Veteran Stories:
Gordon Ritchie

  • Upon the death of his Pilot Squadron Leader Anderson over France, Gordon Ritchie (right) was crewed up with Flight Lieutenant Michael Sloski in 1944 until the end of his tour of operations. The crew painted Ritchie's DFM on the nose of their aircraft.

  • Rear gunner Gordon Ritchie (front right) and W.B. Anderson's Crew of 429 Bison Squadron in Leeming, Yorkshire in January of 1944. Anderson died of mortal wounds, and two members became POW's after bailing out over France in June 1944.

  • Gordon Ritchie(center) and ex-group Captain Sir Douglas Bader and his wife Lady Bader meet at the Calgary Stampede in 1974, when the world famous legless War Ace Bader who shot down 22 German aircraft served as the Grand Marshal of the Stampede Parade.

  • Gordon Ritchie (far right), mid upper gunner Mangione (left) and Flight Engineer Steere of the 429 Bison Squadron RCAF heroically survived anti-aircraft fire over France on June 7/8 1944. Gordon Ritchie was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.

  • Pilot Officer Gordon J. Ritchie, DFM.

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"We administered morphine to our pilot, and began the ordeal of carrying him back to the escape hatch at the rear of the aircraft, where we attached a static line to the aircraft…"

Transcript

My name is Gordon Ritchie and I was born in Montreal, though I now live in British Columbia. I was in World War II in Bomber Command. I was a tail gunner on 429 Bison Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

We were flying Halifax bombers. And I completed a tour of operations of thirty-four missions. We did most of the deep penetration targets into Germany. For example, Leipzig, we lost seventy-eight aircraft that night - that was my first trip. And we did Berlin - another seventy-three aircraft lost. I went twice to Stuttgart, and Frankfurt, Essen, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, etcetera. These were all the deep penetration trips into Germany, and with the coming of D-Day, our bombing operations were switched to railway yards and marshalling yards. And on the night of June 7th/8th, we were briefed to attack a marshalling yard at Acheres in France. As we crossed the coast of France at Dieppe, we were hit by anti-aircraft fire. Our pilot, Squadron Leader W. B. Anderson, DFC, from Winnipeg, was mortally wounded and gave our crew the order to bail out, as our aircraft went into a dive.

The navigator, bomb aimer and wireless operator bailed out over France. The flight engineer, Sergeant Gilbert Steer, managed to remove our pilot from his position and straighten the aircraft. The mid-upper gunner and myself - I was a tail gunner - we came forward to lend whatever help we could. We administered morphine to our pilot, and began the ordeal of carrying him back to the escape hatch at the rear of the aircraft, where we attached his parachute D ring to the static line - that's a length of strapping approximately thirty or forty feet long - to the aircraft. And then we attached the other end to his D-ring, as he was not able to pull his own ripcord on the parachute. And we slid him out the end... out of the rear exit. When the static line reached its length, it deployed his parachute. He subsequently died from his wounds.

Following the exiting of our pilot, the remainder of our crew parachuted to safety. I landed in a minefield in Oxfordshire. Just incidentally, the three chaps that bailed out over France, two were Prisoners of War from June 7th/8th, '44, until the end of the war in May, '45. Our navigator, the third member, walked back with the help of the French underground, and was back in England within six weeks of his bailout.

A few weeks following this operation, we were informed that the flight engineer, Sergeant Gilbert Steer, was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry medal, and the mid-upper gunner, John Mangione from Ottawa, and myself, were awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.

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