George Ross flew Hellcat planes for the British Navy in the Second World War. After training in Canada

Second World War pilot recalls flying Hellcats near Burma

At age 17 he was not eligible for active duty in the British Navy, but George Ross signed up anyway.

At age 17 he was not eligible for active duty in the British Navy, but George Ross signed up anyway.

“We all admired the guys from the Battle of Britain who came before us…and I always knew I wanted to be a pilot,” said Ross, who was watching the early years of the Second World War from afar in Scotland. “At that time Britain was under attack and our cities were being bombed… My mother saw me off, and it was one of the few times I saw tears in her eyes.”

His two older sisters were helping how they could with the war effort, his older brother stayed back working as a doctor, and his younger brother was too young to enlist.

He spent those first months of training doing drills in the UK, getting fit and learning how to be a soldier. But then he hopped on the Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and begin his real training in Canada. To avoid running into any U-boats, the Queen Mary had to zig-zag all the way across the ocean.

“It was in Canada that I learned how to fly. I actually learned how to fly a plane before I learned how to drive a car,” Ross recalled. “I loved being up there by myself, especially at night when the sun was setting. It was so quiet and peaceful.”

Training eventually ended, and Ross was assigned to be a fighter pilot and spent the duration of the war assisting the army, which was advancing through Burma, and to disrupt the Japanese in Malay. He had trained on Tiger Moths and Harvards in Canada, but had to shift to Hellcats for active duty, which he says were much heavier to fly.

“My experience in the war was quite different than a lot of others…I was active for about a year at the end of the war and was able to stay in the safety of my plane,” he said.

However, from that plane, Ross and his fellow pilots played an integral role in the allied efforts, destroying enemy communications and transportation routes.

When not in the air, he lived at sea on a carrier where he would take off and land on a short deck, ideally without going over the edge. Although not all the pilots were so accurate, and several ended up in the water, being picked up by a destroyer following close behind.

“There was a hook that was supposed to catch on a wire, but you could see in front of you with the nose of the plane up. So we had to be guided by a guy standing at the side of the runway.”

The war was winding down at that point, and there was a general feeling in the area that it was only a matter of time before there was a surrender.

“We were out at sea when we heard the news about the atom bomb dropping,” said Ross.

“None of us believed it. We didn’t think that it was possible that one bomb was big enough to end the war.”

After that his fleet sailed to Singapore where a surrender was accepted. Then it was time to head home.

Flying had been Ross’ passion and dream for a long time, but after the war he decided pursue a career in accounting, a career that took him all over the world.

He was working in India when he met his wife, and after considering several countries to eventually settle (South Africa, Australia, New Zealand), the couple decided on Canada.

“We’ve never regretted that decision, not for a second,” said Ross. “We started gathering newspapers from all those countries, and Canada just seemed like a much more exciting place.”

The Ross’ lived in Montreal for the duration of George’s working life, but in retirement decided they wanted to move west to Golden, both to be close to their children and grandchildren, and to live in this beautiful part of the country.

“We really love it here, it’s such a great community,” said Ross.