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17 September

OV Obituary: Squadron Leader Mark Hare

Squadron Leader Mark Hare (Cl 70-73), who has died aged 66, flew RAF Harriers on operations during the Falklands War.

On April 8 1982, six days after the Argentine invasion of the islands, the RAF’s No 1 Squadron was ordered to prepare for operations from an aircraft carrier as attrition replacements for anticipated Sea Harrier combat losses. After an intensive period of pilot training, and an engineering programme to modify the Harrier GR.3s, the first aircraft headed south on May 3.

Hare was flying one of the first three aircraft to take off from St Mawgan in Cornwall. Using air-to-air refuelling from a Victor aircraft, he and a colleague reached Ascension Island after a 4,600-mile non-stop flight in their single-engine aircraft (the third aircraft had been forced to divert to Gambia).

After the arrival of further aircraft, they were embarked on the Atlantic Conveyor and set sail for the South Atlantic on May 8. By May 19 all the RAF Harriers had transferred to the carrier Hermes.

Flying as the No 2 to his flight commander, Hare flew his first operation on May 21, when they attacked an Argentine forward operating base near Mount Kent. He destroyed a Chinook helicopter on the ground, while the Harrier’s cannons damaged two other helicopters. His aircraft was hit by small-arms fire.

Over the following days he bombed Stanley Airport and shared in the destruction of a Puma helicopter on the ground. On May 26 he destroyed enemy guns at Goose Green. Returning in the afternoon to support 2 Parachute Regiment, his leader was shot down, ejected and avoided capture over the next three days.

During further attacks on Stanley Airport, his Harrier was damaged. He flew an armed reconnaissance mission searching for a land-based Exocet missile launcher and on July 11 he was flying No 2 to his commanding officer. They attacked gun positions at Moody Brook Barracks, when shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles were fired against the two attacking Harriers.

On July 13 he flew his final mission when his leader dropped a laser-guided bomb on positions near Tumbledown and Hare followed up this attack by dropping bombs on enemy positions. The following day, the Argentine forces surrendered.

Hare had flown 22 operational missions, most against heavy anti-aircraft and small-arms fire, and his aircraft had been damaged on a number of occasions.

No 1 Squadron’s Harriers were reconfigured with Sidewinder air-to-air missiles to supplement the Royal Navy’s Sea Harrier force. On July 4 they disembarked from Hermes and deployed to a site on Stanley Airport to provide air defence for the islands. By the end of June, the original RAF Harrier pilots, including Hare, began their return journey home. For his services during the campaign, Hare was Mentioned in Despatches.

The son of an RAF group captain, Mark William James Hare was born in Tidworth on January 9 1955 and educated at Rugby School and King’s School, Worcester. He was awarded an RAF flying scholarship and gained his private pilot’s licence before he could drive. He was given a university cadetship to Southampton University where he graduated in Law, having served and flown with the University Air Squadron.

Hare entered the RAF College Cranwell, where he excelled, winning the sword of honour and five major prizes, including that for the best pilot.

After converting to the Harrier jump jet, Hare was posted in November 1979 to No 1 Squadron based at Wittering near Peterborough. The squadron’s role was to support forces on NATO’s northern and southern flanks and it regularly deployed to bases in northern Norway, operating from basic bases and in extreme weather.

During his time on No 1 Squadron Hare, together with his colleagues, was detached to the Harrier flight based at Belize to provide a deterrent against possible incursions by Guatemalan forces.

OV Obituary: Squadron Leader Mark Hare

Six months after returning from the Falklands, Hare was posted to join No 3 Squadron flying from Gütersloh in Germany, where the squadron frequently deployed to operate from field sites in support of the 1st British Corps in the central region of Nato.

He was one of two pilots who regularly demonstrated the Harrier at European air shows and his outstanding ability as a Harrier pilot resulted in the award of the AFC at the end of his tour of duty in June 1986.

He was posted to the air staff at HQ Strike Command, a ground appointment he did not relish. He made strenuous efforts to return to flying – his campaign was taken up in the national press – but he remained at Strike Command “to progress his career”. He decided to seek voluntary retirement and left the RAF in April 1988.

He joined Monarch Airlines and first flew the Boeing 737 on European routes before transferring to the Airbus 320 and 321. He became the company’s senior pilot at Manchester, where he flew competency checks on all Monarch pilots operating from the airport.

Hare enjoyed walking and hang-gliding in his younger days. He and his wife bought a small farm in North Wales where they kept sheep.

Mark Hare is survived by his wife Kathi, by their three daughters and a son, and by a daughter from an earlier marriage.

Squadron Leader Mark Hare, born January 9 1955, died August 9 2021.

Obituary courtesy of The Daily Telegraph 09 September 2021