Harold Osborne Ross, Killed in Action

Portrait of Ross just before going overseas

Portrait of Ross just before going overseas

Harold Osborne Ross is typical of the many young soldiers who were killed in the First World War. He was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England and immigrated to Canada. He lived for a time with his wife Winnifred in Edmonton and served with the 19th Alberta Dragoons. I received an email from his grandson, John Thompson, who I met at the University of Alberta and again when we were both doing our doctorates at the University of London, England in 1970. John and his wife Ann are going to Vimy, France to take part in the commemorative ceremonies and they wanted me to help them to find out about his grandfather who had died at Vimy.

I went to the Library and Archives Canada website where personnel records of the First World War can be searched:

http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/search.aspx

I found his Officers’ Declaration Papers that indicated that he enlisted in Winnipeg (as did a number of Edmontonians in the early years of the war) on January 10, 1916. He may also have been a resident of that city. I then did an Ancestry.ca search on the Canada War Graves Registers at:

http://search.ancestry.ca/search/db.aspx?dbid=1973

I found a death record noting that he was a Lieutenant with the 44th Battalion and had died on May 9, 1917 at the “Trenches west of Avion.” There is no indication of a cemetery where he was buried. When I gave John and Ann this information, they were perplexed because the family believed that he had died at Vimy Ridge.

Further research revealed that, while the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the period April 9 to 12, 1917 took Vimy Ridge, the larger battle continued and did not officially end until May 16. Thus, Lieutenant Ross did die at Vimy, but not in the first assault.

A further ancestry.ca search described him as English, Canadian and a painter. The family has a lovely self-portrait drawing that he did just before leaving for the trenches.

His name appears on the Honour Roll in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower in Ottawa and is one of the about 11,000 names inscribed on the Vimy Memorial.

His widow Winnifred with their daughter Jeane ran the family farm near Millet, Alberta and became a powerful voice in the United Farm Women of Alberta serving as a director, vice president and president.

 

See also:

Ken Reynolds, Department of National Defence, “From Alberta to Avion: Private Herbert Paterson, 49th Battalion, CEF.” In Canadian Military History, volume 17, issue 3, article 7, 2008. URL: http://scholars.wlu.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1505&context=cmh