Ignem mortemque despuimus - 'We spit fire and death'

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Pilot Officer
Regiment: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Unit Text: 234 Squadron.
Age: 24
Date of Death: 16/04/1942
Service No: 102073
Additional information: Son of Stanley and Jessie Gertrude Woolass, of North Anston, Yorkshire.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 72.
Cemetery: RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL        

The RAF website states the following about the role of 234 Squadron during the Second World War 

On 30 October 1939, No 234 was reformed at Leconfield as a fighter squadron. Originally intended for shipping protection duties, it flew a mixture of Blenheims, Battles and Gauntlets until March 1940, when it began to receive Spitfires, becoming operational on 11 May. Throughout the Battle of Britain, it was based in southern England and in April 1941 began sweeps over northern France. These continued between defensive patrols until January 1943, when it moved to the Orkney Islands, returning south in June. After covering the invasion beaches in Normandy, No.234 converted to Mustangs and began long range escort missions from East Anglia. A few days before the end of the war, the squadron moved to northern Scotland to escort strike Wings operating along the Norwegian coast, but returned to East Anglia in July to convert to Spitfires. These were flown until replaced by Meteors in February 1946, but on 1 September 1946 the squadron was renumbered 266 Squadron.


"I was looking at the website you have so kindly created in memory of my brother, Ralph Skelton Woolass, when I noticed that it had been extended and updated with some family details since I printed it out some years ago (and I was intrigued to note that someone else was researching my family history in 2008!). I therefore list below some details which you were asking for:

Stanley Woolass b 28/09/1892 d 10/12/1957
Married 07/03/1916 Jessie Gertrude Wolass b 11/10/1894 d 07/11/1983
Ralph Skelton Woolass b 23/09/1917 d 16/04/1942
Peter Woolass b 10/08/1920
Stanley David Woolass b 04/07/1930

I have also attached brief details of Ralph's RAF service history, gleaned from various sources as listed, in case some of it may be of interest.

Finally, may I thank you on behalf of my family for the trouble you have taken to set up this wonderful memorial to Ralph, which is very much appreciated.

Should you require any further information, please let me know. With best wishes,"

I replied to Ralp's brother and thanked him for his time and trouble in supplying me with this information on Ralph's all too brief career in the RAF. Another message followed with further information on Ralph with included a photograph of Ralph in his RAF uniform

" It occurred to me afterwards that you might be able to use a photograph of Ralph. I have therefore attached a JPEG, which I have left as originally scanned so that you can resize it as required. The photograph was taken professionally in Salisbury, presumably when he was posted to Ibsley in late 1941. By some strange coincidence, I also spent most of my time at Ibsley when I was doing my National Service with the RAF some 8 years later, much to my Mother's distress.
My brother Peter joined the Territorial Army and was mobilised just before the war. He spent some time in the desert with the 8th Army, then in Italy, before finishing up as an Officer with the BAOR in Germany.
I'm sorry that I omitted to thank you also for the excellent memorial to Percy Charles Pickard, who was Ralph's cousin as noted. These two websites alone must have involved a lot of work and time - thank you so much for all your trouble. Please also thank your friend who took the photograph of Ralph's memorial in South Anston."


Pilot Officer Ralph Woolass - photograph taken late 1941

Apart from the photo of the War Memorial in St James Church, South Anston that was supplied to me by a friend I had not added any information to the article since 2008. But Ralph's brother's reference to a War Memorial led me to the excellent Rotherham War Memorials web-site. Apart from a photo of Ralph in his younger days it also carried this information

"Ralph Skelton Woolass was born in Sheffield on 23 September 1917, son of Stanley Woolass and Jessie Gertrude (nee Skelton). As a boy he attended King Edward VII School in Sheffield from 1926 to 1934. After Ralph left school, the magazine of December 1934, in an article on the school orchestra, laments ‘the ranks of the strings have been thinned by the departure of such veterans as Woolass …’. In the late 1930’s Ralph lived at 263 Richmond Road, Handsworth, Sheffield. As a young man Ralph was keen of flying and gained his aviators certificate with the Great Britain, Royal Aero Club for gliding in 1938. Ralph’s parents were later to live in North Anston.
When Ralph joined up he was in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. The London Gazette of 22 August 1941 published a note of him being granted a commission effective from 20 May 1941. As a result he was promoted from Sergeant to Pilot officer which consequentially resulted in his service number changing from 1064093 to 102073. Ralph was a pilot with Fighter Command’s 234 Squadron flying the Supermarine Spitfire. On 16 April 1942 Ralph was airborne from RAF Ibsley, Hampshire in Spitfire Mk Vb, serial number AR374 (the airframe had been delivered to the squadron on 14 March) for a mission over the Channel. He was shot down by Messerschmitt BF 109s off Cap de la Hague, the north west corner of the Cherbourg Peninsular in France. Ralph Skelton Woolass was killed, aged 24 - officially posted as ‘previously reported missing, now presumed killed in action’. He is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

He was listed on the roll of honour of King Edward VII School.
His name is also listed on the R.A.F. Ibsley Memorial - Cross Lanes, Mockbeggar, Hampshire.
There is also a memorial window at the Royal Star and Garter Home, Richmond Hill, Richmond, London with the inscription, ‘The lighting of these windows was presented by Mrs Stanley Woolass in memory of her son Pilot Officer Ralph Skelton Woolass who was lost over the Channel 16 April 1942’."

This reference to King Edwards V11 school in Sheffield also jogged my memory and I retrieved an e-mail that was sent to me in 2009 by a researcher.

"Whilst researching names on the South Anston war memorial at St James Churchyard, Sheffield Road, I found your web page to the above.

Other information you do not seem to have is that he attended King Edward VII school. where he is mentioned in the school mags of July 42, March 44 & December 45. I just checked one earlier one and see that there was a Woolass mentioned in Dec 34 also.

He was flying a Spitfire Mk Vb, serial number AR374 when he was shot down by Bf109s off Cap de la Hague."

Type LAMP OR LIGHTING OS Map Ref TQ 184738



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