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8/695 Private Frank Leslie Ross - 9th Company, 2nd Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment
 
Frank Leslie Ross was born in Invercargill on the 10th January 1893 to Ester and Robert Ross. Frank was the youngest son
in a family of five, with two older brothers and sisters.[i] Frank was raised in Invercargill going to school in the area. Frank, as required when he was 16, to enlist for compulsory military training. Frank served with the Invercargill Defence Cadets then with the 4th Territorial (Otago) Regiment in Dunedin. [ii]
 
In March 1914 Frank Ross was prosecuted under the Defence Act with “failing to render personal services” along with George Bennett and Robert Chapman. Their cases were “adjourned for a month to give the defendants an opportunity to make up their drill.”
 
On the 4th August 1914 New Zealand declared war on Germany, on the 21st August 1914 Frank Leslie Ross volunteered
for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF). Frank’s military files note that he was employed or for
Fuller & Sons, Dunedin as a Biograph Operator[iii].  Frank to perform the role required knowledge of mechanics, electricity and photography.
 
8/695 Lance Corporal Frank Leslie Ross departed with the 4th (Otago) Company
of the Otago Infantry Battalion, joining the main body of the New Zealand
Expeditionary Force (NZEF) for service overseas service[iv].

                                                          8/695 Lance Corporal Ross, Otago Infantry 

The Otago Battalion initially landed in Egypt and trained alongside other
New Zealand and Australian units before landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.
The Otago Infantry were held in reserve then moved to defensive lines. The key
to the ANZAC position was a hill, Baby 700, and the capture of this position would
force the Turks back onto Third Ridge. This would give the besieged in ANZAC
Cove, much needed breathing space and allow them to go onto the offensive  [v] .
The Otago Battalion was part of the forces committed to the assault on Baby 700,
but due to a number of delays, they ended up attacking in daylight against
prepared Turkish forces. The result was a disaster for the Otago Battalion as
they, and other Allied troops, were forced back from Baby 700 to their original
positions.
 “No complete account exists of the losses suffered by Otago in this attack.
The War Diary records five offices wounded, eight missing, 11 men killed,
174 wounded and 208 missing, leaving a strength of 365 out of 800 who went
into the attack. But in truth the Otagos never knew how many were lost [vi].”

Lance Corporal Ross was one of those wounded and was evacuated, with gunshot wounds (GSW) to upper extremity and right shoulder, on the Hospital Ship Dongola, first to Alexandria, Egypt on 8 May 1915. As the Egyptian facilities were crowded with casualties, he was shipped to England and admitted to the South General Hospital, Birmingham,
20 May 1915, along with sixty other soldiers from the Otago Infantry Battalion. Lance Corporal Ross remained in Birmingham for a month and then was transferred to Monte Video, the Australian & New Zealand Base Depot at Weymouth. This camp was considered a 

“Final Sorting Depot – Gallipoli or Home  .... The camp is run under proper military discipline and each day the fit men are taken for route marches and rifle drill and are showing all their old dash and are quite fit for the firing line again. Those temporarily unfit are taken for easy marches and the P.U.’s (permanently unfit) need do no parades except to answer the roll at morning’s call....[vii] .”
 
Lance Corporal Ross reverted to Private while at Monte Video and when considered fit for active service in April1916 Private Ross was shipped to Egypt to rejoin the NZEF. Private Ross was transferred from the
Otago Infantry Battalion, firstly to the 2nd Supply Brigade then on 7 April 1916, to the newly formed 2nd Battalion of the Wellington Infantry Regiment. Allocated to the 9th (Hawke Bay) Company. Private Ross had little time to settle in as the Wellington Infantry Regiment left Egypt on 9th  April 1916, for deployment to the Western Front. In Rouen, France, during early training Private Ross was up on a charge of:
 .
“being insolent and using obscene language to a NCO.”
 
