An early memory and the early flight training of J R Gard'ner

Filename: John_R_Gardner_-_childhood_and_training_v2.mp3 ( download )

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Recording type: audio/mpeg

3 minutes long (click "audio mp3" above to listen)

In 2006 Jim Walsh interviewed Group Captain John Rushton Gard'ner. An article about his life and links to audio snippets from that interview can be found by clicking here.

In this audio excerpt you can hear Gard'ner describe how he came to love flying at 10 years of age. He then goes on to describe his flying training years and the moment he knew we were at war with Germany.  



The following transcript is kindly provided by Kim Megson.


 File ID:                        John_R_Gardner_-_childhood_and_training

 Interviewer:               Jim Walsh (JW)                       

 Interviewee:             John Gard’ner (JG)

 Date Recorded:       January 2006   

 Duration:                   3min 00sec

 Date Typed:              26 August 2012  


 JG:        Well, when I was about ten years old, a flight of New Zealand Air Force came and landed on the mudflats.  Of course I was very excited about this.  Rushed down to see these aeroplanes.  I remember getting down there and I thought from that moment on, I thought, well, flying, that seemed to be the thing to do.  In 1937, the New Zealand government started a scheme for a reserve of pilots and I put my name forward and I became the first boy in Nelson to be taken on, and I did a couple of hours’ flying in a Gypsy Moth, and only when the wind blew up or down the airstrip could you fly, because it was too narrow to fly across it.  There were advertisements advertising for short service commissions in the Royal Air Force.  I leftNew Zealand with a suitcase and £35 in my pocket.  And because I’d had those two hours of flying out in New Zealand on the old Gypsy Moth, I went solo in seven and a bit hours.  There we were inducted into the Air Force at Uxbridge.  We got kitted out in uniform and selected to go on to be trained on Oxfords, learning to fly.

  JW:        So, bombers or something like that?

  JG:        Bombers kind of thing.  Things were hotting up inEurope.  I recall all the business of Chamberlain going over to Berlin and coming back waving a piece of paper and saying, “Peace in our time”, until suddenly the Germans went into Poland, and I recall Flight Lieutenant Farmer, who was my instructor, calling us into the officers’ mess, and he said, “Well, gentlemen, we are at war.”  And then things speeded up a bit because I got my wings and I was posted toScotland.  As I recall, the RAF commandeered the Scottish Airways’ Anson aircraft.  And so our squadron initially formed with a flight of Gladiators and a flight of Blenheims.  Blenheim was a fighter escort type aircraft.  When we first flew our Blenheim, it was one of the most frightening experiences, particularly at night-time.  You went up with an instructor and you sat beside him and he showed you what knobs and switches to pull, that sort of thing.  He came down and landed, got out of the aeroplane and said, “It’s yours, take off.”  My first operational patrol was in a Blenheim night fighter over the Firth of Forth area, which was heavily defended by searchlights, and we were patrolling it no more than sort of 8, 10, 12,000 feet and the searchlights would be kept right up and you could just see these solid things. 

  JW:        So where they intersected you got blinded on all sides?

  JG:        Yeah, you’d come in like that, sort of thing.  The powers that be had decided that the Blenheims and the Gladiators should be replaced by Defiants.


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