The Airmen's Stories - P/O J M Ritchie
John Millar Ritchie was born on 19th May 1911 in Inverkip, Renfrewshire. He is recorded as entering Anderson's College Medical School in 1930 as a medical student.
He joined the RAFVR in April 1940 with a commission as a direct-entry Air Gunner. After completing his training he arrived at 5 OTU Aston Down on 14th June 1940 to convert to Defiants after which he joined 141 Squadron at Turnhouse on 8th July.
He was posted away on 30th August to be Gunnery Leader with 307 Squadron, then about to be formed at Kirton-in-Lindsey with Defiants as the first Polish night-fighter squadron. His next posting was to 96 Squadron.
On 13th April 1941 Ritchie was aloft in Defiant N1766 on a night air test with F/Lt. PW Rabone from Cranage when the radio receiver suffered a partial failure which prevented the two crew from communicating properly with their base.
This was followed by the Merlin engine suffering a major coolant leak, it seized and the two airmen abandoned the aircraft.
They came down not far from the crash site but in the darkness walked in different directions with one walking out to Alport and the other to the Derwent valley. Ritchie found a farmhouse and knocked on the door.
Suspicious farmer: 'Where have you come from ?'
Ritchie: 'I’ve just bailed out of an aeroplane'
Farmer (still more suspicious): 'Are you British ?'
Ritchie (A Scot): 'Oh yes !'
The Defiant crashed at Rowlee Pasture, west of the Derwent Reservoir. During 1980 the aircraft’s Merlin engine was recovered from the crash site and is now displayed at the Nightfighter Preservation Trust at the Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington.
Ritchie's subsequent service is currently undocumented though it is known that he remained in the RAF postwar, retiring on 20th January 1959 as a Squadron Leader.
Ritchie died in 1996 in Greenock, Renfrewshire.