CA Ridley – The Cost of Bravery

(Wing Commander CA Ridley, MC, DSO, and the strain of war)

The last commander of No.75 Squadron at Elmswell was a remarkable character. He had achieved much by the time he was appointed to lead the squadron in November 1918.  Decorated for bravery in France and in the skies over England, he was just twenty-two years of age when he took over this home defence squadron in Suffolk. His story is like many others who flew and fought in the First World War.  He enjoyed, perhaps earned, considerable luck in the unforgiving environment high above the battlefields of Europe. His extraordinary career spanned two world wars, but it was his exploits in the early years of aviation at the start of the twentieth century that would define him.        

Captain Claud Alward Ridley, a seasoned pilot at 19 years old, returned from operations with the Royal Flying Corps, in France, in October 1916. It had been an unusual tour of duty and had left its mark on the young aviator. He continued his operational service on the front line of the air war over Britain, repelling German air raids. An examination of War Office files from 1915 to 1917 reveals a hidden story about the impact of operational flying on Captain Ridley’s health. This officer was to achieve much at a very young age; by the time he was 20 years old he had been awarded the Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order. The cost to his health, however, was significant. He recovered his health after the First World War and pursued an equestrian career, before returning to the RAF at the start of the Second World War.  

Deception at enlistment

Claud Alward Ridley was born in Sunderland during the twilight years of Queen Victoria’s reign. His parents Louis (a solicitor) and Eleanor sent him to St Paul’s School in London for his education. In 1914 Claud A Ridley enlisted as a private in the Public School Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment at the recruiting office at 24 St. James St. London, SW. He appears to have misled the army regarding his age, as he states on his attestation, dated 24 September 1914 that he was 19 years and I day.  In fact he was born on 15 November 1896, which meant he was just less than 17 years and 2 months on the day. As the minimum age for enlistment was 18 years there seems to have been a deliberate misrepresentation of Ridley’s age, possibly with the knowledge of the recruiters, a not uncommon occurrence at the time.  

Ridley was passed fit for general duties following a medical examination on the day of his enlistment. The record provides details of his physical condition. He measured 5ft 8 ¼ inch (1.73m), with a 35 ½ inch (95cm) chest.  He weighed 9st 11lbs (62kg). This was average height and weight for the time; in fact Ridley was probably typical of the wealthier and healthier middle class. Indeed Ridley had enjoyed rugby, boxing and athletics at his school.  The army struggled at the time to recruit sufficient men from the working class who were fit enough to endure the rigors of military service. General diet and living conditions amongst much of the population in 1914 were not conducive to the basic level of health required by the army.  

Commissioned and Combat in France

Claud Ridley received a temporary commission as a second lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers in April 1915, and transferred to the Royal Flying Corps the same year. Ridley completed his pilot training at Farnborough and was appointed as a Flying Officer with effect from 7 August 1915, and was sent to France to join No.3 Squadron RFC.  The squadron was equipped with two seater Morane-Saulnier Type L monoplanes, and Ridley flew with an observer/gunner on sorties. One such observer was Sergeant James McCudden, later to become a Major and a leading fighter ‘ace’. He commented on Ridley’s flying skills after a sortie:

‘I did not enjoy it much, for the pilot was one of the most dashing and enterprising kind. Such flying is all very fine for the pilot but not always for the passenger’

On 5 September 1915 whilst flying in a Morane-Saulnier two-seater monoplane over Lille, Ridley engaged in a dogfight with two German Avtiatik aircraft. During the fight Ridley received a gunshot wound to his right foot. The bullet had passed through his foot fracturing the 5th metatarsal bone. He was invalided back to England and at a medical board held on 6th October in London, he was deemed unfit for duty for the next 2 ½ months. 

