Cadet J. Ross

Cadet J. Ross

175770 Flight Cadet John Ross,
Royal Air Force

Landseer Avenue in Bramley (National Library of Scotland)

John Ross was the son of Donald William Ross, who was originally from Alloa, in Clackmannonshire, Scotland, and his wife, Dorothy Jane Laidlaw, who despite her Scottish name, was from Durham. Donald Ross worked as a cashier for a clothing manufacturer.

When John Ross was born in Bramley, Leeds, on 22nd April 1900, he became the second child in the family, following a sister, Dorothy, who was almost three years older than John. The family was living at 9 Landseer Avenue.

Eventually, the Ross family grew to include six children, although like many families at the time, Donald and Dorothy Ross suffered the loss of one of their children.

The Ross family later moved to ‘Weardale’ in Beeston, and it was from this address that John Ross left to join the Royal Air Force in May 1918. He had been working as an engineer’s draughtsman, and this technical background would have made him a suitable candidate for pilot training.

Hillingdon House, Uxbridge (Banyards)

The training regime for men identified as potential pilots was intense and punctuated with regular moves between training units. On joining the RAF, John Ross was ranked as a Private Class 2, and sent to the Cadet Distribution Depot at Hampstead, in North London, before being sent to the RAF Reserve Depot at Blandford, in Dorset, where he would have completed the briefest of military training before moving on to the more technical side of his training at 2nd School of Military Aeronautics.

He joined 2nd School of Military Aeronautics which had been established at Brasenose College, Oxford, on 26th July 1918. Here he would learn the general theoretical principles of flight, as well as a gunnery, mechanics and navigation using maps. The course lasted seven weeks, and pilot candidates moved on to the Armaments School at Hillingdon House, Uxbridge, on its completion.

Flight Cadet under instruction (© IWM Q 27252)

While at the Armaments School, John Ross was re-graded from Private Class 2 to Flight Cadet, meaning that upon his successful completion of all his training, and his qualification as a pilot, he would be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Once these phases of his training were complete, Flight Cadets were posted to Training Depot Stations to undergo their flight training. This was split into two distinct phases of training, with the first phase lasting three months. During the first phase of flight training, the trainee pilots would have to complete 25 hours of elementary flight training, progressing from flying with an instructor to solo flight. The remainder of the time, not spent flying, was taken up with a thorough ground training programme. Those who passed were graded ‘A’ and were thus qualified to progress to the next phase.

Phase two of the flight training was usually, but not always, undertaken at the same Training Depot Station, and would last for two months, during which time, the student pilots would be required to complete a further 35 hours of flight training, including time spent flying the most up to date types of aircraft which they would find at operational flying squadrons. The student pilots would be tested on their abilities in cross-country flying, reconnaissance work, artillery cooperation and formation flying. A successful pass in this phase of the training meant that the student was graded ‘B’ and commissioned, prior to being sent out to his fighting squadron.

A Small Section of Clipstone Camp

John Ross attended three different Training Depot Stations. He was at No. 50 TDS at Eastbourne, from 19th October 1918 to 23rd October 1918.

John Ross was transferred from No. 50 Training Depot Station to No. 54 Training Depot at Fairlop, near Ilford on 23rd October 1918 to 15th February 1919, and was here when the Armistice came into force. Once it became clear that the Armistice was going to hold, and there would be no return to the fighting, many men had their training interrupted, or cancelled altogether, as they became surplus to requirements. The British government was now faced with the dual priorities of bringing home those who could be spared so that the economic recovery of the country could begin, while at the same time, ensuring that the armed forces could continue to function properly in the brand-new post-war era. Because of this, even part-trained men, like John Ross had to be retained in the services for a period, but eventually, they too could be released.

He was transferred from Fairlop to Northolt on 15th February 1919, joining 30 Training Depot Station, which appears to have been an administration posting only, as four days later, he was sent to Clipstone Camp in Nottinghamshire for dispersal.

Eastern Coach Works in the bow of the railway (National Library of Scotland)

When John Ross was released from the RAF, he had not yet qualified as a pilot, and had not been commissioned. He returned to the family home in Beeston, however, his parents’ names appeared on the Electoral Roll for Scholes in 1920, indicating that they had moved the family to the village during the preceding year. John Ross was still too young to vote, so his name does not appear. It was the only year that the Ross’s appeared on the Electoral Roll for Scholes, and an electoral Roll for Holbeck later that same year shows the Ross’s, including John, living at Town Street, Holbeck. This address was in fact, ‘Weardale’, the Beeston address that the family had lived in prior to them coming to Scholes.

John Ross moved to Sidcup in Kent, in 1928 to take up employment as a design engineer. He returned the following year to marry Millicent Helm the daughter of Richard Helm, of Gascoigne Farm on Elmwood Lane in Barwick. They married at All Saints’ Church on 31st July 1929.

A son, Donald, was born in Kent in 1932, their second child, a daughter named Dora was born in Suffolk in 1937. By this time John Ross was a design engineer working for Eastern Coach Works, in Lowestoft, which built buses. Because of the threat of seaborne invasion in the early days of the Second World War, it was deemed unsafe to produce vehicles designed to carry lots of people so close to a potential invasion port in case the vehicles were captured and used by an invading enemy. Military authorities ordered that production at Lowestoft must cease. Production was moved inland to Irthlingborough in Northamptonshire for the duration the war. Because of his position in the company, John Ross remained employed by the company when it moved, but 950 production line workers, who could not move, or were not considered to be critical to the operation of the company, did not move, and were laid off. Before the company moved production to Irthlingborough, John Ross had volunteered as a Special Constable, but it is unlikely that he would have continued this during his time living away from home.

After the war was over, Eastern Coach Works moved production back to Lowestoft, and John Ross returned to live at the family home in Skamacre Crescent in the town.

Millicent Ross died in Lowestoft in 1956. In 1958, her widower, John Ross married Marjorie Joan Howell. John Ross died on 29th May 1979. He was cremated at Great Yarmouth Crematorium in Gorleston a week later, on 4th June.