Shot Down, He took part in French Resistance raids on Germans



Shot Down, He took part in French Resistance raids on Germans


A newspaper article about Ron after he was shot down over France. A second cutting has a brief note about Ron returning home after being missing in France.
[The details in the article are incorrect. His aircraft was a Wellington, it was shot down on 14th June, he flew with 69 Squadron]




Temporal Coverage





Two newspaper cuttings


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[sketch] Shot down, he took part in French Resistance raids on Germans

IT IS DIFFICULT to imagine Ronald Riding taking part in armed sabotage raids in occupied France or in any country for that matter. But in 1944 a lot of men were finding that they could do things they had never imagined possible.

Desperate circumstances have always called for desperate actions and when it is a question of survival the quietest people can become very determined opponents.

With his wife Gwyneth and his 11-year-old daughter Lynn, Ronald Riding leads a peaceful unexceptional life at his home at Brocklesby – close First-lane, Hessle.

By day he works as an electrical engineer in the City Architect's Department at Hull Guildhall.

Twenty-five years ago, at the age of 23 Ronald was part way through his second tour of operations.

His first had been in the Middle East, but now, with No. 7 Squadron at RAF Oakington, he was seeing action over Europe.

The Allies were preparing for the D-Day invasion on June 6, and information had been received that the 21st Panzer Division were under cover in a strategic position north of Rouen.

On the night of June 5, Fg.-Off. Riding took off in a Lancaster bomber together with a main force of 200 aircraft in an attempt to flush out and destroy the Germans.

His aircraft was carrying flares as well as bombs, as No. 7 Squadron was then a pathfinder squadron.

As navigator, Ronald would have no time to let his mind wander from the job of getting the aircraft to the target.

All went as planned on the trip to France, and the crew silently prayed that their luck would hold out as they approached the target area.

At 01.00 hours, two hours after they had taken off, the enemy began to become more accurate with their anti-aircraft fire.

Flack was exploding all round the Lancaster, and suddenly the great aircraft recoiled from the impact of a direct hit.

The wireless operator was killed where he sat and the mid-upper gunner badly wounded. In the bomb bay the flares ignited and the aircraft became like a ball of fire.


From the pilot came the command to bale out. The question arose of what to do about the wounded gunner, and Ronald and the rear-gunner elected to try to get him out of the aircraft.

Between them they hurriedly rigged up a static line which would open his parachute after they had helped him out of the aircraft.

At the controls, the pilot desperately fought to keep the blazing plane flying until the rest of the crew had left.

Finally, the injured man, by now barely conscious, was dropped into the night.

Ronald watched as the parachute opened, then dismay gripped him as the material caught fire and the gunner, perhaps mercifully, plunged to his death.

The rear gunner left next, and then it was Ronald's turn. He jumped. A few seconds later the skipper followed.

A tug on the ripcord and the parachute billowed out, causing such a jerk that Ronald lost both his flying boots.

He watched as the aircraft, now a mass of flames, careered crazily about the sky. It alarmed him. He thought it might cut back and collide with him.

He watched it all the way down as it passed below him and crashed into a forest.

A few minutes later he was down himself, after narrowly avoiding a watery landing in the Seine. He too found himself in a pine forest and around him were the sounds of guns being fired.

Now an electrical engineer in Hull City Architect's Department, Mr Ronald Riding looks with his wife and 11-year-old daughter Lynn at a map of the area of his wartime exploits.

[underlined] Ominous [/underlined]
Fortunately he had escaped injuries and he hastily hid his parachute before setting out with the intention, somehow, of finding his way home.

Around him were various noises. The most intense was the sound of dogs barking. It seemed as though every dog in the country was loose and terrified.

Then through all the clamour of dogs and guns came the more ominous sound of German troops – Incredibly they were singing.

Ronald set off away from the happy-sounding enemy. He thought of the ridiculous side of the situation – walking, alone, at night, behind the enemy lines and without shoes.

The first building he came to was a farmhouse, and after a few minutes debating with himself he plucked up courage to knock at the door and ask for help.

The farmer appeared at an upstairs window and promptly told him to go away. An argument ensued between the man and his wife, and eventually Ronald was admitted to the dwelling.

He was told that they would shelter him until the morning, but then he would have to go on alone. He was given a meal and later he slept.

At the crack of dawn the farmer sent him on his way, apologising for the fact that he could not let him have any shoes.

The Germans made a full-scale attack on their camp with troops and armoured vehicles.

[underlined] In touch [/underlined]

Throughout the day he stumbled on, keeping to cover in the thick woods of the area. Towards dusk he came across an old woman standing outside her cottage enjoying the evening and smoking a clay pipe.

Without hesitation she invited him inside and together with her husband fed him and found him a bed.

Ronald asked them how he could get in touch with "the organisation" – the resistance movement which could get him back to England.

Later the same day two of the old woman's sons came to see him. They departed after a few questions and returned later with six of the senior resistance leaders.

He was closely questioned, to determine if in fact he was an English aviator or a spy planted by the Germans. The men left with the warning that he was to keep under cover but not to leave the small farm.

For three days Ronald laid low, and escaped detection from the Germans by hiding under a pile of logs when they arrived unexpectedly one day and searched the premises.

[underlined] By tandem [/underlined]

On the third day the resistance members returned and gave him a French identity card and a pair of wooden sabots.

He was then taken from the farm and led to a road where he was shown his means of transport to the next meeting point.

