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Andrew Ross (rugby union)

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Not to be confused with Andrew Ross, Scottish international rugby player, born 1904.
Andrew Ross
Andrew Ross.JPG
Date of birth c. 1880
Place of birth Edinburgh, Scotland
Date of death 6 April 1916(1916-04-06)
Place of death St Eloi, Belgium
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)[1]
Weight 14 st 4 lb (91 kg)[1]
School Royal High School, Edinburgh
Occupation(s) Marine engineer
Rugby union career
Position(s) Forward
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
Provincial / State sides
Years Team Apps (Points)
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1905, 1909  Scotland 5 (0)

Military career
Buried at Ridge Wood Military Cemetery, Belgium
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Canadian Expeditionary Force
Years of service 1914–1916
Rank Private[a]
Unit "Tobin's Tigers"
Battles/wars Western Front (World War I)

Andrew Ross (c. 1880 – 6 April 1916) was a Scottish rugby union player. He was born in Newington, Edinburgh, son of solicitor Andrew Ross, and educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh. He worked in the Merchant Navy as a marine engineer. He played for Royal High School FP and was capped several times for Scotland between 1905 and 1909.[3]

He was in Canada when World War I started and joined a Canadian regiment. He was killed in Belgium fighting with the 29th Canadians (Tobin’s Tigers).[3] He is buried in Ridge Wood Military Cemetery, Belgium.

Early life[edit]

Andrew Ross was born in Newington, Edinburgh. He was the oldest surviving son of Andrew Ross, Ross Herald, and William Frances Ross née Gillon. He had seven siblings.[4] He attended the Royal High School, Edinburgh, where he proved to be an all-round athlete, and an excellent swimmer. Aged sixteen, he was apprenticed on the Glenfyne, sailing from Dundee, round Cape Horn, to Iquique. After returning to school for a year, he was apprenticed to a firm of engineers.[5]

Rugby career[edit]

After leaving school, he played for the Royal High School former pupils team, gaining a reputation as a fast and courageous forward. He earned selection for Edinburgh, and on 2 December 1899 played in the Inter City game against Glasgow: it was the first time in ten years that Edinburgh beat Glasgow. He was also a keen oarsman, rowing with the East of Scotland Rowing Club of Leith.[5]

Ross's career as a marine engineer took him overseas, but returning home in 1904, he played again for Edinburgh, beating Glasgow 6–3. Following this match, he was selected for the Cities team to play against the Rest on 14 January 1905. His performance earned him selection for Scotland in the Home Nations fixture against Wales at Inverleith on 4 February 1905.[6] Ahead of the game, the press was divided on which side would win, with the Scots having the home advantage and the better forwards, and the absence of Wales's Dick Jones at half back was seen as detrimental. Yet it was reckoned that if the Welsh backs got sufficient ball, they would be too clever for Scotland. The weather would also play a crucial role. For his part, Ross was expected to make "strong impressions in more than one sense".[7] Before the game, the Evening Express said of him:

Andrew Ross has a particular bulldog style of play, and is known among his opponents as "Hackenschmidt". This is his first honour, and it is pretty certain that some of the Welshmen will feel sore before the game is through.[8]

In the event, the weather was fine and favoured Wales, which beat the home team 3–6, in front of 20,000 spectators. The Scottish forwards "looked a fine, powerful lot", with their average estimated to be 10 lbs greater than the Welsh. The Scots scored first, through Little, but the Welsh captain, Willie Llewellyn, evened the scores before half time, and sealed the Welsh victory with a second try in the second half.[9]

Ross was kept on for the rest of the championship, playing against Ireland on 25 February, and England on 18 March.[6] Against England, he broke his ribs early in the game but played on to the end.[10]

Returning once again to Scotland in 1909, Ross was recalled to the Scottish XV, playing against Wales on 6 February, and against Ireland on 27 February.[11] Having lost to Wales at home for only the second time in 1905, Scotland repeated the defeat in 1909, losing 3–5 (a penalty to a converted try), in a game that was noted chiefly for poor refereeing.[12]

International appearances[edit]

Opposition Score Result Date Venue Ref(s)
 Wales 3–6 Lost 4 February 1905 Inverleith [13]
 Ireland 5–11 Lost 25 February 1905 Inverleith [14]
 England 0–8 Won 18 March 1905 Richmond [15]
 Wales 3–5 Lost 6 February 1909 Inverleith [16]
 Ireland 9–3 Won 27 February 1909 Inverleith [17]

Military service[edit]

