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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

Old 23rd Sep 2019, 17:25
  #12701 (permalink)  
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Ian soon draws blood with the Mosquito

Ian McRitchie’s 151 Sqn received its first Mosquito night fighters in April 1942, replacing its cannon-armed Hurricane IIcs, and the Defiants were replaced in July. It was the aircraft he had been waiting for.

Within a few weeks of conversion, on the night of July 30, he shot down a Dornier 217 about 60 miles off the Norfolk coast, but his radio failed so he returned to base at Wittering in the absence of ground radar guidance, on the way noticing some anti-aircraft fire which might indicate the presence of more raiders.

His radar op, Flt Sgt Fred James, then picked up a target at the extreme range of his Mk 5 airborne radar, but lost it. They were in the Wittering circuit for landing when Ian noticed AA fire and searchlights over Farnborough to the south and as they climbed towards it Fred picked up another target on his radar.

They caught up on the raider and just as Ian began his attack a searchlight illuminated the Mosquito. Alerted, the German pilot made a diving turn which was difficult to follow on the AI Mk 5 and they lost sight of it.

As they climbed again at around 2am they spotted another raider in a searchlight beam and a target appeared on radar coming towards them. Ian entered a tight turn and found another Dornier 217 in his sights, but the searchlight again illuminated the Mosquito and the German began evasive action, closely followed by the Mosquito which was nearly hit as the bombs were jettisoned. The German gunner also scored hits on the Mosquito wing, but could not avoid the 20mm cannon shells hitting his wings and fuselage.

By this time the pair were down to 1300ft and Ian had difficulty seeing the Dornier against the dark ground, while the radar returns were lost against the surface. After firing all his ammunition Ian broke off and returned to Wittering after a four-hour sortie, claiming their second victim as damaged.

Next day they heard that the AA detachment had claimed a Dornier 217 shot down around the same time as their action. The aircraft crashed into bogland near Peterborough, its four crew being killed.

The incredibly cramped cockpit of the Mosquito night fighter has barely enough room for the instrument panel and radar screen. The radar operator/navigator sat slightly behind the pilot so their shoulders could overlap as there was insufficient room to sit side by side. Imagine doing a four-hour sortie in this tiny space ...

On the night of September 8/9 Ian and Fred caught another Dornier, jinking violently at 200 mph and heading north. Ian opened fire with a four-second burst from 300 yds, causing a fire in the fuselage.

His combat report stated: “Enemy a/c began diving turns with ineffectual return fire but failed to avoid a further three-second burst which set the port engine on fire. Another three-second burst hit the wings and the bomber dived into the ground, exploding in a vivid white flash”.

The Dornier 217, which crashed at Orwell near Cambridge with the loss of all crew, was Ian’s last combat victim. After 105 sorties he was promoted Flt/Lt and in July 1943 was posted to 51 OTU as an instructor, leaving a major engineering development of the Mosquito night fighter as his legacy. More details next week!

Last edited by Geriaviator; 27th Sep 2019 at 17:02. Reason: correcting typo
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Old 25th Sep 2019, 06:12
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Great stuff Geriaviator. This exactly what our dear friend Danny used to enjoy.
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Old 28th Sep 2019, 18:17
  #12703 (permalink)  
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For newcomers to the thread, this story begins at post #12692

This story of Sqn Ldr Ian McRitchie was told to me by his daughter Anne, who lives in Australia. I also received considerable information from the late Jack Fishman, author of And the Walls came Tumbling Down, an account of Operation Jericho (Souvenir Press, 1982). Jack travelled to Australia to interview Ian for his book, and told me that he was one of the most interesting men he ever met. -- Geriaviator
AS WELL as being a superb pilot, Ian McRitchie had a well-honed technical mind which he put to work just as soon as he became familiar with Mosquitos. Realising that the aircraft’s existing gunsight was unsuitable, he modified it by removing the optical flap from the sight and projecting the target image directly onto the windscreen, fabricating the necessary brackets in station workshops. It was an early head-up display, no less.

