Sergeant (Pilot) Marmaduke Ridley
Marmaduke Ridley was the son of M. Ridley and Isabel Ridley (nee Brown), of Benwell, Newcastle-on-Tyne.
He was born in October 1915 and educated at Atkinson Road Junior Technical School. Ridley joined the RAF in January 1931 as an Aircraft Apprentice, passing out in December 1933 as a Fitter, Aero Engines. He later applied, and was selected for, pilot training.
He joined No.616 Squadron at Leconfield in early 1940, although precisely when is not recorded; squadron diaries tended to report only the arrival or departure of officers. For the first part of 1940, No.616 Squadron were engaged mainly in patrols off Flamborough Head, including some night sorties.
On 26 May, No.616 Squadron moved to Rochford, now Southend Airport, where they replaced No.74 Squadron in providing cover over Dunkirk. The following day, the squadron was patrolling over Dunkirk in company with No.65 and No.19 Squadrons. When they became separated, Red and Green sections were attacked by around 30 Me.109s. In the melee, Ridley received a slight head wound and his Spitfire was seriously damaged. He did however, fire on a Me.109 but the results were unobserved.
For the rest of the month and up to 5 June, No.616 continued their patrols over Dunkirk in varying weather, diverting to Tangmere on one occasion. On 6 June, their swap with No.74 Squadron was reversed and they returned to Leconfield.
For the remainder of June, No.616 carried out night flying practice and local patrols with the occasional interception of solo German aircraft. This pattern continued in July with night time activity now consisting of patrols.
On 1 August, Ridley was scrambled as part of Red Section, along with Yellow Section, on a convoy patrol. They intercepted a Ju.88, attacked and chased it out to sea. Ridley fired a burst of about 600 rounds. His Spitfire (K9829) was hit by return fire in the radio set and engine bearer, but he was able to return to base safely.
Red Section, with Ridley, were scrambled again on 6 August to intercept another Ju.88 which escaped into cloud after being attacked. Ridley managed to fire two deflection bursts of about 650 rounds at the aircraft. All Spitfires in the Section were hit by debris from the Ju.88.
On 19 August, No.616 Squadron made its second move south, this time to Kenley, where they replaced No.64 Squadron who made the reciprocal move to Leconfield. The Squadron had its 14 Spitfires at Kenley by 2.10 p.m.with 12 aircraft performing a familiarisation patrol later that afternoon.
The pace now quickened for No.616, flying mostly squadron strength patrols over the next few days, suffering their first casualty when Pilot Officer Hugh “Cocky” Dundas was wounded and baled out after combat with Me.109s on 22 August.
More was to come when, on the evening of 25 August, the Squadron was scrambled to patrol Maidstone, then ordered to Canterbury to intercept raid of 15 – 20 Do.17s with 15 – 20 Me.109s as escort. The Squadron was bounced by the Me.109s and their formation broke up. Sergeant Ridley claimed a Do.17 destroyed, with other pilots claiming a Me.109 destroyed and another probable. An additional 3 Me.109s and a Do.17 were claimed as damaged. The Squadron lost Sergeant Westmoreland killed and Sergeant Wareing shot down and captured.
The following day 7 Spitfires of Blue & Yellow sections were scrambled to intercept a He.111, the aircraft was sighted but disappeared into cloud. Yellow section were ordered to return to base (“Pancake”). Blue Section were sent to look for a loose balloon over Dungeness, which they failed to locate. They were then ordered to intercept two raids of more than 40 aircraft. To make matters worse, a large formation of Me.109s was then spotted at 20000ft, 3000ft above them. Blue section formed defensive circle, Yellow section attempted to rejoin them but were blocked by Me.109s with the three pilots making forced landings all injured. “A” Flight were scrambled at 11.46am and sent to patrol Deal and Dover, and were themselves bounced by Me.109s. In the melee, both Ridley, thought to be flying Spitfire I, R6633, and Sgt. Moberly were killed. A catastrophic day for No.616 with 2 pilots killed, 4 injured and 7 aircraft destroyed or written off. The return for the squadron was equally poor with just one Me.109 claimed as destroyed.
Marmaduke Ridley is buried in Hawkinge Cemetery, Kent.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.