Ben Hardy (GC)
Benjamin Gower Hardy
|Born||28 August 1898|
Marrickville, New South Wales, Australia
|Died||5 August 1944 (aged 45)|
Cowra, New South Wales, Australia
|Years of service||1941–44|
|Battles/wars||Second World War|
Benjamin Gower Hardy, GC (28 August 1898 – 5 August 1944), known as Ben Hardy, was an Australian soldier who was posthumously awarded the George Cross for the gallantry he showed when Japanese prisoners of war staged an escape on 5 August 1944 in Cowra, New South Wales.
Armed with improvised knives and bats the Japanese stormed the guard posts with what a military court of inquiry termed "a suicidal disregard of life." 231 prisoners were killed during the ensuing fighting and 108 wounded. All of the remaining escapees were recaptured within days. Hardy was killed in the outbreak, as was Private Ralph Jones, who was also awarded the George Cross. Private Charles Henry Shepherd was the third Australian victim of the fighting at the camp, while Lieutenant Harry Doncaster was ambushed and killed while recapturing the escapees.
On the night of the breakout, Hardy was manning the Number 2 Vickers machine gun alongside Jones when they were overwhelmed by Japanese prisoners and killed. Before he was killed, Hardy disabled the gun by removing the firing bolt and throwing it away, thus rendering the gun useless to the escaping Japanese.
The court of inquiry found that the Australian soldiers had ceased fire as soon as they had reestablished control of the camp, and that many of the dead had either killed themselves or been killed by fellow prisoners, while many of the wounded had self-inflicted injuries.
Hardy was born in Marrickville, Sydney in 1898. He enlisted in the Australian Army in September 1941 at the age of 43. He was considered too old for active service and was attached to the 7th Garrison Battalion where he was known as an expert on the Vickers machine gun. He was posted to the 22nd Garrison Battalion at Cowra on 12 February 1944.