24/25.08.1942 No. 35 Squadron Halifax II W7765 TL-T P/O. 'Freddie' Gardiner
Date: 24/25th August 1942 (Monday/Tuesday)
Unit: No. 35 Squadron (Pathfinder)
Type: Halifax II
Base: RAF Graveley, Cambridgeshire
Location: St. Hilaire-au-Temple, Marne, France
Pilot: P/O. Frank (Freddie) Edward Gardiner 126870 RAFVR Age 18. Killed
Pilot 2: Sgt. F.E.A. Makin 1378138 RAFVR PoW No: 694 (Interned in camps: L3/L6/L1. Initially evaded capture but caught 3rd Sept 1942)
Obs: P/O. R.J. Teillet J/7218 RCAF PoW No: 696 (Interned in camp: L3. Initially evaded capture but caught on 6th September 1942)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. F.W. Graham 1112178 RAFVR PoW No: 28806 (Interned in camps: 8B/8A/9A.)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. William Patrick Ryan 904055 RAFVR Age 24. Killed
Air/Gnr: Fl/Sgt. P.M. Nerland R/86914 RCAF PoW No: 694 (Interned in camps: L6/L4.)
Air/Gnr: Sgt. E.L. Whillock 1384110 RAFVR PoW No: 1044 (Interned in camps: L3/L6/357.)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off at 20:42 hrs from Graveley, Cambridgeshire. This aircraft was part of the newly formed pathfinder force which resulted in many accurate attacks by other bombers. Part of an attack involving 226 aircraft.
16 failed to return this night. Weather was excellent, no cloud and a full moon which must have contributed to the German night fighter success.
W7765 was shot down at a height of around 12,000 ft by Fw. Heinrich Macke of 7./NJG4 the aircraft crashed at 02:00 hrs on St. Hilaire-au-Temple, Marne, France. The bullet strikes hit the port inner engine and the fire spread into the mainframe of the aircraft.
Freddie Gardiner joined the RAF at 16 (It is thought that he lied about his age) started flying Whitley bombers completing many missions over Germany whilst still only 17!
An extract from 'BBC WW2 People's War', by a relative Val, told a more personal side of Freddie's service:
However, the photo used to describe the said article (shown left) has been proven to show not that of Frank Gardiner, but of Glenn Gardiner - also of 35 Squadron, shot down in May 1942. We are happy to place the contributor of this article to a fellow researcher who is able to provide further details - April 2017.
P/O. Glenn Powell Gardiner J/15252 RCAF flying Halifax II W1050 TL-F - shot down by a night fighter, Oblt. Hubert Rauh of 7./NJG4. the aircraft crashed at Libin in Belgium. 5 crew killed, 2 PoW. Glenn later became an opera singer with the Canadian Opera Company - passed away on December 18th 2011 aged 91.
"Frank Edward Gardiner (known to his fellow crewmen as Freddie Gardiner) was born in Piddington, Northampton on 18th August 1924. At the age of sixteen he joined the RAF - family legend has it that he lied about his age. He trained to be a pilot in Bomber Command, and flew in Whitley Bombers, first as Second Pilot and later as First Pilot. He completed many missions over Germany while still only seventeen. On May 30/31st 1942 he took part in the Thousand Bomber Raid, and was congratulated for this by the Duke of Kent.
In June 1942 he was commissioned and became Captain of a Halifax Bomber. He was selected for the newly-formed Pathfinder Force, and celebrated his eighteenth birthday in August 1942 by taking part in the first Pathfinder operation. A week later, on the 25th August 1942, he flew in the second Pathfinder operation to Frankfurt. On the return journey over France his plane, call sign “T for Tommy”, was attacked by German fighter planes and fires started on the badly damaged aircraft. Frank continued to pilot the plane as five crew members bailed out. The last one to leave had the impression that Frank was then going to go back and see if he could help the injured crew member, Fl/Sgt.Ryan.
After the plane was reported missing in action, the families of the crew members were given each others’ contact addresses while waiting for news. (The friendships forged in those dark days lasted for many years after the war.) One by one five families got the news that their relative had been captured, and was a prisoner-of-war.
But there was no news of Frank and Flight Sergeant Ryan, until one family received a letter from one of the crew telling them of the fate of the aircraft, and passed on the news which put an end to the hopes of Frank’s family. The crewman had been visited in the PoW camp by the German pilot who had shot down the plane, and he had been given Frank’s cigarette case, which had been taken from his body. It was twisted and blackened, showing all too clearly the horror of the plane’s last few moments. Letters visible on its surface seem to have come from the plane’s controls, showing that Frank was at the controls at the last - perhaps finding that he could do nothing for Flight Sergeant Ryan, and too late to bail out, he decided to pilot the plane away from civilians on the ground, or maybe he attempted to land. The plane had crashed just outside a small town in France. Frank and Sergeant Ryan were first interred near St Dizier, and then at the Air Force war cemetery at Choley, France.
After the war the cigarette case found its way into the hands of Frank’s cousin, Joan Old, (my mother), who had been corresponding with the other families. It was never shown to Frank’s mother, Mary Gardiner, who survived her only child by about 40 years. In 1946 two of the ex-POW’s visited her, and told her that they owed their lives to the bravery of her son, who gave his life for his friends and his country. She was a cheerful, warm-hearted lady, always smiling, always helping others, never showing her grief. But when she died she had asked to be buried with all her mementoes of Frank inside her coffin, so only the cigarette case survives to bear witness to Frank’s story.
After about 50 years my mother finally decided to travel to France to visit Frank’s grave, in company with another cousin. She felt a great sense of peace to find Frank there, amongst so many of his fellow servicemen, in the beautifully tended cemetery. She had kept in touch with some of the crewmen, who lived long lives after the war, but Frank will always be just eighteen."
P/O. Frank Edward Gardiner. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 2A.C.11. Son of George Gardiner, and of Mary J. E. Gardiner, of Wootton, Northamptonshire, England. Epitaph reads: “In Sacred Memory Of A Beloved And Brave Son In God’s Keeping. Mother.”
Fl/Sgt. William Patrick Ryan. Choloy War Cemetery. Grave 2A.C.12. Son of Thomas Francis and Bridgid Mary Ryan. Epitaph reads: “Requiem Aeternam Dona El Dominie Lux Perpetua Luceat El.” (Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace)
With thanks to Paul Gribbons of Canada who supplied updated information - April 2017.