James Robertson RITCHIE M.I.D.
(known as Jim)
Serial Number: NZ403988
RNZAF Trade: Pilot
Date of Enlistment: 27th of October 1940
Date of Demob: 14th of June 1948
Rank Achieved: Warrant Officer
Flying Hours: unknown
Operational Sorties: unknown
Date of Birth: 27th of November 1920, in Thames
Personal Details: Jim Ritchie was the son of Dr. James Ritchie who practised in Cambridge. Jim was studying medicine at Auckland University College before volunteering for RNZAf service.
Service Details: It seems from the information found so far, Jim trained as a pilot in New Zealand. After initial training here, he was ready to be transported with the rank of Sergeant to England, via Canada. But before shipping out, Jim and fellow newly trained Cambridge airmen LAC Ken Law, LAC Alan Feisst and LAC Tom Peak returned to Cambridge for their Final Leave and an official farewell.
This function took place on the 24th of April 1941 in the Cambridge Town Hall's Council Chamber. This was officiated over by the Mayor, Mr Edgar James, who was reported to have said of these young men, "We are proud of these lads and the other New Zealand airmen who have gone ahead of them to do such great work overseas."
The four airmen were presented with wallets from the Cambridge branch of the Patriotic Committee. It was reported in the Waikato Independent newspaper on the 26th of April 1941,
"The attendance was one of the largest that had gathered at such a function, said Mr James, but it was only a fraction of the people of the district who would have liked to be present. On behalf of the people of Cambridge he wished the guests of honour the best of luck and a safe return to Cambridge."
On the 29th of April 1941, the four Cambridge lads and their comrades left Auckland aboard a ship bound for Canada. Jim Ritchie would carry on to England, whilst the other three went on to complete their training in Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme.
Jim served on No. 101 Squadron flying Wellington bombers. On the night of the 10th/11th of October 1941 his aircraft was shot down whilst on a raid to Cologne.
Jim was initially posted as Missing, but he was actually taken prisoner, and interned at Stalag Luft VI and later Stalag 357. In both camps he was a member of the Escape and Security Committees, and he received a Mention In Despatches which read:
"In recognition of meritorious services whilst a Prisoner of War."
Connection with Cambridge: Jim lived in Cambridge before the war, where his father was a doctor with a practise in Victoria Street.