David Ross (1902-?)

David Ross photographed in 1956 whilst Regional Director of Civil Aviation - Western Australia

David Ross was born on 15 March 1902. He joined the Royal Australian Navy as a cadet midshipman at Jervis Bay on 31 December 1915, having won an Australia-wide scholarship. At the age of 19, just after the Great War, he was sent to England and served in British destroyers and battleships for three years. Whilst in England he responded to a call for volunteers to train as naval pilots and was posted home to Point Cook, Vic, in early 1925 for flying training.

On completion of his flying training David Ross transferred to the RAAF, remained at Point Cook and became a flying instructor, and later the Commanding Officer of a marine unit. Whilst with the RAAF, he was involved in early survey work in New Guinea during October-December 1927 using Seagull III flying boats.

In 1931 David Ross transferred to the Civil Aviation Branch of the Department of Defence as Superintendent of Flying Operations. In April-May 1933 David Ross and engineer Des Gardiner used CAB Moth VH-ULP to survey the Darwin-Singapore air route in preparation for the opening of Qantas Empire Airways' scheduled services which connected with the Imperial Airways service to London at Singapore. David Ross later became Chief Inspector of Flying.

In 1941, with war in the Pacific looming, David Ross was sent at the request of the External Affairs Department on a mission to Dili, Portugese East Timor, to find out what he could about Japanese intentions in the area and to prepare for the commencement of Qantas flying boat services via Dili. He remained in Dili as the Civil Aviation representative and was also appointed the British Consul. Following the outbreak of war with the Japanese, David Ross assisted the Dutch and Australian forces to negotiate the occupation of East Timor. However, when the Japanese invaded East Timor on 19 February 1942 David Ross was captured. He was subsequently used by the Japanese to communicate with remnant Australian forces hiding in the interior in an attempt by the Japanese to secure their surrender.

Ross put this proposition to the Commander-in-Chief of Sparrow Force, Major Spence, who declined to surrender. "So you're not going to surrender?" asked Ross. "Surrender! Surrender be fucked!" was the terse reply. With these formalities out of the way David Ross was able to give out letters of credit, underwritten by the British government, which proved invaluable in enabling the Australians to purchase goods from the locals. On his second such mission, in May 1942, to seek an Australian surrender David Ross decided to remain with the Australians. After 18 months in total on Timor, he was evacuated to Darwin aboard the patrol vessel HMAS Kuru.

On his return from Timor David Ross returned to the RAAF, becoming Director of RAAF Transportation and Movements with the rank of Group Captain. At one stage he controlled the movements of 123 DC3s.

David Ross rejoined the Department in 1946 as Superintendent of Air Navigation. He studied aviation administration in London and Washington during 1946-47 and acted as Australian delegate at ICAO technical meetings in Montreal. He was appointed Regional Director of Civil Aviation - Western Australia in 1948. David Ross retired from the Department in 1964.

Group Captain David Ross during wartime service with the RAAF.

(Photos: CAHS collection)

Back to the main Departmental People index

If this page appears without a menu bar at top and left, click here