Return to duty – The Home Front   

Keen to return to action Ridley wrote to the Air Board on 25 November requesting a medical board to assess him for duty once more.  He duly attended a board at Caxton Hall, London on 7 December and was passed fit. Ridley returned to the RFC and on 20 December was posted to No.10 Reserve Squadron at Joyce Green aerodrome.  At this time German air raids on Britain, and particularly the capital, were beginning to strike home.  In 1915 the military response was largely haphazard and uncoordinated. At this time the Royal Navy had the lead role in the air defence of the country. The RFC, in a supporting role, tasked some of its reserve squadrons to undertake home defence duties in addition to training new pilots and crew.  Ridley would be flying at night, in the freezing cold, hunting Zeppelins.    

On the night of 31 January 1916 Ridley took off from Joyce Green in a BE2c biplane and climbed to 9,000ft over London. He was part of the home defence response to nine Zeppelin raiders converging on London and the South East. As he entered thick cloud he lost control and spun down to 3,000ft before recovering the aircraft. He then continued to patrol for the next three hours, the combination of intense cold and insufficient oxygen in the thin air severely affected his ability to fly his machine. He struggled to see anything in the dark sky, and the swirling fog that had begun to hang above the ground. He had in fact drifted twenty-five miles south-west from his base, and he was over the North Downs and not the Thames Estuary as he thought. Ridley searched the black void below for a reference point and was about to drop a flare when his wing struck the ground. The aircraft was wrecked in the ensuing crash, but Ridley emerged unscathed, physically. He had come down near Reigate.

By March 1916 Ridley was flying with No.19 Reserve Squadron at Joyce Green, and on the night of 31st he ascended into the night sky in response to a raid by ten Zeppelins. Shortly afterwards he spotted Zeppelin L15 in the distance, several thousand feet above him. He approached the airship and engaged it with his Lewis gun at extreme range. The Zeppelin disappeared into the clouds and Ridley lost sight of it.  He continued to patrol for another two hours before returning to base. Later Zeppelin L15 was hit by anti-aircraft (AA) fire at Purfleet and then attacked by another home defence aircraft.  The Zeppelin was eventually forced to ditch into the North Sea fifteen miles north of Margate. For his part in this action, Ridley was awarded the Military Cross; the London Gazette of 18 May stating the award was for ‘conspicuous gallantry and good work during Zeppelin raids’.  

The Western Front again and Spy Missions

Ridley was posted back to France and assigned to No.60 Squadron which was still flying Morane-Saulnier monoplanes.  The squadron had arrived at the Somme front in May 1916, and Ridley was to fly its last mission before the unit was pulled back from the front line to regroup after appalling losses.  By August, in the previous seven engagements with the enemy, the squadron had lost its squadron commander, two flight commanders, and suffered eight airmen killed and three wounded.  Despite the ferocious fighting in the air, the squadron was called upon to conduct some extra, clandestine, activities. 

In the autumn of 1915 the RFC took on a new task, that of dropping agents behind enemy lines. The static nature of the Western Front with miles upon miles of trenches and wire, made it difficult to insert agents into enemy territory to obtain intelligence. The RFC began flying agents over the front lines by night, once landed the agent would be left to complete his mission, usually communicating with army intelligence with pigeons, which were also dropped behind enemy lines by the RFC.  This was an extremely hazardous business, if captured; both the agent and the pilot could be summarily shot.  

On 3 August 1916 Ridley was selected for his first spy dropping mission.  He had experience with the Morane-Saulnier type aircraft and had gained many hours of night flying with home defence squadrons. He took off on the night of the 3rd with an agent called Victor Marie in the rear cockpit. Unfortunately Ridley’s aircraft suffered engine failure over enemy territory, but he managed to put down near Cambrai. He later claimed to have deliberately crashed the plane into the ground so as to render it unserviceable, as setting fire to the machine would have attracted too much attention in the night. For the next two months Ridley and Marie moved about the countryside, at night, evading capture.  By this time Marie’s network of agents was being rolled up by the German authorities. As Ridley could not speak French or Flemish, he disguised himself as a deaf mute. However this ruse was eventually seen through when he was arrested by military police on a tram near Mons. Ridley managed to leap out of the moving car that was taking him in to custody, and escaped back into the countryside.  Now separated from Marie, Ridley made his way to the Dutch border, where with the assistance of a local man, he climbed over an electric fence.  He touched the safety of Dutch soil in the small hours of 8 October 1916. 

