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Biography of Walter Ross


Born on the 27th of August 1922, at 21 Penzance Street, West Hartlepool, Walter was the first child and eldest son of Walter Malcolm Ross and his wife, Isabella (nee Almond).  He attended Avenue Road and Elwick Road Schools and was a very gifted artist.  He won a scholarship to King’s College, Newcastle University, to study art.  Sadly, although tuition fees were paid-for, artists’ materials were not.  Walter’s father was stricken with tuberculosis, contracted during his army service in India, and their impoverishment meant that young Walter was unable to take up his place.

A clever boy, his interests included poetry, reading  and classical music.  He also taught himself to play an organ given to the Ross family, which came originally from the York Road Methodist Church.  He went to work as an articled clerk with a firm of local timber merchants, Forslind & Sinclair of 36 Church Street, West Hartlepool.  Walter was “called up” for service on January 1st, 1942, serving as a Royal navy rating for the duration of the Second World War.  He trained as “Sparks,” or wireless telegraphist, completing his basic training at HMS “Royal Arthur,” a former Butlin’s holiday camp at Skegness.  Boxing, or “milling,” was the primary recreation and of his time at the base Walter said he’d “never been fitter.”

Walter’s service record indicates that his port division was first given as Chatham and then Lowestoft.  The latter, designated HMS “Europa,” was the headquarters of the Royal Naval Patrol Service, ruefully known as “Harry Tate’s Navy,” after the music-hall comedian who was constantly confounded by new inventions and gadgets.  The depot itself was located in the local pleasure gardens named after as Mr Sparrow.  Hence it was known to service personnel as the “Sparrow’s Nest.”  HMS “Europa” was responsible for training those serving aboard “minor war vessels.”  It had a unique atmosphere, developing a reputation for being a “navy within a navy,” and was staffed by some real characters.

Walter served aboard the following vessels: the requisitioned trawler “Jean Edmunds,” a base tender and minesweeper; HMMS 1013, a motor-minesweeper of standard Admiralty design and specially equipped to dispose of magnetic and acoustic mines sown in the shallow waters of harbour entrances and estuaries; HMML 253, a “Fairmile  B” design motor launch, mainly used for patrol work in coastal and esturial waters;  HMS “Corinthian” – formerly a cargo-liner, she was requisitioned for use as an Ocean Boarding Vessel, intercepting neutral or suspected enemy merchant vessels for the purposes of contraband control.  Towards the end of his sea-service Walter volunteered for service aboard submarines, but this was refused – apparently on the grounds of his father’s death from TB.  As a result of his wartime service Walter received the 1939-45 Star, 1939-45 War Medal and the 1939-45 Defence Medal.

Whilst stationed on Tyneside, Walter met and married a local girl, Margaret Sayers.  During the war Margaret was a member of the Women’s Land Army, working on a farm at Bamburgh, Northumbria.  Walter and Margaret lived briefly at  31 Wordsworth Avenue, West Hartlepool, Walter’s mother’s house,  before moving to Wallsend.  Walter found work in the office of a large construction company, studying for qualifications in Business and English Language.  He passed with distinction.  Office work, however, never suited Walter’s temperament and he left to work as a building labourer.  Even there he rose to become foreman concrete finisher, working on the construction of the Tyne Tunnel.

By this time Walter and Margaret had three children – Ann, Janice and Graham.  Walter Ross passed away, having separated from his wife, on the 19th of December 1999.  Of his character and personality his daughter Janice wrote that Walter was “a keen observer of human nature and did not suffer fools gladly,” facing up to his final illness “with a courage and quiet dignity second to none. . . .an independent man, often happy in his own company.”  Often concise with words, he was nevertheless a very sociable person with “a keen sense of humour.”  Janice continues that: “When we met up in a bar with his friends the conversation turned to what line a man might use when chatting up a girl.  He suggested the phrase ‘you have eyes like pools of molten sapphire’ – but if anyone had eyes like pools of molten sapphire it was him.”  At Walter’s funeral, Janice read Masefield’s “Sea Fever” in honour of her father.


Source: “The Ross Family and Others” by Stuart James Wilson.   

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