No.2741 Private John William Ross
John William Ross was born at Hexham in Victoria in 1886 to William Fry Ross and Norah McInnerney. He had a sister Sarah Ann Ross, who was born at Hexham in 1888. She married a Mr Gorman and moved to Western Australia.
In 1889, their mother died at Hexham, in Victoria and no records remain that indicate who raised the children. They may have become Wards of the State, as both of their names and birth years appear in the Indexes.
John had step-brothers from earlier marriages of his parents:
- The eldest of these was William Harry Ross who was born at Garvoc in Victoria in 1883. He served in the A.I.F. as No. 5460, Private William Ross, and lived at Woodline in Western Australia. He served with the 11th Battalion, and the 3rd Machine Gun Company. In a letter to Army Records dated 9 October 1921, he stated that both of his parents died when he was quite young. When he enlisted he nominated his brother Ernest Ross of White Hills as his next of kin.
- Step-brother James (Jim) Ross was born at Hexham in 1871. He served in the 3rd Battalion, and was killed at Gallipoli. Jim’s Service Number was 2170. His next of kin was Mr William Ross, Clear Hill, Bendigo. [Clear Hills does not exist]. Army records state that he was illegitimate, and that his mother had married twice.
- His step-brother Ernest (Ern) Ross lived at White Hills in Bendigo. Ernest wrote to Army Records in July 1920, seeking any information on his deceased brother John.
In his late teenage years, between 1905 and 1907, John Ross spent 18 months with the Permanent Artillery at Melbourne and Queenscliffe. He also worked on the Metropolitan Farm in Werribee, and lived there with the Mann family.
John Ross enlisted in the A.I.F. at Melbourne on 5 March 1916. He was sent to the Broadmeadows Camp for initial training with the 19th Depot Battalion. While there, he was appointed to the 5th Reinforcements, 29th Battalion.
The 29th Battalion was part of the 8th Brigade, and was raised at the Broadmeadows Camp to send reinforcements after the Gallipoli Campaign.
The 29th Infantry Battalion (1 to 6 Reinforcements) embarked from Melbourne on 14 March 1916, per HMAT Anchises A68. They disembarked at Suez on 15 April 1916, and stayed in Egypt until they embarked from Alexandria per “Ivernia”, to join the British Expeditionary Force.
The reinforcements arrived in Marseilles on 29 June 1916, and were 'taken on strength' by the 29th Battalion, 'in the field', on 5 September 1916.
The 29th Battalion fought its first major battle at Fromelles on 19 July 1916. The nature of this battle was summed up by one 29th soldier: “the novelty of being a soldier wore off in about five seconds, it was like a bloody butcher’s shop.” Although it still spent periods in the front line, the 29th played no major offensive role for the rest of that year.
There is a note in his service file that John Ross had re-joined his Battalion from the hospital on 17 February 1917. No reason for him being admitted to hospital is given.
In early 1917, the German Army withdrew to the Hindenburg Line, allowing the British front to be advanced. The Germans, however, made selected stands to delay this advance and the 28th Battalion was involved in defeating a counter-attack at Beaumetz on 23 March.
It was during this battle that Private John Ross was killed, on 2 March 1917. He was buried "In the Field", in Lunnuig Trench near Le Transloy, France. There is no marker on his grave.
Casualties in the 29th Battalion for that month were:
- Killed in Action: 3 Officers, 25 Other Ranks
- Wounded: 6 Officers, 85 Other Ranks
- Died of Wounds: 1 Other Rank
- Missing: 11 Other Ranks
- Accidentally Wounded: 3 Other Ranks
- Admitted to Hospital (Sick): 4 Officers, 61 Other Ranks
An article was published in the Werribee newspaper regarding his death.
Werribee Shire Banner, 22 March 1917, p.2.
Another article appeared in the Bendigo newspaper:
Bendigo Advertiser, 23 April 1917, p.8.
John’s Will left his estate, in equal shares to his niece Erna Ross, and to Mrs Rachel Mann, of Werribee. There was no mention of his other siblings in the will.
[1. Erna Marianne Ross was born in 1910 to Ernest Ross and Victoria Barker of White Hills, Victoria.
2. Rachel Murphy married John Mann at Epping in 1899]
Mr W. Ross (brother of John Ross) of Ipswich, Queensland wrote to the Army Records in March 1917, seeking further details on the death of Private John Ross.
Army Records wrote to Ernest Ross in August 1921, in order to determine who was ‘the legal next of kin’.
The provision within a soldier’s will had no bearing on the distribution of Medals, unless they were specifically mentioned in his will. The procedure was:- Widow, eldest surviving son, eldest surviving daughter, father, mother, eldest surviving brother, eldest surviving sister, eldest surviving half-brother, eldest surviving half-sister.
John’s next of kin, (according to the will), was advised of these facts by letter, in November 1921.
A package containing the personal effects of the late Private John Ross, was received by Mr J Mann at the Metropolitan Farm, Werribee, on 24 August 1917. It contained an identity disc, two letters and a testament.
Mrs John Mann wrote to the Army on 13 September 1919, asking if the kit-bag belonging to Private John Ross, had been returned to Australia with his other effects. The response was that “A soldier’s kit-bag, being part of the military equipment, and the property of the Government, would not be returned.”
The War Gratuity for Private John Ross, 2741, was claimed by Mrs Rachel Mann of Werribee, and Mr Ernest Ross of White Hills, Bendigo. Both claims were rejected by the Army.
Medals and entitlements:
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
1. His name is recorded on the Werribee cenotaph as “ROSS, J.W.”.
A photograph of John William Ross also appeared on Roll of Honor - Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works circa 1920 - World War I Roll of Honour depicting or commemorating 29 'Volunteers from the Board's Service who made the Supreme Sacrifice in the Great War 1914-1918'. It was 'Presented by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Workd Employes [sic] Association'. Printed by the Survey Branch, MMBW.
Pioneer Index Victoria 1836-1888 CD
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