23.06.1942 No. 19 Squadron Spitfire Vb W3644 QV-J Sgt. Ridings
Date: 23rd June 1942
Unit: No. 19 Squadron
Type: Spitfire Vb
Base: RAF Hutton Cranswick, Yorkshire
Location: Start Point, Devon, England.
Pilot: Sgt. Alan Lever Ridings 1058734 RAFVR Age 20. Missing
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from RAF Hutton Cranswick during the afternoon of the 23rd June 1942.
John Coombes sent the following information:
Alan Lever Ridings was born on the 20th July 1921 in Sadler Street, Middleton, Lancashire. He was the eldest child of two, his younger sister Joan was born in 1924. His mother Edith Lever was born on the Fylde Coast and was the child of Arthur and Jane Lever who lived at ‘the Cottage’ Beach Road, St Annes on the Sea during the time of the Great War. Although formerly from Middleton Arthur was advised to move to the ‘coast’ by doctors to help improve his health.
Alan’s mother, Edith, returned to Middleton after meeting her future husband William Pilkington. After Alan’s birth the family moved to a new home in Durnford Street, where Alan attended Durnford Street School before moving onto Middleton Grammar School. Alan attended Middleton Grammar for just one year before moving to North Manchester Grammar School. Although living in Middleton Alan and his family spent many weekends and school holidays with their grandparents in St Annes on Sea. The irony of this did not become apparent until November 2009.
He graduated just before his 18th Birthday. His first job was as the Cub Reporter for the Oldham Chronicle.
Following the outbreak of World War Two Alan was keen to become a pilot with the RAF; however the minimum enlistment age was 19. Alan joined the RAF reserve on the day of his 19th Birthday 20th July 1940.
His initial training took place in the Midlands before moving on to flight training. Alan passed his flight training and was initially posted to a Bomber Command Squadron. Alan was unhappy with this posting and urged senior officers to re-deploy him to Fighter Command. This stance initially landed Alan in hot water with his superiors but eventually he got his wish. His pilot training is still sketchy but Alan would have trained probably on Harvard’s before being posted to an operational Squadron. He joined 19 Squadron RAF which was equipped with Spitfires and we know that during his career he served at RAF bases Perranporth and Middle Wallop.
The Spitfire Memorial:
On 19 August 2012 the Memorial was officially unveiled. It includes commemorative plaques to RAF, Commonwealth and United States Army Air Forces. The Spitfire is a replica of the type Sgt. Alan Ridings flew.
This RAF Fighter, Bomber and Coastal Command Memorial and its interactive 'Roll of Honour' is quite unique. It’s a tribute those aircrew who lost their lives on active service during WW2. It’s also an educational tool to enable future generations to learn about the many sacrifices made by the Royal Air Force. Both on the ground and in the air, between 1939 – 1945.
23 June 2017 marked the 75th anniversary of the loss of W3644. In 2017 the Team also opened a Visitor Centre at former RAF Squires Gate, in Hangar 42
Around the time of his flight training the 25,000 residents of the Borough of Lytham St Annes were doing their part for the War effort. The fund launched by Councillor Miss J Rossall, the Mayor of the Borough eventually raised the grand total of £6,000 and in March 1941 a cheque was sent to Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Aircraft Production. A Spitfire was commissioned in the Boroughs name and was allocated tail number - W3644
The aircraft was a Mark Vb Spitfire which was taken on the operational strength of 19 Squadron on the 16th July 1941.
The aircraft served the Squadron well until the 23 June 1942. Sgt Alan Lever Ridings had taken off from RAF Hutton Cranswick to take part in a Ramrod (bomber protection) mission to Morlaix in France. Alan was escorting Boston Bombers when the family was told that another pilot from 19 Squadron had bailed out after being jumped and shot up by a FW 190. Alan had spotted the pilot landing in the sea and was circling him whilst passing details to radio operators to enable the stricken pilot’s recovery. Alan was running low on fuel and was ordered back to base by his Squadron Leader who took over the job of guiding in the rescue team. Alan headed for home - but never made it.
German fighters from JG2 Wing had been very active that day and a number of aircraft had been lost to the FW190’s although, German records do not make record of any ‘kill’ around the time of Alan’s disappearance. Joan, Alan’s sister, thinks that he may have run out of fuel and had to ditch, although no radio communication was received from Alan informing controllers of his need to ditch.
His last recorded vector was on a heading between Berry Head and Start Point about six miles out to sea when contact was lost at 10.40 am on Tuesday 23rd June 1942.
Alan was presumed missing over the sea. No trace of Alan or W3644 was ever found.
Sgt. Alan Lever Ridings. None, commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. Panel 92. Son of William Pilkington Ridings and Edith Annie Ridings, of Middleton, Lancashire, England.
With many thanks to John Coombs with whom we had been working very closely with.