Sanders, Terence Robert Beaumont (1901–85), Olympic oarsman, engineer, and armaments expert, was born 2 June 1901 in Sanders Park, Charleville, Co. Cork, younger of two sons of Robert Massy Dawson Sanders of Charleville, Co. Cork, landowner, qualified mining engineer, and JP, who had been high sheriff of Co. Cork in 1885, and Hilda Augusta Katherine Sanders (née Beaumont; later MBE), of Buckland Court, Surrey, England. He was educated at Eton, where he began rowing, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating with a BA in mechanical engineering (1922). He obtained his blue when he rowed at stroke for Cambridge in the annual boat race against Oxford in 1923, losing by three-quarters of a length. He won the University Pairs in 1923, but his real prowess was in the coxless fours, and he was part of a Trinity Thirds four that won the University Fours and the Steward's Cup at Henley three years in a row (1922–4). The most successful coxless four of the interwar period, they were also described as ‘the best four England has had for a century’ (Times, 18 July 1924). They were selected to represent Great Britain in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, where they went on to win the gold medal, winning by a length and a quarter against a previously unbeaten Canadian four in the final. In 1929 Sanders was a member of the Leander club eight that won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley. He retired from competitive rowing that year but remained heavily involved with the Cambridge University Boat Club, serving as treasurer 1928–39 and also doing some coaching, including taking charge of the Cambridge eight in 1931.
An engineer by training, he spent much of his working life at Cambridge University, and also made a significant contribution to the Allied effort during the second world war. In 1924 he was made a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and the following year he was appointed lecturer in engineering in Corpus, and subsequently university demonstrator in engineering (1931–6) and university lecturer in the department of engineering (1936–8), as well as estates bursar of his college, of which he was made a life fellow in 1945. Initially commissioned as an officer in the Territorial Army (Royal Engineers) in 1923, during the second world war he initially served with the rank of colonel in the 135th Regiment of the Royal Artillery (Hertfordshire Yeomanry) until he met with an accident in 1941 and was reassigned to the armament design department of the Ministry of Supply, becoming assistant chief engineer of armament design (1943–5). He helped to develop the Firefly, a British variant of the American Sherman tank, adapted to carry a 17-pounder gun, giving it significantly more firepower. Such an innovation helped to give the Sherman, the basic tank of the Anglo–American invasion force, a vital anti-tank capability that undoubtedly contributed to the success of the Normandy invasion; the Firefly was effectively the only allied tank that could destroy the formidable German Tiger tank. Sanders also served on a secret committee set up by Churchill to investigate German secret weapons, particularly rocket technology, and he led a secret scientific mission to the Soviet Union in 1944 to examine German rocket facilities captured by the Red Army. The information gathered helped the British to develop responses to the V2 rocket. Later he was sent to the Pas de Calais, where he destroyed the V3 ‘pump gun’ installations aimed at London. Demobilised with the rank of colonel in 1946, he joined the scientific civil service, becoming assistant controller of supplies (munitions) until 1951. He was awarded a CB in 1950. From 1952 to 1972 he served as engineering adviser to the British Standards Institute, and was closely associated with efforts to unify engineering standards between Britain, Canada, and the US. He was also on the board of a number of engineering companies and other businesses.
Throughout his career he demonstrated a great aptitude for putting theory into practice and had a reputation as someone ‘who was able to get things done’ (Times, 11 Apr. 1985). His hobbies included rowing, shooting, and farming his own land in Surrey. In 1929 he had been joint compiler of a book, The University Boat Race: official centenary history, with C. G. Drinkwater. Sanders lived in Cambridge and in Walton, Norfolk, before eventually settling down in Slough House, Buckland, Surrey. He died 6 April 1985 at the age of 83.
He married first (1931) Marion MacDonald (d. 1961), originally from Spean Bridge, Invernessshire, Scotland; and secondly (1965) Deborah Donoghue, originally from Philadelphia, USA. Of the seven children born during his first marriage, two died in infancy.