Please Sign In | Register
Google pluspinterestShare on Stumble UponShare on RedditFacebookShare on Tumblr
TITLE
Memories of a Spitfire Pilot (4 of 10)
EXTERNAL ID
GB232_MFR_JOHN_NIVEN_04
DATE OF RECORDING
1986
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
John Niven
SOURCE
Moray Firth Radio
ASSET ID
41167
KEYWORDS
pilots
aircraft
fighter pilots
World War 2
World War II
Second World War
WW2

Get Adobe Flash player

In this audio extract from the Moray Firth Radio programme 'Marshall Meets', Sam Marshall talks to ex spitfire pilot, John Niven.

'Interviewer: Up to now we've hardly mentioned the name Spitfire, except in the passing, John, but what sort of plane was it to you?

Well, it was a delightful aeroplane really in every way. It had no real vices at all, no vices about it at all. It was a plane that had to be landed; it didn't just thump itself down onto the deck, but it landed well. It certainly had a long nose which made, restricted visibility on takeoff, and landing for that matter, but apart from that, once it was in the air, it was a beautiful plane to handle.

Interviewer: There are some men who have said to me that, in fact it's written down somewhere, that it wasn't an easy plane to fly for a beginner. Is that true? Or did you have no difficulty with it?

No. It, I think most of the boys just, they took to it. They wanted to fly it for a start and that's half the battle. If you want to fly something then you don't see its vices at all and it, it really was quite, quite an easy plane to convert on to and once you got away with the takeoff and landing it was lovely in the air.

Interviewer: Was it cramped or uncomfortable?

It was certainly very cramped. It was, you didn't really get into the plane. Well, you did get into it but you really buttoned it up rather than anything else.

Interviewer: Put it on like a jacket?

Put it on like a jacket. Yes, yes.

Interviewer: The comfort, though.

Comfort was nil. It wasn't very good, apart from the fact you were sitting on a parachute, which isn't the most comfortable thing to sit on, and latterly you were sitting not only on a parachute but on a dinghy as well - a packed dinghy. And they had two rubber bullet plugs which were positioned just in exactly the wrong place, so it was really very uncomfortable after a while.

Interviewer: Just an aside - what were the bullet plugs for? To plug up holes in the dinghy?

In the dinghy. If it just so happened that a couple of bullets went through, through the dinghy.

Interviewer: It just sounds a bit absurd that.

Yes

Interviewer: The Spitfire had many variations. Did you fly many of them?

Yes. I started off on Spitfire 1s, which was the Battle of Britain model, and I finished up actually on Spitfire 9s, and 9Bs, but the 602 very soon got Spitfire 2s, slightly up-rated version of the 1, and then Spitfire 5s, and that meant that we switched also from eight machine guns to two canon and four machine guns, which was a much more effective armament altogether.

And the engine, of course, was up-rated as well and then they brought out the- They did all sorts of things to the, to each mach as it came along and in fact, at one stage, they reduced the size of the supercharger. They cropped it. They called it cropped and they cut the wingtips off into square wingtips and the plane became known as clipped, cropped, and clapped. And, but it was a nice, a very nice aircraft to fly. There was also a Spitfire 6 which I flew on my first rest period, up in the Orkneys, which had pointed wingtips, and it had a pressure cabin, but as the war went on the planners saw fit to use the cropped 5 on high level escorts and the pressure cabins on shipping strikes, so...

Interviewer: Did you ever get a reason for that strange way of working?

No. I don't think so.

Interviewer: Maybe they didn't know it had a pressurised cabin.'


John Brown Niven was born and brought up in Edinburgh. After an education at George Heriot's school he joined the family roofing business, John Low Slaters. However, his passion, since a schoolboy, had been flying, and he successfully applied to join the RAF Volunteer Reserve in June 1939 at the age of nineteen. He applied to study flying at RAF Cranwell College and was accepted, but before taking up his place, he was called up for war in September.

During the war years he had distinguished service in the RAF, flying spitfires in the UK, Indian and Japan. He was Squadron Leader in the 602 City of Glasgow Squadron and 485 New Zealand Squadron. He also flew with 322 Dutch Squadron. For his courageous efforts he was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) and bar. (A bar is added to the DFC ribbon for holders who receive a second award.)

After the war John rejoined the family roofing firm, married Dorothy Hood and had three children. He moved to Thurso to work in personnel for the UKAEA (United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority) at Dounreay, before finally settling in Inverness as an employee of HIDB (Highlands & Islands Development Board).

John was a keen golfer (he played off a handicap of 2) and in the 1960s was instrumental in renovating and extending the course at Reay, near Thurso. He retired in 1985 and died in October 1986. His wife, son and two daughters still live in Inverness and Nairn.