The following week Ridley was back at HQ on the Somme front relaying the considerable amount of intelligence he had collected behind the lines, at great danger to himself. He was able to give information about the disposition of ammunition depots, aerodromes and billets. The RFC HQ decided that Ridley should not continue serving in France as he was at particular risk from German reprisals.  He was accordingly sent back to serve in Home Defence. In November 1916 Ridley was mentioned in despatches for ‘distinguished services’, by General Sir Douglas Haig.  For his exploits behind the lines Ridley was later awarded the Distinguished Service Order.  A supplement to the London Gazette dated 14 November 1916 contained the citation ‘For conspicuous gallantry and judgement in the execution of a special mission. When his machine was wrecked he showed great resource, and obtained valuable information’. He was still just 19 years old. The repercussions from this episode in his service were not over, however, and they would resurface in late 1917.   

Home Defence and Command Responsibility

Ridley was assigned to No.37 Squadron as flight commander of ‘B’ Flight based at Stow Maries aerodrome in Essex. Ridley’s substantive rank was now a Lieutenant; he had been promoted from Second Lieutenant in March 1916. To take up his new position he was given temporary promotion to Captain. His posting to No.37 Squadron signalled the start of an intense period of operational flying. On 24 May 1917, at 3 o’clock in the morning, Ridley was sent up in a BE12a biplane to six Zeppelins approaching London.  He did not sight the enemy and returned to base after 3 ½ hours patrolling the night sky.   The following evening Ridley was on patrol looking for a formation of twenty-three Gotha bombers heading for London. Although spotted by Ridley, the German aircraft remained high and out of reach. He was extremely frustrated by this inability to engage the enemy and later wrote that: 

‘It seems a great pity that scouts cannot be supplied to flights for this purpose, as the BE12a climbs so poorly…….. It takes a long time to reach 14,000ft, and at this height there is no reserve of power, which seems absolutely useless when it comes to attacking first class German machines..…If the Germans make a practice of coming over as they did today it seems hardly fair to expect pilots on BE12a’s to gain satisfactory results’.      

Ridley was in action again on the evening of 5 June, this time in a ‘scout’, a Sopwith 1 ½ Strutter, but again failed to get within range of the Gotha bombers he had sighted at 15,000ft.  Eight days later, Ridley was once more on patrol in a Sopwith 1 ½ Strutter, however, he failed to sight the incoming formation of twenty Gotha bombers.  Ridley flew further operational sorties over the next few weeks, against Zeppelin raids and Gotha formations, without success. On 7 July, Ridley had better luck, flying a Sopwith Pup; he managed to engage a formation of twenty-four Gotha’s, but his Vickers gun jammed after one round. The action had taken him out over the sea, and here, high above the choppy waters; he noticed that his main wing spar had been shot through. With great skill, Ridley managed to nurse his damaged aircraft back to Stow Maries aerodrome without further incident.  He would repeat this aeronautical feat later in July when his engine cowling was shot away by ‘friendly fire’ from home defence AA batteries whilst he was leading a patrol over Shoeburyness. He landed safely once again back at Stow Maries.   

In August Ridley was posted to the newly formed No.61 Squadron at Rochford, Essex, and flew his first sortie with them on 12 August. Spotting a formation of Gotha’s returning from a daylight raid on Southend, No.61 Squadron chased the Germans forty miles out to sea. Many of the RFC pilot’s guns jammed during the ensuing fight, including Ridley’s, and were forced to break off the engagement and return to base. One Gotha was successfully brought down and three others, probably damaged in the fight, crash landed on their return home.  Ridley flew one more operational sortie with the squadron on 22 August; he did not encounter any enemy aircraft on this occasion.  For his outstanding work in air defence in 1917, Ridley was once again mentioned in despatches. The events of the past two years had begun to catch up with Ridley, and he was suffering from poor health in the late summer of 1917.      

