From Spitfires To Vampires and Beyond: A Kiwi Ace's RAF Journey - Owen Hardy
World War Two Spitfire pilot Owen Hardy was probably the last New Zealand ace to tell his story.
He left home at 18 bent on joining the RAF and by 1942, aged only 20, he was at Biggin Hill with 72 Squadron under Brian Kingcome. D-Day found him flying over the Normandy beaches with 485 (New Zealand) Squadron. That he survived the war unharmed owed as much to luck as it did to his ability as a fighter pilot.
Unable to settle in civilian life afterwards in New Zealand, he returned to the RAF for the second phase of a remarkable career. Converting to jets, Hardy went on to command 71 Squadron, leading a Vampire aerobatic team with considerable success across Europe – dodging MiGs at the same time!
But adapting to peacetime service wasn’t easy. Previously stimulated by the wartime environment and still passionate about flying, he was less enamored with staff jobs; and this despite working on the introduction of a new, state-of-the-art missile system, Bloodhound. Then a fateful decision, to turn down command of a Javelin squadron and follow his mentor, led finally to disillusionment.
Hardy pulls no punches in this forthright and refreshingly honest autobiography. In retelling his eye-opening story, editor Black Robertson shines a light on what it was like not just to fly in combat, but also on the changing face of a post-war RAF which arguably undervalued some of its heroes.
From the heat of North Africa to the uncertainties of the Cold War, it’s a unique and enthralling tale.