Aircraftman 1st Class Ralph Edwin Booth was born in 1924.the youngest of the six children of Harry Alfred Booth (1877-1965) and Lizzie Cornelia Booth née Langford (1884-1977). His birth was registered in the 2nd quarter of 1924 in the Paddington registration district and his father was a chef.
In October 1940 he was appointed as a postman in the Western District Office of the London Postal Region and joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, service number 1668839, gaining the rank of Aircraftman 1st Class.
He lived in Kilburn High Road, London, NW6 and was drowned, aged 21 years, on 30 August 1945 when his canoe was in collision with the pleasure steamer 'Princess Emily' in the River Thames near Richmond, Surrey. According to local newspapers of the time, his girlfriend, Evelyn Spring, aged 21 years of Winchester Avenue, Hounslow, was rescued by a William Bourley, aged 24 years of Northfield Way, East Ham, who dived from another canoe.
At the subsequent inquest William Albert Parr of New Malden, Surrey, the skipper of the 'Princess Emily', told the East Surrey deputy coroner that he did not stop when, near Richmond Pier, he saw a girl clinging to an upturned canoe being supported by a man. He had received a signal from another steamer that everything was alright and he thought they had been rescued. Skipper Parr said he did not realise that his steamer had collided with the canoe. The deputy coroner, recording a verdict of Accidental Death, said that he did not think it was for him to censure anyone.
He was buried in Section F, Grave 443, in the Willesden New Cemetery, Franklyn Road, London, NW10 9TE. He is also commemorated on page 30 in the Post Office Fellowship of Remembrance Memorial Book 1939-1949 and on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website.
2021: Andrew's research threw up an interesting topic. Booth died in a collision between two non-military vessels on the River Thames near Richmond, and yet he's listed amongst the war dead on a WW2 memorial. This sent us to the CWGC - Commemorations Policy - Eligibility Criteria for Commemoration, where, it seems, a person is eligible if s/he is in full-time service in the armed forces and dies of wounds inflicted or accident - regardless of how or where. That surprised us, but we can understand that by taking such a broad definition they have avoided many unpleasant arguments with relatives. This reminds us of the various definitions of "death by Covid" that we have had over recent years: one being within a fixed time period of a diagnosis, and another, to find the total number by calculating the excess deaths compared with previous years.
Credit for this entry to: Andrew Behan.