At the outbreak of the First World War, Ross was in Canada, near the Arctic Circle. He travelled back to Vancouver from Albert Bay, arriving on 14 November 1914. Two weeks later, according to his correspondence, he was in training with the Second Canadian Division,[11] having joined the 29th Battalion (Vancouver), of the Canadian Expeditionary Force: the battalion was nicknamed "Tobin's Tigers" after Lt Col H.S. Tobin, who began recruiting on 14 October 1914. The 29th Canadians embarked for Britain on 29 May 1915,[18] arriving in Devonport in June 1915. After a visit home, Ross joined camp on 30 July. He competed shortly after in the regimental sports at Stamford Bridge, London, before departing for the Western Front,[19] reaching France on 17 September.[18]

The normal practice for a division arriving in France was for it to be kept in reserve, for further training in trench warfare, but the 2nd Canadian Division was sent almost immediately into the front line, under the newly formed Canadian Corps.[20] On 28 September, Ross writes that their line is 30 to 250 yards from that of the Germans. He writes again on 23 November of a ruse to bring out the Germans from behind their defences:

We lit a fire in the trench and put plenty wet wood on it. That made a big smoke. Then two men made all the row they could, shouting at each other and hitting an empty biscuit tin with sticks. The result was, Fritz easily located the row by the column of smoke, and all the Fritzes within hearing peeped round their sandbags to have a look, and as everyone in our trench was on the lookout, it was the last look for most of them.[21]

The role of the Canadians was to execute a policy of "wearing down" the enemy, and early on 31 January 1916, the 6th Brigade, including the 29th Battalion, staged a raid on the German position at the Spanbroekmolen salient. The 29th encountered little resistance, and it took them just four and a half minutes to capture three prisoners, bomb the dugouts and return to their own trenches. This action earned the battalion, and other units, recognition from Sir Douglas Haig in his first despatch for "good work in carrying out... local attacks and raids".[22]

Action at St Eloi Craters[edit]

On 27 March 1916, following an artillery bombardment, combined with the detonation of mines beneath the German trenches, the British 5th Corps attacked the St Eloi salient. On the night of 3–4 April, the Canadian Corps relieved the British, with the 6th Canadian Brigade taking up positions in front of the craters created by the detonations.[23]

The last letter from Ross is dated 4 April 1916. He reports: "there's lots of fighting where we are at present, and just now we are in the German trenches, so have a busy time... I'd like to see you all again..."[24] For the next two days, the Canadian front line was under almost continuous bombardment. The 27th Battalion fared particularly badly, and on the night of 5–6 April, the 29th began relieving them, slowed down by the mud, extra equipment and a congestion of troops.[25]

The corporal of Ross's section reported his death: "On the morning of 6 April we were serving together in the trenches. While attending devotedly and most courageously, under heavy artillery fire, to our wounded men, he was himself hit, and falling over a man he was dressing, died instantly. Quite reckless as regarding his own life, he exposed it, and gave it to save, as his quick attention undoubtedly did, the lives of a great number of our men." It transpired later that Ross was already wounded before he was finally killed.[24]

Ross is buried at the Ridge Wood Military Cemetery (Grave IR9), West Flanders, Belgium.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sewell (1919, p. 165) says that Ross was a sergeant, but his Grave Registration Report shows him as a private.[2]


  1. ^ a b "International Pars". Evening Express. 6 February 1909. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Casualty Details: Andrew Ross". CWGC. 
  3. ^ a b Bath, p109
  4. ^ "Scottish Rugby International Casualties" (PDF). 
  5. ^ a b Sewell 1919, p. 165.
  6. ^ a b Sewell 1919, p. 166.
  7. ^ "TAFFY AND SANDY". Evening Express. 3 February 1905. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  8. ^ "Biographical". Evening Express. 4 February 1905. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  9. ^ "The International". Evening Express. 4 February 1905. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Sewell 1919, pp. 166–167.
  11. ^ a b Sewell 1919, p. 167.
  12. ^ "THRILLING FINAL RALLY". Evening Express. 8 February 1905. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  13. ^ "Scotland v Wales 1905". 
  14. ^ "Scotland v Ireland 1905". 
  15. ^ "England v Scotland 1905". 
  16. ^ "Scotland v Wales 1909". 
  17. ^ "Scotland v Ireland 1909". 
  18. ^ a b
  19. ^ Sewell 1919, pp. 167–168.
  20. ^ Nicholson 1962, pp. 113–116.
  21. ^ Sewell 1919, p. 168.
  22. ^ Nicholson 1962, pp. 135–136.
  23. ^ Nicholson 1962, pp. 137–140.
  24. ^ a b Sewell 1919, p. 169.
  25. ^ Nicholson 1962, pp. 141–142.