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The Airmen's Stories - P/O F Riley


Frederick Riley, of Manchester, was born in on 9th January 1912, the son of George Herbert Riley, an undertaker, and May Riley.

Riley joined the Casuals Football Club, an amateur club based in London. The club was formed in 1883 and was originally made up of players who had attended Eton College, Westminster School and Charterhouse. It quickly expanded to include players from all Universities and public schools but Riley's background is currently unknown.



The club merged with Corinthian in 1939 to form the Corinthian-Casuals, which still exists. They were also founder members of the Isthmian League in 1905 and won the FA Amateur Cup in 1936.

Riley was chosen to play inside left for the British team at the Olympic Football Tournament in Berlin in 1936. The team made it to the quarter finals but were knocked out 5-4 by Poland. They were heavily criticised for their lackadaisical performance, perhaps explained by an earlier memo from their manager 'As there is a month to go before we leave for Berlin kindly take some exercise.'

They were redeemed by their resistance to German propaganda. Diplomats had arranged for them to visit Hitler at his compound at Berchtesgaden before the Poland game, an 800-mile round trip from Berlin and hardly ideal preparation for a major match.

The squad was escorted by black-uniformed SS guards and all the footballers had to shake the dictator's hand.

The same diplomats instructed them to give the Nazi salute before the match, however they refused. The ferocious reaction of the German media meant that, infamously, the England team that visited Berlin in 1938 were instructed to do so.

Riley was a member of England’s amateur team that toured New Zealand, Australia and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1937.




Riley joined the RAF on a short service commission in February 1939 and commenced training on 6th March 1939. He moved on to 12 FTS Grantham for No. 2 Course, which ran from 15th May to 5th November 1939.

All images courtesy of N. Epps & L. Walker of Corinthian-Casuals Football Club.


After completing his training, he went to 236 Squadron at Stradishall on 6th November 1939 and served with the squadron throughout the Battle of Britain.

His subsequent service is currently undocumented until 7th December 1942, when he was killed as a Flight Lieutenant flying in Spitfire PR VII R6964 of 542 Squadron. He was shot down on a low-level sortie to photograph wireless installations in the Desvres area.

Riley was 30 years old and is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France.






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