A Little More of Father Lardie
Father Lardie was indeed known as the 'Chaplain on the motorcycle'
as shown in Hugh Halliday's excellent webpage, posted by Paul Cardin.
However, conversation and correspondence with many MSG Veterans over time has revealed that,
although he could be perceived as somewhat reserved in manner, he had a happy soul and was far
from averse to joining in certain light-heated activities designed to ameliorate the relentless
pressure a tour of bomber operations exerted on those in his charge.
Not happy with his service
issue push bike, (cycle), and fully intending to minister to his flock wherever they may be found
around the 'drome at Middleton, he took himself off into Darlington one day and returned with a
used, but very serviceable BSA motor cycle, believed to be a 350cc example.
Now, not only could he
now range far and wide where he pleased, he would also be able to take part in the officially
frowned upon motor cycle races held at intervals around the perimeter track! Encouraged in this
by his friend and partner in crime, Flt Lt. Gordon 'Suds' Sutherland, DFC, DFM of the Ghost Squadron
, much fun was had, not only racing, but trying their best to find out exactly how many bods a motor
cycle would take and be ridden successfully before they all fell off!
But, he was never far from
those whose souls, spirit and morale he always placed far above his own. No one whose time
at MSG coincided with Father Lardie's will ever forget his upright figure, firmly astride his
beloved motor cycle, heading out across the apron making for his charges, either waiting to
go on their distant dispersals, or marshalled for take off on the perimeter track leading to
one of the runways; 419 on one side, 428 on the other.
He would have a word for all, whatever their faith, and we have encountered many Veterans, not only non-RC, but, total non-believers,
who drew inspiration and moral courage from his very presence in their midst. A significant
factor in this was that they knew the Father had also bought them a special last-minute gift,
which, to miss out on may well mean that they would not return!
As his motor cycle came to a
halt among them, they would not only be enthusiastically greeting him, but waiting for him
to open the RCAF issue small pack he always carried and begin to carefully give them their
packs of his special Two-Way Gum!
As each waiting airman irrespective of rank or
nationality was given his gum, Father Lardie, who would almost hand it to them as a
benediction, would say the same to all: Now, here's your two packs of chewing gum, son.
In my left hand is the one you chew for King and Country on the way out
in my right is the one you chew for your Mom and Dad, Wife, children and brothers and sisters
on the way home. See you back here tomorrow!
Father Lardie's Two Way Gum once issued with this,
many felt they had all the spiritual armour and encouragement needed to see the coming operation
through. As is well known, superstition played a large part in the fragile existence of aircrew,
and many were more than prepared to believe this chewing gum would indeed see them through.
Evidence suggests that for many it did.
Robbie Robson and his wife Freda, during a trip to Canada
in the mid 1990s mainly to see his Skipper John Sinclair, other RCAF friends and attend the
Winnipeg Reunion made sure that a visit to Father Lardie, living out his days in peace at
St. Joseph's Villa, Dundas, ON was made. He was absolutely delighted to see them and
a wonderful day was spent by Robbie and Freda in his tranquil company. Soon after,
Father Lardie was gone.
The fact that he went on operations albeit illicitly is well-known.
This was just another facet of this quiet Priest's gallant soul. He had no need to do this,
and not all Padres did it. He served a full year at Middleton, and touched the lives of all
with whom he came into contact.
It is almost certain that no other Service Minister could even
remotely claim to have sent countless young men into battle armed with two packs of a chewing
gum so special it gave many the inner courage to see the darkest hours through to the dawn.
They had to return, had Father Lardie not said; See you back here tomorrow......?
A wonderful man, we were blessed to get him F/O A.J.R.Robson, DFC, RAFVR, 428 (Ghost) Sqdn.
Father Honourary Squadron Leader J. Philip Lardie, MiD, RCAF. 1912 1998.