In early 1917 the New Zealand Division was preparing for the Battle of Messines. Two days prior to the battle Private Ross was promoted to Lance Corporal. The Messines battles started on 7th June 1917 with the explosion of huge mines that had been placed under German lines and the New Zealand troops followed hard behind a meticulously planned sequence of standing and creeping barrages across no-man’s land. The capture of Messines and other objectives was achieved with relatively few casualties. German artillery fire had been disrupted in the early stages and had had little impact on the advancing troops. As the day wore on though, German guns began to bombard the newly captured areas with increased ferocity, many New Zealand and Allied troops were killed and injured. Lance Corporal Ross was one of these casualties being gassed during a German counter bombardment. Lance Corporal Ross was evacuated from 'the field' by 
No 9 Australian Ambulance and delivered to the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station before being sent to the rear and on to the No 2 Stationary Canadian Hospital. Following assessed. Lance Corporal Ross was sent to England arriving at the 2nd New Zealand General Hospital in Walton, four days after becoming a casualty.

On 19 December 1917 Lance Corporal Ross was detailed on command to the NZ Social Club at 17 Russell Square, London. From “1916 New Zealand soldiers inhabited as portion of their Soldiers Club in London the house in Russell Square in
which Governor Hobson’s daughter had lived for many years. She had died a few months before, and her husband,
Sir Alexander Rendell, gladly gave his house to the New Zealanders free of rent.” “The club was open at all hours for the reception and accommodation of NZ soldiers; it has beds for 200 men with a fine billiard room. There is also a musical room where a great many of the soldiers retire to, and any musical members of the force can amuse themselves at the piano.”
 
Lance Corporal Ross remained at the club until March 1918 when he was redeployed to the Codfort Depot
for final assessment. “At Codfort the men were divided into three classes – A, B, and C. Upon entering camp, a soldier was graded B3 and was given light work – potato picking or a little digging. Classification of the men was held once a week by the medical men. Many failed in the try out. They were then sent either to hospital, to head-quarters for allotment to duties as permanent or temporary unfit or to Torquay for return to New Zealand. On 11 July 1918 Lance Corporal Ross reported to Torquay as medically unfit, to be returned to New Zealand [20].  There was a final charge for a minor indiscretion with Ross being reverted to the rank of Private, on 14 July 1918. Private Ross would return to New Zealand on the “Ayrshire” leaving England 6 November 1918, five days before the Armistice came into effect at 11:00 on 11 November 1918. On arrival in New Zealand Private Ross was given a month's leave and then discharged in May 1919
‘as no longer fit for war service because of wounds suffered (gas poisoning)’

Frank returned to Dunedin. In January 1921 Frank Ross married Margaret Ellen Bradbrook but sadly Margaret
passed away in April 1922. Two other major events happened during this time in Otago. The first was a meeting between Frank and Jim Casey in Otago; this friendship would be continued in Plimmerton. The second was Frank’s ongoing love of yachting. Frank renewed his connections with boyhood friend Tom Bragg from Opua, Stewart Island. Tom sailed X-class yachts, representing Southland in the inter-provincial sailing championships for the Saunders Cup. Frank Ross was a supporter of Tom Bragg’s Murihiku crew in January 1924, when Southland team came to Wellington for the
1924 competitions. ‘About this time Frank meet Lillian Draiper, who was living with her parents in Lyall Bay, Wellington.’
 
Frank moved permanently to Wellington after the competition and began work in 1924 ‘with the team laying the 220,000 volt high-tension power line between Paekakariki and Otaki. On the completion of the line Frank joined the Hutt Valley Electric Power Board as a resident linesman/trouble shooter for its Western Region, based in Plimmerton. Frank married his second wife Lillian in 1926. They built a house at 50 Motuhara Road, Plimmerton and while the rear of the section was steep it provided plenty of land to establish gardens and grow vegetables for which Frank (Rossi) was reknown.
 
                                                                                           Rossi was a talented musician and a member of the All Blaks Minstrel                                                                                                 Troupe who were reported in the Evening Post on 13 November 1926.

                                                                                           “On Wednesday evening the All Blaks Nigger Minstrel troupe consisting                                                                                                of Messers F Barlow, W Barlow, G Tinney, F Ross, J W Johnson, W                                                                                                          Sheppard, W Boyd, S Martin and W Martin gave a concert in aid of                                                                                                        Pauhatanui School funds .” 


                                                                                   All Blax at Taupo Hall, Plimmerton 1927
                                                                                             standing  L-R: F Ross, B Tinney, W Boyd, J W Johnson, S Martin
                                                                                             Seated: F Barlow, W Martin, W Barlow and W Sheppard.



