Brigadier General Alex Ross, D.S.O.
28th (Northwest) Battalion
…the barren earth erupted humanity. From dugouts, shell holes and trenches, men sprang into action, fell into military formations and advanced to the ridge–every division of the corps moved forward together. It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade. I thought then, and I think today, that in those few minutes, I witnessed the birth of a nation.
(Brig. Gen. Ross, History of the 28th Battalion, 1961, preface)
Alexander Ross was a Saskatchewan lawyer who rose from a militia lieutenant to brigadier general of the 6th Infantry Brigade. Born on 2 December 1880 in Forres, Harashire, Scotland, Ross immigrated to Regina in the Northwest Territories with his family at the age of six. After graduating from the University of Manitoba with a law degree, Ross became a barrister with King’s Counsel and joined the 95th Rifles. In December 1914, he enlisted as a company commander with the 28th Battalion recruited from Saskatchewan.
The 28th deployed to France in September 1915 as part of the 6th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division. After Lieutenant Colonel J. F. L. Embury was wounded at the battle of the Somme, Ross assumed command of the battalion on 17 September 1916. Ross was mentioned in the dispatches seven times and received the Distinguished Service Order after the battle of Vimy Ridge.
His citation read: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. His preparation for the attack was perfected to a very high standard. During the advance he handled his battalion with the greatest skill and determination. The success of the operation was largely due to his fine leadership and example.
Leading the battalion through Passchendaele in fall 1917, he described the battlefield as “the graveyard of everybody.” In September 1918, he was awarded a D.S.O. Bar for gallant leadership. On 2 October 1918, Ross succeeded Brigadier General A. H. Bell as commander of the 6th Brigade.
Throughout his postwar career, Ross remained involved with promoting veterans’ issues and served as an executive with the Canadian Legion. In July 1936, he organized the pilgrimage of over 6,000 Canadian veterans to the unveiling of the Vimy memorial in France. Reflecting on the significance of the battle nineteen years before, Ross described Vimy Ridge as “the birth of a nation.”
He died on 19 October 1973 at the age of ninety-two.
Image: King Edward VIII at the Unveiling of the Vimy Memorial, MIKAN 3377866
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