The Hawker Typhoon RB396 conservation group and Redison Productions have teamed up to film Bernard Gardiner speaking about his wartime experiences as part of the celebrations honoring the veteran who turned 100.
A pilot born in Moose Jaw was featured in a British documentary film that tells the story of his life and what it was like to fly one of the most feared fighter planes during the Second World War.
Hawker Typhoon RB396 conservation group and Redison Productions have teamed up to film Bernard Gardiner, who died on April 16th at the RAF Club in London, England, as part of celebrations to honor the veteran who turned 100 on April 6th. spoke about his war experiences.
Gardiner joined the group to support their project to rebuild the world’s only real Hawker Typhoon aircraft. The group believes that Gardiner is one of only three living WWII Typhoon pilots.
The group recently released the film on their YouTube page.
Origin of the Elk Jaw
Gardiner was born in Moose Jaw in 1922 but when he was four the family moved to Gloucester, England because his mother could not endure the climate. It was there that his interest in flying began.
The first aircraft Gardiner flew in as a youngster was a three-engined biplane called the Airspeed Fairy, which was displayed during the Sir Alan Cobham Flying Circus. Later, as a teenager, he attended a flying club demonstration in Cottswald, where his boss was the club’s head flying instructor.
“He gave me a free flight in a gypsy moth, which was a huge thrill for me,” laughed Gardiner.
Enlistment in the Air Force
World War II broke out when Gardiner was 18, so he enlisted and was sworn in on October 3, 1940 during an enemy air raid on London.
He received his initial training in Blackpool and was to be shipped to Canada for further training under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. However, a German U-boat sank his troopship, so he was sent to South Africa instead.
Gardiner enjoyed flying the Tiger Moth, a career-changing aircraft. He was supposed to be a bomber aviator, but he learned how to practice solo loops in fighter planes from Royal Air Force manuals, which impressed his instructor.
“…he said, ‘Do that again (grinds).’ So I did it again and hit the slipstream and he said, ‘You’re for fighters,'” Gardiner recalled. “So my whole career changed from there…”
After acquiring his wings in 1941, he was sent back to England to train on the Hawker Hurricane. He remarked that the Hurricane was easy to fly – “it was a great thrill” – because it had the famous Merlin engine.
He never flew the famous Spitfire but did 80 years later The preservation group helps him to fulfill this wish.
Impress the ladies
During a training session at 200 feet, he attempted to impress the Army women below by demonstrating the Hurricane’s capabilities. However, he overshot their position and slammed into a hawthorn bush that was “oddly” 200 feet tall.
“Anyway, I spent quite a bit of time over the next few days sitting under the Hurricane and picking bits of hawthorn out of the radiator,” Gardiner chuckled. “So I was locked in barracks for a fortnight (two weeks), I think, and was also required to clean planes instead of flying.”
A typhoon is approaching
By 1943, the Allies had withdrawn the Hurricane, forcing all pilots to do brief training on the Typhoon. Gardiner converted to the aircraft, which was the same size as the Hurricane but was heavier and better armed.
However, engineers were still working on glitches, including an engine that periodically stalled, vibration that snapped the rear end, and fuel line problems. Meanwhile, the pilots were told not to fly faster than 527 miles per hour.
“Although I saw my speedometer reading about 550 miles per hour fairly frequently and during a dive into a target, the plane seemed to hold up,” laughed the veteran.
In his first operation, he accompanied his flight commander as wingman. As its leader fired at enemy positions below, Gardiner’s plane flew through a cloud of spent ammunition shells clinging to its wings. That didn’t impress his flight commander, so Gardiner joked that he never flew with the man again.
By 1944, the German Luftwaffe had all but disappeared, so Gardiner rarely saw enemy aircraft. The only aircraft he saw and attacked was a flying boat attempting to take off from a bay of water.
“And with a squadron of war-hungry Typhoons overhead, it was a pretty stupid operation. It was his very last flight,” Gardiner smiled.
support of the troops
When the Allied armies invaded Germany in early 1945, they rarely called in the Luftwaffe for support. However, during the first invasion, Gardiner’s squadron provided close support to protect glider-powered Dakota aircraft.
Gardiner’s unit began bombing railway lines in the Netherlands because the Germans were using them to transport V1 “Doodle Bugs” and V2 rockets to the coast for launch in London. The squadron also worked to shoot down the world’s first operational cruise missiles by flying ahead of them and breaking autopilot.
“And it would lose control and spin and crash to the ground, hopefully without causing too much trouble down there,” giggled Gardiner.
Gardiner’s last action was on May 3, 1945. From then until after the war ended on May 8, he and his squadron practiced aerobatics and formation flying, which left a lasting impression on the defeated Germans.
He was later demobilized and sent home.