Anyone who knows the RAF knows that such DIY mods are viewed with disapproval. Fortunately he had the ear of Air Vice Marshal Basil Embry, who ordered that Ian’s successful mod should be installed in all the group’s Mosquitos. Embry had survived the 1940 raids which all but wiped out the Blenheim squadrons, having been shot down and escaped from France, and was a thorn in the side of officialdom because he flew all the types used in his wing and would fight his crews’ corner at every opportunity.

He not only approved Ian’s gunsight mods, but ordered it to be fitted to all the 2TAF aircraft. When Ian worked out that the RAF’s standard harmonisation pattern for the aircraft’s four 20mm cannon was inappropriate, he worked out a new pattern and again this mod became the new standard.

Until 1943 RAF night fighters were painted black on the recommendation of Farnborough research scientists, until Ian discovered that none of them had ever flown at night. Not satisfied, he tried different finishes with the help of his aviation artist friend, Roy Nockolds. Their experiments led to Fighter Command changing its night fighter camouflage to a very light grey-green with white along the leading edges, which proved much more difficult to spot against the sky or ground. Coastal Command had the same idea and painted their aircraft white, for oddly enough the Sunderlands, Catalinas and Liberators were rendered extremely difficult to spot among the grey Atlantic skies.

Aviation artist Roy Nockolds and Ian McRitchie discuss a picture of Ian’s first kill, painted after the two men had produced a successful camouflage scheme for the RAF's night fighters.

Realising Ian’s true value, Basil Embry tried to have him shifted to a night fighter development unit, but he joined the Armament and Instrument Development Flight instead to work as a researcher and test pilot in the Aerodynamic Flight at Farnborough. There he flew 25 different British, American and German aircraft types and gained the reputation of being innovative and able to find creative answers to technical problems.

Ian’s experience with American aircraft led him to warn Embry that the Vultee Vengeance dive bomber being recommended for the 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF) was unsuitable for operations in Europe, although designed to a British specification. He said that the Vengeance was too slow, had a poor climb rate and could not carry a sufficient bomb load. (Our much loved contributor Danny 42C, who flew the Vengeance on ops in Burma, would heartily agree with this assessment).

When 12 Allied air officers at a conference tried to force the Vengeance onto Embry, he replied that he would not be a party to his men being killed in the Vultee Vengeance. The discussion became heated until Embry demanded: “Have any of YOU flown the bloody thing?” They replied that they had not. “Well, I have”, said Embry. The top brass received another broadside from Embry, and 2TAF received their Mosquitos.

Ian became increasingly eager to return to operational flying, badgering Embry for a posting. It came on 18th January 1944 when he joined 464 Squadron, the Australian unit at Hunsdon in Hertfordshire to fly the new Mosquito in the 2nd Tactical Air Force. He would be flying Mosquitos again but this time it would be bombers, not night fighters. He quickly adapted himself to bombing techniques and trained his pilots in the versatility of the Mosquitos he knew so well, beginning with a raid on Munster and from February the attacks on the Pas de Calais V-weapon sites.

On February 12 he and his navigator Dick Sampson became separated from the squadron over the Channel and flew alone to their V1 target. Ian lowered the undercarriage to reduce speed and released their delayed-action bombs into the front door of the concrete building through which the V1s would be taken out to the launch ramp. As they climbed away they looked back to see the entire roof of the building rise many feet from its foundations. Nobody believed them on their return to Hunsdon until next day, when a recce Spitfire confirmed the site’s destruction.

Ops continued over the next week until sleet and snow made them impossible, so Ian took a 24-hour pass to visit his wife and nine-month-old daughter Anne -- who would tell me this story 75 years later. On Ian's return his Australian friend Bob Iredale said: “Basil was here and was sorry to have missed you. He briefed us for an important raid due any day”. No more was said, but Ian knew that if Basil Embry had visited to deliver a personal briefing, it would be for something very special.

Last edited by Geriaviator; 29th Sep 2019 at 12:14. Reason: Add link to first post
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Old 29th Sep 2019, 17:23
  #12704 (permalink)  
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Multiple thank you Geriaviator for presenting another fascinating chapter and with details how one man's skills & determination, amongst many others of course, helped the winning side.

