In Memoriam        Harold Philip Gardiner                                                                        Home


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HAROLD PHILIP GARDINER, born 3.11.1918, entered the School in September 1930.  He played for the 1st Rugby XV, and was Victor Ludorum, Senior Athletics in 1932.  He became a Prefect in 1934. 

In July 1934, he entered the R.A.F.  at Halton as an Aircraft Apprentice.  He became Sgt. Flt Engineer of No.218 (Gold Coast) Squadron.  In August 1942, after a flight over Cologne he crashed in Holland, and is buried in the British Cemetery at Jonkersharsck (Jonkebos), Nignenen (Nijmegen), Holland. 

He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. P. T. Gardiner, 84 Newcomen Road, Wellingborough.  'In Memoriam' book

Harold was one of the few ‘professionals’ amongst the Grammar School boys who fought in WW2.  At the start of the war his 218 Squadron flew to France on 2nd September 1939, to make reconnaissance flights and

leaflet raids in Battle aircraft.  In June 1940, having hindered the German advance into France by bombing the enemy's lines of communications and troop concentrations (and having suffered heavy casualties in the process) it was evacuated to England to be re-equipped with Bristol Blenheim medium-range bombers (  


Five months later, when it was equipped with Wellington long-range aircraft, it became a heavy-bomber squadron. The squadron's first night raid was on 22 December 1940 and Wellingtons continued to operate until February 1942. Its targets were of the widest variety - from industrial centres, railways, and gun batteries, to the Channel ports, oil and petrol installations, and concentrations of troops and armour.


The squadron was re-equipped with Stirling four-engined bombers (the first of the real "heavies") in December 1941 - three months after the 218 squadron adopted the name ‘Gold Coast’ to thank that Country for donating £100,000 to pay for Spitfires.  Between July 1942 and March 1944 the squadron was based at Downham Market. They first flew Short Stirling I and subsequently Short Stirling III planes.


The Stirling proved to be a very popular aircraft with its crews, who dubbed it the “fighter bomber” due to its excellent manoeuvrability and rugged construction. On one occasion four German night fighters attacked a Stirling from No. 218 Squadron on a night raid in 1942. Manoeuvring for its life, the Stirling managed to shoot down three of the attackers before returning to base safely, although a little battered. As a result of its high wing loading, the Stirling had a high roll rate and was manoeuvrable enough to out-turn the Junkers Ju 88 and Bf 110 night fighters.


Harold Gardiner's role, as flight‑engineer, would have made him busy throughout  the flight calculating the amount of petrol left in each of the 14 tanks in the wings. He pumped it from tank to tank to keep the craft in trim.  His other responsibilities included the hydraulics, armament, and if the bomb‑release mechanism failed, he crawled into the bomb‑bay to try to free hung‑up bombs.  Click for other crew roles


The down side of the craft, as far as the crew were concerned, was its lack of speed and relatively low flying height compared to other heavy bombers. 


His parents stated that he was a  Flight Engineer on a Stirling and took part in the 1000 aeroplane flight over Cologne and got back safely.   

The bombing raid where Harold was killed occurred on the nights of the 6th and 7th August 1942.  Bomber Command organized an attack on Duisburg using 216 aircraft of 5 types.  Five aircraft - 2 Halifaxes, 2 Stirlings and 1 Wellington were lost.  Bomber Command reported that most of the bombs fell in open country west of the target.  Duisburg reports 18 buildings destroyed, 66 seriously damaged and 24 people killed.


Sites used:


Short Stirling Aircraft

a)         Mk I Series III

The Mk I Series III saw the final change to the Stirling’s defensive firepower. The provision for the side mounted guns was removed, and a Frazer Nash FN7A dorsal turret fitted to the top of the fuselage. A single manually operated machine gun could be attached to the hatch originally used by the dorsal turret. The Series III also saw an engine change, to the 1,500 hp Hercules XI engine. The Mk I Series III carried seven crew – two pilots, a navigator/ bomb aimer, a wireless operator, a flight engineer and two gunners, one less than the number of turrets. The vast majority of the 756 Sttirling Mk Is were Series III aircraft



Crew : Seven or eight

Span : 99'-1" (30.20 m)

Length : 87'-3" (26.59 m)

Weight : 22'-9" (6.93 m )

Empty Weight : 46,900 lbs. (21,274 kg)

Loaded Weight : 70,000 lbs. (31,752 kg) Maximum Speed : 270 mph at 14,500 ft. (4,420 m)

Ceiling : 17,000 ft. (5,182 m)

Range : 590 miles (949 km) with 14,000 lbs. (6,350 kg) of bombs.

