The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. L F Ralls
Leslie Francis Ralls was born on 20th December 1916 in Fareham, Hampshire. He joined the RAF on 26th April 1933 as an Apprentice Clerk and passed out on 30th April 1935. He later applied for pilot training and was selected.
He arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge in April 1940 and after converting to Hurricanes he was posted to 607 Squadron in France on 7th May. The squadron was withdrawn on the 19th, re-assembled at Croydon on the 22nd and then went north to Usworth to regroup.
However on 29th May Ralls was posted to 605 Squadron at Hawkinge, just as it was ordered to move to Drem.
The following day during the move to Drem Ralls' Hurricane L2098 suffered engine failure and overturned and caught fire when he attemptied a forced landing near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders.
He suffered burns and did not return to the squadron for some time. He was back on strength when 605 Squadron went south to Croydon on 8th September. It was a hectic time at Croydon and on one occasion, while flying one of the older Hurricanes, after being involved in a dogfight and out of ammunition Ralls climbed to join a formation thinking it was 605 Squadron returning home. As he closed in he saw that the aircraft were German, discretion being the better part of valour he rolled over into a near vertical dive and hurtled earthwards at such speed that the airspeed indicator went off the clock and jammed. He landed with all the fabric streaming from the fuselage, the aircraft never flew again.
He married Elizabeth Jeffery in September 1940 in Gosport.
Ralls moved to 422 Flight at Shoreham on 15th October to fly Hurricanes in the night defence of London. In mid-December 1940 422 Flight moved to Cranage to become the nucleus of 96 Squadron.
On 30th April 1941 Ralls was aloft in Defiant N3376 ZJ-E when the engine failed, he and his gunner Sgt. Phillips baled out and landed safely. The aircraft came down at Park Road, Gatley, Cheshire.
Later that year, on 20th June, Ralls made a forced belly landing in Defiant N3510.
However as a result of one or both of the above incidents Ralls became medically unfit for further operational flying.
He was commissioned in May 1942 and later that year was controller of the first P-38 Lightning Wing of the USAAF. During the 1944 invasion period he was controller at Deanland in Sussex.
Above images and additional research courtesy of Joel Diggle.
Ralls remained in the RAF postwar, was made an OBE (gazetted 1st January 1971) and he retired from the RAF on 20th December 1972 as a Wing Commander.
He died in July 1976 in Hampshire.