Picnic basket found in a dusty attic contains life story of first member of the SAS

February 15, 2013 | by | 0 Comments
Captain Cecil Riding from Dumfries who was one of the first 36 members of the Secret Air Service (SAS)

Captain Cecil Riding from Dumfries who was one of the first 36 members of the Secret Air Service (SAS)

A picnic basket which lay untouched in an attic for decades has revealed the remarkable story of a WW2 hero and one of the first members of the SAS.

The exploits of Captain Cecil Leyland Riding MC were unearthed by members of his family who discovered the wicker basket after his death.

Inside they found medals, memoirs, photographs and citations which told his incredible tales of courage and bravery.

Captain Riding was one of the first members of the Secret Air Service (SAS) when it was formed in 1941 and was awarded five medals including the prestigious Military Cross.

David Riding, nephew of Captain Riding, said the basket’s contents told the real story of the heroism he never spoke about himself.

He said: “Cecil never talked about his wartime exploits. I knew he had been awarded the Military Cross but had no idea of the details.

“After Cecil’s death we found the memorabilia in a trunk in his loft and could piece together the story from what was there.

“Cecil was 28 years old when he was parachuted behind enemy lines.  It’s amazing what these young men achieved.”

Captain Riding grew up near Lockerbie, working at a factory before moving to Glasgow where he met his wife Janie.

In February 1944, he joined the SAS and was parachuted into northern France, tasked with disrupting the Germany army in the region.

As well as the Military Cross, Captain Riding was awarded the The Star, The France and Germany Star, The Defence Medal and the War Medal.

The family have handed the basket into the Dumfries Museum where it has been turned into a major exhibition.

A wicker basket that Captain Cecil Riding from Dumfries had kept in a basket in his attic containing his memories from WWII

A wicker basket that Captain Cecil Riding from Dumfries had kept in a basket in his attic containing his memories from WWII

Fiona Wilson, museum officer, said: “On first seeing the basket it was clear that this was a fascinating collection, there were so many different objects which fitted together to tell one person’s story.

“The objects that he chose to keep tell us so much about his time in the SAS and what was happening in France and Germany during that period of World War 2.

“Sometimes all that is kept are a soldier’s medals but here we have Cecil’s personal account of his experiences and so much more.”

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