Sergeant Richard George Gazzard
“Dick” Gazzard was born Richard George Gazzard to Norman Clarence and Veida Gazzard, of Strathfield, New South Wales, on 17 August 1920.
He was schooled at Fort Street High School in Petershaw where sat his intermediate exams passing 5 subjects but failing Mathematics I & II. He then went on the Metropolitan Business College in Sydney as an evening student studying accountancy. He was still studying at the time of his enlistment when he gave his occupation as “Commercial Traveller” selling travel goods and handbags.
Dick Gazzard’s service career matched that of “Barry” Haydon completely from arriving at No.2 Recruitment Depot on 27 May 1940 through to being posted to 452 (RAAF) Squadron on 21 April 1941. Both men went through No.2 Initial Training School, No.5 Elementary Flying Training School, No.3 Services Flying Training School and 57 Operational Training Unit. Like Haydon, Gazzard also trained on the Anson whilst in Canada before converting to the Spitfire at RAF Hawarden with 57 OTU.
Gazzard’s first 6 weeks with 452 Squadron consisted of training flights as he built up experience. His baptism in operational flying came on 2 June 1941, the squadron’s first operational day, when he launched 3 times to intercept a reported bogey, on each occasion no contact was made. The remainder of the time while the squadron was at Kirton-in-Lindsey was made up of further training, standing patrols, convoy patrols and the occasional interception of mainly friendly aircraft.
After their arrival at Kenley, the squadron undertook convoy patrols and Channels sweeps before participating in a ‘Roadstead’ on 31 July. August marked a ramping up of operations for the squadron when they added Circuses to their operations. On Circus 68, their second of the month, the squadron lost 3 pilots missing (Sergeants Chapman and Haydon with Pilot Officer O’Byrne becoming a Prisoner of War). This sortie was also notable for the downing of Wing Commander Douglas Bader, now believed to be from friendly fire. Returning from the mission, Gazzard forced landed at Lympne.
It was becoming clear the Spitfire Mk.II was no match for the latest model of the Me.109. Conseqently, 452 Squadron began flying their new Mk.Vs the following day. On 12 August, Gazzard flew on Circuses 69 and 71, escorting 6 Blenheims into France on each occasion, although with difficulty on the first Circus. After 3 days rest from operational flying, 452 and Gazzard were back in action on 16 August. It was a bumper day for claims with 8 claims being made, 3 by Flight Lieutenant B E F “Paddy” Finucane. On these operations it is interesting to note that the squadron flew a mix of Mk.IIs and Mk.Vs, indicating the urgency attributed to using them in combat.
Gazzard was rested from Circus 80 on 18 August, having flown on Circuses 74 and 75 on 16 August, with Finucane taking the controls of his aircraft (AB785) on both operations. Gazzard returned to the air in Circus 81 on 19 august. Unfortunately, this was to be his final operation. The squadron diary reports they were heavily engaged “by approximately 100 enemy aircraft”. Flying as Yellow 2, (in Spitfire V, AB785), both Gazzard and his section leader Pilot Officer William Eccleton, were posted as “missing in action”. It was reported later:
..F/L Finucane, who was Red 1, saw a Spitfire behind him which was either Yellow 2 or Yellow 1, lose a wing during the fight and spin down out of control.
452 Squadron had rated Dick Gazzard as an “Above Average” pilot, qualified in flying the Spitfire I, II and V.
Confirmation was received from the Red Cross in a report on 17 October 1941, based on information received from Berlin of 15 casualties, that Gazzard’s body had been “…either washed ashore or else recovered at sea between August 4 and September 9th”. He had died 2 days after his 21st birthday.
Richard George Gazzard is buried in Oostduinkerke Communal Cemetery. The Inscription on his headstone reads:
“Your wish fulfilled “Dick” sadly missed but proudly remembered”
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.