Ronald, or Ron as he was known to his friends, was born on the 25th February 1917 in Manly, New South Wales. He was educated at Sydney High School and enlisted in the RAAF at Archerfield in Queensland as an Air Cadet on the 5th February 1940. Ron was quickly commissioned in 1940.
As a Flight Lieutenant, Ron served in North Africa, Malta, Sciliy and Italy with 3 Squadron RAAF from January to November 1943. At that stage of the War, 3 Squadron was in the thick of the see-sawing war in North Africa, which finally ended with the defeat of the Axis forces in Tunisia in May 1943. Operating from Malta initially, the Squadron supported Allied operations in Sicily between July and August 1943. Sicily was a stepping-stone to Italy, which became 3 Squadron’s principal area of operations for the rest of the war.
3 Squadron’s original aircraft had been replaced by Hawker Hurricanes by January 1941, but for most of the war its principal workhorse was the Curtis P-40, with which it was first equipped in May 1941. Two successive variants of the P-40, known as Tomahawks and Kittyhawks, were employed by the Squadron before they were finally replaced by North American P-51 Mustangs in November 1944. In Italy, the Squadron adorned its aircraft with a southern cross painted on the rudder, a practice which has been continued by more modern incarnations of 3 Squadron to the current day.
During 1943, Ron had two confirmed victories, was Mentioned in Dispatches and received a DFC. His citation reads as follows:
“Flight Lieutenant Susans has taken part in a large number of operational sorties, having led his squadron on many successful bombing and low level attacks on enemy shipping and communications under intense anti-aircraft fire. This officer has been engaged in air combat during which he has destroyed at least two enemy aircraft and damaged others. Although his aircraft has been hit by anti-aircraft fire on several occasions, Flight Lieutenant Susans’ enthusiasm is undiminished and he has continued to display a fine fighting spirit and great devotion to duty”.
In November 1944, he undertook another tour of duty with 79 Squadron RAAF in the South West Pacic Area, and then with 457 Squadron from April until June 1945 when he became Wing Leader of 80 (Fighter) Wing.
Ron remained with the RAAF after the war, and took up the post of OC RAAF, Parafield, 1945-46. He then commanded 77 Squadron RAAF, Japan, flying Mustangs from 1946-48. Following that, he commanded 25 Squadron, Perth, in 1948-50. He then commanded 77 Squadron for the second time, and took the Squadron to Korea for that conflict, 1951-1952, where he initiated a ground attack programme using rockets. He retired in 1975 with the rank of Air Vice-Marshal.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in 1952, along with the DFC (US) and the US Air Medal. Other appointments included Air Attaché in Paris in 1960-63, Director General, Operational Requirements, Department of Air in 1966-69 and finally Commander Integrated Air Defence System, Malaysia 1971-74, during which he was made a Companion of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Ron died on the 2nd December 1992 in Taree, NSW.
The Spitfire Association