John Steel Ralston

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John Steel Ralston
Born (1887-04-27)27 April 1887
Bothwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Died 25 July 1918(1918-07-25) (aged 31) (KIA)
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Royal Air Force
Years of service 1915–1918
Rank Captain
Unit Scottish Rifles
No. 24 Squadron RFC
No. 71 Squadron RFC
No. 84 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars World War I
 • Western Front
Awards Military Cross
Distinguished Flying Cross

Captain John Steel Ralston MC, DFC (27 April 1887 – 25 July 1918) was a Scottish World War I war hero and flying ace. After winning a Military Cross in 1916 for lifesaving gallantry while serving in the infantry, he was credited with 12 official aerial victories as a fighter pilot before he was killed in action.[1]

Biography[edit]

Ralston was born in Bothwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland, the youngest of five children born to Thomas Binnie Ralston, an iron merchant, and his wife Mary Chalmers (née Steel),[2] and was educated at The Glasgow Academy.[3]

During the First World War, Ralston originally served with the 8th Battalion, Scottish Rifles, being commissioned as a second lieutenant on 25 August 1915.[4] In November 1916, he won the Military Cross for rescuing a wounded comrade under fire.[5]

Ralston was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps, and was appointed a flying officer on 12 June 1917.[6] He was promoted to lieutenant on 1 September.[7] Once assigned to No. 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 aircraft 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 reconnaissance aircraft. On 23 December, he ended his year with his fourth "out of control" victory, driving down another reconnaissance aircraft.[1]

On 13 January 1918, Ralston became an ace when he destroyed a German two-seater reconnaissance aircraft over Crevecoeur.[1] On 26 January, Ralston was appointed a flight commander with the accompanying rank of temporary captain.[8] 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.[1]

Honours and awards[edit]

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.[5]
Distinguished Flying Cross
Lieut. (T./Capt.) John Steel 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.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "John Steel Ralston". The Aerodrome. 2015. Retrieved 7 November 2015. 
  2. ^ Binnie, Pippa (2009). "Ralston - Steel". Binnie Family Tree (& beyond). Retrieved 7 November 2015. 
  3. ^ The Glasgow Academy Roll of Honour, 1914-1918. Glasgow. 1918. Retrieved 7 November 2015. 
  4. ^ "(Supplement) no. 29288". The London Gazette. 7 September 1915. p. 8966. 
  5. ^ a b "(Supplement) no. 29837". The London Gazette. 25 November 1916. p. 11543. 
  6. ^ "(Supplement) no. 30213". The London Gazette. 31 July 1917. p. 7878. 
  7. ^ "(Supplement) no. 30318". The London Gazette. 28 September 1917. p. 10164. 
  8. ^ "(Supplement) no. 30515". The London Gazette. 8 February 1918. p. 1806. 
  9. ^ "(Supplement) no. 30913". The London Gazette. 21 September 1918. p. 11254.