This turned out to be a tandem and the next 15 miles were spent furiously cycling and staring at the back of a very determined French guide.

Eventually at a pre-arranged point they were picked up and taken by car to the central headquarters of the local resistance. This was a large farm with about 200 men living and training there to carry on the underground war against their oppressors.

The camp was quite well organised considering the difficulties under which the men were operating. Ronald later learned that it was supplied by air from England every two weeks with rations and arms, and that it was the training ground of new recruits from the cities.

One of the most noticeable things about the camp was the very young age of the people there.

Youths of 16 and 17 made up the body of the force. There were also two woung [sic] women wireless operators in communication with London.

[underlined] Instructor [/underlined]

The group held 12 German prisoners guarded by Russian and Italian soldiers. As he [indecipherable words] these men were hostages, but at the moment were made to be useful by doing the cooking and minor chores on the farm.

The first question he was asked was would he be willing to help the Resistance. When he replied that he would he was given a Browning machinegun and assigned the duties of training the raw recruits in its use. He was given an officer's rank and settled down to his new job.

All things being considered, he had very little choice. Although he knew that he should be trying still to reach hime [sic], he had the feeling that London knew where he was and was content to let him remain there.

After all, the work he was doing was as important in its own way as the main effort being directed from London.

[underlined] Fought convoy [/underlined]

The group was between 40 and 50 miles behind the enemy lines and the Germans were under constant pressure from the Resistance.

Their main targets were the scout cars and small patrols active in the area, and raids on these were carried out efficiently and regularly.

As they gained in confidence they began to look for more ambitious targets. One night they mounted an attack on a fairly large convoy and miraculously created havoc without suffering casualities.

A few nights later they attacked a battery of anti-aircraft guns, but this time they were not so fortunate. Many of the group were killed or wounded, but they managed to take back with them a handful of German prisoners.

Ronald's main worry was the lack of discipline among the youths with the group.

Prize possessions among the boys were jackboots or Luger pistols. To get these they would go out on their own, looking for solitary German soldiers. These men were killed without compunction and robbed of their possessions.

[underlined] Hostages [/underlined]

Apart from these over-enthusiastic youngsters, however, the group was close and well organised. They also had the support of the farmers in the area, who contributed food supplies often to their own detriment.

It did not surprise Ronald when at last the Germans decided to put an end to activities of the resistance group.

They did this in a way most calculated to bring them out in the open. They took 10 hostages in Rouen and threatened to shoot them if the actions continued.

A party of resistance members attempted to rescue the hostages but the Germans were waiting for [missing words] attempt ended it [missing words] the men were caught, questioned and publicly shot.

[underlined] Over-run [/underlined]

As a reprisal, it was decided to take similar action against the Germans by shooting the dozen or so prisoners held at the camp. This decision was arrived at after much consideration but was never carried out.

Before the appointed time for the executions, the camp was subjected to a full-scale attack by the Germans. At 5.0 o'clock one morning the farm was over-run by troops and armoured vehicles.

The resistance was all but wiped out, and it was every man for himself in the flight that followed Ronald managed to escape with a young French man, but later they decided to split up to give them a better chance of surviving.

For two days he kept out of sight, living as best he could. Then he heard that the British lines were close by and he tried to contact them without success.

The three days that followed were desperate. Nobody wanted to know an ex-resistance man. Word had spread that the Germans were looking for the ones who had escaped, and the penalty for assisting a man on the run was death.

[underlined] Better luck [/underlined]

Eventually he arrived at the town of Thiberville and asked again for help. Here he met with better luck, and for the next three weeks he was passed from family to family, always being kept out of sight.

Towards the end of August there was a leaflet raid on the town, telling the townspeople to leave as the Allied troops would be arriving very soon.

Ronald left with the family who were sheltering him and for the next 10 days camped with them in a small hut outside the town.

On the eleventh day he ventured back into the town and was greeted by a Toronto Scottish regiment marching down the road.

One week later he was back in London, after three months on the run behind the enemy lines.

[underlined] NEWS FROM THE PAST [/underlined]
[italics] Extracts from the Guardian files. [/italics]

15 years ago
SALE and Altrincham Divisional Labour Party members had expressed concern about the effectiveness of the country’s Civil Defence against atomic and hydrogen bomb attacks. They decided to ask Coventry Labour Party their reasons for refusing to take part in Civil Defence services.


The Rev Charles Taylor, minister of Sale Trinity Methodist Church and Sale Moor Methodist Church for five years, left Sale for Keynsham, near Bristol.

25 years ago
The National Day of Prayer was observed in all Sale churches, and included a civic service at St. Anne's attended by the Mayor, Ald. J.H. Willson, the Mayoress, Miss Dallas Willson, and members and officials of the Borough Council.


Flying-Officer R.H. Riding, 3, Farmfield, Sale, arrived home on leave after being missing since the early days of the Allied invasion of France. In an interview with the Guardian he payed tribute to the courage and fortitude of the French who had helped him to escape.

40 years ago
THE monthly meeting of Sale Council was one of the briefest on record. The only matter to be discussed was a letter from the Postmaster at Manchester concerning the council’s request for a letter box in the Dane Road area. The Postmaster had turned down the request.


THE Sale and Ashton Women and Junior Conservative’s annual garden fete, held at Beech Hurst, proved to be the best organised of the season, despite unfriendly weather.


Hull Times, “Shot Down, He took part in French Resistance raids on Germans,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 21, 2024,

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