Ron Riding

Ronald Riding

  • 14th/15th June 1944
  • F/O – 69 Sqn – Pathfinder Force – 2TAF
  • Wellington XIII MF231
  • RAF Northolt
  • Reconnaissance between Rouen and Le Havre

Ron joined up on the outbreak of war. After aircrew training in Canada with the RCAF he qualified as a Navigator/Observer, and was then posted to the Mediterranean theatre with 52 Squadron RAF where he carried out many operations throughout North Africa, Crete, Greece and Italy.

On the night of the 14/15 June 1944, Ron and his crew took off on a night reconnaissance between Rouen and Le Havre to photograph and report on troop movements and to drop marker flares for the main bomber force. The aircraft was equipped with a camera and carried 54 marker flares. They departed RAF Northolt at 2359, in the knowledge that heavy flak had been reported over the area.

Over Duclair, Ron noticed that fire had broken out in the port forward bomb bay due to a hit by anti-aircraft fire, and that marker flares had been ignited. The fire spread rapidly causing the pilot to lose control of the aircraft. The crew bailed out and all four reached the ground safely just 5km south of Maileraye. Ron quickly buried his parachute, Mae West and helmet in a wood where he stayed until dawn.

Because the Allies had command of the skies, German ground troops were only moving at night to avoid being spotted and shot up by Spitfires or Typhoons so, for Ron, the golden rule of travelling by night and sleeping by day had to be abandoned; had he moved at night he would have risked encountering the enemy troops. Ron started walking, located a farm, and took a chance. Luck was on his side. He was given food, shelter and clothing and hidden there for ten days. The family were connected to the Resistance, who moved Ron to another safe-house near Hauville, where he joined another evader, Sgt Divers. Ron stayed at that house for 7 days while his civilian I.D. card was being made. On the 3rd July the men were moved by the Resistance to a safe-house at St Etienne. They stayed one night before being moved to a Resistance camp near St Simeon where they stayed for 22 days.

As a trained air gunner, Ron taught weapon training to the men of the camp and joined them in some sabotage operations. On Bastille Day some of the Resistance group went into the local town to celebrate. Their behaviour became rowdy and someone disclosed the presence of the airmen. This resulted in their arrest by the Germans, the camp being denounced and Ron having to move on.

After staying at several other safe-houses in the local villages Ron moved into the forest area alone. While sheltering in a ditch at the edge of a wood he was encountered by a French man on a hay cart, accompanied by his16-year-old daughter, Eliane. The farmer indicated to Ron to stay put and that he would return after dark. True to his word, he returned and took Ron to his home at Le Brevedent. Eliane then moved Ron between several safe-houses in the village; when German searches took place, hides were used to conceal him in the woods. Ron became worried that his presence could compromise the whole village. However, his concerns were allayed when a Boston aircraft flew over the area, dropping leaflets informing the inhabitants that the village was soon to be liberated by the Allies. British troops liberated the village on the 24 August.

Ron Riding died on 19 May 2011.