Neurasthenia: The Stress and Strain of Military Flying 

The medical officer, Lt. R Ward, RAMC, had been observing Ridley since his arrival at No. 61 Squadron.  He noticed that Ridley was far from fit for the demands of operational flying. On 4 September he requested Ridley be sent for examination at a medical board. A day later he wrote a further memo to Brigade HQ outlining his observations: 

‘Captain Ridley has been under my observation for some time.  He came over from France 11 months ago, suffering from overstrain. I have seen Captain Ridley after flying and in about five minutes after landing he was in a condition of collapse and had to go to bed.  

He is excitable and easily depressed, He is suffering from dyspepsia.  I consider that Capt. Ridley is in need of a complete rest for some time’. 

Ridley was ordered to report to Eastern Wing HQ, Upminster on 24 September, for ‘light duties’. He then received instructions to attend a medical board in room 140 at the Air Board office in The Strand, London, at 10:15 on 28 September.    Ridley was examined by the board and deemed to be suffering from ‘stress of service’ and was immediately ordered to take six weeks rest and convalescence.  He subsequently spent his rest period at 43 Royal Crescent, Holland Park, London.  

The phrase ‘stress of service’ was one of several labels used by the military medical authorities to describe the condition of men suffering from physical and mental exhaustion caused by constant exposure to the extreme dangers of mechanised warfare.  ‘Shell shock’ was first used in The Lancet in 1915 as a medical term, to describe the condition of soldiers incapacitated by the constant barrage of enemy shelling.  The phrase ‘neurasthenia’ was adopted after the same symptoms were observed in men not exposed to direct shell fire. ‘Nervous exhaustion’ and simply ‘debility’ were also recorded on the service records of affected personnel. Today we may use the term ‘PTSD’ – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  There were additional factors, however, that contributed to Ridley’s declining health. 

The physiological effect on a human body in the extreme conditions experienced at altitude in an open cockpit was only just being recognised. The RFC was a branch of the Army, and medical care was the responsibility of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC).  It was a ‘conservative’ organisation and did not fully grasp the particular hazards of military flying in the early years of the war. At altitude, in thin air and sub-zero temperatures, in an open cockpit, aircrew were extremely susceptible to hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and hypothermia and frostbite. These conditions had a debilitating effect on a pilot’s cognitive ability, and were often the underlying cause of accidents due to ‘pilot error’. The relative rapid ascent and decent in aeroplanes could cause severe discomfort and damage to the eardrums of aircrew.  It was not until the formation of the Royal Air Force in April 1918 that the systematic monitoring of aircrew by medical staff was in place at every squadron. Only then were official steps taken to mitigate the harmful effects of flying. The cumulative effect over the long term of operational flying had a huge mental and physical impact on pilots. Ridley appears to be no exception, and by the end of August 1917 he was in bad shape. 

In November Ridley was instructed to attend an invaliding board at 9 Arkwright Road, Hampstead, London, on 13 November, where he was subject to a medical assessment.  Although he stated he was anxious to return to full duties, he was deemed to be fit for light duties only, no flying was permitted.  The board noted that Ridley appeared to be sleeping well with no headaches, however his pulse was ‘72’ and not very well sustained. His balance was good, but he still had very tremulous hands. He was advised to reduce his smoking to no more than five cigarettes per day, and he would to be re-assessed in one month.  In the meantime his flying pay was discontinued with effect from 7 November (he had last flown on 27 September), and he continued to perform light duties. 

Despite being unfit for flying duties, on 3 October, Ridley was appointed as Acting Squadron Commander of No. 112 Squadron at Throwley, Kent. He was now responsible for an entire home defence squadron despite being unfit to fly.  At age 21, as a temporary Captain, he was now performing the role of a Major, whilst his substantive rank was still Lieutenant, (In fact Ridley was not even offered a permanent commission until after the war, in 1919). The pressure of command and the frustration of not being able to lead his men in the air no doubt wore heavily on Ridley. Relief was in the offing, however, as on 17 November he was ordered to attend another invaliding board at Arkwright Road on 1 January 1918. But, before then he would become embroiled in an unfortunate skirmish with the War Office; a legacy from his time behind enemy lines.   