It was pleasing to read the inclusion of Danny's Favourite (??) steed's rejection for European op's and hence his own sudden need to recycle/adapt his Spitfire training to use the Vengeancequite quite differently, & in India instead.
Apparently nothing was completely wasted, just passed on down the line !
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Old 29th Sep 2019, 21:44
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Geriaviator, I too have really enjoyed each part of your serialisation of this highly skilled and brave pilot and look forward to the next instalment.

So much have I enjoyed it, that it has whetted my appetite to rummage through the dark corners of Youtube in search of recent relevant uploads..

There are no Mosquito fighter bombers in this 1990's full colour production. But with commentary provided by AVM Johnnie Johnson, Grumpy Unwin, Mark Hanna, sadly all now passed on, together with US aces, and flying versions of all the aircraft described in this tribute to aircrew KIA in WWII, I hope it is of interest to others.

Last edited by roving; 29th Sep 2019 at 21:54. Reason: typo
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Old 3rd Oct 2019, 16:43
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MUCH HAS been written about Operation Jericho, the low-level attack on Amiens prison, so I propose only a brief outline except for the part played by the subject of this story, Sqn Ldr Ian McRitchie. In summary, the French Resistance asked for the prison to be attacked because hundreds of their members, including network leaders, were being held there by the Gestapo, many of them being tortured while awaiting execution.

The brutal explanation was that if the walls could be blown down the prisoners could escape; if they were killed it did not matter because so many were due for execution anyway. The task was entrusted to three Mosquito squadrons, 487 (NZ) 464 (Australia) and 21 (RAF), the last to carry out backup attacks if necessary. Accompanying them would be a Mosquito from the RAF Photographic Unit, which would film the raid from 500ft above them.

The raid would be led by Group Capt. Percy Pickard, one of Bomber Command’s best-known figures following his appearance in Target for Tonight, the Oscar-winning documentary produced in 1941.

Briefing revealed a five-foot square model of the target, which I last saw in the Imperial War Museum many years ago. The route from Hunsdon would be flown below the German radar to ensure surprise and the raid would be at lunchtime to ensure the prisoners would be in their mess hall and the guards in their quarters.

The Kiwis of 487 Sqn would form the first wave and would breach the prison’s 25ft outer walls by placing their bombs into them from below the wall level -- Pickard suggested the crews should approach at 10ft above the ground. Next would be Ian and his 464 Sqn, who were instructed to breach the inner walls of the prison, the most delicate task of all. They would also bomb the German guards’ quarters, two lean-to buildings against the main wall.

Pickard concluded with a terrible choice for the crews. “If I see prisoners escaping I shall radio 21 Squadron to return home. But if none are getting out I shall radio the squadron to bomb the prison. We have been informed that the prisoners would rather be killed by Allied bombs than by German bullets”.

The Mosquito fighter-bomber’s four 20mm cannon projected into the bomb bay, requiring specially shortened casings and fins for its 500lb bombs. Thanks to his expertise as a metallurgist, towards the end of the briefing Ian took Pickard aside to ask if HQ had considered the need for a speed limit when putting bombs into a masonry wall. The bombs were fitted with 11-second delay fuses to allow aircraft to clear the explosion, but at speeds over 240 mph the casings would probably fracture and render the weapon useless.

Pickard immediately passed on this warning to the crews and Ian contributed further advice: “On the runup for the attack, don’t fly in our usual formation, but go line astern so we should be able to get the bombs straight into the guardhouse.”

With the murderous Gestapo setting the timetable, there could be no delay due to the weather and the Mosquitos took off in blizzard conditions -- so bad that their Typhoon escort was unable to rendezvous with them. And as they crossed the French coast the alarm was sounding across the Luftwaffe fighter base at Abbeville, not far from Amiens.

The RAF Film Unit Mosquito accompanied the raid and its spectacular footage of 464 Sqn outbound over the Channel and en route to the target can be seen at
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Old 10th Oct 2019, 17:45
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Dramatic photo of a Mosquito, bomb doors open, pulling up after delivering four bombs against the prison wall and buildings. A cloud of masonry dust is rising but the bombs have an 11-second delay before they explode. Tailwheel of the photo Mosquito, just ahead of the attacking aircraft, is in centre. BELOW: Seventy-five years later the repaired breach in the outer wall is still visible.

