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Donald Teale Saville (1903–1943)

by David Wilson

This article was published:

Donald Saville, n.d.

Donald Saville, n.d.

218 Squadron Association

Donald Teale Saville (1903-1943), aviator and air force officer, was born on 22 December 1903 at Portland, New South Wales, younger of twin sons and second of five children of English-born parents John Saville, engineer, and his wife Isabella, née Teale. Donald was educated at All Saints' College, Bathurst, Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore), the Friends' School, Great Ayton, Yorkshire, England, Bathurst High and Sydney Grammar schools.

Unsettled and restless, Saville worked in several mechanical engineering jobs at Bathurst and in Sydney before finding a post with Commonwealth Portland Cement Co. Ltd in 1925. He joined the Citizen Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, as a cadet in May 1927 and completed flying training at Point Cook, Victoria. Receiving a short-service commission in the Royal Air Force, he embarked for Britain in December. On his return to Australia in May 1932, he was appointed to a four-year commission as flying officer, C.A.F. Reserve.

Saville was employed testing private aircraft at Mascot, Sydney, until 1935. He had been chosen in 1934 to pilot a twin-engined monoplane, planned to be built for the MacRobertson England-Australia Air Race, but the machine was not finished on time. After working as an assistant flying instructor with the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Aero Club, he became a senior pilot with Australian National Airways Pty Ltd in 1937.

While holidaying in England in 1939, Saville joined the R.A.F. Volunteer Reserve and rose to squadron leader. Because of his age, he was employed ferrying aircraft from factories to air force bases. In 1941 he accepted a reduction in rank to transfer to Bomber Command. Following operational training, Flight Lieutenant Saville was posted to No.12 Squadron, R.A.F., the first of three units equipped with Wellington bombers with which he served. In December that year he joined No.458 Squadron, R.A.A.F.; he became a flight commander shortly before the squadron was deployed to Fayid, Egypt, in February 1942.

In August Saville was promoted acting wing commander and given command of No.104 Squadron, R.A.F., at Kabrit. The unit moved to Malta in November. Within a fortnight Saville had taken part in numerous sorties, including low-level night-attacks against targets in Tunisia and Sicily. In December he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his inspiring leadership. On completing a full tour of operations in March 1943, with no break he took over No.218 Squadron, which operated Stirling bombers from Downham Market, Norfolk, England. On his fifty-seventh mission, during the night of 24/25 July, his aircraft was hit and caught fire over Hamburg, Germany. He kept the bomber steady until four of his crew parachuted to safety, but he was unable to escape before it crashed. He was buried in Ohlsdorf military cemetery, Hamburg.

Saville was a seasoned pilot with more than 10,000 flying hours. His reputation as a 'fearless commander' who chose to participate in the 'more difficult sorties' was recognized by the award of the Distinguished Service Order, gazetted two days after his death.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Herington, Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939-1943 (Canb, 1954)
  • P. Alexander, We Find and Destroy (Syd, 1979)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Feb, 31 May 1934
  • Weekly Courier (Launceston), 30 May 1935
  • F. R. Chappell, A Biography of Wing Commander Donald Teale Saville (manuscript, Australian War Memorial)
  • operations record book, 458 Squadron, RAAF, 1939-45 (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

David Wilson, 'Saville, Donald Teale (1903–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 5 December 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2023

Donald Saville, n.d.

Donald Saville, n.d.

218 Squadron Association

Life Summary [details]


22 December, 1903
Portland, New South Wales, Australia


25 July, 1943 (aged 39)
Hamburg, Germany

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