For guidance on the use of images and other content, please see the Terms and Conditions page.
High Life Highland is a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland No. SC407011 and is a registered Scottish charity No. SC042593
Powered by Capture

Memories of a Spitfire Pilot (4 of 10)

1980s

pilots; aircraft; fighter pilots; World War 2; World War II; Second World War; WW2;

Moray Firth Radio

MFR: Memories of a Spitfire Pilot

In this audio extract from the Moray Firth Radio programme 'Marshall Meets', Sam Marshall talks to ex spitfire pilot, John Niven.<br /> <br /> 'Interviewer: Up to now we've hardly mentioned the name Spitfire, except in the passing, John, but what sort of plane was it to you?<br /> <br /> Well, it was a delightful aeroplane really in every way. It had no real vices at all, no vices about it at all. It was a plane that had to be landed; it didn't just thump itself down onto the deck, but it landed well. It certainly had a long nose which made, restricted visibility on takeoff, and landing for that matter, but apart from that, once it was in the air, it was a beautiful plane to handle. <br /> <br /> Interviewer: There are some men who have said to me that, in fact it's written down somewhere, that it wasn't an easy plane to fly for a beginner. Is that true? Or did you have no difficulty with it?<br /> <br /> No. It, I think most of the boys just, they took to it. They wanted to fly it for a start and that's half the battle. If you want to fly something then you don't see its vices at all and it, it really was quite, quite an easy plane to convert on to and once you got away with the takeoff and landing it was lovely in the air.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Was it cramped or uncomfortable?<br /> <br /> It was certainly very cramped. It was, you didn't really get into the plane. Well, you did get into it but you really buttoned it up rather than anything else.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Put it on like a jacket?<br /> <br /> Put it on like a jacket. Yes, yes.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: The comfort, though.<br /> <br /> Comfort was nil. It wasn't very good, apart from the fact you were sitting on a parachute, which isn't the most comfortable thing to sit on, and latterly you were sitting not only on a parachute but on a dinghy as well - a packed dinghy. And they had two rubber bullet plugs which were positioned just in exactly the wrong place, so it was really very uncomfortable after a while.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Just an aside - what were the bullet plugs for? To plug up holes in the dinghy?<br /> <br /> In the dinghy. If it just so happened that a couple of bullets went through, through the dinghy.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: It just sounds a bit absurd that.<br /> <br /> Yes<br /> <br /> Interviewer: The Spitfire had many variations. Did you fly many of them?<br /> <br /> Yes. I started off on Spitfire 1s, which was the Battle of Britain model, and I finished up actually on Spitfire 9s, and 9Bs, but the 602 very soon got Spitfire 2s, slightly up-rated version of the 1, and then Spitfire 5s, and that meant that we switched also from eight machine guns to two canon and four machine guns, which was a much more effective armament altogether. <br /> <br /> And the engine, of course, was up-rated as well and then they brought out the- They did all sorts of things to the, to each mach as it came along and in fact, at one stage, they reduced the size of the supercharger. They cropped it. They called it cropped and they cut the wingtips off into square wingtips and the plane became known as clipped, cropped, and clapped. And, but it was a nice, a very nice aircraft to fly. There was also a Spitfire 6 which I flew on my first rest period, up in the Orkneys, which had pointed wingtips, and it had a pressure cabin, but as the war went on the planners saw fit to use the cropped 5 on high level escorts and the pressure cabins on shipping strikes, so...<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Did you ever get a reason for that strange way of working?<br /> <br /> No. I don't think so.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Maybe they didn't know it had a pressurised cabin.'<br /> <br /> <br /> John Brown Niven was born and brought up in Edinburgh. After an education at George Heriot's school he joined the family roofing business, John Low Slaters. However, his passion, since a schoolboy, had been flying, and he successfully applied to join the RAF Volunteer Reserve in June 1939 at the age of nineteen. He applied to study flying at RAF Cranwell College and was accepted, but before taking up his place, he was called up for war in September.<br /> <br /> During the war years he had distinguished service in the RAF, flying spitfires in the UK, Indian and Japan. He was Squadron Leader in the 602 City of Glasgow Squadron and 485 New Zealand Squadron. He also flew with 322 Dutch Squadron. For his courageous efforts he was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) and bar. (A bar is added to the DFC ribbon for holders who receive a second award.)<br /> <br /> After the war John rejoined the family roofing firm, married Dorothy Hood and had three children. He moved to Thurso to work in personnel for the UKAEA (United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority) at Dounreay, before finally settling in Inverness as an employee of HIDB (Highlands & Islands Development Board). <br /> <br /> John was a keen golfer (he played off a handicap of 2) and in the 1960s was instrumental in renovating and extending the course at Reay, near Thurso. He retired in 1985 and died in October 1986. His wife, son and two daughters still live in Inverness and Nairn.