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Wing Commander Jack Rose

Wing Commander Jack Rose
Born: January 18th 1917, Blackheath, London. Died: October 10th 2009 Age: 92

Wing Commander Jack Rose, who has died aged 92, flew Hurricane fighters during the brief but hectic days of the Battle of France and returned to be shot down during the Battle of Britain. After the war he had a distinguished career with the Colonial Office.

On May 14 1940 the German Blitzkrieg broke through the Allied lines at Sedan despite the efforts, and sacrifices, of the RAF light bomber forces. The six fighter squadrons of the RAF component of the British Expeditionary Force were hard pressed to keep the German bombers and their fighter escorts from attacking British and French ground forces. Fighter reinforcements were requested and Rose flew one of the Hurricanes sent to Merville to reinforce No 3 Squadron.

He was in action immediately and on the 15th he shared in the destruction of a Messerschmitt Bf 109 as the air battle reached its climax. For the next few days the Hurricane squadrons operated at maximum intensity. During the afternoon of the 18th Rose intercepted a lone Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighter over Douai and shot it down. A few hours earlier, his elder brother Tommy, of No 56 Squadron, had been shot down and killed in his Hurricane.

 The following day Rose attacked a Heinkel 111 and closed to within a few yards to shoot the bomber’s port engine. Oil from the engine covered the windscreen of his Hurricane so he climbed away, slowed the aircraft down to almost stalling speed, loosened his harness, stood on his seat and leant out of the cockpit in an attempt to clean the windscreen. As he did, tracer from an enemy fighter hit his aircraft.

Seeing Rose standing in the cockpit, the German pilot claimed he had shot down the Hurricane, but Rose managed to break away. His aircraft was badly damaged but he managed a forced landing at a forward airfield where the aircraft was destroyed.

Orders were given to evacuate the Hurricanes on the 20th. Without an aircraft, Rose joined others on a French transport and was flown to England. In the 10 days of the air war, No 3 Squadron lost seven pilots killed with another taken prisoner. A further nine Hurricanes were lost.

Jack Rose was born on January 18 1917 at Blackheath, London, and was educated at Shooters Hill School before studying Science at University College London where he represented the university at rugby. He joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in October 1938, completing his training as a fighter pilot just before the outbreak of war.

After returning from France, Rose joined No 32 Squadron and moved to Biggin Hill on August 22 as the Battle of Britain intensified. On the morning of the 25th, each pilot was issued with a pack of fluorescence, a greenish-yellow dye in powdered form, to sew on their life jacket. A pilot floating in the sea would leave a vivid stain on the surface of the water to attract searching aircraft.

While waiting at dispersal for the next scramble, Rose borrowed an outsize needle and passed the time sewing on the pack to his life jacket. Shortly afterwards, his flight was scrambled and six Hurricanes intercepted a formation of 12 Dornier 215s at 12,000ft. Rose opened fire on a bomber but an escorting Bf 109 attacked him and his aircraft was hit and became uncontrollable. He was forced to bale out, landing in the Channel.

After floating for two hours a searching aircraft from his squadron spotted the trail left by the coloured dye in the water. A ship was directed to him and he was rescued. A fellow pilot who had not sewn on his fluorescence pack also landed in the sea but was not found. Rose remained convinced that the pack had saved his life.

Rose moved to Exeter and flew many sweeps over northern France with Czech and Polish squadrons, and in October 1942 he was awarded the DFC for his courage and devotion to duty. He assumed command of No 184 squadron with Hurricanes, and a year later the squadron was re-equipped with the rocket-firing Typhoon. He attacked a wide variety of targets including shipping, coastal defences, flying bomb sites and marshalling yards.

The squadron was heavily involved in the build-up to the invasion of Normandy. At the end of June 1944, Rose led the squadron to a recently constructed landing ground near Caen allowing the Typhoons to range deeper into France where they caused a great deal of damage to German tanks and motor transports.

By the end of July, Rose had been in command of No 184 for over a year and was rested. Later in the year, he was sent to Burma to command a Hurricane squadron providing close air support for General Slim’s 14th Army as it advanced on Rangoon. After the Japanese surrender he went to Penang to assist with the repatriation of the recently released Allied prisoners of war. By the end of the conflict Rose was one of the very few pilots to survive having been operational on both the first and last days of the war.

After his release from the RAF in 1946, he joined the Colonial Service. He served as a district officer in the Barotseland district of Northern Rhodesia before being promoted to district commissioner in the Kalabo region on the Angolan border. In 1950 he was appointed private secretary to the governor and three years later worked in London. He returned to Northern Rhodesia in 1956 when he was district commissioner of the Kaloma district before transferring to Lusaka where he was attached to the Police Special Branch. After two years he moved to the Chingola district, which included one the world’s largest copper mines.

In 1960 Rose was seconded to be the first administrator of the Cayman Islands, where he spent four years. He commissioned a draft company law which was approved in London, passed in the island’s legislature, and became law in December 1961. It provided, among other things, for “exempt companies” and very soon led to the tax haven status of the islands and a huge growth in their economy.

In 1963 Rose was appointed deputy governor of British Guiana (now Guyana). His tour was cut short at the end of 1964 when his wife became very ill.

Between 1964 and early 1979, when he finally retired, Rose immersed himself in voluntary work. The care and interest in people he had always shown throughout his careers was of particular value during his work with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Devon and later in Oxfordshire. He was the honorary treasurer of the Red Cross in Oxfordshire. For four years from 1975 he was secretary of the Salmon and Trout Association. He was appointed MBE in 1954 and CMG in 1963.

Jack Rose, who died on October 10, was well organised, erudite and immensely knowledgeable on a wide range of topics. He married Margaret Budd in 1940. She died early in 1966. Two years later he married his sister-in-law Betty who survives him with two sons from his first marriage.

Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.

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 • Last Modified: 02 July 2019, 13:38