John David Ross, Private
Canadian Expeditionary Force
Personal Information: John David Ross was born in Embo, Dornoch, Sutherlandshire, Scotland on 1st March 1892 to Angus and Georgina Ross. Ross stood 5 feet 4 inches tall with blue eyes, dark brown hair and a fair complexion. He was Presbyterian. Prior to enlisting on 18 June 1915, John Ross served three years with the Seaforth Highlanders. John Ross immigrated to Smiths Falls and worked as a baker. He was single. When he enlisted he was a part of the 39th Battalion recruiting out of Smiths Falls, Ontario.[i]
Military Movements: Prior to enlisting with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, John Ross spent three years serving with the Seaforth Highlanders which recruited heavily from the northern Highlands of Scotland. This is consistent of where John Ross was born which is in the Highlands of Scotland.
Private John Ross trained with the 39th Battalion in Canada until his unit set sail for England on 27 August, 1915.[ii] On 21 January 1916 Private Ross was transferred to the 19th Battalion and by 2 February 1916 he was at the front with his unit. He would remain in the unit until he began to suffer from Myalgia in mid-October 1916. Myalgia is a soreness in the muscles which can be symptomatic of other illnesses. What is important to note is that these symptoms coincide with the fighting that was taking place near Courcelette, France and the Battle of the Somme. It is quite possible that Private Ross began to exhibit signs of what we would now identify as post-traumatic stress disorder but this cannot be confirmed. Ross would remain with the 19th Battalion until he died of wounds received at the battle of Hill 70.
Medical Records: Upon enlistment John Ross was considered fit for service. However, in October 1916 he began to complain of sore muscles and was diagnosed with Myalgia. He was admitted to the No. 13 General Hospital where he would remain for two weeks.[iii] He would be transferred back to the 19th Battalion on 9 April 1917 and take part in the aftermath fighting at Vimy Ridge.
Private John Ross would stay with his unit until he was wounded at the Battle of Hill 70 on 15 August 1917. According to the Circumstances of the Death registry he was simply listed as “Died of Wounds” at No. 23 Casualty Clearing Station.[iv]
Final Days: According to Nicholson’s Official History of the CEF, the 19th Battalion was to attack along with the 20th Battalion and advance to Nabob Valley. The war diary of the 19th Battalion states that the men were in the jumping off trench at 0245. The assault began at 0425 on the 15th of August, just as the dawn was breaking.[v] The rolling barrage of the artillery was extremely effective and the soldiers were able to move toward their objective advancing through the debris of Cite Ste. Elisabeth keeping stride with the barrage. Due to heavy enemy machine gun and artillery fire the men had to dig a new trench by consolidating shell holes. Many of these men were assigned to carrying parties to bring up supplies to the 20th and 21st Battalions but the men suffered heavy casualties. Careful note was made to all men of the 19th battalion to look for enemy hiding in holes and cellars as much of this fighting would take place in the debris of destroyed buildings and houses and from in front as well as behind as enemy would emerge behind the advancing Canadians.
It was during this time that Private John David Ross was seriously wounded. According to his service file he suffered a severe shrapnel wound to his left leg and buttocks. He was evacuated from the battlefield and transported to the No. 23 Casualty Clearing Station where a nursing sister tended to his care.[vi] While there he would succumb to his wounds and die.
Lest We Forget: Private Ross is buried at Lapugnoy cemetery on the outskirts of the town of Bethune, France.[vii] His British War medal and Victory medal were sent to his sister Mrs. Margaret Ross in Toronto who was registered as his next of kin. John Ross was killed at the Battle of Hill 70. This is one of Canada’s forgotten battles and the men who died in August 1917 are given little recognition or time in the annals of Canada’s history. Lest We Forget.
[i] Military Service file of John David Ross, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93, Box 8480-22. Information accessed at: http://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=pdf&app=CEF&id=B8480-S022
[ii] Military Service file of John David Ross.
[iii] Military Service file of John David Ross.
[iv] Circumstances of Death Registry, Library and Archives Canada, Information accessed at: https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/mass-digitized-archives/circumstances-death-registers/Pages/item.aspx?PageID=86959
[v] Nicholson, G.W.L., The Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919: The Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War. (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1962) p. 287
[vi] Military Service file of John David Ross
[vii] Veterans Affairs Canada, Canadian Virtual Memorial. Information accessed at: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/54686?John%20David%20Ross