John William Rosamond - Wireless Operator - RFC/RAF

The research into John Rosamond came about as an Acquaintance had saved John’s photograph (showing him in Royal Flying Corps Uniform) from destruction.   Being interested in finding out more about John & his WW1 service I was happy to assist.

John Rosamond served as a Wireless Operator & although this project is about WW1 Airmen, I thought it would be nice to tell Johns Story & highlight the important job that Wireless Operators did during this period.

John William Rosamond was born on the 13th February 1895 in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire to William Perren Rosamond, an Engineman & Charlotte Glover.   At this time the family lived at 31 Harris Street, Middlesbrough.    William & Charlotte had previously married in Middlesbrough in 1881.

John was Baptised at St Pauls Church, Middlesbrough on the 8th March 1895 & was the youngest child of five, having an older brother Charles, two older sisters Florence & Mary & another sibling who sadly didn’t survive.

By the 1901 Census the family have moved to 38 Albert Street in Middlesbrough.  Johns father William is working as a Stationery Engineman & his older brother Charles now 19 years old is working as a Carpenter.  John who is 6 years old is attending school.

The 1911 Census reveals that the family are still at the same house on Albert street, William is still working in a Paper Mill & a young John now 16 years old has a job as an Apprentice Drawer.  His 81 year old Maternal Grandmother is living with the family & they are also taking care of his sister Florence now 24 who has suffered from a disability since the age of 16.

On the 11th January 1915 & a month before his 20th Birthday, John would enlist in the Royal Flying Corps.  He was described as 5 feet 4 ¾ in height & had a chest size of 33 inches.  He was allocated the service number 2913 & rank of 2nd Class Air Mechanic.

Image of John Rosamond
courtesy of Neil Webster

On completion of his initial training John would leave with 2 Squadron on the 20th March 1915 to serve in France & train as a Wireless Operator.  In October of 1915 he qualified as an official Wireless Operator with the Post Office Engineering Department (a body which would later go on to become British Telecom).   This department trained not only their own employees but those serving in the Armed Forces in morse code, signalling & radio operation.

Unlike the Wireless Operators of WW2 who took their place in Bombers the equipment & batteries required to power such equipment during WW1 was much too heavy for Bi-planes, there was little room in the cockpits & it left the Pilot & Observers open to attack.   Early communication relating to enemy locations etc was therefore carried out by dropping notes to the ground.

By 1915 things had moved on & maps of the area were coded & squared off to allow locations to be better identified.  Observers were now provided with maps & wireless sets & were able to transmit target locations (a job that took practice & skill) to the Wireless Operators on the ground via morse code.   This allowed battery units on the ground to adjust their firing & gauge results.   This communication was one way so Airmen had no means of receiving messages, which meant that they had to keep an eye out for signals coming back indicating that the message had been received, often this was carried out by signal lamps.

Wireless Operators on the ground would serve alongside Artillery, Calvary or Infantry Units, which often created a problem as the Operators Equipment was open to damage as were the men themselves to injury or worse, death.  The job would have taken a lot of focus & trying to decipher faint morse code signals often with little light & with shells & gunfire surrounding them would not have been an easy job!    Sadly, Hundreds of Wireless Operators would lose their lives during World War One.

On the 1st May 1916 John was promoted to 1st Class Air Mechanic & on the 1st October of the same year to Acting Corporal.

In January of 1917 he would be promoted to Corporal which would become Corporal Mechanic when the Royal Flying Corps amalgamated into the Royal Air Force on 1st April 1918 & at this time, he would receive a daily pay of 5 shillings.

He would remain in service in France until 19th February 1919 & was awarded the Victory, British & 15 Star Medals.

After the war John would marry Sarah Bailey in 1926 in Middlesbrough.

At the start of World War Two John & Sarah were living at 32 Orchard Way, Ormesby, Middlesbrough & John was working as a Lorry Driver.  At this time, they are doing their bit for the war effort & have an 11-year-old Evacuee named Thomas Barwick living with them.

John & Sarah would later move along the street to number 22 Orchard Way where they would remain until both of them passed away within months of one another in 1978.

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