Please Sign In | Register
Google pluspinterestShare on Stumble UponShare on RedditFacebookShare on Tumblr
TITLE
Memories of a Spitfire Pilot (9 of 10)
EXTERNAL ID
GB232_MFR_JOHN_NIVEN_09
DATE OF RECORDING
1986
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
John Niven
SOURCE
Moray Firth Radio
ASSET ID
41172
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: Did you feel apprehensive about flying again after that experience?

Strangely enough, no, no. I had, I was very fortunate and I had a very pleasant convalescence, really, finishing up in the Palace Hotel in Torquay which was a rehabilitation centre, and receiving the ministrations of Dan MasKell and Henry Cotton, which was all very nice, who were both in the Air Force and it was quite pleasant, and quite brief; I was very fortunate in recovering so quickly. And I rejoined my squadron; they'd moved to the Orkneys by then - we'd flown from Biggin Hill for that show - and we moved to the Orkneys and Christmas in the Orkneys was a damn sight worse than a fighter sweep!

Interviewer: They get this programme in Orkney.

Interviewer: You had a couple of crash landings after that too, though. Did that not sort of, finally finish, sicken you of this business?

No they, nobody got hurt which is always a good thing. It's like the famous book '1066 and All That' which is good things and bad things, and that was a good thing. One where I had to land with wheels up was a ridiculous incident because it was an unwritten law that, if on a sweep you were separated from the main body of aircraft, you picked the nearest big gaggle of aircraft and flew home with it and my section, four of us, did get separated, and I picked the wrong gaggle of aircraft, because they had black crosses on them. And they knocked off three out of the four of us, and the stupid part was that they settled me with only two bullets, one of which went through the pipes that operated the flaps, and the other went through the pipes that operated the undercarriage.

Interviewer: Both needed for landing.

Both needed for landing, so it was a belly landing.

Interviewer: Absolutely amazing. Gosh, you could have found yourself in Berlin. What about the casualties between the two? We've talked about the Spitfire; we've reminisced about how the Germans thought it was a superb aeroplane but, in fact, it was pretty evenly matched, wasn't it?

Yes, they were evenly matched, and a German plane, one said that they didn't turn as tightly, we could always turn inside them, but if you got a German plane with a really good pilot in you could be in deep trouble if he was prepared to mix it with you. And if you did get a chap was prepared to mix it with you, you knew he as a good one because the other ones had a quick squirt and away. But if any of those chaps wanted to have a go, then you were in deep trouble, and it is a reflection. There was very little said at the time, I mean, a lot of people, I think quite, they didn't realise that there was any sort of air war going on in Europe at the time but, to give an example: between the 1st of March and the 9th of May in 1942, which is what, two, two months or so, the Germans lost 137 aircraft and we lost 174. So, our fighter sweeps were really, they were really quite costly but they at least showed that we were pinning down German aircraft, as was the purpose, of course.'


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 (9 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 feel apprehensive about flying again after that experience?<br /> <br /> Strangely enough, no, no. I had, I was very fortunate and I had a very pleasant convalescence, really, finishing up in the Palace Hotel in Torquay which was a rehabilitation centre, and receiving the ministrations of Dan MasKell and Henry Cotton, which was all very nice, who were both in the Air Force and it was quite pleasant, and quite brief; I was very fortunate in recovering so quickly. And I rejoined my squadron; they'd moved to the Orkneys by then - we'd flown from Biggin Hill for that show - and we moved to the Orkneys and Christmas in the Orkneys was a damn sight worse than a fighter sweep!<br /> <br /> Interviewer: They get this programme in Orkney.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: You had a couple of crash landings after that too, though. Did that not sort of, finally finish, sicken you of this business?<br /> <br /> No they, nobody got hurt which is always a good thing. It's like the famous book '1066 and All That' which is good things and bad things, and that was a good thing. One where I had to land with wheels up was a ridiculous incident because it was an unwritten law that, if on a sweep you were separated from the main body of aircraft, you picked the nearest big gaggle of aircraft and flew home with it and my section, four of us, did get separated, and I picked the wrong gaggle of aircraft, because they had black crosses on them. And they knocked off three out of the four of us, and the stupid part was that they settled me with only two bullets, one of which went through the pipes that operated the flaps, and the other went through the pipes that operated the undercarriage.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Both needed for landing.<br /> <br /> Both needed for landing, so it was a belly landing.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: Absolutely amazing. Gosh, you could have found yourself in Berlin. What about the casualties between the two? We've talked about the Spitfire; we've reminisced about how the Germans thought it was a superb aeroplane but, in fact, it was pretty evenly matched, wasn't it?<br /> <br /> Yes, they were evenly matched, and a German plane, one said that they didn't turn as tightly, we could always turn inside them, but if you got a German plane with a really good pilot in you could be in deep trouble if he was prepared to mix it with you. And if you did get a chap was prepared to mix it with you, you knew he as a good one because the other ones had a quick squirt and away. But if any of those chaps wanted to have a go, then you were in deep trouble, and it is a reflection. There was very little said at the time, I mean, a lot of people, I think quite, they didn't realise that there was any sort of air war going on in Europe at the time but, to give an example: between the 1st of March and the 9th of May in 1942, which is what, two, two months or so, the Germans lost 137 aircraft and we lost 174. So, our fighter sweeps were really, they were really quite costly but they at least showed that we were pinning down German aircraft, as was the purpose, of course.'<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.