Philip John, VC, MC Gardner

GARDNER, Captain Philip, VC, MC

Philip John Gardner, always known as "Pip", was born in Sydenham on Christmas Day 1914 and educated at Dulwich College, where he later served as a governor. In 1934 he went to Hong Kong and joined the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Force. After returning home, he joined the Westminster Dragoons in 1938 and was commissioned into the Royal Tank Regiment in 1940. He was posted to 4th Royal Tank Regiment in the Western Desert in 1941.

Philip Gardner was awarded two gallantry medals for his actions in the Western Desert. The first, his MC in June 1941, was for an action near Halfaya Pass in Libya, where he led two troops of men, on foot, through a minefield. He returned the next day to collect the identity discs and personal possessions of the dead crew members.
In November 1941 he was awarded the VC for attempting to rescue the crew of two armoured cars, which were under attack. One crew member was still alive and Pip Gardner carried the man to safety, receiving two wounds himself in the process.

In June 1942, after the fall of Tobruk, Pip Gardner was captured and sent to Italy as a prisoner of war. He later escaped, but was recaptured by the Germans and sent firstly to Stalag IV B in Muhlberg and then to Stalag 79 near Brunswick. Here he helped to raise £13,000 in pledges from other POWs to start a boys club in Fulham. After the war he returned to the family air-conditioning business. He was president of the Brunswick Boys Club for 40 years. He died in February 2003 aged 88.

Tales of valour

Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross

GARDNER Philip John (Captain)

4th Royal Tank Regiment

His Majesty The King has approved the award of the Victoria Cross to Captain Philip John Gardner, of the 4th Royal Tank Regiment, for most conspicuous bravery and outstanding devotion to duty at Tobruk on 23rd November 1941.
Captain Gardner was ordered to take two tanks to the assistance of two armoured cars which were out of action and under fire, close to the enemy forces. On arriving at the scene he found the two armoured cars halted two hundred yards apart, being gradually smashed to pieces by heavy fire at close range. He ordered one of his tanks to give covering fire whilst he manoeuvred his own tank close to the foremost car. In the face of intense anti-tank and machine-gun fire he dismounted and secured a tow rope from his tank to the first armoured car. Finding a brother officer desperately wounded beside the car, he lifted him onto it and gave the order to tow. The rope then broke and, as there was no other, he returned to the car to assist the wounded officer, and was himself wounded in the arm and the leg. Despite this he transferred the officer to his tank, climbing up beside him to hold him on. During this time the tank as penetrated by shellfire and the loader killed, while the remainder of the crew of the armoured car were also killed.
Captain Gardner, himself wounded, in saving the life of his brother officer, displayed courage, determination and complete disregard for his own personal safety, such as have rarely been equalled in the annals of the service.

Military Cross

At the foot of HALFAYA PASS on June 15, four tanks were immobilised on an enemy minefield, where they were engaged by enemy fire. Later the troop commander, whilst outside his tank, stepped on a mine and was badly wounded. Seeing this, Lt Gardener dismounted went to his assistance. Finding him badly mutilated, Gardener returned to his own tank for assistance and medical kit. Again with complete disregard for his own personal safety, he threaded his way through the enemy mines back to his Troop Leader where he tried to carry him with the assistance of his gunner to a place of safety. This they were unable to do. Enemy fire was now intense and Lt Gardener crossed the minefield to a wadi where there some men but could obtain no volunteers. Again he returned to the wounded officer who shortly afterwards died. As a withdrawal was imminent on the following day, Lt Gardener personally visited all the four tanks and removed all the equipment possible to prevent it falling into enemy hands. He was unable to destroy the tanks as no vehicle could be obtained to carry the necessary explosives and petrol across the minefield. As an example of cool courage, devotion to duty, and at the same time complete disregard for his own personal safety, Lt Gardener’s work, all under enemy fire, is deserving of the highest praise and sets a standard rarely surpassed in the history of the Service.

Recommended by:
Lt.Col. W.C.L. O’Carroll, Comd. 6th Royal Tank Regiment - 21.6.41

Approved:
Bde Commander who recommended DSO
Gen Auchinleck Comd Western Desert who relegated this back to MC 9.7.41

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