FOUR Mosquitos lost contact with the formation and had to return to base and one had to turn back due to engine trouble, leaving nine to carry out the main attack with four in reserve.

At one minute past noon they reached Amiens, three of the 487 Sqn aircraft aiming for the eastern and northern walls of the prison, while the other two made a diversion attack on the local railway station, before returning to the prison. The attack began with an approach along the main road, the Mosquitos flying at 60ft to clear the poplar trees along each side of the road before descending to 50ft, release their bombs, and pull up to clear the prison buildings.

Two 464 aircraft attacked the eastern wall with eight 500 lb (230 kg) bombs delivered from 50ft but observers did not see any damage to the prison. Within a few seconds, two Mosquitos bombed the main building from 100 ft.

Ian McRitchie’s 464 Sqn Mosquitos were too close behind and had to circle while the bombs detonated. Ian bombed the northern wall, causing a large breach, with another bomb scoring a direct hit on the guardhouse. Pickard, circling at 500 ft, saw the prisoners streaming from the prison and told 21 Sqn to return home. As he himself turned, he was attacked by a Fw 190 of JG 26; its cannon severed the tail of his Mosquito, which crashed and burned. By this time some of the Canadian Typhoon pilots had managed to reach Amiens despite the weather and one was shot down while protecting the Mosquitos, though they in turn destroyed at least one Focke-Wulf. Another Typhoon was lost when it flew into a hillside while trying to reach base in a snowstorm.

A total of 255 prisoners escaped, though 182 were recaptured. The diversion attack on the railway station delayed German reinforcements, sent to recapture the escapees, by two hours but the Luftwaffe was called in and found it easy to spot the prisoners against the snow-covered countryside. The terrible price was the 102 prisoners killed and many others wounded. The number of German casualties is unknown as the direct hit all but obliterated their quarters.

On the return flight after the raid, approaching Caen at 250 mph and under 100 feet, Ian went straight over a flak battery. Its 20mm shells struck the starboard side of the fuselage and shrapnel severely wounded Ian in the right leg and arm in 26 places and hit his temple, blinding his right eye. He called to his navigator, Dick “Sammy” Sampson for help, but he had been killed instantly.

Wiping blood from his head wound and the windscreen, Ian managed to keep control of the damaged and tricky to handle Mosquito and make a successful belly-landing near the village of Frenouville in the flat Somme countryside. The tiny door in the starboard side of the cockpit was of course shredded by the flak shells, so Ian had to release the canopy and clamber out despite his wounds. Then he passed out.
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Old 17th Oct 2019, 18:00
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This delightful picture of “Sammy” Sampson was taken a few months before he was killed. The little girl is Anne, the daughter of his friend and pilot Ian McRitchie -- and seventy-five years later Anne is relating this story from her home in New South Wales. He is buried in St Denis Eglise cemetery near Amiens.

WHILE Sqn Ldr Ian McRitchie lay unconscious alongside his wrecked aircraft after being shot down on the Amiens prison raid, his navigator and friend Dick “Sammy” Sampson was dead in the cockpit.

Both men were among the thousands of Commonwealth personnel who journeyed halfway around the world to fight for the cause of freedom. In the case of Richard Webb Sampson his determination was such that he took three years off his age so he could train as a pilot.

Richard Webb Sampson, inevitably nicknamed ‘Sammy’ when he joined the RNZAF, was born at Dannevirke, a village in the Manawatu-Wanganui region of North Island, New Zealand.

He became a farmer and while working as a stock agent he learned to fly with Auckland Aero Club. When war broke out he applied for service with the Royal New Zealand Air Force in January 1940, reducing his age by three years, and was posted to Ohakea, North Island where he trained as an air gunner and was promoted to Sergeant.

Dick arrived in England in early September 1940 and after training in Scotland he was posted to 151 Squadron at Wittering as a gunner in Defiant night fighters. He carried out 64 operational sorties during which he shot down two German bombers, a Heinkel 111 and a Junkers 88. During this time he met Ian McRitchie and flew with him on many occasions.

