TALES OF VALOUR
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.
Lt.Col. W.C.L. O’Carroll, Comd. 6th Royal Tank Regiment – 21.6.41
Bde Commander who recommended DSO
Gen Auchinleck Comd Western Desert who relegated this back to MC 9.7.41
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.