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The Airmen's Stories - Sub/Lt. (FAA) R E Gardner


Richard Exton Gardner was born on 24th July 1914 and educated at Bryanston School. After leaving he joined the family cosmetics company, Yardley. He joined the Royal Navy in 1939 and began his flying training at Gravesend in May, as a Leading Seaman.

He was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant RNVR on 8th September 1939 and was awarded his wings at RAF Netheravon in April 1940. He then joined 760 Squadron (FAA) at HMS Raven at Eastleigh.



In mid-June 1940 Gardner was one of the pilots loaned to the RAF, his loan service dating from the 28th. He had been at 7 OTU Hawarden from 17th June doing a conversion course on Hurricanes and he left there on the 28th. He joined 242 Squadron at Coltishall on 1st July.

Gardner claimed a He111 destroyed on 10th July, shared a Do17 on 21st August, destroyed a Do17 on 7th September and probably destroyed two Do17s on the 18th.

He was damaged in combat with Me109s off Sheerness on 5th November but returned, unhurt, to Coltishall in Hurricane P3054. On 8th December 1940 Gardner was posted away from 242 to join 252 Squadron Coastal Command at Chivenor.

Gardner was recalled by the Royal Navy on 6th January 1941 and went to RNAS Yeovilton for FAA duties.

In March 1941 he joined 807 Squadron, then aboard HMS Furious but later in Ark Royal. In May the carrier took part in Operation Tiger, a convoy to reinforce Egypt.

On 8th May Gardner destroyed two Ju87s and shared a SM79. His Fulmar was badly damaged and crashed on landing back on Ark Royal.

He was awarded the DSC (gazetted 29th July 1941), shared a Ju52 on 23rd August, a Cant Z506B on 27th September and a Fiat BR20 on 18th October.

After Ark Royal was sunk in November 1941 807 Squadron joined HMS Argus for convoy duties in the Western Mediterranean.

In April 1942 Gardner was appointed as an instructor at 760 Squadron, part of the Fleet Fighter School at Yeovilton.

In July 1942 he was given command of 889 Squadron, operating in Fulmars from HMS Greve at Dekheila, near Alexandria, on Canal Zone defence.

Part of 889 Squadron went to Syria, to operate with 260 Wing RAF and was re-equipped with Hurricanes in October 1942. They then flew in the Western Desert until disbanded in February 1943.

Gardner later returned to the UK and from May 1943 he commanded 736 Squadron, formed as the School of Air Combat. In September 1943 the unit moved to St. Merryn and became the Fighter Combat School element of the School of Naval Air Warfare.

Gardner then took command of 715 Squadron, which was formed from a nucleus provided by 736 Squadron. Its Corsairs and Seafires were used on fighter combat and Fighter Leaders courses.

He was posted to the School of Naval Air Warfare, which he commanded from November 1944.

Gardner was made an OBE (gazetted 14th June 1945) and retired on 13th March 1946.

He joined the Yardley board and became Chairman, holding the appointment until the company was taken over in 1969.

He died on 26th March 1999.

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