End of Who Dares Wins exhibition
Written by Kevin Rennie on January 22, 2014
Over the past year Dumfries Museum has been very proud to share the story of local man Captain Cecil Riding and his role in the SAS during WWII. The exhibition Who Dares Wins, featuring Cecil Riding’s story and the war memorabilia he collected, finishes on Sunday 26 January.
The current foyer exhibition “Who Dares Wins”, at Dumfries Museum, tells the inspirational story of Captain Cecil Leyland Riding MC, a local man who was parachuted behind enemy lines into Nazi-occupied France. Cecil talked little of his war time experiences during his life. After his death a wicker picnic hamper was found in the attic of his Dumfries home. Inside the hamper was a wealth of documents and memorabilia which tell the story of Cecil’s remarkable experiences during the Second World War. The hamper and its contents have been donated to Dumfries Museum by Cecil’s family and are being exhibited for the first time.
Cecil was born in 1913 and was brought up on the Castlemilk Estate in the parish of St Mungo, near Lockerbie where his father was a gamekeeper. When Cecil left school in 1929 he began work as a trainee Factor, helping to oversee the estate on behalf of the 3rd Baronet, John William Jardine, head of the Jardine Matheson Company. In 1936 Cecil accepted the post of Assistant Factor on the Garscube Estate near Glasgow. Here he met and later married Glaswegian Janie Murray, who worked as a Secretary in the estate office. He also completed his Land Agent’s qualifications.
With the outbreak of the Second World War Garscube House was requisitioned by the Ministry of Works for war use. In 1940 Cecil joined the Coldstream Guards, and a year later he was commissioned into the Highland Light Infantry.
In February 1944 he was recruited into the Special Air Service, better known as the SAS. Eight days after D-Day Cecil was parachuted into France, south of Paris, where he remained on special duty behind enemy lines for the next three months as part of Operation Gain. He then took part in the advance into Germany across the Rhine Frontier in March and April 1945 before finally participating in Operation Doomsday as part of the Liberation of Norway. Cecil was awarded five medals for his services in the war including the Military Cross for “gallantry during active operations against the enemy”.
When war was over Cecil went to work as a Factor on the Candacraig Estate, near Strathdon in Aberdeenshire. In 1956 he joined the Bombay Burmah Trading Company working in the timber and forestry industry in Borneo and Burma for many years.
In 1967 he returned to Scotland to work as a land valuation officer with Falkirk District Council. In 1971 Cecil moved to Dumfries to work in a similar position until he retired in 1978. A keen golfer, he was a member of Dumfries and County Golf Club from 1978 until his death in 1998.
The exhibition has attracted interest from all over Britain and beyond. Relatives of other men who served in the SAS during WWII have made contact with the museum and shared their stories, adding to the museums database of knowledge about its collections.
Until 26 January visitors can see the exhibition during normal opening hours Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 1pm & 2-5pm and extending opening hours over the weekend 25 January (10am – 5pm) and Sunday 26 January (11am – 4pm).
Throughout the exhibition the SAS Regimental Association have been extremely supportive and until the end of the exhibition they have loaned Dumfries Museum a copy of the SAS War Diary 1941-1945. For anyone who has an interest in this subject the diary is available to view by appointment. Please telephone the museum on 01387 253374 to book a viewing session.