Frank Leslie Ross

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Frank Leslie Ross was born, 10 January 1893, in Invercargill to Ester and Robert Ross [1].

After leaving school, Frank was required to undergo compulsory military training with the Invercargill Defence Cadets. After two and a half years he then moved to the 4th Territorial (Otago) Regiment in Dunedin where he remained for 9 months [2]. 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 [3].”

On 4 August 1914 New Zealand declared war on Germany and on 21 August 1914 Frank Leslie Ross answered the call for volunteers. On enlistment, he was employed as a Biograph Operator for Fuller & Sons Dunedin [4]. “The calling of Biograph operator was a comparatively new one. He required knowledge of mechanics, of electricity and of photography [5].” 

As 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 for service overseas [6]. 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 [7]. 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 [8].” (See article on 8/809 Private Kenneth Harold Boulton)

  Gully leading to Popes Hill up which the Otagos struggled.

Lance Corporal Ross was one of those wounded and was evacuated, with gunshot wounds (GSW) to upper extremity and right shoulder[9], 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[10]. 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.... [11].”

Lance Corporal Ross had reverted to Private while at Monte Video and in April, 1916 Private Ross was shipped to Egypt to rejoin the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces. From the Otago Infantry Battalion, he was transferred firstly to the 2nd Supply Brigade then on 7 April 1916, to the newly formed 2nd Battalion of the Wellington Infantry Regiment being allocated to the 9th (Hawkes Bay) Company. Private Ross would have had little time to settle in as the Wellington Infantry Regiment left Egypt, 9 April 1916, for deployment to the Western Front [12]. In Rouen, France, during early training Private Ross was up on a charge of “being insolent and using obscene language to a NCO.”

This resulted in 14 days of No 2 Field Punishment. This was a serious sentence where the offender would wear irons and be liable to loss of pay, access to tobacco and rum. He would also be expected to be on all possible fatigues [13]. The Wellington Infantry Regiment, with other elements of the New Zealand Division, was being trained for the Battle of the Somme. They were committed to the battle in September 1916. Following this battle and while the Battalion was again training, Private Ross, on 8 February 1917 was again up on a charge; this time for “against standard orders being still in bed 45 minutes after reveille” (he slept in!) and was awarded 7 days of No 2 Field Punishment [14].

The New Zealand Division was preparing for the next major battle, Messines. Two days prior to the battle Private Ross was promoted to Lance Corporal. The Messines battles started on 7 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, and many New Zealand and Allied troops were killed and injured [15]. Lance Corporal Ross was one of these casualties being gassed during a German counter bombardment. Lance Corporal Ross was collected from the battlefield 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 where he was again assessed. Lance Corporal Ross was sent to England arriving at the 2nd New Zealand General Hospital in Walton, four days after becoming a casualty [16].

  Equipped for gas in the trenches- Messines 1917.

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 [17].” “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 [18].”

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 [19].” 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.

Frank Leslie Ross initially returned to Dunedin, his medals were delivered to him on 29 July 1921 c/o the Shamrock Hotel, Dunedin [21].  By 1926 Frank Ross was living in Plimmerton, he was a member of the All Blaks Minstrel Troupe who were reported in the Evening Post of 12 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 [22].”

  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 Leslie Ross was a witness to a fatal motorcycle accident on the Paremata / Porirua road being listed in the court report as “of Plimmerton, an Hutt Valley Power Board employee [23].”

During the 1930’s, Frank and his wife, Lilian Nellie Ross[24]  were very active in the Plimmerton community with involvement in Plimmerton Players, Plimmerton Plunket, Plimmerton Boating Club and the Plimmerton Home & School Association. Frank Ross had a strong connection with the Plimmerton Rugby Club, being the selector of the Plimmerton Junior 2nd team that won the division championship in 1934.

1934 Plimmerton Junior 2nd Frank Ross standing left.

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) [25].” (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 [26]. 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 [27].”

Frank Ross was still living in Plimmerton in 1952 the Telephone Directory has him listed as an electrician [28].

There is no record in New Zealand Births, Deaths and Marriages or either Frank or his wife’s death.

Story by Allan Dodson – February 2013.


[1] Birth - Frank Leslie Ross: 1893/5015 BDM Department of Internal Affairs.

[2] Service Record 8/695 Private Frank Leslie Ross: Archives New Zealand.

[3] Defence Cases: Otago Daily Times 3 March 1914.

[4] Service Record 8/695 Private Frank Leslie Ross: Archives New Zealand.

[5] Arbitration Court, Biograph Operators: Dominion 10 March 1917.

[6] Nominal Roll, 8/695 L/Corporal Ross: Auckland Cenotaph database.

[7] Page 173 Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story, Christopher Pugsley.

[8] Page 183 Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story, Christopher Pugsley.

[9] Service Record 8/695 Private Frank Leslie Ross: Archives New Zealand.

[10] Casualty List from Gallipoli: Dominion 11 May 1915.

[11] Final Sorting Depot – Gallipoli or Home: Press 25 November 1915.

[12] Service Record 8/695 Private Frank Leslie Ross: Archives New Zealand.

[13] Field Punishments: Dominion 6 June 1917.

[14] Service Record 8/695 Private Frank Leslie Ross: Archives New Zealand.

[15] The Battle for Messines: NZ History Online.

[16] Service Record 8/697 Private Frank Leslie Ross: Archives New Zealand.

[17] NZ Soldiers Club 17 Russell Square: School of Advance Study, University of London.

[18] NZ Soldiers Club: Wairarapa Daily Times, 21 March 1917.

{19] The Codfort Depot: NZ Electronic Text Collection.

[20] Service Record 8/697 Private Frank Leslie Ross: Archives New Zealand.

[21] Service Record 8/697 Private Frank Leslie Ross: Archives New Zealand.

[22] All Blaks nigger minstrel troupe: Evening Post 12 November 1926.

[23] Car Accident – A bad Corner: Evening Post 8 November 1931.

[24] Marriage Frank Leslie Ross / Lilian Nellie Diaper: 1927 BDM Department of Internal Affairs.

[25] New Zealand Defence League in Plimmerton: Evening Post 16 May 1939.

[26] Wellington RSA: Evening Post 20 May 1939.

[27] Plimmerton Home Guard: Evening Post 8 April 1941.

[28] 1952 New Zealand Towns Directory: New Zealand Post.



[1] 1915 Monash Gully leading to Pope’s Hill : Alexander Turnbull Library PA1-o-573-26-4.

[2] 1917 Dressed for gas in the trenches – Messines : Dodson collection.

[3] 1927 All Blaks minstrel troupe in Taupo Hall, Plimmerton: Pataka P-2-62.

[4] 1934 Plimmerton Rugby Football Junior 2nd, Division Champions 1934: Paremata-Plimmerton Rugby Football Clun Inc.

Last Updated: 17/06/2015 6:26pm