Bio / Text:
Ben Loraine GARNER D.F.C.
From the National Archives AIR/27/747
10th January 1945
Late in the evening when most of us were abed, F/LT B GARNER - intensely glad to be back - returned to the squadron - and not so tough as he used to be, spent a miserably cold night and complained rather ruefully in the morning of the lack of blankets. Oh Hamlet what a falling off is there! but it's grand to have him back.
From the National Archives AIR/27/747
8th April 1945
The target of the day was the reported "G" Ops. of the 162 TURKOMAN DIVISION at LAGO SANTO, but with a gale blowing across the runway it was not until the afternoon that CAPT JACOBS leading 6 a/c. was able to take off and demolish it.
"Hang Ups" marred the success of the only other show of the day led by the C.O. against mortar positions near PORTO GARIBALDI. F/L B GARNER too had to bale out and his story is appended below.
"I took off at 1700 with two aircraft, identified target at 1715 and section went into bomb dive from 8000' bombing to the East, breaking up right, my bomb hung up the second hit the house; third hung up; I told the section that I was gaining height for a second attack and to follow me down in a strafe on pits ????????? with the L shaped building.
I intended releasing on manual having heard a distinct crack below when I pressed the bomb button and pulled away. I was steady in my bomb dive with one eye on the port cannon muzzle where shells were exploding almost continuously in long yellow flashes - the starboard cannon had jammed when I opened up - when a heavy explosion seemed to envelope the aircraft momentarily forcing me hard down in the seat.
The cockpit filled with smoke, nothing could be seen through the canopy and the aircraft seemed to be wallowing drunkenly up to the right. I immediately jettisoned the canopy by pulling it, bending head forward and hitting it hard at the sides simultaneously with both elbows. I tried to right the aircraft, but controls seemed lifeless. So I flung open the cockpit door pulled pin of harness release, half turned left to free the chute and with both hands on hinge of open door, forced myself up and over the wing root fairing. The a/c felt on the point of stall immediately before abandoning, when it swept gracefully down in a slow spiral to the right. I did not watch it crash.
Once clear of the a/c I felt for ripcord, pulled in a shallow diving attitude and almost immediately the chute streamed and opened. There was very little sensation or slipstream on abandoning having retained my helmet oxygen mask and googles complete to facilitate breathing and as possible protection against fire which I felt might break out at any moment.
My oxygen tube was disconnected and although my R/T plug was 'In' I did not feel it release. Looking down I found myself only just, but far enough, over Boche lines, across the canal over P. GARRIBALDI. Intending to take advantage of the bombing wind I tried slipping the chute out to sea without any visible effect.
As a last resort I began slipping hard South to fall in our lines. Miraculously the winds changed and combined with energetic shroud line pulling, I drifted S.W. over from the town and landed light on what appeared to be a square grass field surrounded by salt pans about 2 feet deep.
Fortunately I landed as I intended facing the direction of wind, landing light and somersaulting over backwards. During the descent I did not see or hear any one firing at me, fully expecting plenty, but a very friendly Spitfire did sweep close by me, causing me to oscillate and spilling air from my canopy. On landing I lay flat in the long grass, shed all flying clothing, and after waiting to see what the Boche would do, I began snaking through the grass as far away from the flying kit as I could.
I reached a small canal at edge of field and hid awhile in a grassy hollow to find out why our guns were shelling just off to one side. From the pinpoints of the bursts I came to the definite conclusion that I was in No-Man's Land and that some of the houses might be occupied by the Boche.
Landing S. of the canal through Garibaldi I thought I might be quite safe, but apparently the Army was still engaged in patrolling this area and 'winkling out' enemy elements from the houses S. of the canal. So I decided to lie low until early twilight then slipped over a low bank quickly across some small wooden sluice gates and began a belly crawl South along a long narrow gorse covered spit between the water filled salt pans. Mines and my silhouette on the sky line were my main fears.
I must have belly crawled some 200/300 yards, stopping to listen frequently, making a wide detour around a large group of houses which looked as though they may be enemy occupied and in any case, booby trapped. Until I began my detour out into the marshes I followed new looking dog pad marks in the mud, at least the dog might have been heavy enough to set off any mines.
Once by the house, I began walking in a semi circle out in the marsh, until I reached a wide canal. I considered swimming this, the marsh water was quite pleasant even though the mud stank unpleasantly. However decided to walk along the bank until I reached the WEST bridge.
The canal was leading me back again to PORTO GARIBALDI and noticing slit trenches in the banks, decided to go warily and listen occasionally. Walking along the bank top, I became suspicious of dark forms in the scrub at the bottom of the bank and as I walked by looked down again when one of the forms whispered “Halt” quite alarmingly. I stopped all in good time for they were pointing Tommies at me and told them I was a pilot. They told me to come down the bank, where we exchanged identities – themselves SCOTS GUARDS – I the pilot whose whereabouts and possible activities they already knew. Apparently the GUARDS were an out going fighting patrol.
I was ferried across the canal, taken to company H.Q. where particulars of contact were phoned to No.244 WING. From there I jeeped to Brigade, thence to Divisional H.Q. (Black Cat sign and No.40) where I stayed overnight. I was jeeped back to my Unit the following morning after a very fine breakfast.
It was quite good fun really. The Army Units from the boys in the line up to Div. H.Q. were magnificent, quick on the trigger, may-be, but magnificent hosts. Indeed I felt embarrassed being looked after, lmost mothered, by so fine a bunch as these in 56 Div.
In passing I cannot account for the explosion which occurred. No flak was seen. The Army Units reported a big brownish burst beneath and behind me, but saw no bomb burst afterwards. The a/c crashed within 20 yards of a SCOTS GUARD, but did not explode. I watched it catch fire after a while when ammo began exploding and tanks went up. The wreckage burned for quite a long time. The bomb may be under the wreckage, or failed to explode.
In my opinion, I was either hit by a mortar shell, or arty fire”.
Kevin's Note: It is suspected that a batch of faulty detonators was sent to 244 WIng and at least three pilots were killed in circumstances where there was no apparent ground fire at around the same time.
F/O R.L. Cotnam 8th April 1945 417 (Canadian) Squadron
P/O C.P.K Smith 11th April 1945 92 Squadron
W/C R.E. Bary 12th April 1945 244 Wing
See BBC Peoples War Diary entry by Stanley Widdowson
London Gazette - DFC Announcement
8th June 1945
Flight Lieutenant Ben Loraine Garner (106649), R.A.F.V.R., 92 Sqn.
This officer has completed many sorties on his second tour of operational duty.
During these operations he has attacked a variety of enemy targets such as barges, mechanical transport and other objectives on the route of battle. he has displayed a high standard of skill and resolution and throughout has set a fine example of devotion to duty.
Among his successes is the destruction of 2 enemy aircraft.
Flight 13th July 1950 - The RAF Display
Aerobatics "on Request" proved to be one of the most popular items on the programmme.
Members of the public were able to select, and request by R/T. evolutions to be performed by two Merlin-powered Balliol trainers.
The commands were neatly executed by the two instructor-pilots (F/L. Byrne and F/L. Garner D.F.C.).
More information on Spinks catalog link (Page 68)