05 June 2009

RIP: John Campbell Ross

John Campbell Ross
11 Mar 1899 – 3 Jun 2009

The last remaining Australian veteran of World War I has died. ZUI this article from the Sydney Morning Herald:
THE life of Jack Ross, the last of 416,000 Australians who enlisted for service in World War I, began two years before Australia became a nation and spanned three centuries.

Officially he was the nation's last World War I soldier, although he never left Australia or saw active service. He was ready to leave for France when the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.

John Campbell Ross, who died in Bendigo yesterday at 110, was born in Newtown, Victoria, the son of a goldminer. He taught himself Morse code by the age of 15, after learning how to pump the organ at the local church, using a similar pattern of starts, pauses and stops.


After training at Broadmeadows, Melbourne, he was transferred to the Light Horse, based at Liverpool, as a wireless operator in the Wireless Corps. By then the Allies had won major battles at Villers Bretonneux and Hamel and the Somme.


Jack Ross's wife, Irene (Laird) predeceased him by many years. He is survived by a son, Robert, a daughter, Peggy Ashburn, four grandchildren - Janette, Heather, Kay and John - and nine great-grandchildren.

ZUI also this article from the Melbourne Herald Sun:
There's a saying that old soldiers never die, they just fade away. But not quietly spoken, chocolate-loving Jack Ross.

For the last Digger of World War I, it was entirely the opposite. Instead of drifting from public view, old Jack became more and more significant with every birthday and with the passing of every other worn-out veteran of that bloody conflict.

With each historic demise, the media would respectfully pay him a call.

When Somme survivor Marcel Caux passed away in 2002 . . .

When Peter Casserly, 107, the last of the 330,000 Australian servicemen who served overseas in the 1st AIF, died in Western Australia in 2005 . . .

And when the last Australian serviceman who saw active service in WWI, former chief petty officer William Evan Crawford Allan, drew his final breath a few months later, at the age of 106. Jack knew them all. Not personally of course, but by association. Like members of an elite, if extremely elderly club.


"Today we mourn the death of Jack Ross," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told Parliament. "I ask that we also reflect on the service and sacrifice of the 417,000 Australians who served our nation during the First World War, and the 61,000 who gave their lives.

"We will continue to remember and to honour their legacy."


Jack Ross was the oldest living Victorian, from a family that is remarkable for its longevity. His eldest sister died at 99, another made it to three figures and another was still going strong in her 90s.

But of course war could easily have snuffed out his life almost before it had begun, as it did to tens of thousands like him.

John Campbell Ross enlisted in February 1918 at Maryborough in central Victoria, but his mother gave him permission only on the proviso he was posted to the wireless and telegraph section after his brother, Harrie, suffered spinal injuries while fighting in France.

He did as mum told him and his good fortune in 1918 was to not make it past Sydney's North Head before the war came to an end. In World War II he served in the volunteer defence force, but survived again unscathed.

...and this article from Adelaide Now:
Mr Ross was awarded the 80th Anniversary Armistice Remembrance medal in 1998 to commemorate the end of the war.

He also received the Centenary Medal for his contribution to Australian society in the 100 years since federation.

The last serviceman who saw action in World War I was seaman William Evan Allan, who died in Melbourne aged 106 in October 2005.

The last veteran of the Western Front was Digger Peter Casserly, who died in Perth aged 107 in June 2005.

The last Gallipoli veteran was Tasmanian Alec Campbell, who died aged 103 in May 2002.

The last survivor of day one of the Gallipoli landings on April 25, 1915, was Sydney man Ted Matthews, who was 101 when he died in 1997.

Wikipedia lists five remaining verified WWI veterans (three British, one Canadian and one US), along with one unverified veteran (British) and one WWI-era veteran (Polish).

Update 1025 10 Jun: Ross is the 29th supercentenarian listed by the Gerontology Research Group (GRG) to die since the death of Beatrice Farve on 19 January; Shitsuko Araki of Japan (born 24 Mar 1898) also died on 3 June. The GRG's list of validated living supercentenarians (people who have reached their 110th birthday) currently includes 82 people (8 men and 74 women), ranging from Gertrude Baines of California (born 6 Apr 1894) to Grazia-Giovanna Carbonaro-Pitrolo of Italy (born 5 Apr 1899); none of them live in Australia.

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