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The Airmen's Stories - F/O F T Gardiner


Frederick Thomas Gardiner was born in Belfast on 24th September 1917. He went to Stowe School and Trinity College Cambridge where he read Mechanical Sciences. He was a member of the University Air Squadron from 1935 to 1937 and also a member of the University Gliding Club.



He gained his pilot's licence (ID photo above), flying an Avro Club Cadet, at the Airwork Flying School, Newtownards, County Down, on 26th April 1935.

He was commissioned in the RAFVR in February 1938. Gardiner was a contestant in the National Gliding Championships in 1939.

Called to full-time service on 25th September 1939, Gardiner completed his training at the RAF College FTS Cranwell on No. 6 Course, which ran from 6th November 1939 to 9th May 1940.

Gardiner was with the Advanced Training Squadron of RAF College FTS when it moved to 10 B&GS Warmwell on 26th April 1940 for the final part of the course. He arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 1st June 1940 where he converted to Spitfires.

He joined 610 Squadron at Gravesend on the 16th.



610 Squadron Hawkinge July 1940

L to R: F/Lt. EBB Smith (sitting), F/O SC Norris, S/Ldr. J Ellis (CO)(obscured), Sgt.HH Chandler, Sgt. NHD Ramsay, F/O WHC Warner, Sgt. RF Hamlyn, F/O FT Gardiner.

Sgt. CA Parsons,
F/O COJ Pegge, Sgt. DF Corfe



On 25th July Gardiner damaged a Me109 in the Dover/Folkestone area and was slightly wounded.

On 12th August Gardiner was aloft in Spitfire P9545 from Hawkinge when he was attacked, the aircraft sustained cannon shell damage to the port aileron and below the cockpit. He sustained slight injuries to his left leg.

He destroyed a Me110 south east of Biggin Hill on 18th August.

Gardiner was shot down in combat with Me109s over Dover on 25th August. He baled out, slightly wounded, and was admitted to Waldershare Hospital. His Spitfire, K9931, crashed and burned out on Stoneheap Farm near Northbourne.

Gardiner was posted to RAF Biggin Hill as non-effective sick. He rejoined 610 Squadron, then at Acklington, on 22nd November 1940. He was posted away on the 27th to the Central Landing Establishment at Ringway.

On 17th January 1941 Gardiner was attached to AFDU Northolt from RAF Detachment Thame, an off-shoot of the CLE, to develop the glider for military use and to set up trials of fighter versus glider.

He took AVM Keith Park on a demonstration glider flight, after landing the glider was struck by a landing tug aircraft which destroyed the canopy and a wing, narrowly missing the occupants.

He returned to Thame on 10th February 1941.


Above: his portrait was made by Eric Kennington.


Above image courtesy of Mary Fleck (daughter).

During 1941/42 Gardiner instructed Army glider pilots and in 1943 he returned to operational flying when he joined 254 Squadron at North Coates, operating Beaufighters. In early 1944 he was CO of the squadron and was awarded the DFC (gazetted 10th March 1944).

In April 1944 he was posted to Shalufa, adjacent to the Suez Canal in Egypt. He then commanded a squadron at Aden.

He was released from the RAF in 1946 as a Squadron Leader. He married in 1947 and emigrated to Victoria, Vancouver Island, Canada.

Gardiner started work as a deckhand on a fishing boat for several seasons and then established an engineering business, which he operated until the mid-1970s. He developed a great love for yachting and cruising, beginning in 1953 and carrying on until he was in his eighties.

He died in Victoria on 2nd November 2003.


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