The Airmen's Stories - F/O A L Ricalton
Alan Leslie Ricalton was born on 21st January 1914 in Hazelrigg, Northumberland and after leaving school was employed in the motor trade in Newcastle. He joined the RAF in 1938. After training at 8 FTS Montrose he passed out as a bomber pilot in October that year.
His first posting was to 142 Squadron at Andover which was re-equipping with Fairey Battles, these replacing their Hawker Hinds. With war now almost certain, the squadron was deployed to Berry-au-Bac with the AASF on 2nd September 1939.
The ‘Phoney War’ ensued and the squadron endured the very harsh winter of 1939/40 in rough and ready accomodation.
The German attack in the West on 10th May 1940 saw 142 Squadron engaged from first light in attacks on the advancing columns and the bridges at Sedan. Like all Battle squadrons they suffered heavy losses from ground fire and fighters and had to move from airfield to airfield to keep ahead of the enemy. They were ordered to withdraw from France on 15th June and re-assembled at Waddington, mounting raids over Occupied France after Dunkirk.
In July 1940 Fighter Command sought volunteers from other commands to replace the losses incurred in France and Ricalton was one of those who came forward, he was accepted and posted to 74 squadron at Kirton-in-Lindsey on 21st August.
There is no record of him converting to Spitfires at an OTU and it seems that he familiarised himself with the aircraft in the first few days with 74. The squadron moved to Coltishall on 9th September and Ricalton engaged the enemy for the first time on the 14th, two Me110s being damaged by his flight.
74 Squadron was sent ‘down South’ on 15th October, relieving 72 Squadron at Biggin Hill. On the 17th the squadron was scrambled at 1500 to intercept a high-level raid and, led by F/Lt. Malan, was able to gain enough height to ‘bounce’ some Me109s over the Thames Estuary. In the ensuing battle Ricalton’s Spitfire, P7360, was seen to fall away. It came down near Hollingbourne, Kent.
Ricalton was killed, aged 26 and is buried in Sittingbourne Cemetery.