View Full Version : Sergeant Robert McGowan RITCHIE - DFM - No.161 Squadron - citation and notes

29th April 2022, 17:38
RITCHIE, Robert McGowan, Serant (1343639) – No.161 Squadron – Distinguished Flying Medal – awarded as per London Gazette dated 13 July 1943. Information from Spink auction catalogue. The recommendation states:

“Sergeant Ritchie has carried out 21 operational sorties and has been employed on duties of a special nature, requiring a very high standard of skill and judgement. His keenness to fly, and his high standard of efficiency both in the air and on the ground is outstanding”.

He was posted to 161 Squadron, Tempsford, Bedfordshire, October, 1942. Originally composed of five Whitley’s and two Wellingtons, 161 Squadron specialized in “pick ups” from enemy occupied Europe, and shared Tempsford Airfield with 138 Squadron. These were the only Squadrons in England, almost entirely devoted to “Special Operations” (The Special Operations Executive, 1940-46 by M.R.D. Foot refers).

Ritchie took part in a number of these operations which dropped agents, pigeons or supplies to French Resistance groups, including Gorilla, Sylvestre, Scientist and Physician; extracts from the Squadron operations books detailing Ritchie’s sorties state: “…. Personnel 2-packages 2-leaflets and pigeons… set course for islands east of Blois which was pinpointed and then set course for target which was found. Received letters A.R. and did not reply to them. Dropped load from 550 ft above ground heading S.E. Circled round after dropping and saw lights still on and they flashed A.R. again. Course then set for second pinpoint Sylvestre which completed pigeons scattered near Caen… landing made at 0445 hrs.

Aircraft took off at 22.25 hrs and arrived over target at 01.54 hrs. – this was identified by railway… and other ground details and here one package was dropped…. Proceeded on to second target… dropped two agents – time was 02.46 hrs. Leaflets were scattered over St. Quentin area …. Aircraft returned to base at 04.15. hrs.