Painter Henry Ross (215468) served in the Naval Auxiliary Personnel (Merchant Navy) during World War Two. Known as Harry, and born on 19th September 1909, he was the son of Matthew Ross and Margaret Ross of 90 Ballymoney Road, Ballymena, Co. Antrim.
Harry died on 27th March 1943 aged 33 years old. He was on board HMS Dasher when a mysterious explosion destroyed the ship in the River Clyde.
HMS Dasher was an Avenger Class Escort Carrier, built at Sun Shipbuilding, Chester, Pennsylvania, USA. After conversion to an aircraft carrier, Dasher transferred to the Royal Navy on 1st July 1942. The vessel took part in Operation Torch in Noerth Africa in November 1942 and saw action in the Russian convoys.
When the explosion ripped through the carrier on 27th March 1943, it took only 8 minutes to go down. A total of 379 personnel on board died. Only 149 survived the disaster, picked up from the burning oil-covered water. Two coastal vessels Gragsman and Lithium took part in the rescue along with a radar training ship Isle of Sark and French vessel La Capricieuse.
The cause of the explosion remains unknown. One suggestion is that a plane may have crashed on the flight deck. The US authorities blamed the Royal Navy’s fuel handling procedures. The Royal Navy, in turn, blamed the poor American design of the vessel. To keep up morale, the British government suppressed news of the tragedy. Authorities ordered all the dead be buried in an unmarked mass grave.
Henry Ross’ name is on Panel 11, Column 1 of Liverpool Naval Memorial, Liverpool, Merseyside. Memorials to all those who died have stood at Ardrossan and Brodick since 1993.
Another Henry Ross also died on board HMS Dasher. He was a 21 year old Air Mechanic 1st Class from Byker, Newcastle, Northumberland with service number FAA/FX 83784.