Dieppe profile of courage: John Edwin Gardiner

A vintage head-and-shoulders photograph of a young man wearing a military uniform, including tunic, tie and peaked hat. There are wings on the tunic near the lapel.
Pilot Officer John Edwin Gardiner was 23 when he died during Operation Jubilee on August 19, 1942. PHOTO: Via Canadian Virtual War Memorial

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Pilot Officer John Gardiner gained experience in the deadly skies of Occupied Europe flying the Spitfire Mark Vb. His first operational mission was flown on May 8, 1942, when he and the rest of the squadron escorted six Boston light bombers attacking the French port of Dieppe.

Operational sweeps and escorts missions were interspersed with intense training that could sometimes land an overly-keen fighter pilot in trouble. While the squadron was operating out of RAF Station Catterick, North Yorkshire, the squadron Operational Record Book (ORB) recorded that on August 1, “Pilot Officer J.E. Gardiner has been put on charge for low flying. He was returning from an air-to-air firing and cine [camera] gun practice . . . on July 27th and was seen flying as a low altitude . . . He was not doing a beat-up, simply looking the land over . . . to familiarize himself with the ground appearance from low altitude.” Despite such a dastardly deed, the entry in the ORB goes on to note that “P/O [Pilot Officer] Gardiner is definitely the steadiest young pilot in the Squadron. He does not drink, is exceptionally keen about flying, is very conscientious and is acting No. 2 in the Flight.”

As fate would have it, the site of John’s first operational mission would also be his last. Read the rest of the article . . .

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