NEWSLETTER 13 – 2007
By Ron Riding
This article, by ELMS member Ron Riding, appeared in the Daily Mail Newspaper on 27th March 2007, in response to letters to that newspaper commenting on the recent release and good press of John Nichol’s book ‘Home-Run’.
As a former evader, and member of the RAF Escaping Society, I wish to record on behalf of all ex-aircrew members, our sincere and grateful thanks to, as we know them, our ‘helpers’. Those were the patriotic, courageous, and compassionate people in occupied countries, young and old, who selflessly gave their help regardless of the consequences should they have been discovered or betrayed, as many were.
The Royal Air Forces Escaping Society was formed in 1945. Our remit set us the task, to never forget our ‘helpers’: to maintain the links, to repay the debt we owed and to provide financial, social, and medical assistance when required.
History will judge us favourably, I think, on our commitment to our helpers. Fifty years on we have now handed over our remit to the WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society who will continue the link. First and second generations of ex-aircrew and helpers families will meet for reunions, memorial ceremonies, and will walk the old escape line routes. We, the few veterans that are left, will continue to visit our surviving helpers, and will remember the ‘others’, complete strangers, who gave us help when asked and will remain for ever unknown.
I count myself honoured and fortunate to have been in close contact with such bravery, charity, and sacrifice. These helpers were of all ages, of both sexes, of all classes, rich and poor, and of all religions. Without their help we would have not returned safe to England.
We will never forget them, for we owe them a great debt that we can never pay.
TRIBUTE TO RON RIDING
NEWSLETTER 36 – 2014 By Lyn Joliffe – Daughter of Ron Riding
We recently had the honour of being invited to a ceremony in the Normandy town of Thiberville, France, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of their Liberation on 24 August 1944. My father, Ron Riding, was to be remembered along with a Canadian, for the assistance that they gave to the Resistance in the area during WW2.
The day began at 9.30am on Sunday 24th August with a service of remembrance in a field outside the village. This was very well attended, with people of all ages present, some in military uniform. A 1944 D-Day Jeep, set against a background of various military vehicles, was used as the altar for the priest, together with candles and a crucifix. The service lasted for two hours, so I was pleased that the sun shone! Afterwards a small bi-plane did several low passes over the service and tipped its wings in respect, showing the RAF roundels.
We then returned to Thiberville where the Mayor gave a speech at one of the town’s monuments. Here local children laid flowers, then we walked in procession to the town square. This was where Dad hid for several days, above a butcher’s shop. Due to the nature of the current facade of that building, the plaque in Dad’s honour was re-sited to the street corner, on the most traditional Normandy building, so that it was in clear view. Here I unveiled the plaque and placed flowers in Dad’s honour.
My emotions were still under control until, over loudspeakers, Dad’s voice was to be heard. The Mayor had obtained a recording of the speech that Dad had given at the town’s 60th anniversary of the Liberation! The whole family were very moved by this, as was Eliane, Dad’s close comrade and former ‘helper’.
Afterwards we had lunch to celebrate the day, followed later by dinner, and then a very spectacular firework display – timed for 10.45pm, the exact time of the town’s liberation.
The Mayor and his wife, and the people of Thiberville, made us very welcome – it was such a moving day for us, and for Eliane.