2,000 miles (3,219 km) with 3,500 lbs. (1,588 kg) of bombs.


Two 0.303" machine guns mounted in both the front and dorsal turrets. Four 0.303" machine guns in the rear turret. Maximum bomb load 14,000 lbs. (6,350 kg)

Bomber Command Squadrons equipped with the Stirling:

7, 15, 75, 90, 149, 171, 196, 199, 214, 218, 513, 620, 622, 623


Crew-Roles in the Stirling


The Stirling pilot was responsible for the lives of his crew. Once they were in the air social differences vanished. Crews of mixed races forgot their nationalities. There were instances of senior officers flying as crew to pilots of lesser, non‑commissioned rank and taking orders from a skipper wearing sergeant's stripes. It was Sergeant Pilot Bennett who gained the AFM by landing a blazing Stirling which had been strafed from tail to nose as it was on final ap­proach. With two engines on fire and the cockpit filled with smoke, he could only see by smashing some of the top canopy glass, and standing on his seat to look out. How he controlled the aircraft must be conjecture. The landing was all the more astounding because the modifications to improve Stirling take‑off had the opposite effect‑that of making it difficult to land. It used to 'cushion'‑refuse to go down‑and could only be grounded by heaving back on the column. How Sgt Bennett managed this whilst standing on his seat, only he knows.


Next in importance to the pilot was the navigator/bomb aimer. His main task was to pin‑point the aircraft's position, calculate the drift and ground speed, and make a timed run to his target. He had a bomb‑sight on which he could set all the variables‑course, speed, drift, height and bomb ballistics. But this was possible only when he could see the target, or the glow from the flares dropped by Stirlings and other aircraft of the Pathfinder Force. A bomb dropped from 15,000ft at normal attack speed would land about 11 miles ahead of the aircraft, so the complexity of the job can be appreciated.


The roles of the other crew members were less glamorous but just as vital. For much of the trip the flight‑engineer was busy calculating the amount of petrol left in each of the 14 tanks in the wings. He pumped it from tank to tank to keep the craft in trim. His other responsibilities included the hydraulics, armament, and if the bomb‑release mechanism failed, he crawled into the bomb‑bay to try to free hung‑up bombs.


The odd‑man‑out was the rear gunner. He was stuck 20 yards away from the rest of the crew and could be alone for as long as eight hours. The rear‑gunner‑'Tail‑end Charlie' ‑could never relax. He sat watching the huge expanse of sky, alert for fighters, AA fire and also checked the accuracy of his and other aircraft's bombs.








United Kingdom


Sergeant (Flt. Engr.)


Royal Air Force

Unit Text:

218 Sqdn.



Date of Death:


Service No:


Additional information:

Son of Phillip Thomas Gardiner and Margaret Gardiner, of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire; husband of Margaret O. Gardiner, of Hasketon, Suffolk.

Casualty Type:

Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:

Coll. grave 12. E. 7-9.








Visiting Information:

Wheelchair access possible via main entrance. For further information regarding wheelchair access, please contact our Enquiries Section on 01628 507200.

Location Information:

The city of Nijmegen lies to the south of Arnhem in the east of the Netherlands. From the A50 motorway ARNHEM to NIJMEGEN follow the signs for A73 KÖLN / NIJMEGEN / VENLO. Follow the signs for NIJMEGEN CENTRUM. Continue along NEERBOSSCHEWEG following the signs for MALDEN / MOOK for approx 2.5kms. Turn left (CWGC sign) following the signs for DE GOFFERT, onto BURGEMEESTER DALESLAAN. The cemetery is approx 200m on the right The cemetery address is:- Burgemeester Daleslaan 35 6532 Nijmegen Netherlands GPS Location is:- N 51 49 21 E 05 49 50

Historical Information:

The Netherlands fell to the Germans in May 1940 and was not re-entered by Allied forces until September 1944. Nijmegen was a front line town from 17 September 1944 until February 1945. The cemetery, which was created by No. 3 Casualty Clearing station, is in a wooded area known as Jonkers Bosch, from which it took its name. Jonkerbos War Cemetery contains 1,629 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 99 of them unidentified, and 13 war graves of other nationalities.

No. of Identified Casualties:



Gardiner Harold P.,  Sgt    567298    218 (GC) Sqdn  1942  Vol 6 P 20  (


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