Ross, Alexander (1880–1973)

Born in 1880 in Forres, Harashire, Scotland, Alexander Ross emigrated to Regina in 1889. After passing his junior matriculation exam at the University of Manitoba in 1896, he obtained an interim teacher's certificate and began to teach at Kronau. In January 1898 Ross joined the James Balfour law firm as an articling student, and at the age of 21 he accepted a partnership in the Regina law firm of T.C. Johnstone. Ross joined the 95th Regiment in Regina in 1908 as a lieutenant. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, he joined the 28th (Northwest) Battalion, CEF and was given command of B Company as a major. In June 1915 the 28th Battalion arrived in England, where it joined the 6th Brigade, 2nd Division of the Canadian Corps. In September of that year the Battalion was sent to the front lines in France. At the Battle of the Somme (1916), Lieutenant-Colonel J.F. Embury, the commanding officer, was wounded and Ross took command of the Battalion. Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Ross led the 28th Battalion at the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917. Previous attempts to capture the German position had failed. However, after three days of fighting the Canadian Corps successfully took the ridge—but at a cost of 3,598 soldiers killed and 7,004 injured. Of the battle, Ross said that it was “Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade. I thought then … that in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.” Ross was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his part in the battle. He received a bar to his Distinguished Service Order for his efforts in planning and directing operations that enabled the Battalion to seize a new section of the line during the May 1918 German offensive.

On his return to Regina in 1919, Ross assumed command of Military District 12. A year later he resumed his law practice, and in 1921 was appointed District Court Judge for the Yorkton District. At that time he joined the Great War Veterans Association and was named honorary treasurer when it became the Canadian Legion in 1926. That same year he organized the Yorkton Branch and became its first president. He served in that capacity until being elected provincial president in 1930. Ross was also the national chairman of the Canadian Legion War Services’ Board of Directors from 1927 to 1934. As chairman, he developed a program of auxiliary services such as education and training for active soldiers, so that their transition into civilian life after the war was made easier. Ross was named Dominion president of the Canadian Legion in 1934, a position he held for four years. In 1955, the University of Saskatchewan awarded Alexander Ross the degree of Doctor of Laws; he was also awarded the Canadian Centennial Medal in 1967 for his distinguished service, and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1971. General Ross died on October 19, 1973.

Daria Coneghan