Army Bureaucracy catches up with Captain Ridley

The slow wheels of army paperwork finally caught up with Ridley, when on 10 November he received instructions to provide the Army Council with a statement, in duplicate, setting out the incidents that led to his capture as a prisoner of war whilst in France the previous year.  Ridley found himself in something of a dilemma. When he returned from his mission behind enemy lines he was de-briefed by army intelligence staff, who instructed him not to discuss the details of his actions in France and Belgium, with anybody.  It was, however, a standard requirement for all officers who had escaped, or had been returned from captivity, to state the circumstances that led to their capture by the enemy.  Ridley had not submitted such a report, in keeping with his orders from the intelligence staff.  He now faced a direct order from the War Office. 

After repeated requests over six weeks, on 28December, Ridley finally composed an extremely brief response as follows: 


I have the honour to report that I was instructed to land a French agent behind the lines. 

I left the aerodrome on the evening of August 3rd 1916, intending to land agent at dusk and return immediately. Owing to engine trouble I was forced to land and abandon the machine, returning to England via Belgium and Holland on October 13th 1916. 

I was only taken prisoner on a tram, but escaped. I was never actually a prisoner of war in Germany. 

I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant, (signed) Claud A Ridley, Capt.   

Ridley sent this report with a covering letter to the Brig. Gen. TCR Higgins, General Officer Commanding 6th Brigade RFC, for onward transmission to the War Office.  Higgins wrote a covering letter to defuse tensions that may arise from Ridley’s less than comprehensive statement. Higgins advised the War Office that Ridley had been under a misapprehension with regard to their instructions. He explained that on his return to England, Ridley had been particularly warned by officers of the Intelligence Department not to communicate any statements to anybody.  His apparent disobedience of orders was due to inexperience and not in any way intended. The War Office were content to let matters lie, noting that he was not actually made a POW.     

 Return to Flying Duties

Ridley attended another Invaliding Board at Arkwright Road on 1 January 1918, and was again examined by medical staff.  The board passed Ridley fit to fly again, noting that he should fly dual at first.  The report of proceedings of the board noted that Ridley had much improved; he was scarcely tremulous, sleeps well and does not suffer headaches. He was instructed to reduce his smoking from six cigarettes and three pipes a day, to the cigarettes or one pipe per day. Ridley returned to his squadron and commenced flying again.  

It would seem that Ridley was in fact not fully fit, and later that month he was referred back to the Invaliding board. On 31 January the MO at the Military Hospital at Taversham had advised the board that he had not observed a material improvement in the condition of Capt. Ridley. The MO stated:

‘His dyspeptic symptoms have to some extent improved, appetite is good and only occasion attacks of heartburn are noticed. But the general condition is much below par.’

Ridley duly attended a further board on 1 February, where he was examined again.  Here for the first time, the board attribute Ridley’s disability, labelled ‘Stress of Service’, directly to his service in France in 1916. At the examination Ridley stated that he felt fit for duty, and the MO observed that he was not tremulous, his reactions were normal, he had no tremors and his pulse was sustained. He was now smoking five to eight cigarettes a day. The board noted Ridley had last flown two days ago, and had flown a total of thirty hours since his last medical board. According to the record Ridley had now accumulated one thousand hours flying solo.  The board considered the evidence and declared Ridley fit for general duties, ‘after one month’s high flying at home’. In fact Ridley would be posted abroad within the month.  


As a Temporary Major, Ridley was sent to command No.28 Squadron in Italy in late February 1918.  The squadron was equipped with Sopwith Camels and was one of three squadrons supporting Italian, British and French divisions in Northern Italy opposing the Austro-Hungarian army which was supported by German divisions. This front extended for 375 miles, from Switzerland to the Adriatic Sea.  The summer of 1918 saw much action in Northern Italy as the Austrians launched an offensive across the Piave River. This battle lasted for several months and No. 28 squadron suffered many losses as a result. It is not clear from available records how much operational flying Ridley managed with the squadron.  As autumn arrived Maj. Ridley may not have been fully fit for such duties; on 17 September 1918, Lt. Col. Philip Joubert De La Ferte, Commander of 14 Wing in Italy, requested, that Major Ridley be returned to England for duty, and placed on two weeks leave.  Ridley duly returned to England and was later posted to a home defence squadron. 

