Major Ralph Montgomery Vaughan, MC
Major Ralph Montgomery Vaughan was one of the the Squadron's early commanding officers, a period that saw a high turnover at that position. Like many who fought for their country in the great wars, his story is relatively unknown with little detail of what happened before or after. Fortunately, an article by his son, Alan Vaughan, in the October 2014 edition of the Hawkridge Village Magazine sheds some light on Major Vaughan's story. This page provides an account of his life, as could be gleaned from scattered sources on the Internet (links are provided), data from the UK National Archives, the London Gazette, and findmypast.co.uk.
Ralph Montgomery Vaughan was born in Dromore, County Down, Ireland on 24 September 1890, the son of George Montgomery Vaughan of Quilly House, County Down, and his third wife, Caroline Anne (Dickenson). Ralph was the second youngest of eleven children and, in his early years, attended the Mourne Grange Boarding School in Drumindoney (1901 Census, National Archives of Ireland). Both his parents died before he was eleven (his dad died in 1902, aged 76), and he was thereafter raised by his much-older step sister, Mrs Alice Katherine Quin, from his dad's first marriage. In 1910, after finishing his education in England, he joined the 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers being promoted to Lieutenant in October of that year.
In late 1912, Lieutenant Vaughan began his flight training at the Bristol School, Salisbury Plain. His instructors were Geoffrey England, Henry Richard Busteed and Henri Marie Jullerot. In these early years of aviation, the goings-on at the various pilot training schools was summarised in The Royal Aero Club's Flight Magazine; as such, we are provided insight into his training and comments on his skill level:
"On January 14th ... Lieut. Vaughan passed the tests for the first part of his ticket, both flights being very creditable as the weather was anything but favourable." (1 Feb 1913)
Overall, Vaughan completed 20 dual-seat flights with his instructors and 5 solo flights before completing his final testing. His first solo was made on 24 January. Lieutenant Vaughan received Aviator Certicate No. 417 on 18 February 2013.
He subsequently joined No. 3 Squadron in Netheravon, from which he was posted to No. 5 Squadron upon its formation from one of the No. 3 Squadron flights in July 1913. On 14 August, he was appointed to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) Reserve and, on 18 December, he was officially seconded to the RFC as a Flying Officer. In June of 1914, RAF Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 Squadrons gathered at Netheravon for a training 'Concentration Camp'. Once again, Flight Magazine provide excellent insight into the activities that Lieutenant Vaughan would have undertaken during this event, including numerous pictures of interest. Best of all, group pictures with a legend are included; the photo of the officers is shown below with two of No. 56 Squadron Commanders-to-be highlighted.
After the Camp, No. 5 Squadron moved to Fort Grange, Gosport. On 15 August 1914, Lieutenant Vaughan and the Squadron left Dover for France. Unfortunately, Vaughan's trip to the new aerodrome ended up being a bit of an adventure: when he made a forced landing near Boulogne, he was arrested by the French, and imprisoned for nearly a week. As such, he did not make it to the new aerodrome until the 22nd. (The War in the Air, Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh). He was wounded, being shot in the leg, on 1 Nov 1914. On 17 April 1915, while carrying out reconnaissance near Bruges in a B.E.2c with No. 4 Squadron, his observer, 2 Lt John Frederick Lascelles (RFC and Rifle Brigade) took 24 shots with his rifle. The German pilot was hit in the head and the plane crashed; the German observer was taken prisoner (Various sources: Cross and Cockade; Wordpress). For this action, both were mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Military Cross (London Gazette, 22 and 23 June 1915). Sadly, 2nd Lieutenant Lascelles was killed shortly thereafter, on 31 July. The date on which he transferred to No. 4 Squadron is uncertain, as his RAF service record states that he was in Netheravon as a Flight Commander at the time of the downing of the German aircraft. One can only assume that the date on which the service record states that he was posted to Netheravon, 22 February 1915, is the likeliest date that he transferred to No. 4.
On 28 March 1915 he was appointed to the rank of Temporary Captain and Flight Commander in the RFC; he was appointed Temporary Captain within the Fusiliers 1 September and full Captain 17 November. On 2 April 1916, he was promoted to Temporary Major/Squadron Commander. Based on his service record and various Internet sites, he held the following command positions:
17 Sep 1915 to 2 May 1916 - Acting Squadron Commander No. 8 Reserve Aeroplane Squadron (Netheravon)
Unfortunately, his eyesight partially failed. Having reverted to Flight Commander, on 7 September 1917 he ceased to belong to the RFC. On 28 February 1918, it was announced in the Liverpool Daily Post that Captain Ralph Montgomery Vaughan was engaged to Isoline Esther Cook of Edinburgh. He returned to serve with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. On the first day of the great German offensive, 21 March 1918, Capt Vaughan was taken prisoner and marched to Germany. He was repatriated to England 10 December 1918. He soon was married to Isoline Esther Cook and rejoined the Fusiliers 11 Jan 1920. From various sources, it can be seen that Vaughan became very involved with the Royal Inniskilling Fusilier band, being mentioned in one news article as the Band President of the Regiment (Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald 30 April 1927). In July 1932, he is promoted to the rank of Major, and retires on 24 November 1936. During the Second World War, he was in the 'Reserve of Officers'; he ceased to belong 14 October 1945, "having reached the age limit of liability to recall". A sign of the regard in which he was held by the Fusiliers is evident in the war diary of the 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers:
17th March 1944 – BELLONA (1686). St Patrick’s Day Greetings were sent to the following: His Majesty the King, HRH the Duke of Gloucester, The Primate of All Ireland, Am Taoiseach Dail Eireann, General Sir Alan Brooke, General Sir Claude Auckinleck, Sir Basil Brooke, Major RM Vaughan MC, the 1st Bttn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the 2nd Bttn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the 5th Bttn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 25 ITC.
Ralph Montgomery Vaughan passed away in 1976 in Surrey, England, survived by Isoline who passed away in 1985.
The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Ralph Montgomery Vaughan, in succession to Lieutenant H. N. Young, promoted.
ROYAL FLYING CORPS.
ROYAL FLYING CORPS.
ROYAL FLYING CORPS.
Awarded the Military Cross
The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
The undermentioned are restd. to the estabt. —
LAND PURCHASE COMMISSION,
Final Notice to Claimants and Incumbrancers.
Inniskiling Fus.—Capt. R. M. Vaughan, M.C., to be Maj. 27th July 1932.
Inniskilling Fus.—Maj. R. M. Vaughan, M.C., retires on ret. pay. 24th Nov. 1936.