Flight Lieutenant T.H. (Tommy) Gardiner was from Powell River. Recognized by his home community as an all ‘round athlete, Gardiner trained as a pilot in 1940. He described his barracks as “… very spacious. There are over 1200 stationed here. (Brandon, Manitoba) Just try to picture the scene as the mess bell rings and 2400 legs drive ‘all out’ for the grub pile…” By January of the following year, he’d completed over 50 hours in the air. He wrote, “Took the old kite up last week and put her through a few rolls and loops – am looking forward to getting on one of the big Bombers – and, boy, am I sweating on the day I let those eggs off over Berlin.” In July 1941, Gardiner had graduated from the Commonwealth Air Training School and was soon promoted to the commissioned rank of Pilot Officer.
On May 23, 1942, Gardiner was reported missing in operations over the Ionian Sea. He was last seen when his Beaufort dived to attack an Italian convoy. Then on July 1943, Gardiner’s family received a cable stating that, “Your son, Pilot Officer Thomas Gardiner, is a prisoner of war in Italy.”
His aircraft had been brought down by flak from the Italian Navy. He was out of fuel and surrounded by a sea of burning oil. He dived, swam under water and cleared the danger zone, only to be picked up by an Italian destroyer. He suffered slight burns and received light shrapnel wounds. He’d been taken to an Italian prison camp.
Then in October, Gardiner’s family received a note from him, reporting that he was wounded and doing as well as could be expected. A month later, he’d been promoted to Flying Officer.
He was transferred to Germany on the eve of the Sicilian invasion, and by May 1945 had been liberated.
Flying Officer Arthur “Jack” Moul was from Port Alberni. Moul joined No. 416 Squadron when it was formed in November 1941, and became passionate about aviation when he became a Spitfire pilot with the squadron.
On October 23, 1942, Moul and another pilot were engaged in a “Rhubarb” over France, “low level and looking for trouble”. They shot up some blockhouses, then flew inland, set to strafe a freight train. They were met by flak, and though the locomotive blew up, Moul’s aircraft was damaged. Moul made an effort to return to base; however, he couldn’t climb above 92 metres. Just 16 kilometres off the French shoreline, his engine caught fire; unable to bail out, he ditched the aircraft, but hit his head on the gunsight and lost consciousness. When he awoke, water was pouring into the cockpit. He climbed onto the wing, took to the dinghy, only to discover he was floating in a minefield. A Walrus was dispatched to rescue him, but heavy waves prevented it from alighting. After 10 hours in the water, Moul drifted ashore and was picked up by a German patrol. He ended up in Stalag Luft III.
Moul was next in line to leave the tunnel when the Germans discovered the escape and sounded the alarm … he spent the rest of the war as a POW.