aviator and decorated war hero by his early 20s, Ross ranched in
South America, ran holidays for inner-city children on Dartmoor,
became a children's TV star of the 1950s, raised thousands of pounds
for charity through his star-studded touring cricket team and broadcast
over four decades for the BBC.
was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a Fellow of the
Royal Anthropological Institute, largely because of his work on
the native peoples of South America.
survived more crashes, by air and on land, than he could remember.
He was shot down twice by his own side during the Second World War,
the second time by trigger-happy Canadians mustered in the Solent
for D-Day, resulting in a remarkable emergency landing on the Isle
born in Harrow in 1922, showed initial promise as a sportsman, though
trials for Middlesex at cricket and Chelsea at soccer came to nothing.
a teenage World War II Navy pilot, a death-defying and highly illegal
stunt involving a Tiger Moth biplane and the arches beneath a bridge
led to his recruitment in the fledgling SAS.
the most extraordinary of his missions flying agile Lysanders deep
into enemy-held territory involved 'the man who was two' - the Norwegian
twins who spied on the Germans' plans to construct an atomic bomb.
Their information played a vital part in the commando raid filmed
as The Heroes of Telemark.
It wasn't until ten years after the war that Ross discovered the
truth behind these missions. Another heroic passenger was the female
D-Day Ross commanded raids deeper and deeper into Europe, commanding
his 'Force T' clad in a top hat and wearing white gloves. He was
awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
1947, Ross answered an advertisement from one of England's largest
cattle companies for a ranch assistant in South America.
After a year of life as a cowboy - rounding up, branding, breaking,
trapping cattle and fighting bush fires - he was made manager of
his own ranch in Colombia: 32 square miles of South American jungle.
life and work bred in him a deep admiration for and fascination
with the indigenous peoples of the continent.
first sojourn in South America came to an end with an air crash
that nearly claimed his life: he suffered 14 major fractures and
was saved only by native South Americans who ferried his naked,
broken body from tribe to tribe through the jungle to the nearest
Flown back to England, Ross was to spend a year in Bart's hospital
moved to Devon with his wife, Rosalie, in the 1950s. For more than
ten years Ross tried to make a success of farming and also ran holidays
for underprivileged city children.
meeting led to an appearance on the TV staple Tall Story Club to
talk about his experiences, and Ross's richly varied broadcasting
became 'TV's jungle cowboy', demonstrating his skills to a fascinated
audience of children. He completed a horseback ride across Britain,
riding through many major cities and being mobbed in most of them.
of associated books followed: Jungle Cowboy, Forbidden Jungle, My
True Adventure Stories, True Cowboy Tales, True Jungle Stories,
Mountain Trek and High Jungle.
at the 1967 Devon County Show.
easy manner and confident style also got him noticed by the fledgling
regional station, BBC South West.
His first job for them was scoring a televised darts match between
competitors in Plymouth, Bristol and Southampton.
He went on to cover sport for the station for some 30 years.
and producer Roy Lipscombe, who worked with Ross at BBC South West
for 20 years, said: "He'd always arrive at the last minute
totally out of breath, but sit down in front of the camera and always
get it right.
"He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of sport. I had great respect
for him: he was a great entertainer."
became a scorer for BBC television's cricket coverage, working alongside
figures such as John Arlott, Brian Johnston and Peter West. He covered
rugby and cricket for the BBC and the Sunday Telegraph.
sporting contacts led to his forming the charitable all-star team
The International Cricket Crusaders, for whom he recruited greats
such as Sir Garfield Sobers and Fred Trueman to take part in tours
of the West Country.
Together, they raised £165,000 for the appeal for Stoke Mandeville
Hospital led by Sir Jimmy Saville.
fascination with South America had stayed with Ross. Over three
decades and four expeditions he pursued his theories about the origins
of civilisation on the continent.
pioneering work in this field was praised in John Blashford Snell's
recent new book on the subject, East to the Amazon.
Ross won an international television award for one of his films
of his explorations, and one of his books on the subject was said
to be 'a travel book in the great English tradition, showing a true
individualist in stubborn pursuit of his dream'.
and businessman Stuart Fraser, who worked with Ross for more than
20 years, said: "Ross was probably one of the last great English
eccentrics of the golden age of exploration and adventure, a great
storyteller and raconteur, and a warm and generous man."
is survived by his wife Rosalie their twin children Linda and Kirk,
and two grandsons.
Obituary by Stuart Fraser.