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Ross, James Stuart (1895–1919)

Lieut J. S. [James Stuart] Ross, 23 years of age, was a telegraph operator with the Pacific Cable Company before he enlisted in 1916. He went to France as wireless operator with the 69th Squadron, R.F.C., later renamed the 3rd Australian Squadron. This was the Australian Corps Photographic Squadron, flying in R.E.8's, locally called the buses. At the end of 1916 he was sent to the flying school at Oxford to qualify as a pilot, was commissioned second-lieutenant in the Australian Flying Corps on October 20, 1917, and for a while at the end of that year was employed in "ferrying" machines across the English Channel to squadrons in France. Airmen were frequently employed on this work before being called on for service over the fighting lines. In March, 1918, Lieut. Ross was sent to join the 2nd Australian Flying Squadron (fighting scouts, S.E.5's) at Beauvais. This squadron, which had previously done some hard scouting work east of the line at Arras, was moved to Beauvais (between Amiens and Paris) shortly after the German offensive began, and did fine work in bombing the roads during the German advance. The squadron was not long away from the British front, and soon moved north again to the St. Pol area. Here, after the German break through on the Portuguese front on the Lys, the 2nd Squadron (and the 4th Australian Squadron, too) again performed brilliant work, scouting and fighting over the Hun lines every possible day. Their enthusiasm mounted with the great work done below them on the ground by the 1st Australian Division at Merris. The Australian airmen would go out in couples or larger flights, and scour the sky far over the German lines for any Hun machines that showed. Our superiority in the air was by this time undoubted. It was in one of these fights (over Douai in August, 1918) that Lieut. Ross was wounded. Five Australian machines met eleven Huns, engaged at once in combat, and dispersed them after shooting down two of the enemy. All our machines returned, though two were slightly damaged, and Lieut. Ross was shot through the thigh. He succeeded, however, in bringing his machine safely home. Lieut. Ross was sent to hospital in England, and did not return to France again before the armistice. The Alliance machine which crashed with Lieutenants Douglas and Ross was considered a high-grade machine. It was equipped with a 450 horse-power Napier-Lion engine. Specially designed for long-distance flights, it can be safely reckoned that the aeroplane underwent exhaustive tests before actually commencing the long flight. A similar machine had successfully undertaken a non-stop flight from London to Madrid. To equip the machine would cost from £7000 to £8000, so it is not likely that anything was left undone in the preparation and perfection of the plane.

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'Ross, James Stuart (1895–1919)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/ross-james-stuart-27553/text34984, accessed 28 March 2020.

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