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TITLE
Memories of a Spitfire Pilot (6 of 10)
EXTERNAL ID
GB232_MFR_JOHN_NIVEN_06
DATE OF RECORDING
1986
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
John Niven
SOURCE
Moray Firth Radio
ASSET ID
41169
KEYWORDS
pilots
aircraft
fighter pilots
World War 2
World War II
Second World War
WW2

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

'Interviewer: Did you ever get the opportunity to see or fly a German aircraft?

No, unfortunately not. I certainly saw one because they captured, they captured a Focke-Wulf 190 and it landed in South Wales. The chap flew across in bad weather thinking it to be Channel and in fact it was the Bristol Channel, and he landed I think at Chivenor, or somewhere down there, and they took this plane round the squadrons and, in fact, a friend of mine flew it for a while, a chap who went on rest to the enemy aircraft flight. And it was a beautiful aeroplane, beautifully finished, flush riveted, lovely spacious cockpit and all modern, all mod cons on it.

Interviewer: You sound slightly envious!

No. On balance no.

Interviewer: And what about General Galland saying, you know, 'Give me Spitfires'. Why do you think he did that when he had, you know, quite a nice aeroplane in the ME109?

I think we're, I think perhaps both sides were rather like that, that it's the grass on the other chap's garden is always a bit greener, but when you weighed it up I think we were all quite happy with our own and they could fly theirs just as well as we could fly ours.

Interviewer: The Hurricane had a reputation for flying with everything shot off. You had the experience of flying minus an aileron. What was that like?

It was hard work more than anything else. It required both hands on the control column to hold the wing up, but it's, it was such a fine aircraft that I managed to land it, wheels down, and flaps down, even with the one aileron on. But it was a fairly tiring business.

Interviewer: I could imagine it must have been. The Spitfire, did you ever fly it just for fun? Did you ever fly it just for the sheer exhilaration of this mighty Merlin engine in front of you, and buttoning it on so to speak, and off you would go into the blue?

Yes, quite, quite often. And one of the most rewarding experiences, I think, is to take four people and get up amongst the cumulus clouds, and just do a tail chase round the caverns and through the holes and up over the peaks and - a most wonderful experience.

Interviewer: Rumour has it that British pilots would meet German pilots and perhaps just have a caper over the Channel. Is that true, really?

Yes, it is true. I don't say it was done intentionally but it just, it just happened that way, on several occasions, where things were quite-ish and Group decided that we should go up and try and stir things up a bit. And we could nip up over the Channel and suddenly find that the Germans had had the same idea at the same time. And we could have a tumble round without anybody getting hurt. And, certainly costing the country a lot of money, but tumbled round a bit and then everybody went home for a pint and it was very nice.

Interviewer: Did you every have the opportunity of meeting any of those German lads?

No, unfortunately not. No.

Interviewer: Would you have liked it if you had, do you think?

I think so, because I think they were just the same sort of chaps that we were, and I don't, I don't really know of any, any atrocities or anything like that, on the front that we were fighting, so - no, I would certainly have liked to have met them.'


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.

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Memories of a Spitfire Pilot (6 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: Did you ever get the opportunity to see or fly a German aircraft?<br /> <br /> No, unfortunately not. I certainly saw one because they captured, they captured a Focke-Wulf 190 and it landed in South Wales. The chap flew across in bad weather thinking it to be Channel and in fact it was the Bristol Channel, and he landed I think at Chivenor, or somewhere down there, and they took this plane round the squadrons and, in fact, a friend of mine flew it for a while, a chap who went on rest to the enemy aircraft flight. And it was a beautiful aeroplane, beautifully finished, flush riveted, lovely spacious cockpit and all modern, all mod cons on it. <br /> <br /> Interviewer: You sound slightly envious!<br /> <br /> No. On balance no. <br /> <br /> Interviewer: And what about General Galland saying, you know, 'Give me Spitfires'. Why do you think he did that when he had, you know, quite a nice aeroplane in the ME109?<br /> <br /> I think we're, I think perhaps both sides were rather like that, that it's the grass on the other chap's garden is always a bit greener, but when you weighed it up I think we were all quite happy with our own and they could fly theirs just as well as we could fly ours.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: The Hurricane had a reputation for flying with everything shot off. You had the experience of flying minus an aileron. What was that like?<br /> <br /> It was hard work more than anything else. It required both hands on the control column to hold the wing up, but it's, it was such a fine aircraft that I managed to land it, wheels down, and flaps down, even with the one aileron on. But it was a fairly tiring business.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: I could imagine it must have been. The Spitfire, did you ever fly it just for fun? Did you ever fly it just for the sheer exhilaration of this mighty Merlin engine in front of you, and buttoning it on so to speak, and off you would go into the blue?<br /> <br /> Yes, quite, quite often. And one of the most rewarding experiences, I think, is to take four people and get up amongst the cumulus clouds, and just do a tail chase round the caverns and through the holes and up over the peaks and - a most wonderful experience.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Rumour has it that British pilots would meet German pilots and perhaps just have a caper over the Channel. Is that true, really?<br /> <br /> Yes, it is true. I don't say it was done intentionally but it just, it just happened that way, on several occasions, where things were quite-ish and Group decided that we should go up and try and stir things up a bit. And we could nip up over the Channel and suddenly find that the Germans had had the same idea at the same time. And we could have a tumble round without anybody getting hurt. And, certainly costing the country a lot of money, but tumbled round a bit and then everybody went home for a pint and it was very nice.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Did you every have the opportunity of meeting any of those German lads?<br /> <br /> No, unfortunately not. No.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Would you have liked it if you had, do you think?<br /> <br /> I think so, because I think they were just the same sort of chaps that we were, and I don't, I don't really know of any, any atrocities or anything like that, on the front that we were fighting, so - no, I would certainly have liked to have met them.'<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.