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Sunday, November 10, 2013

30 Days of Remembrance - Day 13 - Alexander William McHardy

In memory of
Second Lieutenant
Alexander William McHardy
who died on November 10, 1918

Military Service:

Age:
20
Force:
Air Force
Unit:
Royal Air Force

Additional Information:
Son of Alexander C. and Isabell McHardy of MacLennan's Mountain, Picture Co. Nova Scotia.

Cemetery:
TOURNAI COMMUNAL CEMETERY, ALLIED EXTENSION, Belgium
Grave Reference:
IV C 10
Commemorated on Page 590 of the First World War Book of Remembrance. 

I was first interested in researching Alexander William McHardy because of his birth place of Nova Scotia; I've been attempting to chose people who were representative of the population of Canada during that time. and due to their strong ties to the United Kingdom, many young men from the Maritime provinces were quick to sign up once war was declared. The fact that Alexander McHardy was also a member of the Royal Air Force made him even more intriguing. Alas, it also made him a lot more challenging to research.

 A quick search on Ancestry found a possible matching tree but the date of birth of June 3 1894 didn't match with an age of 20 in 1918 and the only citations were the 1910 and 1911 census. As I've done previously, I looked to the Attestation papers to compare birth dates, as well as parents' names and address. Unfortunately I wasn't able to locate any military documents for Alexander McHardy, not on Ancestry nor in the LAC files. It was then that I realized that there is no Service number listed for Alexander McHardy which made tracing him by military records almost impossible. I didn't know if this was an oversight or if it had to do with his being a member of the RAF so I searched for more info on Canadians in the RAF


From the Library and Archives Canada WWI information page:

The Royal Canadian Air Force did not exist at this time and those wishing to serve in the Air Forces would have joined the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Air Force (RAF). Library and Archives Canada does not hold personnel records for those individuals.
Library and Archives Canada does hold some nominal rolls of Canadians who served with the RFC and RAF in the following series. Those lists are not available on microfilm; they must be consulted onsite.
RG 24, vol. 23195: E to H and I to M
RG 24, vol. 23196: A to D and N to W
RG 24, acc. 1995-96/670, box 1: Acland to Luxton
RG 24, acc. 1995-96/670, box 2: Macaskill to Zieman
Personnel files for the RAF and RFC are in the custody of the National Archives in England. The records are described in their guide: Royal Air Force and predecessors.
[www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/familyhistory/military/airforce/]

With that I was able to search the UK National Archives to find this:

Reference: AIR 76/319/147
Description:  Name    McHardy, Alexander William
Date: [1918-1919]
Held by: The National Archives, Kew Former references: in its original department:   
Book No.151 part 3 
Legal status: Public Record

Sadly my budget didn't allow me to pay the £3.36 needed to view the records but at least it explained the missing Canadian Service number.

With little options left, I did a basic google search for "Alexander William McHardy, RAF" and got lucky- the very first link was for a message board thread on the 1914-1918 Invisionzone.com forum about this very same airman! There I was able to read about the circumstances surrounding the death of Alexander McHardy, from people with much more military knowledge than I have. One of the posters in this thread  is Trevor Henshaw, author of The Sky Their Battlefield :Air Fighting and the Complete List of Allied Air Casualties from Enemy Action in the First War: British, Commonswealth, and United States Air Services 1914 to 1918
 He writes:

What I have on Hardy is an entry on 10th November 1918 from my book The Sky Their Battlefield as follows:

F6195 Bristol F2b 20Sqn
**OP combat with EA ovCHARLEROI MIA(2Lt AW McHardy KIA/2Lt WA Rodger Can. KIA) left 10-20am

This would have been based on an RAF Casualty Report of the event.

As a bit of background: regarding 20 Sqn, November [saw] no lessening of fighting activity - rather an intensification occurred in the final days of the war: in the last seven days of action before the 11th there were nine combat claims. Some would say regrettably that one of the biggest actions occurred on November 10 when an offensive patrol came across seven Fokker DVIIIs attacking a formation of DH9 bombers over Charleroi. Diving onto them they destroyed three and sent down another two out of control, but two crews were also shot down, 2Lts AW McHardy and WA Rodger being killed and, whilst the pilot Lt EAC Britton in the other machine survived and escaped capture, his observer Sgt RS Dodds was killed. These last casualties in the Great War for 20 Squadron occurred barely twenty-four hours before the Armistice was signed.

Alexander William McHardy died Nov 10, 1918


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