Home Defence Again and the Post War Years

T/Major Ridley arrived at the HQ of No.75 Squadron at Elmswell, Suffolk, on 14 November 1918; three days after the Armistice came in to force.  He oversaw the immediate post war operations of the squadron and its wind down and eventual disbandment in June 1919. Ridley managed just over twenty-four flying hours during the six months he was at Elmswell. Having relinquished the temporary rank of major on 1 May, Captain Ridley moved to No.39 Squadron in June 1919. In August Ridley was granted a permanent commission in the RAF with the rank of Captain. He remained in the service in the immediate post-war years; in 1921 he was a Flight Lieutenant based at the RAF HQ in Harresmith Barracks, Ambala, India. He returned to the UK and by 1925 he was serving with No.3 (Fighter) Squadron. He was promoted to Squadron Leader with a seniority date of 1 January 1925.  In June Ridley took part in the RAF Display (formerly known as The Aerial Pageant) at Hendon aerodrome.   

Marriage, Steeplechasing and Bluebirds

Ridley married the granddaughter of the construction magnate Sir Robert Mc Alpine in June 1925 and left the RAF shortly afterwards.   He became a keen amateur jockey, and in the spring of 1925 rode several steeplechase races at Hurst Park, Lingfield, Sandown Park and Kempton Park. The culmination of the season was when he rode his Father-in–Law’s horse Alcazar in the 1925 Grand National at Aintree on 27 March. Unfortunately he did not finish the race, falling at the first fence. Ridley had begun his new career as a steeplechase jockey in 1920, having obtained a permit to ride in National Hunt races. Between 1920 and 1939 he rode in over one hundred steeplechase races, finishing first on ten occasions. He also rode in five flat races in 1933 winning two of them.  In fact Ridley was still racing in 1939 when he rode ‘Knight of Knockeevan’ on 9 February at Taunton. In race programmes, he was often listed as ‘Squadron Leader CA Ridley’. 

In the late 1920s Ridley was appointed a director of Auto Auctions Ltd, a company that had secured the sole rights to sell the Blackburn Bluebird aircraft. Ridley was responsible for the rapidly expanding aircraft sales division of the company. The Bluebird was not a particularly successful machine, only twenty were built, but one Bluebird III (reg. G-ABDS) achieved a high public profile.  This aircraft was used by the pioneering aviator Mrs Victor Bruce (Mildred Mary Petre) to fly around the world.  She arrived back in the UK at Lympne on 19 Feb 1931, and the following day she flew up to Croydon airport escorted by another aviatrix, Amy Johnson, and by Sqdn Ldr Ridley also flying a Bluebird.   

Blackburn Bluebird III
Blackburn Bluebird III

The Second World War, the End, and a Salute from the Grave 

Ridley returned to the RAF at the beginning of the Second World War, and in 1940 he was appointed as a supernumerary Squadron Leader (instructor) with the reconstituted Oxford University Air Squadron, now part of the Air Defence Cadet Corps. His second period of service did not last long however and he would not see the end of this war. Ridley died, of a serious illness, on 27 June 1942, at the age of 45. It is not possible to say with any certainty whether the traumas and accumulated fatigue of warfare he suffered during the First World War were a contributing factor in his early death. He led such an active life during the inter-war years that it would suggest he was not held back by any physical impediments.    

Wing Commander Claud Alward Ridley was buried in the churchyard of St Mary and St Margaret’s Church, Stow Maries Essex, at his request. He was fond of his time spent at Stow Maries, and at the end of the First World War he presented an illuminated cross to be erected on the steeple of the church, as a beacon for returning pilots.  