In 1931 Frank and Lillian’s only son, Bob was born. It was also a time when the Great Depression was impacting New Zealand. Frank was a member of committee for organising relief food for the Plimmerton region; he is especially  remembered for delivering vegetables to needy families. He is also remembered for his reluctance, as an employee of the Hutt Valley Electric Power Board. to cut off people’s power supply, often reporting that ‘no one was home.’ Frank was also known to pay some accounts himself, as a last resort. This community support was common in the village
of Plimmerton older residents remembering the local baker Andrew Cochrane, left bread at people’s letterboxes and the local butcher Jim Casey, made sure that there was ‘something’ available to those families who were struggling.

For his work with the community, Frank Leslie Ross in 1937 was awarded the George VI Coronation Medal. There were 90,000 of these silver medals issued through Britain and the Empire as a ‘personal souvenir of his majesty’s Coronation.
 
With the threat of a European war Frank Ross became involved like many former soldiers, in raising the awareness of the need for a prepared New Zealand. The Evening Post on 16 May 1939 reported "The aim of the New Zealand Defence League is to assist the Government in educating the public to the realities of the defence position, were placed before a meeting of Plimmerton residents last week .... after questions it was decided to form a Plimmerton branch and a provisional committee was elected as follows:- Messers J Wallace (chairman), * H Bramley, * F C Denman,*  F L Ross,* 
G H McDermid,*  C H Tolan,*  E Brady, K Brady, O M Lane (treasurer) and W Inglis Young (secretary). (Those with a * have been identified as ex servicemen)

Frank Ross was also a member of the New Zealand Returned Serviceman’s Association and in May 1939 was elected,
along with Mr Cochrane, to represent Plimmerton in the Wellington branch of the RSA. It is possible that Frank Ross was not fit enough to join the Home Guard, but he did support the unit as reported in this item. “Lieutenant Hancock, unit commander of the Plimmerton Home Guard, announced the appointment of new officers and NCOs. In his speech Lt Hancock pointed out that Plimmerton was one of the most vital areas in New Zealand but he believed that they had the men to do the job.... items by Messers: Tahiwi and Ross were supported by other on an entertainment programme.”
 
Rossie  and Lill were involved in many community activities – Frank in the
All Blaks musical troupe; Plimmerton Rugby and Paremata-Plimmerton Rugby
Club; Plimmerton Bowling, Croquet & Tennis Club; Plimmerton Boating Club;
Plimmerton Home and School Association, NZ Defence League and Plimmerton
Returned Servicemen. He became a life member of many of these clubs and
associations. Lillian was involved in Plimmerton Plunket, Plimmerton Red Cross,
Plimmerton Bridge Club and the Plimmerton Play Readers and worked for many
years in the Plimmerton Post Office.

                                                                                                Rossie and Lill c1950
 
After Frank retired from the Hutt Valley Power Board he was offered a part time
position at the Casey Butchery and became popular with his banter. His son
suspects that the Casey’s ‘viewed him as most valuable for entertaining the
customers.
 
Frank and Lillian’s son Bob moved to Australia in the late 1950’s and they
visited him and his family on a number of occasions. It was after one of these visits and after a particularly bad
Plimmerton winter, the couple who both had bronchial problems, (Frank’s stemming from gassing at Messines)
announced in 1978 that they were selling up and moving to Sydney to be close to Bob. At this stage Frank was 83 and Lill 81. They would eventually settle in Bronte, Sydney just a walk away from the beach. Frank passed away in 1983 at the age of 90, and Lill passed away in 1985.

Notes: 
Thank you to Frank and Lill’s son Bob who kindly allowed much of the information on his parents’ life in Plimmerton to be used in this article.

References
Ross family history
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
Paperspast Online

Photos
8/695 Lance Corporal Ross 1915 - Ross family 
All Blaks Troupe - Pataka Art and Museum 
Rossie and Lill - Ross family 


[i] NZ BDM Online
[ii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files:
[iii] Biograph operator now would be called a projector operator
[iv] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 8/
[v] Page 173 Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story, Christopher Pugsley 
[vi] Page 183 Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story, Christopher Pugsley. 
[vii] ] Final Sorting Depot – Gallipoli or Home: Press 25 November 1915.
All Blaks Musical Troupe, Plimmerton - 1927