In July 1941 he qualified as a navigator and was promoted Flying Officer as 151 converted to the Mosquito NF MkII. He flew armed patrols, shipping strikes and low level attacks, one being on the German radar site at Plancoet, France. He was promoted Flight Lieutenant in July 1943 and after a period in Headquarters 2 Group RAF he was posted to 464 Squadron RAAF at Hunsdon, where he once again paired up with
Ian McRitchie.

Dick Sampson is buried in St Denis Eglise cemetery at Poix de Picardie, 25 kilometres south-west of the city of Amiens. His was not his family’s only sacrifice, for his younger brother, 34 year old Henry Wools Sampson, was killed in July 1942 while flying his third operation as a gunner with 149 Squadron. His Short Stirling was shot down by a German night fighter in north-east France.

Next post: Ian recovers in hospital from severe injuries and finishes the war in a prison camp.

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Old 17th Oct 2019, 19:54
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Geriaviator, thank you for the story of Ian McRitchie and his antipodean comrades. The tenacity with which he defied the authorities in Australia and "greased" his way to the UK in order to fight its enemies was only a hint of what was to come. Chasing a Junkers 88 nearly all the way to Holland was bordering on the reckless, given the defences lined up against them, but they got their damaged Junkers (likely a kill?) having already secured a previous kill. All this in a Defiant, a fighter designed by committee if ever there was one!

The snug arrangements in the Mosquito cockpit no doubt made for good crew co-operation, but what a versatile aircraft it was! As you say, Amiens prison and Jericho are well known and possibly its greatest exploit. Whether the wretched incumbents had actually asked to be bombed is a moot point and the overwhelming shadow of the approaching Invasion of Europe must have dominated all operations given the secrecy that success was dependent on. Whatever the purpose, the crews played a blinder. Dumb bombs maybe, but smart crews certainly.

Looking forward to the rest of this story of a truly remarkable Aussie.
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Old 23rd Oct 2019, 16:49
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SEVERELY wounded by the flak burst which killed his navigator “Sammy” Sampson, Ian McRitchie awoke in a Dieppe hospital to which German troops had taken him, and later he was moved to Amiens for treatment in a military hospital not far from the prison.

There he was told that several of the delayed-action bombs had gone clean through the prison wall, one exploding in a field, another skidding into the hospital grounds where it exploded and killed a number of German soldiers. It was later found that the ancient walls had been built dry-stone, without mortar, and therefore offered far less resistance to impact than a cement-bound masonry structure. This is why the wall was not breached despite the accuracy of the bombing.

Seventy-five years later, Ian’s daughter Anne tells me that although her father rarely talked about the war as she was growing up, in later years he told her that when he was flying at night and there was no action, he would pass the time practising flight with one arm and one leg. Without this practice it was doubtful whether he would have been able to make a successful crash landing given the extent of his injuries, which would affect him for the rest of his life.

When he was well enough, Ian was placed in solitary confinement and interrogated for 42 days, an ordeal in itself. He then spent another six or seven weeks in Dulag Luft at Oberusel, the Luftwaffe’s transit camp for allied British and US aircrew before they were assigned to a POW camp. After more fruitless interrogations he was dispatched to Stalag Luft 1 at Barth to see out the war.

Stalag Luft 1 was ‘home’ for around 7000 Americans and 850 British and Commonwealth airmen. Although at first his injured arm was of little use, Ian soon joined the camp’s escape organisation where his skill in heat-treating metals led to a wire cutter ‘factory’ being set up under his supervision. One might wonder why charities should send POWs a gift of ice skates, but Ian immediately saw the possibilities in hardened steel blades to produce efficient wire cutters which it is believed were used in escape attempts as well as raids on German stores.

But one of the most significent events of his captivity was his meeting with Sqn Ldr Ken Watts, RAAF, whose P40 Kittyhawk had been shot down over Italy. Ken Watts later recalled that they had never met until then, but they had been mates ever since.