Ridley had drawn up his will in 1939 and it contained an unusual request. The will provided for a champagne dinner be held on the 13 October following his death, and the same date the following year. The guests were to be his wife and children, his mother, sister, and nephew. They were required to wear evening dress and wear a red carnation, and the dinner was to be held in a restaurant or hotel and not cost more than £2 per head. Each person attending and remaining throughout the evening was to be paid £5 as a memento to Ridley. The dinner attracted much press attention and was widely reported. Journalist’s speculated as to the significance of the October date, but no definitive answer was given. 

Claud Alward Ridley had lived an extraordinary, but sadly short life, in tumultuous times.  He witnessed the very early days of military aviation, and met the many challenges of aerial warfare in the First World War head on, and paid a price with his health. He remained an aviator after the war and found an outlet for his drive and determination in steeplechasing between the wars. He returned to the RAF to serve his country at the start of the Second World War, but sadly did not see the end of this conflict. His grave is inscribed with the following words:

‘So do heroic souls fly out through the narrow window of death into the world of light’

Ridley’s grave at St Mary & St Margaret’s Church, Stow Maries.

Selected Bibliography & Sources

Bruce JM, The Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps, Military Wing, Putnam, 1992. 

Cole, Royal Flying Corps 1915-1916, William Kimber, 1969.  

Cole & Cheesman, The Air Defence of Britain 1914-1918, Putnam, 1984

Jones HA, The War in the Air, Vol II, Hamilton, 1969, (Reprint).

Robinson, Douglas H, The Dangerous Sky (A History of Aviation Medicine) GT Foulis & Co, 1973

The National Archives: 

CAB/44/1, Genesis of Aviation Medicine in the RFC and RAF 1912-1918, CB Heald.  

WO 339/35532, CA Ridley, War Office Personnel file.  


1 TNA: Register of Births, Jan – Mar 1897.

2 TNA: WO 339/35532, Various Documents. St Paul’s School Archives.   

3 TNA: WO 339/35532, Attestation 25 Sep 1914. 

4 Many official documents relating to Ridley state his age in years and months in relation to the date the document or record was created, this provides a margin for error and miscalculation; his YOB on these records varies by up to two years.  Three documents were found that cite an exact date of birth for Ridley.  1. Royal Aero Club, aviators licence archive, states DOB is 15 Nov 1896. 2. Memo in War Office papers dated 14 Nov 1921, states DOB as 15 Nov 1896. The 1939 Register entry for CA Ridley, Officer of the RAF, notes DOB as 16 Nov 1896.   

