N103951 Private Benjamin Gower Hardy, 22nd Garrison Battalion
KIA 5 August 1944
Story delivered 5 August 2014
Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Benjamin Gower Hardy, killed while on duty in August 1944.
Born in Marrickville, Sydney, on 28 August 1898, Ben Hardy was the son of Benjamin and Emily Hardy. Ben attended Randwick Public School and later worked as a driver for Dalgety & Co. Ltd. A keen fisherman and marksman, Hardy won the Chatswood Rifle Club championship in 1926.
In September 1941 Hardy was mobilised into the Citizens’ Military Forces. Aged 43, he was too old for active service in the Australian Imperial Force. In the CMF he was first attached the 7th Garrison Battalion before being posted to the 22nd Garrison Battalion in February 1944, which was based at No. 12 Prisoner of War Group, just outside of Cowra, New South Wales.
The Cowra prisoner-of-war camp at this time held Italian, Japanese, Formosan, and Korean prisoners of war.
In the early hours of 5 August 1944, at around 2 am, 1,100 Japanese prisoners held in the B Compound of the Cowra camp attempted a massive breakout. Prisoners had become agitated upon learning that NCOs and privates were to be separated, with the privates to be transferred to the prisoner-of-war camp at Hay. Thousands rushed the barbed wire fences and camp huts were set ablaze. Some of the prisoners had armed themselves with baseball bats, knives, tools, or other implements that they had secretly stockpiled, and blankets and baseball mitts were used to cover the barbed wire fence.
The Australian guards manning their posts poured a hail of fire into the camp. Having been awoken by the riot, Hardy and his companion Private Ralph Jones pulled greatcoats over their pyjamas and ran 50 metres to a nearby Vickers gun that was mounted on a trailer. Japanese prisoners making their way over fences headed towards them, and after five minutes of concentrated fire into the onrushing escapees the guards’ position was eventually overrun and the two of them were beaten to death.
Hardy and Jones were two of three Australian guards killed during the Cowra breakout. Two others were killed in the next few days while rounding up the escapees. A total of 234 prisoners died in the breakout.
Hardy was buried within the war graves section of the Cowra general cemetery. He was 45.
In 1951, Hardy was posthumously awarded the George Cross. It was presented to his sister Beatrice by the Governor-General in a ceremony at Admiralty House in Sydney.
Hardy’s citation read:
Private Hardy displayed outstanding gallantry and devotion to duty in this fight to the death against an overwhelming onslaught of fanatical Japanese … Private Hardy stood his ground and continued to work his gun until bashed to death … This soldier met his death in the true British spirit of sacrifice for his country.
Hardy’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with the names of some 40,000 Australians killed in the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.
This is but one of the many stories of honour, courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Benjamin Gower Hardy, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.