“Over the years bits of shrapnel from the flak and plywood from the Mosquito used to emerge from his right arm, and the RAF uniform which he was wearing in the camp had many flak holes in the sleeve. I have never met a man with such enterprise and such a wide knowledge of all sorts of matters. He read well and copiously. While guests of the Third Reich, one section of Kriegies [prisoners] called him ‘Fixer’ and the others called him ‘Professor’. He was equally at ease with both.”

Early in May 1945, the camp was liberated by Russian troops, and within a fortnight the prisoners were repatriated to England. Ian and many thousands of colleagues were free again. He would never fly a Mosquito again, but his flying days were far from over.
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Old 24th Oct 2019, 12:48
  #12711 (permalink)  
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Thank you again,

What a lot of individual acts of heroism & bravery, which - largely only known to those near them - must have been an underlying reason for our eventually beating the Axis states.

Apropos Ian's 'gaunt' appearance as an ex POW, Ken Watts looks positively blooming ??

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Old 24th Oct 2019, 17:39
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one recovering from grievous injuries, the other not
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Old 25th Oct 2019, 15:01
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The Military Aviation forum at its very best! Very grateful thanks to Geraviator, and of course Anne McRitchie - Danny would have been so proud, dare I say "with a Vengeance"......

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Old 27th Oct 2019, 17:30
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Australia honours her returned hero

RETURNING to England, Ian McRitchie was reunited with his wife Joyce, sister of a fellow airman whom he had met in 1941, his daughter Anne who had been born in 1943, and her little sister Lynne whom he met for the first time as she was born while he was in prison camp.

His duty done, Ian did not stay long in England and after His Majesty presented him with the Distinguished Flying Cross in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, the McRitchie family set sail for Australia to his home town of Melbourne where his mother Cassie was waiting to welcome him. As he had left for the war while he was working in Whyalla, the town honoured him by naming McRitchie Crescent after him.

His return as a distinguished RAAF pilot in World War II was announced with a full page photo spread in the Australian Women’s Weekly on 20th October 1945 although most of the photos were of Anne as a baby and the heading was ‘Australian Baby on British Posters’. This was a reference to the fact that Anne had been chosen by the British Ministry of Food to model for a series of posters on ‘How to Bring Up Baby’!

His Service days behind him, Ian and his ex-prisoner friend Sqn-Ldr Ken Watts founded the Watts McRitchie Engineering Company in Hawthorn with Ian as managing director. The company soon became established as a leader in metallurgy and Ian had neither time nor money for flying which had once been such an important part of his life.

By 1962 Ian had become Honorary Secretary of the Australian Institute of Metals and then Federal President. He was a Fellow of the Institute of Metallurgy. One of his greatest loves was his association with engineering and manufacturing colleagues – in the Metal Trades Industry Association, the Institute of Metals and especially the Vernier Club, which had been established in 1942 in Melbourne as a fraternity of down to earth engineers whose purpose was to promote dialogue amongst those with a practical day-to-day involvement in the technical world. He was President of Vernier on two occasions, about 20 years apart and a long-time member of the Vernier Committee.
After many years of successful operation, Watts McRitchie Engineering Company was sold to McPhersons and Ian stayed on until 1964 when he formed his own firm, Melbourne Heat Treatment and Metallurgical Services Pty. Ltd and worked there almost every day for the last 33 years of his life until the end of 1997.

To many people in engineering manufacturing at that time, heat treatment was considered to be a ‘black art’. Ian saw the need to improve technical knowledge and scientific understanding and he encouraged learning and professional activities in this field. Every year he hosted a dinner sponsored by Melbourne Heat Treatment to which he invited many of his friends and clients. It was always an occasion for Ian to have as his guest speaker someone who reflected his own ideals of courage and independence such as the Antarctic explorer Dr. Philip Law or Dr. Reg Spriggs AO, a well-known geologist and petroleum explorer. But eventually he found time for relaxation, and took to the air again.
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Old 27th Oct 2019, 20:46
  #12715 (permalink)  
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I have always wondered about films of POWs showing them in their uniform but that picture of Stalag 1 after the war shows the guy still in his uniform but what about those who were in POW prisons for almost the whole war. Did their uniforms not wear out or did they keep them as Sunday Best??