5 TNA: WO 339/35532, Medical History document, 24 Sep 1914.

6 St Paul’s School Archives. 

7 London Gazette 16 April 1915 (3726)

8 Royal Aero Club Aviators Certificate No. 1458, dated 9 July 1915.

9 TNA: WO 339/35532, Personnel papers, CA Ridley, Memo dated 14 Nov 1921. 

10 Cole & Cheesman, The Air Defence of Britain 1914-1918, Putnam, 1984. P86. 

11 Cole: RFC Communiques 1915 -1916. Communique No.9, 5-8 September 1915.

12 TNA: WO 339/35532 Proceedings of Medical Board 6 Oct 1915.

13 TNA: WO 339/35532, Manuscript note dated 25 Nov 1915.

14 TNA: WO 339/35532 Proceedings of Medical Board 7 Dec 1915.

15 TNA: WO 339/35532 Memo dated 20 Dec 1915. 

16 Cole & Cheesman, The Air Defence of Britain 1914-1918, Putnam, 1984. P86-87.

17 Cole & Cheesman, The Air Defence of Britain 1914-1918, P119.  

18 Henshaw T, The Sky is their Battlefield II, Fetubi, 2014. P47.

19 Jones HA, The War in the Air, Vol II, Hamilton, 1969, (reprint) P135.

20 Jones HA, The War in the Air, Vol II, P265.  Cross & Cockade International, Vol 45/2. 2014. P107-112. 

21 Jones HA, The War in the Air, Vol II, P265.

22 The Pauline, Vol XXXV, Mar 1917 No.230, St Paul’s School Archives.

23 London Gazette, Mar 1916, Vol III. 

24 Cole & Cheesman, The Air Defence of Britain, P202.

25 Cole & Cheesman, P233, 235.

26 Cole & Cheesman, P235.

27 Cole & Cheesman, P239, 242.

28 Cole & Cheesman, P245.

29 Cole & Cheesman, P260, 266, 267.

30 Cole & Cheesman, P273, 275.

31 Cole & Cheesman, P277.

32 Cole & Cheesman, P282.

33 Cole & Cheesman, P290. 

34 The Pauline, Vol XXXVI, Feb 1918, No. 237, St Paul’s School archives. 

35 TNA: WO 339/35532, Memo from Lt. R Ward. RAMC

36 TNA: WO 339/35532, Memo from Lt. R Ward. RAMC 

37 TNA: WO 339/35532, Memo Sep 1917. 

38 TNA: WO 339/35532, War Office Memo Sep 1917. 

39 TNA: WO 339/35532, Proceedings of Medical Board, 28 Sep 1917. 

40 TNA: WO 339/35532, War Office memo 2 Nov 1917.

41 TNA: WO 339/35532 Proceedings of Medical Board 13 Nov 1917. 

42 TNA: WO 339/35532 War Office memo 4 Dec 1917.

43 TNA: WO 339/35532, Manuscript note, minute sheet page 2. 

44 TNA: WO 339/35532, War Office memo 17 Dec 1917. 

45 TNA: WO 339/35532, War Office memo 10 Nov 1917.

46 TNA: WO 339/35532, Memo 28 Dec 1917.

47 TNA: WO 339/35532, Memo 29 Dec 1917.

48 TNA: WO 339/35532, Manuscript note, minute sheet. 

49 TNA: WO 339/35532, Proceedings of Medical Board, 1 Jan 1918.

50 TNA: WO 339/35532, Memo 31 Jan 1918, 

51 TNA: WO 339/35532, Medical Report on Disabled Officer, 1 Feb 1918. 

52 When Ridley arrived at No.28 Sqn, Canadian, Capt. WG Barker was leading the squadron in the air. Barker became one of the most successful fighter aces of the war, winning many decorations including the V.C. 

53 TNA: WO 339/35532, Manuscript memo, 17 Sep 1918. 

54 McGee P, Forgotten Sentinel, Elmswell History Group, 2021.  

55 TNA: AIR1/2003/204/299/1, Flying Hours Returns, No. 75 Squadron 1918-1919. 

56 London Gazette, August 1919, Vol III, 721. 

57 TNA: 1921 Census. Overseas Personnel.

58 National Library of Scotland: Air Force Lists, Dec 1938, and subsequent Lists (1940, 1942). 

59 TNA: AIR 27/32, ORB No.3 (Fighter) Squadron. [Note the ORB records Ridley as a Flight Lieutenant on 26.5.25.]

60 Marriage Certificate. 4 June 1925.

61 Various newspapers, e.g. Evening Telegraph, 27 Mar 1925, Riders for 3:00 Grand National Steeplechase, Aintree. 

62 Ruff’s Guide to the Turf. 

63 Ruff’s Guide.

64 Birmingham Post, 09 Feb 1939, Riders for, 3:00 Race, Montague Evans (Amateur Riders) Handicap Steeplechase. 

65 Flight Magazine, 4 Apr 1930. 

66, 24 May 2022. 

67 Petre in fact crossed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by steamship. 

68 Flight Magazine 27 Feb 1931.

69 TNA: AIR 27/2380, ORB, Oxford University Air Squadron. 

70 The Air Force List published immediately after his death, July 1942, records Ridley’s substantive rank as Squadron Leader.  It is likely that the rank of Wing Commander was given as a temporary war-time promotion.  

71 The Essex Newsman & Maldon Express, 4 July 1942, ‘Donor of Stow Maries Church Cross’.