum. We're always looking to hear both from people who might want a booking and from those who'd like to take part!

We can provide fully costumed re-enactors for corporate hire, weddings and social events, choose your period - Spartans, Romans, Vikings, Knights, Reivers, Roundheads, Redcoats & Tommies, gunfighters, saloon girls and suffragettes!

We've formed a link with thisisnorthumberland.com - a new website intended to promote travel, tourism and leisure in the region, check it out. I've just returned from guiding a four day tour of Scottish Battlefields for Cultural Experience, we covered both Bannockburn and Flodden we were at the later 500 years on and to the hour - a 'real time' tour - marvellous!


John in costume/SwordI have been a visiting lecturer at the University of Sunderland Centre For Lifelong Learning since 1998 and have delivered a range of courses, primarily on military history.

These have included:
  • 'The Vikings'
  • 'The Crusades'
  • 'The Hundred Years War'
  • 'The Wars of the Roses'
  • 'The Border Reivers'
  • 'The Jacobites'
  • 'The American Civil War'
  • 'World War One - the Western Front'
  • 'World War One - The Eastern Front
  • 'The Road to Dunkirk'
  • 'Barbarossa'
  • 'D-Day to Berlin'
  • 'Swordplay - the Sword in History'
  • 'Terrorism post 1945'
  • 'Arab Israeli Wars 1948 - 2006'
  • 'The English Civil Wars
  • 'The War in Afghanistan'
  • 'The Second Gulf War'

    I also supervise mature students at degree level.

    My primary occupation is writing with some two dozen non fiction titles in print. I tend to undertake commissioned work only and, at the end of last year, I was engaged by the Army Benevolent Fund to write a history of the Field Gun Race for the revived Royal Tournament.

    For a considerable number of years I have given public lectures to local history groups, community associations, at the Durham Light Infantry Museum, The National Army Museum, The Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, and to Rotary and Round Table clubs. I am available for public and after dinner speaking, the cost ranges from 100 - 500 depending on circumstances. Any talks to charitable or voluntary sector groups are delivered free of charge.

    I am an experienced battlefield tour guide and have taken a range of school, adult, services and veterans groups on tours of the main Western Front Battlefields. I have also taken student groups around most of the major UK battle sites. I have full CRB clearance. I have worked, in this capacity extensively for Tyne and Wear Museums and English Heritage.

    For some years, starting back in the 1970's, I have been engaged as a project manager/curator and fundraiser for heritage based projects, most recently the Heritage Centre, Bellingham, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Association and the Durham Light Infantry Museum.

    From time to time I have been involved in film work, True North Productions filming of 'The Tale of the Long Pack' near Wark in North Tynedale, together with the 'Clans' series for Mentorn & BBC Scotland (series two and three), 'Buildings that Shaped England' for Channel 4, local BBC & ITV and recently as historical consultant for Arpeggio Films 'Siege & Storm'.

    I hope, in the course of this year, to be able to start working toward the award of a PhD under the aegis of the University of Sunderland, my topic 'Dunkirk to Belsen - the DLI at War 1939 - 1945'.

    My approach to military history, in terms of writing, is based firstly, upon acquiring a thorough knowledge of the primary sources, supplemented by the insight gained from walking the ground. I am of the opinion that there can be no full understanding of events unless there we have knowledge of the ground. We are fortunate in Britain that, the pace of development notwithstanding, many of our battle sites, if not untouched, are still recognisable and this obtains particularly in the northern region and the borders. Equally and with only a few exceptions we do very little to commemorate many of our historic battles.


Male/female swordfight

Newcastle, Tyne & Wear email:john.sadler@islmail.co.uk 01661 881654(evenings)

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