Aircraft wheel donated to our Archives by family of OG, Ralph Osler Webster.
Ralph Osler Webster became a pupil at Glenalmond College in 1936, aged 13. His father was Lieutenant-Colonel W. J. Webster, senior assistant director of the Central Research Institute of the Government of India at Kasauli, Simla Hills, India. He embraced school life and enjoyed taking part in school dramatic productions as well as being a member of the Shooting and Rugby teams. He was also a Prefect. After leaving school, he joined the RAF and briefly attended St John’s College Cambridge. He continued his RAF training in Canada and Florida before returning to the UK and being posted to a 122 (Bombay) Fighter Squadron. He flew on many missions and his plane was shot down just before D Day. He landed the shattered Spitfire, with one hand, just inside the British lines and was flown home to hospital near Bristol.
Over 50 bits of FLAK- ammunition of aircraft—were taken out of his left arm and hand.
He recovered in time to take part in the Battle of Arnheim.
He was an extremely experienced pilot, having flown 694 hours but he died, tragically, on 20th February 1945 in a flying accident while practising manoeuvres in a Mustang 111 at RAF Andrews Field in Essex.
Seventy years later, his aircraft wheel was discovered by chance near the scene of the accident which is still remembered in the local area. Shortly afterwards, Rosalind Heslop, Ralph’s niece, contacted the website Aircrewremembered who were able to link her to Dave and Annette Skeet who had discovered the wheel. She was able to visit the scene and talk to a gentleman who, as a schoolboy, had witnessed her uncle’s fatal accident. The wheel was gifted to her and she and her family decided to donate it to Glenalmond College in her uncle’s memory. The school had meant a lot to Ralph and his parents and sister who were devastated by his death. The school motto, Floreat Glenalmond, is inscribed on his headstone and, after his death, various items, including his Cambridge oar and photograph albums, were given to the College. In addition, the Ralph Webster Prize for Good Citizenship, which is still presented today, was founded in his memory.
The wheel will be displayed in the school’s History Department alongside photographs, Ralph’s rugby cap, service book and shooting medals.
With thanks to Elaine Mundill and Rosalind Heslop for this article.