The Airmen's Stories - P/O J R Ritchie
James Ritchie Ritchie was born on 4th June 1920 and joined the RAF on a short service commission in February 1939, training at 1 E&RFTS Hatfield and 11 FTS Shawbury.
With his training completed, he arrived at 11 Group Pool on 24th October 1939 and after converting to Spitfires joined 74 Squadron at Rochford on 17th November.
Ritchie was posted to 600 Squadron at Northolt on 1st July 1940 but was then posted to 111 Squadron on 21st August 1940 with 100 hours training and joined Red Section as Red 3.
In the next 20 days he flew 70 sorties totalling 60 hours.
The following data is courtesy of David Dickins:
26th August 1940 - Frontal attack on 50 Dorniers with 100 Me 109’s 110’s. Squadron claim 1 Me110.
31st August 1940 - Nine Hurricanes attacked 30 Do17’s, 40 Me110’s with 40 Me109’s over Hildersham. Ritchie (R3) attacked 3 bombers head on at 15,000ft claimed 1 as ‘probable’.
'I fired a 13 second burst at the No.3 in the formation. Just before I broke away I noticed a large piece of wreckage falling away from the Do17'.
He then attacked 3 Me110’s claiming 1 as ‘probably destroyed’
2nd September 1940 - Nine Hurricanes Scramble to intercept 20 He111’s escorted by Me109’s. 110’s head on attack by 111 at 14,000ft over Isle of Sheppey.
'I made a head on attack in formation with the rest of Red Section on the 3 leading He111’s, closing to 50 yds before breaking away I could see large pieces of wreckage falling from the bomber'.
Ritchie’s a/c slightly damaged by Me109 forcing him to land at 1300 hrs at Rochford. Filed a claim (with Ronnie Brown) for He111 ‘probably destroyed’
4th September 1940 - 3 sorties that day. 4 a/c of Red Section surprised 60+ bombers and escorts 'out of the sun’ . Ritchie, Ben Bowring, Frank Silk and Victor Ekins over Bedfordshire to round off the day.
All fired together at the formation. Bowring claimed 1 Do17 as damaged along with a 109, Ekins claimed 109 destroyed. Silk wounded and crashed at Lullingstone Castle, Ritchie could not see his results. During the afternoon he led a 2 aircraft scramble and a patrol over Henlow Beds.
6th September 1940 - Scramble to intercept 40 Ju88’s heading North to London, all lost sight of in a fire haze.
7th September 1940 - 2 a/c scramble no joy then 1630 hrs attack 900 bombers and fighters over London. Ritchie makes beam attack over Croydon on Me110’s no results seen lands at Kenley 1800hrs.
Squadron moved out of 11 Group to rebuild, Ritchie to 72 Sqdn.
Logbook quotes flying Spit RN-Q on 11th September at 21,000ft (no record in ORB).
12th September 1940 - 1 Patrol
14th September 1940 - Spitfire RN-Q over Deal no claims then experimental sorties at 30,000ft to attack high flying Me109’s.
13th October 1940 - Spitfire to RAF Leconfield then ‘rested’. Attended instructor’s course given command of 132 (City of Bombay) Sqdn aged just 22yrs, leading ‘Circus’ and ‘Ramrod’ sorties over France late ’42 -August ’43.
With his tour completed he was posted to India to instruct pilots forming the new Independent Air Force for which he was awarded the AFC (gazetted 13th June 1946).
Ritchie stayed on after the war commanding 20 (Ground Attack) Squadron RIAF, flying Typhoons in Waziristan.
He then returned to the UK as Chief Flying Instructor CFS Upavon where he topped the class graduating with distinction and winning the Clarkson and CFS Trophies.
By the late 1950s he was serving with 22 ASR Squadron operating Whirlwinds. After a decade of NATO staff appointments he retired on 3rd June 1972, as a Squadron Leader, retaining the rank of Wing Commander.
Ritchie settled in North Walsham, Norfolk, married with a daughter and two sons.
He died in August 1994.