RIP Squadron Leader Mark Hare

Squadron Leader Mark Hare, ex 26 GE, has died aged 66.

The son of an RAF Gp Capt, 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. With a University Cadetship to Southampton University, he graduated in Law. At RAF College Cranwell he won the Sword of Honour and five major prizes, including that for the best pilot.

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

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

Hare flew RAF Harriers on operations during the Falklands War and, flying as the No 2 to his Flight Commander, Hare flew his first operation 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 and later he destroyed enemy guns at Goose Green. That day, returning 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 attacked gun positions at Moody Brook Barracks when shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles were fired against the two attacking Harriers.

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. For his services during the campaign, Hare was mentioned in Despatches.

Six months after returning from the Falklands, Hare was posted to join No 3 Squadron flying from Gütersloh. 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 although he made strenuous efforts to return to flying – his campaign was even taken up in the national press! 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.