John Steele Ralston

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John Steele Ralston
Born 27 April 1887
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died 25 July 1918
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Infantry; aviation
Rank Captain
Unit Scottish Rifles, No. 24 Squadron RFC, No. 71 Squadron RFC, No. 84 Squadron RAF
Awards Military Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross

Captain John Steele Ralston was a Scots World War I war hero and flying ace. After winning a Military Cross in 1916 for lifesaving gallantry during his infantry service, he was credited with 12 official aerial victories as a fighter pilot before he was killed in action.

World War I[edit]

John Steele Ralston originally served with the Scottish Rifles; in November 1916, he won the Military Cross for rescuing a wounded comrade under fire.[1] Ralston was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps on 12 June 1917.[2] Once assigned to 84 Squadron as a Royal Aircraft Factory SE.5a pilot, he began to succeed in aerial warfare. On 21 October 1917, he and Kenneth Leask drove down a German reconnaissance plane out of control. Ten days later, Ralston drove down an Albatros D.V out of control for his second win. He would not score again until 6 December, when he teamed with Robert Grosvenor to drive down another German recon plane. On 23 December, he ended his year with his fourth "out of control" victory, driving down another recon plane.[3]

On 13 January 1918, Ralston became an ace when he destroyed a German two-seater reconnaissance plane over Crevecoeur[disambiguation needed].[4] On 26 January, Lieutenant Ralston was appointed Flight Commander with the accompanying rank of temporary captain.[5] On 16 February, he drove down an Albatros D.V. There was a lapse then, as he did not score again until 18 June 1918, when he drove down a Fokker D.VII. Nine days later, he put down a Pfalz D.III near Villers-Bretonneux. Then in July, he scored his final four wins, destroying three balloons, and assisting Norman Mawle in the destruction of a Fokker D.VII. Ralston would be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously for his exploits, as he died on the day of his last victory, balloon busting south of Warvillers on 25 July 1918.[6]

Honours and awards[edit]

  • Text of citation for the Military Cross

2nd Lt. John Steel Ralston, Scottish Rifles

For conspicuous gallantry in action. He carried a wounded man 100 yards across the open under heavy fire. He has displayed great courage and coolness throughout the operations.[7]

  • Text of citation for the Distinguished Flying Cross

Lieut. (T./Capt.) John Steele Ralston, M.C. (Scottish Rifles, T.F.).

An intrepid patrol leader who in recent operations has accounted for three enemy machines and three kite balloons. Recently while on patrol he advanced to attack a kite balloon; on his approach the balloon party began to haul it down, but forcing home his attack, he shot the balloon down in flames. In the engagement this officer was seriously wounded. Suffering great pain, he flew back to our lines and tried to land, but fainted and crashed.[8]


  1. ^ (Supplement to the London Gazette, 25 November 1916) Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  2. ^ (Supplement to the London Gazette, 1 August 1917) Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  3. ^ Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  4. ^ Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  5. ^ (Supplement to the London Gazette, 8 February 1918) Retrieved 7 February 2011.
  6. ^ Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  7. ^ (Supplement to the London Gazette, 25 November 1916) Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  8. ^ (Supplement to the London Gazette, 21 September 1918) Retrieved 6 February 2011.