Corporal David Hardman, the senior corporal of 2 Platoon A Coy 2 Para from 1980 to 1982, came from Hamilton near Glasgow; he was a very intelligent well read, street wise individual who knew how to read people under his command. When initially joining the forces David wanted to join the RAF as a pilot, however this was not possible due to him being partially coloured blind. He then joined the Army.
I remember my first meeting with Corporal Hardman at a skill at arms assessment, when first assigned to my battalion. He was a highly deceptive looking character as I, like many others, were soon to learn. I walked into the training room and saw him sat behind a desk, a slim smaller than average blond haired blue eyed man with choir boy features. This first impression put me at instant ease. The typical crow that I was then made me think, “Easy street here we come: this isn’t the typical macho looking beast-master corporal from Depot I’ve been used to".
After all, we were led to believe by the depot corporals that battalion life was more relaxed, where the emphasis is on the individual to maintain fitness and standards acquired at the Depot. The joke was on us: name rank and number, Corporal Hardman requested from me, which I duly furnished him with.
“Are you chewing?" bellowed a booming voice with a tone and authority that could rival Jimmy Innes’ voice, the old Depot Para Provo Sergeant, who had a rift that sounded like it came from the bowels of hell itself.
“No Corporal” I retorted as I covertly swallowed my gum, like from a scene out of the film Kes; when the school boys had been caught smoking by their headmaster. If ever there was an example of never judge a book by its cover, then David Hardman was the epitome of the phrase.
I served in Corporal Hardman’s section for most of my time since joining 2 Para until his death in the Battle of Darwin Hill and Goose Green, Falkland Islands conflict 1982. In that time, I learned to get to know one of the most switched on, toughest, humorous, inspiring and selfless men I’ve personally known.
Corporal Hardman had a work hard, play hard ethic and loved a bevy, as they say in Glasgow. Especially at the weekends on stand down, starting on pints and finishing on Harvey Wallbangers! Out all night with the owls, then up with the larks in the morning; he would always be the first one up in the 2 Platoon block, waking up all the other platoon block rats, and then off out for the morning run or tab around the training area. He used to set the pace, and what a pace, gruelling they were too; you’d think you were a crow back in the Depot trying to keep up with the staff.
You didn’t lie on your laurels with Corporal Hardman, you were as good as your last day. Woe betide anyone who slacked on their ability to perform to the required standard, drink or no drink. Corporal Hardman cut no slack for people in his squad who liked to party at the expense of their ability to perform their duty. As he used to say, “If ya can-ee hack, it jack it!” The previous nights drinking never slowed him down; in fact the squad thought it fuelled him to go faster.
He was like a greyhound when clean fatigue running; he trained with the battalion cross country squad when stationed in Berlin, and the fitness stayed with him. He believed in the adage “fitness wins and fit to fight”. And when it came to tabbing with weight on; you would swear he was half camel! On exercise he probably carried forty five pounds in his Para smock alone, plus all the required weight in his Bergen, plus extras.
I remember once David Hardman was on light duties with his leg in plaster due to a broken ankle. The company had a timed battle fitness test, with the usual one and a half miles at a controlled walk and jog pace out to the start point of the running phase of the test - one and half miles individual effort run back at a hare's pace. David Hardman, with leg in plaster, came in with the main squad.
Corporal Hardman had steel like determination and couldn’t sit back and watch the men toil with out contributing to the effort. Time and time again he showed his positive attitude, leadership and ability to endure, which seemed boundless.
In the early hours of 21 May 1982, the members of 2 Platoon A Coy boarded the landing craft to be deployed ashore at San Carlos Bay Falkland Islands. The men were packed like sardines in a can with No 2 Section of 2 Platoon most forward in the craft. As the landing craft moved towards the beach, the forward end of the craft containing No 2 Section, sitting upon their bergens, began to fill up with water. The sea water submerged the section’s bergens. The standard issue bergens were made of a quick drying synthetic material and all the kit inside was packed in plastic bags, so remained dry. However Corporal Hardman had brought his treasured old canvas A frame bergen which soaked up the water like a sponge. Our bergens weighed in excess of a hundred pounds. Whatever the rest of the squad was carrying Dave aka ‘Mad Dog’ Hardman, was carrying the additional weight of half the South Atlantic ocean on his back; and when beached he was fast tabbing up the hill called Sussex Mountain, like the maroon machine he undoubtedly was. As ever, never chuntering, leading the platoon by setting a positive example and keeping the standards to the highest degree.
‘Mad Dog’ Hardman talked the talk and walked the walk. During the ensuing Battle of Darwin Hill 28 May 1982 after the initial enemy contact Private Graham Worrall was hit in the stomach by small arms fire, while manoeuvring over the brow of a hill to engage the enemy. Corporal Steven Prior and Corporal David Abols of 1 Platoon went to recover the wounded Private Worrall, who was in open ground. Corporal Prior was then himself wounded by sniper fire in this brave attempt. Corporal Hardman then went out to the enemy’s killing zone to aid Corporal Abols in the recovery of Corporal Prior, who was subsequently hit again and killed. Private Worrall was successfully recovered and survived his wounds.
I spoke to Corporal Hardman shortly after the incident: he told me of the loss of his great friend, and like minded professional, Corporal Steven Prior. The deeds he, Corporal Abols and the fallen Corporal Prior had undertaken were truly heroic.
Corporal Hardman was later part of an ad hoc assault group that then went about the continued business of assaulting and clearing trenches in the process of winning the fire fight. The assault group moved forward out of sight of the enemy using what little cover there was, provided by the immediate lay of the ground they crawled on. Corporal Hardman was on a side of a mound. On the opposite side lay the enemy in strength, concealed in dead ground in a number of dug in fortified trench systems, equipped with heavy machine guns. Corporal Hardman was in a forward-most position of a squad, poised and ready to assault what enemy lay ahead at the given signal, as set out previously in a snap battle plan given by the CO. Corporal Hardman turned to of one the group close by and said in a light hearted way “It’s a good job we're not married men, eh!” Out came the order by the CO to assault; in an instant steadfast and unwavering to the last, Corporal David Hardman broke cover to attack, was felled and died instantly.Shortly after his action the enemy surrendered.
In a conversation I had with Corporal Hardman prior to the advance of the assault. Corporal Hardman told me he was very aware he would probably not survive the tactics ordered by the CO. But as ever Corporal Hardman put himself to the front and followed his orders until the end; not for his personal glory, but as an inspiration to the men he commanded in the objective ahead. When the chips are down and all the odds stacked against you can still win if you dare. He embodied the Parachute Regiment spirit and motto: “Ready for anything!”
Corporal Hardman was a consummate professional who led from the front in words and deeds, and would never ask of those he commanded something he was not prepared to do himself. He was only twenty two years old at his untimely death and yet had already passed the senior NCO’s course with distinction at the revered Brecon Battle School.
There was no doubt he was destined for a bright future had he survived. The memory of Corporal David Hardman remains clear and vivid in my memory now as he was all those years ago: as one of the giants of the field in the Battle of Darwin Hill; on whose shoulders we once stood.
The honour was mine to have known you and served with you till we re-org again.
One of the ad hoc assault team.
By Dilip DeyRead More