Fred Riley served in the Australian Military Forces before enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 13 September 1941. He was selected for pilot training. Fred described his early experiences flying Tiger Moths at Narromine, New South Wales, and recalled the importance of extensive dog-fighting training in Canada. He said he was blessed by having very good flight trainers early on.
After completing his fighter pilot training, Fred was attached to No 130 Squadron, RAF, a Spitfire fighter unit. Between July 1941 and February 1944, he flew a mix of offensive sweeps over north-west France, protection patrols for convoys and participated in the defence of the south-west of England. The squadron was disbanded in February 1944 but reconstituted in April 1944 when No 186 Squadron was renamed No 130 Squadron.
Fred accrued a total of 553 flying hours, of which 252 were operational. Initially, he flew the Spitfire VB but later upgraded to the Spitfire XIV. He recalled the importance of having a good maintenance crew as support. He was attached to the squadron on 1 October 1943. He flew in support of the D-Day landings but asserted the squadron undertook much more dangerous missions before and after the invasion.
Fred's flying career ended on 22 December 1944 when he was shot down by friendly fire while flying over Germany. Pulled from the wreckage, Fred was later found to be suffering a fractured spine. He required 6 months recuperation and was discharged on 2 October 1945. He had survived three previous crashes and considers himself lucky.