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The Airmen's Stories - P/O E H McHardy

 

Edric Hartgill McHardy was born in Palmerston North, New Zealand on 24th June 1920 and attended Wanganui Collegiate School from 1935 to 1937. He then worked on his parents farm at Waipawa.

In June 1938 he went to Wellington to apply for entrance into the Navy but was too late to sit the examinations. McHardy instead applied for an RAF short service commission. After provisional acceptance, he sailed for the UK on 1st February 1939 in the RMS Tainui.


McHardy began his initial training at 10 E&RFTS Yatesbury on 16th March and moved on to 5 FTS Sealand on 30th May. He completed the course and after carrying out high dive-bombing and low-level bombing exercises at Aldergrove, he joined 248 Squadron at Hendon on 6th November 1939.

In February 1940 the squadron was transferred to Coastal Command and moved to North Coates. On 18th May, on a trawler escort off Zeebrugge, McHardy destroyed a Me110 and shared a He111.

 

Above: (L to R) Sgt. C Wilcock, Sgt. IR Sims, McHardy with 248 Squadron

 


248 Squadron did most of its work over the Norwegian coast. On 27th July McHardy flew to Trondheim to photograph the Gneisenau in the harbour there. He had to go below cloud and at 10,000 feet encountered heavy flak. Reconnaissances of the fjords, searching for German ships, were extremely hazardous and often carried out in adverse weather conditions.

On 1st October 1940 McHardy was appointed 'A' Flight Commander. On 3rd November he damaged a He111. Awarded the DFC (gazetted 10th March 1941), he was posted to 404 (RCAF) Squadron at Skitten on 21st July as 'B' Flight Commander.

On 21st December 1941 McHardy was RAF representative and fighter controller on the combined operations raid on Vaagso. He was flown to Scapa Flow and embarked on the cruiser HMS Kenya. After entering the fjord at dawn, the commandos landed under cover of a barrage from ships and a smoke screen. McHardy directed the fighters by R/T from the bridge of the Kenya.


McHardy probably destroyed a He115 on 16th January 1942 and on 22nd April he damaged a Ju88. On 17th May 404 escorted Beauforts to attack the German battleship Prinz Eugen off Norway. As the squadron withdrew, McHardy saw a Beaufighter ditch and its crew take to the water without a dinghy. He circled and dropped his own. This incident led to his being awarded the C de G (Fr) in 1949, the ditched crew having been members of the Free French Air Force.

Awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 15th June 1942), McHardy took command of 404 Squadron on 14th July. Then, with his tour completed, he was posted away to RAF Ferry Command at Prestwick on 17th October 1942. He began flying Liberators to and from West Africa. He received a Mention in Despatches (gazetted 1st January 1943) and was sent to Brazil to establish a staging post at Para Belem, on the Amazon. In August 1943 McHardy took command of the South Atlantic Ferry Service at Nassau.


He returned to operations on 20th November 1943, when he took command of 143 Squadron at Portreath as a Wing Commander. On 12th December he destroyed two Ju88's over the Bay of Biscay.

McHardy was awarded the DSO (gazetted 22nd August 1944). With his third tour of operations completed, he went to RAF Staff College at Gerrards Cross on 8th January 1945. He was posted to HQ 46 Group,Transport Command on 9th July for staff duties.


McHardy retired from the RAF at his own request on 7th May 1958 as a Squadron Leader, retaining the rank of Wing Commander. He returned to New Zealand to live.


He died in 1986 at Matakana there.


 

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