Wing Commander Roy Ralston, Officers Service Dress Cap
Another item I am letting go from my personal collection. Wing Commander Roy Rolston, DSO*, DFC, AFC, DFM, needs no introduction and was regarded as one of the most brilliant low-level bomber pilots of the Second World War. He survived 91 operational sorties including a remarkable run of 21 consecutive attacks on Berlin and his medal tally, detailed above, is a reflection on his skills in the air and his undoubted bravery. Ralston was always on the lookout for targets of opportunity and if for some reason he had not dropped his bombs over the designated target he would seek out alternatives on the home run. One such example was on Dec 8 1942, when he spotted a train entering a tunnel on the Paris-Soissons line. Racing in over the hedge tops, he lobbed a bomb into the mouth of the tunnel, circled and returned to finish the job by blocking the other end! Ralston's reputation grew as he tackled a wide variety of targets and on November 7 1942 he led six Mosquitos at wave top level to attack two large motor vessels entering the Gironde. They succeeded in scoring several hits with 5001b. bombs. The citation for the Bar to his DSO, mentioned a "high degree of skill, flying far into enemy territory in bad weather and frequently at 50 feet". Joseph Roy George Ralston was born in Manchester and entered the RAF as a 15 year old apprentice in 1930 and trained as a Rigger but went on to pilot training and newly promoted Flight Sergeant Ralston joined No. 108 Squadron, which was equipped with the Bristol Blenheim. In the summer of 1940 he moved to 107 Squadron and was commissioned in 1941. In May 1942 he joined 105 flying the DH Mosquito. His exploits with the squadron were recognised with a DSO and Bar. After a period on training in the summer of 1944 he was posted to become Wing Commander Training with the Pathfinder Force. He ended the war in command of 139, a crack Pathfinder Mosquito squadron, which he took over in March, 1945. After the war Rolston applied for a permanent commission but his operational career had taken its toll, and at the medical he was told he had tuberculosis, which ended his flying career. He died aged 81 in 1996. His visor cap, which is of classic WW11 shape with a somewhat extended visor and carries his name, R.G.Ralston, hand written under the peak. It's provenance is it was purchased by a collector direct from Wing Commander Ralston in 1991. We then purchased it 20 years later, having been consigned to a top UK Military Auctioneers. When purchased the leather cap band was missing but we obtained a suitable replacement from another RAF visor cap which has now been stitched in place to bring it back to excellent display condition. The inner lining retains an original triangular makers label but all the details have now been worn away and is unreadable. The cap carries a fine Officers Kings crown badge whilst the patent leather chin strap shows some age related wear. The fabric is in outstanding original condition and has manged to avoid the attentions of the dreaded moth. The cap also came with a photograph, copied from Rolston's own collection in 1991 when he sold off much of his wartime memorabilia to collectors. The photo features a Mosquito of 139 Squadron with Ralston himself and five others including the Squadron CO Wing Commander ' Reggie' Reynolds. An historic grouping of significant importance to an outstanding Pathfinder pilot who beat the odds to tell the tale!