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The Airmen's Stories - AC1 R H James


Richard Harwood James was born on 25th December 1911 in Ashton-on-Ribble, Preston and attended the Wesleyan Day School there before going on to Hutton Grammar School.

He married Gladys Niedergezass in early 1935.

He was employed as a traveller for a Bristol builders merchants before joining the RAF in June 1940. He volunteered for aircrew duties and went to Martlesham Heath, where he was trained in Airborne Radar Interception techniques. He then moved to Middle Wallop and was attached to 604 Squadron for air training.

On 20th October 1940 James joined 29 Squadron at Digby and flew operationally with a squadron detachment at Wittering. In November Guy Gibson arrived at 29 Squadron and James teamed up with him and they flew together until December 1941. They had ten combats during 1941 and claimed three enemy aircraft destroyed with another three possibles.


Above: James (L) and Gibson (R) celebrate two night victories on 14th March 1941.

Their Beaufighter is R2250 RO-C ‘Admiral Foobang III’


On one occasion in March 1941 James was in a Beaufighter which attacked a He111 flying towards the Humber. After the first burst the cannons jammed and the enemy aircraft climbed to 15,000 feet. Although without oxygen, James struggled for at least forty minutes, changing ammunition pans. When finished, he collapsed, exhausted. With the one cannon successfully cleared, Gibson was able to destroy the He111.

James was awarded the DFM (gazetted 2nd September 1941).

After Gibson was posted away in December 1941, James flew with the Flight Commander who took his place. Commissioned in February 1942, James went to 96 Squadron in June, then just converting from Defiants to Beaufighters, as Senior Radio Navigator. He flew operationally with the CO, W/Cdr. RJ Burns until the summer of 1943.

James remained with 96 Squadron after he was rested, becoming Senior Radar Navigator. He later joined the newly-formed Ground Controlled Approach Unit at Honiley, where he shared duties with a 'Nobby' Clarke, later to be world-famous as Arthur C Clarke, the author.

James was released in October 1945, as a Flight Lieutenant.




Above: In summer 2005 Richard James visited the Morris Singer foundry near his home to see the casting of the monument sculptures. Sadly he died some weeks later before the unveiling.



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