Sergeant William Nairn Gardiner

RAF Flying Officer William Nairn Gardiner 754858, was born in Perth on 26 January 1921. He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) a month before Britain declared war against Nazi Germany.

William Gardiner was then posted to RAF 3 Squadron, based at RAF Wick and RAF Castletown ( both Caithness). Castletown sits east of Thurso and provided an ideal location for its Hawker Hurricane fighters to defend the Royal Navy Home Fleet base at Scapa Flow.

It was in this protective role that Gardiner flew his first operational mission on 27 October 1940. On Christmas Day 1940, Gardiner joined RAF 96 Squadron flying out of RAF Cranage (Cheshire), his new mounts being Hawker Hurricane Mk 1s and Boulton Paul Defiants. The latter interceptor aircraft had 4 Browning 303 machine-guns mounted on a dorsal turret and was a particularly strong night fighter. The Defiant had a considerable impact on Luftwaffe night bombing raids. As a propaganda exercise, when the Defiant was first introduced, it was suggested that it had 21 guns (4 turret mounted, 14 wing-mounted, and 3 nose cannons).

William Gardiner received his commission as a pilot officer on 22 March 1942. He was subsequently promoted to flying officer (1 October 1942) and flight lieutenant (22 March 1944).

After the war, Gardiner was appointed as a flying officer in the RAFVR (121234). Gardiner returned to Perth where he resided in Burghmuir Road where he was a hydroelectric engineer and a town councillor.

William Gardiner passed away on 5 November 1998. His name is included on the Battle of Britain War Memorial Wall at Capel-le-Ferne, Folkestone.

Research by Ken Bruce


As the war progressed, No. 96 Squadron RAF received other aircraft including the Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter (May 1942), de Havilland Mosquito (June 1943), Handley Page Halifax (December 1944), and Douglas Dakota (March 1945). The squadron also found its operational base shifted around a number of RAF stations in England and was briefly at RAF Drem. In December 1944, the squadron were an RAF Transport Command flight; in March 1945, they were deployed in Cairo; by May 1945, they were at Bilaspur, India.

At the start of the Second World War, RAF 3 Squadron were stationed at RAF Biggin Hill and briefly deployed to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. It was forced to withdraw after 10 days. They were based at RAF Wick from 30 May 1940, moving to RAF Castletown on 30 October 1940. On 14 September 1940 detachments were based at RAF Turnhouse, RAF Montrose and RAF Dyce.

William Nairn Gardiner
R.A.F. FIGHTER PILOTS AND THEIR NAMED HURRICANES (CH 6761) Original wartime caption: For introduction see CH.6760. A flight line-up of Hurricane aircraft and their pilots at an RAF Fighter Station. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:
Hurricane pilots of RAF 3 Squadron