Sergeant Neil Malcolm Hardy, the son of George Malcolm Hardy and Olive Ruth Hardy (nee Lowther), was born at Mackay in Queensland on 5th December 1921. He was educated at the Applethorpe State School. He then attended the Townsville Grammar School and he completed his education at the Toowoomba Grammar School during the years 1936 and 1937. He played cricket with the First XI at Townsville Grammar and 1st XV football at Toowoomba Grammar. He applied for aircrew training in the Royal Australian Air Force on 26th March 1940. He was enrolled in the Reserve of the Royal Australian Air Force on 5th June 1940 after swearing an oath of affirmation. At the age of 19 years he was enlisted in the Citizen Air Force of the R.A.A.F. on 6th December 1940 at No. 3 Recruiting Centre in Brisbane after giving a commitment that he would serve for the duration of the war and an additional twelve months. He was allocated the service number of 404903. At the time of enlistment, he was employed as a Sales Clerk at the Toowoomba Foundry. His physical description at the time of his enlistment was that he was 5 feet 8 inches in height and weighed 126 pounds. He had a dark complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. He stated that he was of the Church of England religion. He gave his next of kin as his mother, Mrs Olive Ruth Hardy, residing at 20 Rome Street in Toowoomba. He also gave the name of his uncle, Mr A.A.L. McBride, residing at the same address, as a person to be informed in the event of injury or death. His mother’s address was later changed to c/- J. Boucher, Mount Tully via Stanthorpe, Queensland.
Sergeant Neil Hardy joined No. 2 Initial Training School at Bradfield Park in Sydney on 8th December 1940 to learn the basics of R.A.A.F. service. After completing his training, he joined No. 2 Embarkation Depot at Bradfield Park on 4th January 1941 to prepare for movement overseas to Canada for further aircrew training under the Empire Training Scheme. He embarked by sea transport from Sydney in New South Wales on 23rd January 1941 on attachment to the Royal Canadian Air Force. After his arrival in Canada he joined No 2 Wireless School, Winnipeg, Manitoba on 16th February 1941 for training as a Wireless Operator. He then joined No. 3 Bombing & Gunnery School at MacDonald in Manitoba on 6th July 1941. On completion of his training he was awarded the Air Gunner Qualification Badge on 5th August 1941. He joined No. 1 (Y) Depot at Halifax in Nova Scotia on 6th August 1941 to prepare for overseas service in the United Kingdom. He embarked by sea transport from Canada on 20th August 1941 on attachment to the Royal Air Force and he disembarked in England on 8th September 1941 where he joined No. 3 Personnel Despatch & Reception Centre at Bournemouth on 8th September 1941. He was sent to No. 1 Signals School at Royal Air Force Station Cosford on 29th September 1941 for advanced wireless operation training. Upon completion of the course he became a qualified Wireless Operator/Air Gunner. He joined No. 14 Operational Training Unit at Royal Air Force Station Cottesmore on 9th December 1941 where aircrew were trained for night bombing. He joined No. 50 Squadron at Royal Air Force Station Swinderby for operational duty on 17th June 1942. He was promoted to the rank of Temporary Sergeant on 5th August 1941.
Sergeant Neil Hardy was a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner and a member of the crew of a No. 50 Squadron Royal Air Force Manchester Bomber IL 8299 that was lost at Bremen in Germany on 25th June 1942. His aircraft was detailed to attack targets at Bremen with incendiary bombs on the night of 25th/26th June 1942. The aircraft took off from its base at Lincolnshire at 2320 hours and no further communication was heard from the aircraft. The Air Board notified his uncle, Mr A.A. McBride, residing at 20 Rome Street in Toowoomba that he was missing as a result of air operations. Subsequent information received by the International Red Cross from German sources confirmed that he had been killed. German Death List No. 84 confirmed that his remains and the other six crew members of the aircraft were buried in the Waller Cemetery at Bremen on 2nd July 1942. After the war, the bodies were exhumed and Sergeant Hardy was identified by his “Australia” flashes, Sergeant’s stripes and Wireless Operator brevet. Investigation Reports later indicated that the aircraft was shot down at 0200 hours on 26th June 1942 near Bremen. After positive identification, his remains were subsequently reburied in the Soltau (Becklingen) War Cemetery in Germany, on 23rd January 1947.
Sergeant Neil Hardy’s name is commemorated on Panel No. 123 at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and locally on the Toowoomba Mothers’ Memorial, the Toowoomba Soldiers’ Memorial Hall Honour Board, the St. James’ Church Memorial Tablet and the Toowoomba Grammar School WW2 Honour Board.
The following newspaper item appeared in the local newspaper:
Advice has been received by Mr A. McBride, 20 Rome Street, Toowoomba, that his nephew, Sergeant Neil Hardy, of the R.A.A.F., is reported to be missing as the result of air operations on the night of June 25-26. Sergeant Hardy is the only son of Mrs O.R. Hardy, of Stanthorpe.
Toowoomba Grammar School archive records show that he enrolled as a day student on 27th January 1937 and he left the School on 31st July 1938. His parent is shown as Mr George Hardy, c/- A. McBride, 20 Rome Street, Toowoomba. He represented the School in the First XV in 1937. After leaving school he entered employment as a Clerk at the Toowoomba Foundry.
The following obituary was published in the Old Boys’ Magazine in June 1943: Sergeant Neil Hardy, of the R.A.A.F., who was reported missing overseas on June 26th, was buried in the Waller Cemetery, Bremen, Germany, on July 2nd last. Sergeant Hardy was a past pupil of the School. Before enlisting he was employed in the sales office of the Toowoomba Foundry. He was the only son of Mrs Olive Ruth Hardy of Stanthorpe.