Ronald George Ballantine

 ronald ballantine


b. Plymouth on August 2 1913 and educated at Plymouth College. He studied Art in Plymouth and Paris but, like so many of his generation, his life changed after a five-shilling flight with Alan Cobham's Flying Circus (q.v.)

"He learned to fly privately, and by the time he was 21 he had obtained his commercial flying, navigation and wireless licences, enabling him to join Imperial Airways.

Initially Ballantine flew as a second officer in the open cockpit of a three-engine Argosy on the Croydon-Brussels-Cologne route; the 20 passengers were able to lounge in wicker chairs.

He then moved on to the stately four-engine HP 42 biplane airliner. With an almost complete lack of navigation aids, locating Croydon airport in poor weather depended on finding the twin towers of Crystal Palace, then setting a stopwatch and descending blind.

Ballantine next flew on the Imperial Airways Empire routes to Africa and Asia, before being appointed to his first command at the age of 23; he was based in Hong Kong, flying the de Havilland DH 86.

During this period he carried out an aerial survey of the route to Bangkok via Hanoi, across the relatively unknown territories of Siam and Indo-China, and he established a 16-hour record for the Rangoon-Calcutta return journey in the DH 86 Delphinus.

Ballantine earned his nickname, "The Colonel", after General Chiang Kai Shek offered him a colonelcy in his nationalist air force - a post which the Englishman prudently declined."

Ballantine was described by a colleague as "tall and debonair. . . quintessentially English, and a genial man of great modesty and charm". During the war, following a spirited party with his fellow pilots, he had crashed his car; he never drove again.

d. Dec 2003


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