SERGEANT MARMADUKE RIDLEY.
Marmaduke Ridley was born in 1915, his baptism taking place in the church of St James, Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne: October 6 of that year. Marmaduke was the eldest of two sons born to Marmaduke and Isabella Grace Ridley. The family home was situated at number 43, Hugh Gardens, Benwell, an industrial area in the west-end of the City of Newcastle upon Tyne. Education for the young Ridley was by way of the local Atkinson Road Technical School. The school giving extra tuition for those destined for the local industries of Vickers Armstrong and Parsons.
However, for the young Ridley, local industry was not to be enough and he set his sights on a career with the RAF. Ridley’s career in the RAF began at number 1 Apprentices Wing at RAF Halton, January 13, 1931. Official documents show that Ridley was of short stature, being only five foot one inch with a thick mop of dark brown hair. With his apprenticeship over, Ridley passed out as a fitter (aero engines), with a specialty in the Jupiter engine. Ridley was next posted to Number 1 Flying Training School (FTS) where he remained until April of 1935. An embarkation leave followed before Ridley was posted to 55 Squadron based at RAF Hinaide, Iraq.
It was during this period that Marmaduke, known as ‘Dukey’ Ridley decided that he wanted to fly in the RAF rather repair engines. He applied, and was accepted, for pilot training in September of 1937. ‘Dukey’ Ridley passed through Number 1 Depot Uxbridge, and Number 5 (FTS) Sealand before being posted to Number 2 Anti Aircraft Co-Operation Unit at Eastchurch and, later, Gosport. Among the aircraft flown by ‘Dukey’ Ridley at this time were the Skua, Shark and Hart. Flying these aircraft on target towing flights for both Navy and Army Anti Aircraft Units. His record shows that he was proficient on all these aircraft and, although a pilot, he still retained the rank of Leading Aircraftsman (LAC).
In September of 1939, with the beginning of World War Two, many of the Auxiliary Air Force Squadrons were under strength, as far as experienced pilots were concerned. Number 616 (South Yorkshire) Squadron was one of these. Being equipped with the Spitfire it needed experienced pilots to boost its numbers as well as train pilots on their new aircraft. A number of pilots were drafted in; one of these was ‘Dukey’ Ridley who joined the squadron at RAF Acklington, Northumberland in September. On December 31, 1939, ‘Dukey’ Ridley was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
Number 616 Squadron were later to relocate to Leconfield, Yorkshire, their war station, before moving on to Rochford, May 26, 1940, to cover the evacuation of Dunkirk. On May 28, 616 Squadron were badly bounced by Me 109s over Dunkirk. ‘Dukey’ Ridley’s Spitfire was badly damaged in the attack and lost most of the flying controls as well as the instrumentation. However, ‘Dukey’ Ridley, slightly wounded in the head, managed to get his Spitfire back to England.
Action next came for ‘Dukey’ Ridley on August 1, 1940. On this day he was on patrol with Pilot Officer William L.B. Walker when they encountered a Ju 88 over the North Sea. The German bomber engaged in attacking shipping. They drove the Ju 88 but, ‘Dukey’ Ridley’s Spitfire had received a few hits from the bombers return fire. Bullets had destroyed hi radio as well as damaging the engine bearer of Spitfire K 9829. A few days later, August 6, ‘Dukey’ Ridley was once more on patrol over the North Sea. On this occasion with Squadron Leader Marcus Robinson and Flight Lieutenant R.O. Hellyer: once more a belligerent Ju 88 was encountered. The aerial
fight was inconclusive as the Ju 88 managed to depart leaving all three Spitfires with damage.
Later in August, 6161 Squadron moved south to Kenley where they were in continual action. The squadron was scrambled into action, August 25, meeting a formation of Do 17s in the area of Canterbury. ‘Dukey’ Ridley managed to make good attacks on a Do 17, seeing pieces falling off, before he was driven away by the ever present me 109s. The following day, August 26, a section of ‘A’ Flight were scrambled to the assistance of ‘B’ Flight who had been badly bounced in the area over Dover. The section led by Flying Officer E.F. ’Teddy’ St Aubyn and consisting of P/O W.L.B. Walker and ‘Dukey’ Ridley was still climbing hard in a ‘battle climb’ when they were bounced by a heavy force of Me 109s which resulted in all three Spitfires being shot down. F/O St Aubyn was badly burned, and P/O Walker wounded. ‘Dukey’ Ridley, his Spitfire coming down in the area of Dungeness, was killed in the action. The victor of ‘Dukey’ Ridley was thought to be Hptm Josef Foezoe, Staffel Kapitan of 4/JG 51. However, this is not certain. Hptm Foezoe is also credited with shooting down the Spitfire of F/O G.E. Moberley at the same time.
Sergeant Marmaduke Ridley was buried in Folkestone New Cemetery at Plot ‘O’ grave no 23. In his hometown of Newcastle upon Tyne Sergeant Marmaduke ‘Dukey’ Ridley is a forgotten man. However, former fellow pilot William L.B. Walker, shot down at the same time states: ‘Sergeant Ridley is not forgotten by me…Ridley was a most likeable chap although rather quiet…he was…a brave and courageous young man.’ There can be no finer epitaph for a pilot than that put forward by one of his colleagues.