Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Deane Ross

 

 

Ronald Deane Ross was born on 13 July 1888. According to biographical details in the Belfast News-Letter of 21 January 1916, he was:

... the only son of the Right Honourable John Ross, Judge of the High Court of Justice in Ireland, and grandson of the late Rev. Robert Ross, ... a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. Major Ross was born on 13th July, 1888.  His mother is the only surviving daughter of the late Lieutenant-Colonel Deane Mann, of the Royal Tyrone Fusiliers and 4th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

The family lived at Dunmoyle, Sixmilecross, Co. Tyrone.

On 21 June 1907 he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry. He joined the North Irish Horse on its formation in July 1908. On 23 April 1912 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

Ross embarked For France with A Squadron of the North Irish Horse on 17 August 1914. Soon after the Belfast News-Letter carried the following report:

In a letter to a friend in Derry Trooper Robt. Watson, of Letterkenny district, who has been out at the Front with the North Irish Horse since the middle of August, describes as his hottest experience an encounter his troop, under Lieut. Ronald Ross, son of Mr. Justice Ross, had with the Germans.  “Unfortunately I lost my horse,” he says, “and had to run three miles holding on to the stirrup of Mr. Ross’s saddle.  This was the toughest job I ever had.  Had it not been for Mr. Ross carrying my rifle and other things for me, I would not be alive and well to-day.”

On 21 September 1914 the Dublin Daily Express reported:

A letter dated 10th September has been received from Lieutenant Ronald Ross, North Irish Horse, son of the Right Hon. Mr. Justice Ross.

He states that he has been very fortunate as he has seen nearly all the big fighting from 24th August to 9th September, with only one man hit in his troop. They have lost a considerable number of horses.

The commanding officers of the North Irish Horse with the Expeditionary Force are Lord Cole and Captain Herdman.

Ross was promoted to the rank of captain on 12 December 1914, and during 1915 transferred to C Squadron of the North Irish Horse. There are a number of references in the squadron diary of October 1915 to working parties under Captain Ross in the vicinity of Sanctuary Wood on the Ypres front.

On 6 August 1916 he was made temporary major, and early the following year he was seconded to the General Staff with the rank of General Staff Officer, 3rd Grade. In January 1918 he was awarded a Military Cross and in April 1918 promoted to major. The following year he was awarded a Croix de Guerre by the French government.

Ross remained with the North Irish Horse after the war and by the late 1930s he was its sole combat officer. He maintained an interest in the regiment's history. The article below, for example, was published in the Belfast News-Letter of 23 August 1938.

First of Reserves to Get Into Touch With Germans

The North Irish Horse was the first reserve regiment to gain touch with the Germans in August, 1914. This is made clear by the following letter from Major Sir Ronald Ross, M.C., in the current issue of "The Field."

Sir – I have read with great interest the letter from Colonel Burns-Lindow, who commanded that fine squadron which so worthily represented the South Irish Horse in August, 1914, with the B.E.F., as to who would claim to be the first reserve unit 'to gain touch with' the Germans in 1914.

Certainly the squadron of the N.I.H. under Lord Cole (as he then was) was intended for General Headquarters, whereas the squadron of the sister regiment went to 1st Corps Headquarters, both positions of reasonable security under the conditions of 1914. But if reference is made to the official history – 'Military Operations France and Belgium, 1914,' Vol. 1, at page 148 (footnote) – it will be seen that half the N.I.H. squadron were detached to act as divisional cavalry to the 4th Infantry Division. That half squadron left G.H.Q. on the evening of 24th August, and patrols sent out to gain touch with the 19th Infantry Brigade were under shell fire shortly after noon on the 25th north of Solesmes.

The half squadron opened fire with their rifles for the first time that evening in a skirmish with a Uhlan patrol east of a village of Broillers, some hours before the action of Landrecies, in which their comrades of the South took part after dark.

I had always understood that the S.I.H. Squadron had remained with 1st Corps Headquarters till the evening of 25th August, and that Landrecies was their first action.

I think that probably if you test the matter by which regiment was (a) first shot at, or (b) first to shoot, or even (c) first to suffer a battle casualty, the North Irish Horse would be found to be first.

It is, however, a somewhat academic question, and the two squadrons came out in the same ship, and their landing and joining up with the B.E.F. was a dead-heat. If, therefore, the honour is shared between the two regiments, now, alas! regiments no more, no one who served in the North Irish Horse would, I am sure, grudge such a division with their old friends and comrades of the South.

The North Irish Horse was wound-up on Ross's retirement in 1938, but was reconstituted on the outbreak of war the following year. Ross returned to the regiment with an Emergency Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He transferred to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in 1947 and retired in 1950.

Lieutenant Colonel Ross died on 31 January 1958, aged 69.

 

Larne Times and Weekly Telegraph, 31 May 1924

 

Northern Whig and Belfast Post, 17 October 1931

 

 

I am grateful to Bracken Anderson for providing the image of Ross as a young officer, and to the National Portrait Gallery for providing the fourth image (details below):

Sir Ronald Deane Ross, 2nd Bt
by Bassano Ltd
bromide print, 10 December 1943
Purchased, 1996
Photographs Collection
NPG x85395

An image of Ross with officers of the North Irish Horse can be found here.