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66 Squadron, RFC & RAF, 1916 to 1919


Ryan, Richard Worth

Introduction

Richard Ryan did not serve with 66 squadron for long. After service in the RAF he became a Canadian pioneer aviator involved with flying clubs, bush airlines and ultimately Canadian Pacific Airways

Early Life

R Ryan with Sopwith Pup A6187 62 Training Squadron Thetford 1917. Glenbow  Archives photo & © NA3206-6Richard W Ryan was born on 11 November 1896 in Huron County, Ontario and brought up in the small town of Nile, Ontario in Canada. After local schooling he attended Toronto University. At the university he joined the Overseas Training Corps as a Private s/n 490921 The O.T.C. was military formation which gave elementary military training prior to joining Infantry regiments as a junior officer, he joined with the aim of transferring to a one of the flying services at the earliest moment.

In February 1917 he volunteered to join the R.N.A.S. when they were having a recruitment drive at the University. After acceptance Ryan and 50 other hopeful aviators travelled to England via Halifax Nova Scotia and Liverpool, in the Magantic. Once in Liverpool they made their way to London by train, here they reported to the Air Ministry, where they were asked by Hugh Trenchard to consider transferring from the R.N.A.S. to the R.F.C, which had the greater need for new airmen. All of the cadets agreed to the transfer after being bribed by offering them the rank of 1st Lt(?).

Officer training was undertaken at 1 School of Instruction Reading starting in the middle of March 1917. From Reading he underwent initial flying training with 25 Training Squadron, Thetford, where he went solo after about 10 hours. His instructor recommended him for scout flying training so from Thetford his next posting was to 62 Training Squadron Dover on 21 September. Training progressed and Ryan continued to accumulate solo hours, but in late September and with about 25 hours solo he was called to see the squadron commander, who informed him that he was needed in France due to the shortage of pilots and that he would have to fly to frequently as possible to reach the required 30 hours he was not to receive the usual gunnery training. Ryan arrived in France on 26 September and shortly after he was posted to 66 Squadron.

66 Sqn and the Death of Hunter

The RFC had received a mauling from the Germans in what became known as "Black September". 66 squadrons was not directly involved in the actions of September but did lose seven pilots (S. A. Harper, C. C. Sharpe, C. H. F. Nobbs and D M Paton) before the action on the 30 of September when the squadron suffered three losses in combat, James W Boumphrey was missing in action and taken prisoner of war, Joseph G Water was not so lucky he was killed in action, and Tone H P Bayetto was also wounded crashing into the British lines, 66 urgently needed replacements. On reporting to Major Gregory for interview, it was realised that Ryan would need more training and Gregory arranged for him to have some gunnery and formation flying practice before his venture over the lines the following week. Ryan was posted to "C" flight under the command of the newly appointed Thomas Vicars "Sticky" Hunter, ex Rifle Brigade. "Sticky" Hunter had joined the Rifle Brigade and received his commission in December 1914. In January 1915 he was wounded and this resulted in him losing his leg. Ryan and Hunter were both to move with 66 squadron from France to Italy, shortly after the squadron converted from Pups to Camels. They made the trip to Italy via the French Riviera, Nice, and Monte-Carlo arriving at Milan. After the re-erection of the aircraft the squadron recommenced familiarisation and training flights. On the 5 December 1917 Hunter took C flight up for it's first combat patrol, Hunter naturally led and Ryan followed closely behind as his number two. Ryan in his book "From Boxkite to Boardroom" says this of the flight.

"Then the day arrived when we were to do our first offensive patrol of the front line area. Our flight took off in the morning and I was flying left front in our formation. When we reached the front we flew along it for some time. As instructed by our flight commander we were flying fairly close formation and I could plainly see our flight commander in the lead plane. He was reading a map and apparently he was having a little bit of difficulty with it. Suddenly he commenced a sharp turn to the left. Since I was flying left front I was on the inside of his turn and I immediately throttled my engine fully back in order to hold my position in the turn. However, the turn had been too sharp and I lost sight of him as he turned under me. In a Camel you cannot see objects directly below you. My aircraft was in an almost stalled position and I expected to see him coming out of the turn to the left of my aircraft. In that moment our two aircraft collided".

The two Camels were locked together following the impact at 10,000 ft, and started to descend in a slow spin for about 1, 000 ft. Ryan then attempted to separate the aircraft and after struggling with the controls he managed to separate the aircraft with about 5,000 ft left on the altimeter. Ryan was able to maintain gliding speed in his decent, and was also able to test the aircrafts manoeuvrability. Upon selecting a suitable field he landed and skidded to a halt, just short of a row of trees and was rescued by some near by Italian soldiers. He was suffering from some minor cuts, abrasions and shock, but also sleep deprivation, nightmares and flash backs. This led the squadron medical officer to recommend that he should be admitted to hospital on 5 December 1917. On the 9 January 1918 he was struck off the squadron strength upon being invalided back to Home Establishment. Arriving back in England on 13 January and admitted to 4 London General Hospital with Neurasthenia. After a medical board on 30 January he was graded unfit general service 4 months and sent to a convalescence hospital in Edinburgh, after rest and recuperation he was passed fit light duties flying. Ryan’s time with 66 was over, he returned to flying in early May 1918, and would later join 81 Squadron (1 Squadron, Canadian Air Force). Later he volunteered for duty with the R.A.F. as part of the Russian Expeditionary Force, serving in Russia, flying Fairey seaplanes. Ryan remained in aviation after the end of his service and had a distinguished career in Canadian civil aviation, further details of which can be found in his privately published book “From Boxkite To Boardroom”, published in 1982 Moose Jaw Publications, ISBN 0-9692977-0-X Richard Worth Ryan died on 17 November 1993 aged 96 in hospital at Penticton, B. C.

Photographs

Richard Ryan in his Sopwith Camel, note Beaver art work Richard Ryan in his Sopwith Camel, note Beaver art work
Richard Ryan & "Paton" (possibly Peter Foster Paton) Richard Ryan & Paton.(possibly Peter Foster Paton)
Another view of 66 squadron C flight Sopwith Camel Q, Verona November 1917, possibly B5407 Another view of 66 squadron C flight Sopwith Camel Q, Verona November 1917, possibly B5407

All photographs via Glenbow Archive, Canada

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