I wish now I had asked my uncle who spent from Jan '42 to May '45 in Stalag Luft 3 amongst others after his 40 Squadron Wellington came down in the sea off Wilhelmshaven.
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Old 31st Oct 2019, 18:04
  #12716 (permalink)  
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Ian takes to the air again

This is the final instalment of our inspiring story of Sqn Ldr Ian McRitchie, DFC, and is told by his daughter, Anne Joyce McRitchie.

WHEN my father arrived back in Australia, his focus had to be on making a success of his new business with Ken Watts and supporting his family. He did not have the financial resources to pursue his love of flying. However, in my late twenties I had a boyfriend who owned a light aircraft so I started learning to fly at Moorabbin airport on the outskirts of Melbourne. I was transferred to Sydney for work before I qualified for my licence, but my interest had renewed my father’s love of flying and at 55 he took it up again.

He went on to own a variety of aircraft including a Beech Baron twin, and for many years my father and mother enjoyed weekend flights into country areas, parking the plane, hopping onto a motorbike, and whizzing into town for lunch before the flight home. He often flew the 600 miles north to Arkaroola, in the spectacular, rugged mountains of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia's remote Outback, to visit his good friend Dr. Reg Spriggs, who ran Arkaroola Station.

His other favourite destination was Western Australia where he went to visit his mentor from his RAF days Sir Basil Embry, who after retiring from the RAF in February 1956 had bought a largely undeveloped farming property in the south west of Western Australia. He also acquired land at Cape Riche, east of Albany, and moved there in the late 1960s. I sometimes accompanied Ian and Joyce on their visits to Cape Riche where we were warmly welcomed by the Embry family.

Flying with my father was not for the faint-hearted! Whenever I flew with him to Western Australia he insisted on flying along the Australian Bight at cliff height, Mosquito style skimming the waves while he pointed out rock formations in the cliffs of the Nullabor. When he had the plane on auto-pilot he would often appear to drop off to sleep which could be very unsettling for the passengers although he would immediately spring to attention at the slightest change in the movement or sound of the plane.

One day I was flying with my parents out of a small aerodrome near Melbourne. My mother was sitting in the front seat with me alone in the back. I was rather unwell at the time having come to Melbourne to recover from heavy bouts of chemotherapy and radiotherapy after surgery for cancer.

Suddenly my father told my mother to change places with me so that I was sitting at the dual controls. Once this manoeuvre had been successfully carried out, he told me to fly the plane along the valley we were in. Of course I did not have my licence, was recovering from medical treatment and it was several years since I had piloted a plane. Just climbing into the front seat exhausted me.

However I did my father’s bidding after he explained that there appeared to be a fault with the landing gear and he wanted to study the Operations Manual! The result was that he had to land not knowing whether the undercarriage was down or not. Of course with his flying skill it was a perfect landing and fortunately the wheels were locked down despite the warning light.

When Dad felt that he could no longer qualify to fly on medical grounds he switched to an ultralight, which he was still flying in his eighties – there was no medical examination or age limitation to fly an ultralight. My father of course was not content with any old ultralight so he and his good friend Bert Flood searched the world for the best performing machine available. They settled on an Ultravia Pelican, which was designed by Jean Rene Lepage and produced in Canada in kit form for amateur construction. My father built his own Pelican and spent many pleasurable hours in it, even flying to Arkaroola for the weekend.

Another long-term hobby was motorbike racing. After touching down in Arkaroola, Dad would take to the bush tracks with my mother riding pillion – two 80 year olds on a motorcycle exploring the countryside they loved so much. When he died there was still a motorbike stored at Arkaroola.

After the war, my father was told that he probably would not live much past his sixties as a result of his war injuries. Not one to give up without a fight, he lived until 83, having had prostate cancer for several years beforehand. He was still active up to a few months before he passed away peacefully in a Melbourne hospital on 29 January 1998.

Dad’s funeral was a big event attended by hundreds of mourners. His friends had arranged for a piper playing ‘Scottish Soldier’ to lead in the coffin while several aircraft made a flypast.

