Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation
Alexander Vallance Riddell
b: 2 Jun 1916
d: 13 Dec 2000
– 1 Jan 1966, DFC - 1940, AE, MiD - 1 Jan 1943.
(AuxAF): Plt Off: 3 May 1935, Fg Off: 3 Nov 1936, Flt Lt: 1 Sep 1939, Act Sqn Ldr: 12 Jul 1940, (T) Sqn Ldr: 1 Sep1940, (T) Wg Cdr: 1 Mar 1942, Act Gp Capt: 3 Jun 1944 -xx Dec 1946, Wg Cdr (WS): 3 Dec 1944.
Sqn Ldr: 10 Dec 1946 [1 Jun 1944], Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1947,
Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1954, Act A/Cdre:
xx xxx 1957 - xx Aug 1958, A/Cdre: 1
Jan 1961, AVM: 1 Jul 1965.
U/T Pilot, No 602 (City of Glasgow) Sqn, Auxiliary Air Force
Pilot, No 602 (City of Glasgow) Sqn, Auxiliary Air Force
Flight Commander, No 602 Sqn
Officer Commanding, No 602 Sqn
Fighter Controller, RAF Turnhouse
Sep 1941: Squadron
Leader - Operations, HQ No 263 Wing, RAF Levant
Officer Commanding, Sector HQ, Haifa
Deputy Station Commander, RAF Luqa - Malta
Fighter Controller, Valetta - Malta
xx Jan 1943: Krendi Wing Leader, Malta.
xx Mar 1943: Attended RAF Staff College.
xx xxx xxxx: Air Staff, HQ No 9 Group.
xx Sep 1943: Wing Commander - Flying, No 56 OTU.
Nov 1943: Officer Commanding, RAF Fairwood Common
xx May 1944: 'Operations 1', HQ AEAF
xx Aug 1944: Staff, Supreme Allied Commander.
xx Oct 1944: ?, HQ AEAF.
xxx 1945: Attended
US Army & Naval Staff Colleges
Jul 1945: Air Staff, HQ No 12 Group
Jan 1946: Air Attaché, Dublin
Appointed to Permanent Commission in the rank of Squadron Leader
(retaining rank current at the time)
[wef 1 Sep 1945 antedated to 1 Jun 1944 on 25 Feb 1947]
[wef 1 Sep 1945 antedated to 1 Jun 1944 on 25 Feb 1947]
Personnel Staff, Dept of AMP/Personal Air Secretary to Under Secretary of
State for Air
xxx 1951: Station
Commander, RAF Ballykelly
Officer Commanding, Air Sea Warfare Development Unit
Dec 1953: SASO, HQ
No 12 Group
Deputy Air Defence Commander, HQ RAF Malaya
Deputy Chief of Staff (Air), Royal
Malayan Air Force
Station Commander, RAF Middleton St George
Attended Imperial Defence College
Director of Personnel (Air), Department of The Air Secretary
Air Commander, Commonwealth Forces - Borneo
Sep 1965: AOC, No
18 Group/Air Officer, Scotland & Northern Ireland
Injuring his knee in a rugby match during his last
year at Kelvinside Academy, he was advised to give up playing the game.
This immediately gave the young "Sandy" Johnstone the problem
of filling his weekends. Initially
thinking of the Territorial Army, he came across an entry in a directory for 'No
602 (City of Glasgow) Sqn, Auxiliary Air Force'.
Writing to the Adjutant, he was invited for a discussion which included a
trial flight but it was a further three months before he was asked to attend for
a medical following which he was accepted for pilot training.
During this period he continued to fly at weekends
and undertake training at the squadron's HQ during the week whilst working for a
footwear firm in Edinburgh. However
in 1938, Scottish Aviation Ltd opened No. 1 Civil Air Navigation School at
Prestwick and "Sandy" Johnstone applied to join the staff.
Accepted on a supernumerary basis until he gained the required licences
to become an instructor. This he eventually managed and until the outbreak of war, was
involved in the training of navigators for the expanding RAF.
Called up for service with 602 in August 1939, he was
involved in some of the earliest air battles when German bombers attacked
targets such as Rosyth dockyards. It
was during this early period of the war that he was scrambled to intercept a
'raider' at night. Caught in an
unexpected fog, he was forced to attempt an emergency landing on what turned out
at the last moment to be a lake. Avoiding
being drowned he was desperately looking around for a suitable landing site as
his fuel ran low, when his aircraft grazed the summit of a mountain bringing to
an immediate, if somewhat sudden halt.
attempts to establish a settled family life was ruined when he was posted to the
Middle East, again to undertake Fighter Controller duties.
Arriving in Egypt, he was informed that he was
actually required to set up an air defence network in the Levant (now The
Lebanon) and so he next moved to Beirut. Having
set up a working system of control and been promoted to Wing Commander,
"Sandy" was posted to Palestine as Sector Commander at Haifa.
Finding the operations block rather exposed on a cliff top, he applied to
have another built in a disused quarry. Not
receiving a reply to his request he approached Colonel Bonn, the commander of
the local Royal Engineers for suggestions.
