Groom Ralph Harrison
Ralph Harrison Groom - Pilot Officer 92 Squadron 1941-42
Ralph Harrison Groom was born on 7th May 1920 in Hackney, London, moving to Isleworth to spend his teenage years studying in Brentford at Gunnersbury Catholic School where he excelled as an athlete. On leaving school in 1937 he took employment as a junior cashier in the Aldwych branch of National Provincial Bank, but later, with war raging, he reported for initial training at RAF Uxbridge on 29th August 1940.
In October Ralph transferred to Horsham St Faith for Air Crew assessment, to be posted on to No 1 Reception Wing in Cambridge for consideration in pilot training. On 16th November he moved to No 3 Initial Training Wing at St Leonards on Sea for 4 months of intensive non flying training. In March 1941 he went No 50 Group Air Training Reserve Pool at Reading to be selected for a place in a flying training school, there to be returned to Cambridge for basic flight training. He left Cambridge at the beginning of May to go to No 15 Service Flying School at Kidlington, for 2 months advanced flying in Harvard’s.
Ralph was sent to No 57 Operational Training Unit at Hawarden, to fly Spitfires and to receive his sergeant stripes on 12th July. In a letter Ralph wrote his adoptive brother, he said “How do you like the idea of Spitfires, honestly Terry, they are everything they are boosted to be; in fact the most delightful aeroplane to fly. My first couple of trips were worrying as the approach to the runway is blind, but fortunately I got over this trouble fairly quickly & sit down like a fairies kiss these days”.
Having got his wings, Ralph was posted to No 92 Squadron in Fighter Command at Biggin Hill on September 3rd 1941. Shortly afterwards, the squadron moved to Digby from where on 11th February 1942 it was dispatched to join the African conflict. Back in the UK on 13th June, Ralph was commissioned as a Pilot Officer, but due to the war situation he might not have been immediately informed of this.
Whilst waiting for their Spitfire aircraft to arrive, 92 Squadron’s pilots were attached to various other units already established in the Middle East, Ralph being seconded to 80 Squadron on July 1st 1942. At Landing Ground 92 situated in the desert SW of Alexandria, he was introduced to the Hawker Hurricane spending the first 15 days of July in familiarising himself with the type.
On 17th July 1942, the Commanding Officer, his two Flight Commanders and the ten most experienced pilots of 80 Squadron took off at 1320 to give top cover to 39 Squadron Beauforts, proceeding to the El Alamein area to carry out ground attacks. On their return the Hurricanes encountered 30 German Ju87 dive bombers together with a 20 ME 109 fighter escort. The Stukas jettisoned their bombs and fled and a running fighter battle ensued for some 20 minutes during which a Messerschmitt was shot down, but 3 of the outnumbered Hurricanes were lost including BP121 piloted by Ralph.
As the crash site was not located Ralph remains as missing in action, his name inscribed in row 248 on the Alamein War Memorial.