Former flight lieutenant John Lyndquist spoke glowingly of Sqn Ldr McRitchie’s deeds when they were fellow prisoners-of-war. He said my father had single-handedly boosted morale and supplies for the Allied prisoners through secret raids on German stores. “He helped make our lives slightly more bearable,” John Lyndquist said. “He fought our battles for a tiny bit more food, any warmth that might be going”.

Flying friend Bob Rowe said my father liked anything that could fly, and any challenge. “If Ian could have grown wings, he would have”, he said. Emeritus Professor Endersbee give the funeral oration, concluding with these words: “Ian McRitchie was courageous, purposeful and optimistic, industrious, adventurous and fearless. He encouraged these qualities in others. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather”.

For myself, I recalled my brave, skilful and loving father as a spirit that soared. And that’s how I shall always remember him.
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Old 31st Oct 2019, 20:30
  #12717 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Often in Jersey, but mainly in the past.
Age: 75
Posts: 5,267
Awesome! Life lived to the full!
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Old 31st Oct 2019, 21:44
  #12718 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: West Sussex
Age: 78
Posts: 4,189
Another proud daughter of an illustrious pilot father. The pride and the love emerge from every sentence. It sounds as though she has led a notable life herself, starting with a staring role in Woman's Weekly! No doubt the Emeritus Professor did a worthy job of the oration, but I think Anne would have delivered one full of the emotion and love that clearly she feels for her lost Dad.

What a country for pilots is Australia! Immense distances over empty wilderness. No wonder so many retired there after the war. It sounds as if Sir Basil Embry (Whose wife was Australian) took fate by the scruff of its neck in making the decision to become a Sheep Farmer (Rancher surely, his spread was 1400 acres!). A write up was as follows:-
"He was both charming and rude, prejudiced and broad-minded, pliable and obstinate, dedicated and human." (Group Captain Peter Wykeham, No 2 Group 1944–45)
No wonder he was an excellent wartime commander!

Anne's tribute to her father reminded me of Christine Olds tribute to hers. It's an hour and threequarters presentation, so be prepared, but I would commend it to all if you haven't yet viewed it. Always quite a bit of dust in the air when watched:-

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Old 31st Oct 2019, 23:32
  #12719 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 1998
Location: Kalgoorlie, W.A. , Australia
Age: 81
Posts: 447
[b]Sheep Farmer[/b]

Keep your Ranches in Texas

Last edited by Pom Pax; 31st Oct 2019 at 23:36. Reason: cant get rid of the b brackets
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Old 6th Nov 2019, 11:53
  #12720 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Co. Down
Age: 78
Posts: 514
Basil Embry remembered

Sir Basil Embry didn't always find favour with his subordinates, who included our sadly missed contributor Danny42C. Having flown Vengeance dive-bombers in Burma Danny returned to his old job in the Civil Service in 1946 but found its stuffiness unbearable, so he rejoined the RAF and at last was given a Spitfire to fly. His bid for a permanent commission was going quite well until he encountered Sir Basil, as he wrote in his e-book Danny and the Cold War:
So far, so good. It looked like a re-run of my original commissioning in '43. All I had to do now was wait. Done and dusted, or so I thought.

But it happened that Fighter Command was then headed by the redoubtable Air Marshal Sir Basil Embry who in one of his escape efforts had killed a German guard with his bare hands — which did not endear him to his captors when they picked him up again — and who in 1939 had dismissed the Vultee Vengeance as worse than a Fairey Battle.

As at that time we were not fighting anybody in particular, he found time hanging heavy on his hands. To keep himself busy, he decided to check out a selection of the young gentlemen who had been put forward for PCs in his Command. Which is why later in the year I was bidden to present myself to the great man for inspection.

He greeted me cordially enough, but the difficulty was that he had done his homework, and worked out that the best I could hope for was a "scraper" around the age of 40 — not quite what he was looking for at all! That was bad enough, but when he found that, although I'd been to a rugby school I didn't play even for the Station, he lost interest in me completely; my fate was sealed. Thumb down.
Most followers of this wonderful thread will have copies of Danny's e-books In with a Vengeance and Danny and the Cold War but if anyone hasn't, send me a PM with your email address as Prune cannot handle attachments.
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