Colonel Bonn offered to make a start on the new building, which soon
became a monstrous structure and very obvious from the air.
Blasting the surrounding quarry and covering it with the rubble soon
solved the later problem but what he would do if authority for it's construction
was not received troubled "Sandy" Johnstone.
However, when the AOC in C, Sir Arthur Tedder arrived on a tour of
inspection he merely commented on it looking more like 'The Dorchester' than an
A return to flying was promised with his appointment
as a Spitfire Wing Leader in Malta, but on arrival he found the due to delays
someone else had been given command and was to be allowed to continue and so he
found himself taking on the role of
deputy station commander at Luqa. A
further stint as a fighter controller, this time in Valletta followed
preceding his move to the Karen Wing consisting of No's 229 and 249 Sqns.
As Wing Leader he took over in time to start leading the Wing back onto
the offensive leading strafing and bombing missions against targets on Sicily
and other islands in the area. However,
after only a couple months in command, he was taken ill and was diagnosed as
suffering from undulent fever, the only known cure for which was to leave the
Mediterranean area and so he left Malta and returned to the UK.
Having recovered from this, he returned to Fighter
Command (now renamed Air Defence of Great Britain) as Sector and Station
Commander of RAF Fairwood Common in No 10 Group. Promotion to Act Group Captain took him to HQ Allied
Expeditionary Air Forces where he was in charge of RAF fighter operations
alongside an American Colonel holding similar responsible for USAAF fighters.
When Eisenhower's Supreme HQ moved to France in August 1944, 'Sandy'
Johnstone was a member of the AEAF element which accompanied it.
It was as a result of this
work which brought him into contact with General Eisenhower that the General
arranged for him to attend the US Army and Navy Staff Colleges.
Returning to the UK six weeks before VJ -Day he decided to remain in the
RAF post-war which brought with it a return to the rank of Wing Commander but
also the rather attractive posting of Air Attaché in Dublin.
By the end of WW2, he had amassed a total of seven confirmed and two shared
victories with one probale and six damaged and a further one shared damaged.
By the end of WW2, he had amassed a total of seven confirmed and two shared victories with one probale and six damaged and a further one shared damaged.
After command of RAF Ballykelly, the Air Sea Warfare
Development Unit and Staff duties at No 12 Group, he found himself back in
Malaya, this time as Deputy Air Defence Commander. Here he was responsible for the setting up of an air defence
network which was accomplished quite easily and quickly leaving him time to
improve his golf. This lack of
employment resulted in his services being offered by the AOC to the Head of
State (designate) of the soon to be independent Malaysia as an Air Adviser to
assist in the formation of a Malaysian Air Force. Following the formation of the Malaysian Federation he was
seconded to the newly formed Royal Malaysian Air Force as the Deputy Air
Commander, with the rank of Air Commodore, which was in fact the senior
appointment as his superior was the Army commander, who was in overall command
of the Malayan Forces.
Having overseen the establishment of the RMAF
including the acquisition of it's first aircraft, design of it's national
markings and setting up it's administrative systems, 'Sandy' Johnstone
took over command of yet another station, this time RAF Middleton St.
George, the home of No's 92 and 33 Sqns. The
former being equipped with Hawker Hunters whilst the later flew Gloster
Javelins. During his tenure here No 92 Sqn undertook the task of
replacing No 111 Sqn as the RAF's aerobatic display team. Moving back to the Air Ministry
he next found himself involved in the transfer of personnel from the
Royal Rhodesian Air Force to the RAF when the Rhodesian Federation was
dissolved. Although not originally
part of his brief, he quickly became involved in assisting the fledgling
Northern Rhodesian (later Zambian) Air Force to establish itself.
'Sandy 'Johnstone was able to assess the progress
made by the RMAF since he had formed it in 1957 when he was posted to the Far
East as Commander of the Commonwealth Forces operating in Borneo during the
'Confrontation', of which the RMAF was part.
His final appointment before retirement saw him return to his native
Scotland when he was appointed AOC, No 18 Group, Coastal Command.
In the post he also held two NATO appointments, these being Air Commander
North Atlantic Sub Area and Air Commander Nore and Channel as well as being Air
Commander Home Defence (Scotland) and being the only Air Officer stationed in
the area AOC, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
As such he commanded a fleet of Shackleton aircraft operating in the
anti-submarine role and Whirlwind helicopters for Search and Rescue duties as
well as the Mountain Rescue Teams in the area and the Marine Craft Units from
Alness down to Bridlington in Yorkshire.
Following his retirement, he has had quite a
successful career as an author and for ten years (1969 - 79) he was
Vice-Chairman of the Council of TA&VRA. He has also been a businessman as
both a Director and Chairman of Climax Cleaning Co . as well as being a Deputy
Lieutenant of Glasgow from 1971 until 1991.
Citation for the award of the
Distinguished Flying Cross
“Acting Squadron Leader Alexander Vallance Riddell JOHNSTONE (90163),
Auxiliary Air Force.
This officer has proved himself to be a leader of ability and
determination and has been mainly responsible for the high standard of morale in
his squadron. He has destroyed four
enemy aircraft of which one was shot down at night.”
(London Gazette – 1 October 1940)
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