Ralph Alan Anthony Ball was the youngest son of Charles Edward and Edith Ball. He was born in Upper Clapton on 3 January 1919 and he was the youngest of seven siblings: Doris, Wilfrid, Geoffrey Walter, Charles, John and Olive. The family moved to Hazelbeech, 55 The Drive, Rickmansworth built by Charles Edward Ball for his growing family. Ralph attended the Lower School of The John Lyon School in Harrow to which he gained a sports scholarship. His sportsmanship went beyond the school as he listed his interests on his RAF record as football, cricket, swimming and athletics. He joined the Cadet Corps whilst at school and became their Regimental Sargeant Major. One of his great friends at the John Lyons School was Roland Sheret who went on to marry Ralph’s sister Olive.
Ralph’s mother Edith died in March 1940 so the impact of Ralph’s death on top of this tragedy must have been enormous.
After leaving school he worked as a Clerk at Jeil Rose and Co of the London Stock Exchange and we know that Ralph was attending a Flying Training School in Hamble in May 1939. He joined up the day after War was declared and was awarded a Short Service Commission for six years on 2 September 1939. He appears in the London Gazette as a Pilot Officer, confirmed on 20 April 1940. After completing his training, he joined 37 Squadron on 17 June 1940 so was with them for just under a month before R3236 crashed. Ralph served as the Navigator on R3236. Of his other siblings, Charles was involved in the evacuation from Dunkirk and the family firm of CE Ball and Partners was involved in the building of many airfields, possibly even RAF Feltwell, in the run up to the Second World War. Ralph’s father, C E Ball and his brother Geoffrey Walter Ball both worked for the firm in the war years as the firm’s war work deemed them to be in a ‘reserved occupation’.
Ralph’s father Charles Edward Ball founded the Quantity Surveyors C E Ball and Partners which traded as a separate company until it was taken over by Cyril Sweet and Company. CE Ball and Partners was involved in building many of the wartime airfields around Britain. They were the Quantity Surveyors for the NatWest Tower (now known as Tower 42) in the City of London, the 1951 Festival of Britain, the Aviemore Skiing Centre in Scotland and in many projects for House of Fraser including work at Harrods. Ralph’s brother Geoffrey Walter and his nephew, Geoffrey Cecil both worked at CE Ball and Partners.
Members of Ralph’s family who took part in the events commemorating Ralph and his crew mates include his great nieces and nephews and three great great nieces: Polly, Iona and Kirsty Freeman (grandaughter and great grandaughters of Geoffrey Walter Ball) and Ann Ball (niece of Ralph and Geoffrey Cecil’s widow), Sue Gossage and Sally Reynolds (grandaughters of Charles Ball), Brett Sheret (grandson of Olive Ball), Tony Ball and Mike Holloway (son and grandson of Charles Ball) . Chris and Maddie Ball (grandson and great grandaughter of Charles Ball).
Polly and Kirsty Freeman (great niece and great great niece) inspecting Ralph’s entry in Ely Cathedral’s Roll of Honour
Ralph is listed on the Rickmansworth War Memorial in the grounds of St Mary’s Church. A special service of Remembrance took there on Sunday 15th May, by kind permission of the Revd Deborah Snowball.
Members of Ralph’s Family at Rickmansworth War Memorial, From Left to Right:
Quentin, Polly, Iona and Kirsty Freeman, Tony Ball, Ann Ball and Mike Holloway at the Rickmansworth War Memorial
Polly Freeman and Ann Ball at an event in Shoreham Kent, where they live, for the Memorial Stone. Shoreham lies in the valley below Biggin Hill and many of the older residents remember the Spitfires and Bombers that filled the skies during the Second World War. Spitfires are still based at Biggin Hill and one cartwheeled along the valley the day that villagers came to see the Stone and view the video of the R3236 story.
On 28 April, Polly Freeman was invited to John Lyon’s school in Harrow where Ralph had been a sports scholar to tell current pupils about the R3236 project. Ralph is commemorated on their war memorial and the family is touched that he is still remembered by the pupils. A group of 50 Year 8 pupils came to listen to the story and view the Memorial Stone.