ROSS, Jack Kenneth. Flight Lieutenant (79163) D F C
134 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
Died 6 January 1942, aged 26
It is surprising that, for this distinguished WW2 fighter pilot, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's database does not provide the usual brief family background information: indeed, it does not even have his age when he died. Fortunately, some devilling in the readily available records and the website credited above enable a rounded story to be told.
Jack Kenneth Ross was born on 11 January 1916, the second child of Kenneth Duncan Ross and Frances Margueritte (née Roberts). The parents Q4 1913 marriage was registered in the Edmonton District as were the births of all their children, namely:
- Joan on 9 June 1914;
- Jack on 11 January 1916;
- Megan in Q3 1920; and
- James in Q2 1924.
Jack's father, Kenneth Duncan Ross was originally from Jersey. The 1901 Census recorded this 12 year old schoolboy as the sixth of 11 children living with their parents (James, a "Grocer and Baker", and Elsie Jane Ross) at Tiptree House, Grouville, Jersey. Kenneth came to London. The 1911 Census records him as one of about 70 young single men (almost all, like Kenneth, "Upholsterer's Clerk") living in lodgings run by the then Maple & Co furniture makers in Crafton Way, just round the corner from their shop at 149 Tottenham Court Road, London.
Jack's mother, Frances, was a Londoner. The 1911 Census records this 20 year old as the middle of three siblings living with their mid-50s parents (John, an "Assistant Schoolmaster", and Henrietta Roberts) at 24 Beresford Road, Hornsey. Frances' occupation is listed as "Clerk". Was this at Maples, and how she met Kenneth? (Hornsey fell within the Edmonton Registration District which is where they married and their children were born.)
After their marriage and at least the birth of their first child, Kenneth served in WW1 (apparently in the UK) as a Driver in the Royal Field Artillery.
At some point, the family moved to the Borough. The September 1939 Register records them living at 25 Chase Road, Epsom. 50 year old Kenneth is listed as "Manager, Mail Order Department"; 49 year old Frances with the conventional "Unpaid Domestic Duties"; 25 year old Joan as "Shorthand Typist (Shipping)"; and 23 year old Jack as an "Electrical Engineer". There are two currently closed records at the address, doubtless of the 19 year old Megan and 15 year old James.
Jack's original record in the 1939 Register was annotated to show his membership of the Royal Air Force Reserve, with a Service No 745307. Jack had joined the Reserve in about March 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot. He was already a keen flyer, having gained his Aero Certificate (16624) at Redhill Flying Club on 4 November 1938 (when his occupation was recorded as electrician). He completed his RAF training at 10 FTS Ternhill, Shorpshire in early May 1940, was commissioned with the Service No 79163 and arrived at 6 OTU RAF Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire on 8 May.
After converting to Hawker Hurricanes, Jack was posted to 17 Squadron at RAF Kenley on 25 May. The Squadron was sent to France on 5 June where, operating from bases in Le Mans and Dinard, it was active in impeding German attacks on the British Expeditionary Force as it withdrew to Dunkirk. Jack had a natural flair as a fighter pilot and used this to good effect. The Squadron was withdrawn from France on 17 June - via Jersey (not taken by the Germans until the end of the month) - reaching RAF Tangmere on 19 June.
Back in the UK, Jack's Squadron was heavily engaged in the Battle of Britain. On the particularly intense day of 13 October 1940, Jack was involved in a dogfight over Chatham when his Hurricane P3536 was shot down by friendly anti-aircraft fire. He baled out, wounded, and was admitted to Gravesend Hospital. His aircraft crashed at Rochester.
When 134 Squadron - equipped with Spitfire fighters - was formed at RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire on 31 July 1941 from 17 Squadron personnel, Ross was promoted and went to the new unit as a Flight Commander. He and the Squadron then served in Russia, assisting their forces' resistance to the German invasion of the Soviet Union that had begun on 22 June. In November 1941, Jack was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross - a decoration which recognised "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy".
The photograph above shows Jack removing his parachute after a dog-fight over Russia. (Note the well wrapped Russian looking on, and the state of the runway they had to use.) As can be seen, Jack was quite short, being more than a head and shoulders below most of his fellow airmen. However, his stature was an advantage as a fighter pilot, giving him more room to move in the cockpit - and smaller pilots tended to have higher kill rates.
Jack's Squadron returned from Russia in December 1941 and, after a short stay at Catterick, was posted to RAF Eglinton, Northern Ireland (now the City of Derry airport) for defence and convoy escort duties. During a convoy escort on 6 January 1942, Jack had to ditch his Spitfire IIa P8393 in the Irish Sea - it is thought as result of engine failure. Extensive searches failed to find him.
This WW2 "Ace" (credited with 7 kills - and will have assisted in many others) is commemorated on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede as one of the 20,000+ members of the RAF who were lost during WW2 operations and who have no known grave.
The RAF's Runnymede Memorial
Photograph with thanks to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Roger Morgan © 2018
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