Sergeant Henry Gardner, 1029631, 103 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
Henry Gardner was born in Wakefield in 1917, the son of Henry Gardner and Gertrude Rowley, who had married in Leeds in 1907.
He married Reba Mildred Love in summer of 1939 in the Spen Valley Registration District, which at the time included Ossett. The couple lived with Reba Love's parents in Ryecroft Street, Ossett at the time of Henry Gardner's death. However, it possible they had two children: Terence A., born 1939 in Brentford and John B. born 1940 in Lancaster.
After Henry Gardner's death in 1943, his widow Reba remarried, in 1950, to Wilfred Cadman in the Lower Agbrigg Registration District. The couple then appear to have moved to the London area, where they had two children: Frances M, born late 1950 and Philip, born in 1956.
The "Ossett Observer" had a short obituary for Henry Gardner:1
"Missing Ossett Airman Presumed Dead - In our issue of July 17th 1943, we announced that Mrs. Gardner, 39 Ryecroft Street, Ossett had been informed that her husband, Sergeant Henry Gardner, R.A.F., was reported missing as a result of air operations on the night of July 6th/7th 1943. A few days ago Mrs. Gardner received a letter from the Air Ministry intimating that for official purposes they would now presume her husband's death.
Twenty-five years of age, Sergeant Gardner, formerly lived at Stanley, Wakefield, but following his marriage, lived with his wife's parents. Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Love, at 39, Ryecroft Street, Ossett. Before joining the Forces, he was on the staff of the science section of the West Riding Supplies Department, Wakefield. He was well-known in Rugby Union football circles, having played for Wakefield and College Grove. Notwithstanding the letter, Mrs. Gardner is hopeful of better news in the near future."
Sergeant Henry Gardner was the bomb-aimer on a 103 Squadron Lancaster bomber based at Elsham Wolds in North Lincolnshire. 103 Squadron was based at Elsham from the 11th July 1941 to the 26th November 1945. From November 1942 to November 1945, the squadron was equipped with Avro Lancaster Mk. 1 and Mk. III bombers and they carried out the most bombing raids and suffered the most losses in 1 Group.
Gardner's seven man crew was as follows:
- Flight Sergeant Donald Leighton Spence Barr, RAAF, Pilot
- Sergeant R.F. Garside, RAF, Navigator
- Sergeant P. Maynard, RAF, Flight Engineer
- Sergeant Henry Gardner, RAF, Air Bomber
- Flight Sergeant G.H. Isaacs, RAAF, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
- Sergeant N. Hollas, RAF, Air Gunner
- Sergeant D.F.O. Turner, RAF, Air Gunner
On Tuesday, 6th July 1943, Lancaster Mk.1 W4363 Code PM-U left Elsham Airfield on a mission to lay mines in the Gironde river in France. The aircraft left Elsham at 22:28. Either en route or returning, the Lancaster was involved in an air battle with a German fighter or fighters and was shot down off the French coast in the North Sea at an unknown crash site. All seven crew lost their lives and their bodies were never recovered.
Above: Avro Lancaster bomber.
Sergeant Henry Gardner died on the 7th July 1943, aged 26 and is remembered on Panel 150 of the Runnymede Memorial. This Memorial overlooks the River Thames on Cooper's Hill at Englefield Green between Windsor and Egham on the A308, 4 miles from Windsor.
The Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede commemorates by name over 20,000 airmen who were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe, and who have no known graves. They served in Bomber, Fighter, Coastal, Transport, Flying Training and Maintenance Commands, and came from all parts of the Commonwealth. Some were from countries in continental Europe which had been overrun but whose airmen continued to fight in the ranks of the Royal Air Force.2
1. "Ossett Observer", Saturday, January 15th 1944.