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Hardman, Sir James Donald Innes (1899–1982)

by John McCarthy

This article was published:

James Hardman, n.d.

James Hardman, n.d.

RAAF Archives

Sir James Donald Innes Hardman (1899-1982), air force officer, was born on 21 February 1899 at Oldham, Lancashire, England, son of James Hardman, master cotton-spinner, and his wife Wilhelmina Innes, née Gibson. Educated at Malvern College, he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles in 1916 and next year joined the Royal Flying Corps. He was commissioned on 10 May 1917 and after pilot training was posted to No.19 Squadron in February 1918. Flying the unpopular Sopwith Dolphin, he destroyed his first German aircraft in May and was made a flight commander as an acting captain in September. He finished the war with seven confirmed victories and a Distinguished Flying Cross (1919), and was transferred to the Unemployed List in March 1919.

In 1920 Hardman entered Hertford College, Oxford, to study economics, but on 18 October 1921 he rejoined the Royal Air Force on a short-service commission which was later converted to a permanent appointment. After serving in India, Britain and the Middle East, he attended the RAF Staff College, Andover, in 1935 and the British Army Staff College, Camberley, in 1938. He was promoted to squadron leader in February 1936 and wing commander in January 1939.

On the outbreak of World War II Hardman went to France with the air component of the British Expeditionary Force. Serving as head of the Directorate of Military Co-operation—Directorate of Operations (Tactical) from November 1940—he was promoted to temporary group captain in March 1941 and acting air commodore in September. He ended the war as air officer commanding No.232 (Transport) Group at Comilla, India, and was made acting air vice-marshal in October 1945. Appointed OBE (1940) and CB (1945), he was mentioned in despatches (1941) and awarded the United States of America’s Bronze Star Medal (1946).

Hardman was air officer in charge of administration, Air Command, South-East Asia (later Far East), in 1946-47; assistant chief of the Air Staff (operations) in 1947-48; and commandant, RAF Staff College, Bracknell, in 1949-51. From 1951 he was air officer commanding-in-chief, Home Command. He was made acting air marshal in October (substantive July 1952). In 1950 (Sir) Robert Menzies had asked the British chief of the Air Staff, Sir John Slessor, for the services of an RAF officer to replace (Sir) George Jones as chief of the Air Staff, Royal Australian Air Force. Hardman was appointed to the post on 14 January 1952. An accomplished and experienced officer, he had a tactful, urbane and easy yet forceful personality. These attributes were necessary as the air force he arrived to command was a divided service, a legacy of the personal and professional antagonism that had been endemic in its senior ranks since its inception.

Hardman’s main task was to improve RAAF morale. To this end he carried out a thorough reorganisation of the Air Board. In the process he forged an excellent working partnership with the newly appointed secretary of the Department of Air, (Sir) Edwin Hicks. The relationship with the civilian element in the department, which had been damaged during the long tenure of M. C. Langslow, was consequently greatly improved. Hardman also oversaw and implemented a major shift in RAAF organisation, with a move from area to functional commands. This rearrangement was designed to decentralise control away from the Air Board and to increase wartime efficiency. Hardman argued that the spread of the Cold War imposed a need for operational flexibility, as the air force could be operating anywhere in the world and possibly under foreign control. The area organisation was replaced by three commands: Home, Training and Maintenance. Within each command, units might be formed or disbanded, aircraft allotted to sub-formations and major items of equipment bought, all without reference to the Air Board, which now was expected to issue only broad directives.

An energetic and persuasive proponent of the role of air power, Hardman set out to make the air force the first line of defence. His argument was as follows: aircraft should take over the protection of sea lanes; the maritime Neptune squadrons could carry out any task the navy could, and do it better; and the army was engaged in training a force that would be of little use in the Cold War. If the air force, he contended, were equipped with the then emerging V-bomber (the Victor, Valiant or Vulcan), it could be employed in a most offensive capacity, a source of striking power that could be used by the Commonwealth as a whole if deterrence failed.

An RAAF operating a nuclear-equipped V-bomber strike force would coincide neatly with current British defence policy thinking and also fit well with the American doctrine of `massive retaliation’. In 1954 the Menzies government followed British and American policies in stipulating that air power would become the first line of Australian defence. Yet Hardman’s suggested strike force of V-bombers never came to fruition. His term as CAS ended on 17 January 1954 and when he returned to Britain Menzies remarked that he would be remembered for his influence on the development of the postwar air force and `particularly for the complete reorganization of the structure of the RAAF itself’. Within two years Hardman had contributed greatly to replacing the previous ill feeling within the service with a new sense of purpose.

Back in Britain, Hardman became air member for supply and organisation in May 1954. He was promoted to air chief marshal on 1 April 1955. Having been elevated to KCB in June 1952, he was raised to GBE in January 1958. On 29 January that year he retired from the RAF. He had married Dorothy Ursula Ashcroft Thompson on 8 July 1930 at the parish church of St George, Hanover Square, London. Survived by his wife, and their daughter and two sons, Sir Donald died on 2 March 1982 at Estoril, Portugal.

Select Bibliography

  • J. McCarthy, Defence in Transition (1991)
  • A. Stephens (ed), Australia’s Air Chiefs (1992)
  • A. Stephens, Going Solo (1995)
  • P. Dennis et al, The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History (1995)
  • A. Stephens and J. Isaacs, High Fliers (1996)
  • A. Stephens, The Royal Australian Air Force (2001)
  • Aircraft, Dec 1951, p 34
  • Times (London), 9 Mar 1982, p 14, 15 Mar 1982, p 10.

Citation details

John McCarthy, 'Hardman, Sir James Donald Innes (1899–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 9 June 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2023

James Hardman, n.d.

James Hardman, n.d.

RAAF Archives

Life Summary [details]


21 February, 1899
Oldham, Greater Manchester, England


2 March, 1982 (aged 83)
Estoril, Portugal

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