February 11th 1919

 

Yesterday’s edition of the Times listed numerous flying honours being conferred by the King. From this we have learnt that the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) has been awarded to Lieut. Donald Hardman (RAF).

Donald joined 19th Squadron at Baillieu, flying a Sopwith Dolphin, just in time for the German Spring Offensive of last year. In the final eight months of the war, Donald shot down nine enemy aircraft, which makes him the second OPS flying ‘ace’ – the other being Capt. Jim MacLean (RAF).

Two of Donald’s total were achieved on the flight for which he was cited for the DFC:

“A bold and courageous officer who has shown most praiseworthy devotion to duty, both in the March retreat and during the more recent operations. On 30th October, while escorting a bombing raid, he, with his flight, encountered some 40 enemy machines. In the combat that ensued he shot down two, and it was mainly due to his cool judgment and skill in leading that the flight inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy, destroying five machines and driving down another out of control. In all, this officer has seven hostile aircraft to his credit – destroyed or driven down out of control.”

Donald left the OPS in 1913 to attend Malvern College, at which he spent only three years before leaving to join the Artists’ Rifles in 1916. He transferred to the RFC in early 1917, but his young age prevented him being posted to France until the following year.

At the time of the Armistice, Donald was taken ill with flying sickness and was admitted into hospital in Boulogne before being transferred to a London hospital to complete his recovery.

We hope to see him back at the School before too long, fit and well.

 

November 6th 1918

 

The Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)

Just two months after his death, the London Gazette of November 2nd has confirmed Capt. Geoffrey Buck (RAF) has been awarded the DFC for a mission into Germany he undertook in his Handley-Page bomber.

“Capt. Buck, with 2nd Lieut. Barter as Observer, was Pilot of one of two machines detailed to bomb an important railway junction. Owing to most unfavourable weather conditions the other machine returned, but Capt. Buck persevered, reached the objective, and made a most successful attack in face of intense anti-aircraft fire with numerous searchlights. On the return journey they were were much hampered by a severe thunderstorm, which lasted for three-quarters of an hour, the machine being out of control owing to the lightning. In this critical situation Capt. Buck remained cool and collected, and, displaying marked skill and judgement, succeeded in landing his machine safely. The success of this raid was largely due to the skill and efficiency displayed by 2nd Lieut. Barter, who most ably co-operated with Capt. Buck. During the past month these officers have carried out sixteen night bombing raids in a manner reflecting the greatest credit on them both.”

Within a week of these heroic deeds, Geoff Buck was killed, when returning home from another night raid into Germany on September 3rd. He is the first of our airmen to win this new award, the DFC.

 

In addition to the above news, Mr Bell, Geoff’s Winchester housemaster, has most kindly favoured us with a most perceptive appreciation of Geoff’s time there:

“He stood out as something very different from the ordinary boy. In the first place he always knew his mind; he knew where he was moving to and what he wanted. Whether by reading in books, thinking for himself, or talking with his friends, he had formed an idea of what life should mean for him and how he should train himself for it.

He never accepted conventional standards or ideas because they were conventional; yet, unlike many who have tastes and interests of their own, he never shirked the ordinary routine of work or neglected his Latin and Greek for excursions into other fields… None who knew him could be blind to the strong stamp of his individuality…”

I would like to think that his years at the OPS played their part too.

 

 

September 12th 1918

Capt. Geoffrey Buck (RAF)

Geoff Buck has been killed returning from a night raid on September 3rd. He was with No. 215 Squadron, flying Handley-Page bombers capable of long flights into Germany. As Flight Commandant he was responsible for five aircraft and crew.

He crashed his plane into a high petrol tank building in the black darkness, and that was the end. He once said that very few people knew how hard it was to keep every nerve strained and the brain working its utmost for five hours on end.

In August 1917 Geoff was awarded a richly deserved Military Cross:

“He has taken part in many offensive patrols and had led seventeen, frequently attacking hostile troops on the ground. He has also successfully attacked and destroyed hostile aircraft on several occasions, setting a fine example of dash and determination.” (London Gazette, August 1917).

He has recently been awarded the DFC, although the citation has yet to be published.

Geoff Buck had joined the Royal Fusiliers in 1914, aged 17, and served in the trenches. In 1916 he transferred to the RFC, writing us some interesting letters about his training and early experiences as a pilot.

He had no fear of death; he wrote from France earlier this year saying that “Life has been so topping that I don’t mind how short life is.”

 

Geoff was a great reader, mostly of philosophy, psychology, history and good novels (both modern and standard), and had keen artistic perception. In fact, there was no good thing that he came across in his short life which he did not appreciate and enjoy.