WWII GROUP OF 3 MEDALS, GUY GIBSON SIGNED LOG BOOK & EPHEMERA TO FLT. SGT. J.P. RICHES, 617 SQN. (KILLED ON OPERATIONS 1944)

*** SOLD *** The poignant Dambusters Squadron to Flight Sergeant Air Gunner J.P. Riches, who died along with his crew on 13 Feb 1944, the logbook signed twice by the great Guy Gibson when Riches was serving with 106 Squadron, consisting of: 1939-1945 Star; Air Crew Europe Star; WWII War Medal in box of issue addressed to his widow 'Mrs. L. Riches 'Moss Lea' 3 Chester Street, Saltney, Chester', Condolence transmission slip, with a War Widows Association of Great Britain enamel badge, a 9ct gold wedding band and a gold RAF sweetheart brooch, plus Observers and Air Gunners Log Book, signed twice by Wing Commander Guy Gibson (106 Squadron), commencing 6 September 1942, 33 operational sorties, final entry 12 February 1944, the remarks read 'killed in crash whilst returning to base', plus 10 original photographs of the recipient, mostly WWII showing squadron and aircraft and recipient in full RAF dress, memorial cards, letters of condolence from Buckingham Palace and the Royal Air Force, memorial scroll and a large circular silver plated salver engraved 'In Memoriam J.P. Riches 13th February 1944 on active service'.
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Description

Flight Sergeant John Paul Riches was born in 1922, the son of John Harvey & Alice May Riches and husband of Lily Riches, first flying on 6 Sep 1942 and passing his air gunnery course on 10 Oct 1942 and being posted to 106 Squadron (B Flight) on 9 Jan 1943, his first operation with the squadron being the raid on Essen on 17 Jan. His log book records his first 16 nights sorties as Air Gunner signed off twice by his Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Guy Gibson V.C., followed by 15 further operations with squadron before following in Gibson's footsteps by joining the famous to 617 “Dambusters” Squadron on 13 Nov 1943.

Stationed at Coningsby, and flying in Squadron Leader William Reid Suggitt’s Lancaster, Riches served as Mid-Upper Gunner on Special Operations over Northern France throughout Jan 1944, followed by five further operations led by Leonard Cheshire V.C., including the raid on the Gnome-Rhone aero-engine factory at Limoges. Another of his crew members was Flight Engineer, John Pulford, who had flown on Guy Gibson’s Lancaster for the famous Mohne Dam Dambusters raid and was awarded the D.F.M. for his part in it.
On 12 Feb 1944, eleven bombers set out on the attack on the Antheor Railway Viaduct. Cheshire and Micky Martin approached to make a low-level marking of the line, but met resistance from a number of German flak guns installed on the hills overlooking the viaduct. Cheshire made several attempts to lay markers, but could not get close enough to the target. Martin followed, but just as his aircraft was releasing his marker it was hit. Two of his engines were knocked out, the bomb aimer had been killed, and several others, including Martin, were wounded. He piloted his stricken Lancaster to an airfield on Sardinia. Despite no direct hit on the viaduct, Cheshire’s low-level marking would be used from now on. Suggitt’s Lancaster DV382 of 617 Squadron had been forced to land at Royal Naval Air Station, Ford airfield due to poor weather and visibility.

Tommy Lloyd, 617 Squadron’s Intelligence Officer, had flown to Ford and de-briefed the crews as the weather worsened and it looked as though they unable to return to Woodhall Spa. Suggitt thought he could make it to and offered a seat in his aircraft to Lloyd, who accepted but insisted on having a shave before take-off. A little later, spruced and monocled, he climbed into "J-Jug" with Suggitt’s crew. Only five minutes later the aircraft flew into a hill on the Sussex Downs, near the village of Upwaltham. The impact and explosion was heard at Upwaltham and Littleton Farms and farmers Phillip Chapman, Fred Denyer and George Scutt were joined by Leading Seaman R.J. Boyd, D.S.M. to try and save any survivors. They found Suggitt still strapped to his seat and badly burnt. Pulling him out of the cockpit with ammunition exploding all around them, the men carried him to a safe distance in his parachute. It was in vain; he was to die of his injuries just two days later in St. Richard’s Hospital, Chichester.

All other crew members, Flt. Sgt. John Pulford, D.F.M., F/O. John Irvine Gordon, D.F.C., F/O. Norman James Davidson, F/O. Stanley George Hall, Flt. Sgt. John Paul Riches, and F/O. John McBride Dempster, D.F.M. were killed instantly, as was their precious passenger, Sqn. Ldr. Thomas Williams Lloyd, who died aged 52. Riches is commemorated at Lingfield St Peter and St. Paul Churchyard Extension. 65 years later, the crew of DV382 KC J-Jug were honoured in a tiny parish church just below the crash site at Upwaltham, West Sussex, after the hamlet of 25 inhabitants raised £10,500 for a memorial.