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TITLE
Memories of a Spitfire Pilot (10 of 10)
EXTERNAL ID
GB232_MFR_JOHN_NIVEN_10
DATE OF RECORDING
1986
PERIOD
1980s
CREATOR
John Niven
SOURCE
Moray Firth Radio
ASSET ID
41173
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: You finished your war in the Far East but you had stopped flying by that time. How did you feel about not flying any more?

I wasn't particularly worried about it because I'd done a second tour of operations in 1943, '44, '45, which was in fair contrast to the first tour, in that it was very largely close support to the army, dive bombing, strafing and that sort of thing, and it wasn't the same sort of gentleman's war that we'd been accustomed to before that. But after that, I was posted out to the Far East at the end of the war and, as Administrative Office, and while it was still very enjoyable, I was quite happy when my time was finished. I had extended my service for a couple of years and then was quite glad to get home.

Interviewer: You had no urge to fly again?

I had a, I had a couple of shots - they had a Spitfire on the wing that was going - anyone could whip it up if they wanted - and I had a couple of shots in it, but it, the thrill had gone, really. I wasn't all that keen.

Interviewer: You and the Spitfire made a good team but what do you remember most of all about those days?

I think if there's one thing, it's a feeling of colour. It's an impression of colour because the aircraft were, although they were camouflaged, the British aircraft were camouflaged, they were still coloured - they had roundels on them, red, white and blue roundels. The German aircraft, which were also camouflaged, were very highly marked. They were, some of them had red noses, yellow noses, red rudders, tails, black stripes on them, all sorts of things, and when you get a milling mass of this whirling about in a clear, clear blue sky, it's really quite striking and its something that you don't readily forget. Something perhaps that you would, you'd like to arrange if it could be made safe to do so.

Interviewer: If somebody said tomorrow, 'I've got a Spitfire outside in flying order' would you go up?

Yes I would. Yes. I don't know if I'd get down again. Well, I'd get down but without breaking it, I'm not sure.'


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 (10 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: You finished your war in the Far East but you had stopped flying by that time. How did you feel about not flying any more?<br /> <br /> I wasn't particularly worried about it because I'd done a second tour of operations in 1943, '44, '45, which was in fair contrast to the first tour, in that it was very largely close support to the army, dive bombing, strafing and that sort of thing, and it wasn't the same sort of gentleman's war that we'd been accustomed to before that. But after that, I was posted out to the Far East at the end of the war and, as Administrative Office, and while it was still very enjoyable, I was quite happy when my time was finished. I had extended my service for a couple of years and then was quite glad to get home.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: You had no urge to fly again?<br /> <br /> I had a, I had a couple of shots - they had a Spitfire on the wing that was going - anyone could whip it up if they wanted - and I had a couple of shots in it, but it, the thrill had gone, really. I wasn't all that keen. <br /> <br /> Interviewer: You and the Spitfire made a good team but what do you remember most of all about those days?<br /> <br /> I think if there's one thing, it's a feeling of colour. It's an impression of colour because the aircraft were, although they were camouflaged, the British aircraft were camouflaged, they were still coloured - they had roundels on them, red, white and blue roundels. The German aircraft, which were also camouflaged, were very highly marked. They were, some of them had red noses, yellow noses, red rudders, tails, black stripes on them, all sorts of things, and when you get a milling mass of this whirling about in a clear, clear blue sky, it's really quite striking and its something that you don't readily forget. Something perhaps that you would, you'd like to arrange if it could be made safe to do so.<br /> <br /> Interviewer: If somebody said tomorrow, 'I've got a Spitfire outside in flying order' would you go up?<br /> <br /> Yes I would. Yes. I don't know if I'd get down again. Well, I'd get down but without breaking it, I'm not sure.'<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.