General Alexander Ross General Alexander Ross: his many contributions
Biography - Part 4
Until he was settled in Yorkton, he had not been involved with war veterans affairs. While he was a members of the Great War Veterans, he had not taken an active interest in the organization.
When he came to Yorkton he joined the Great War Veterans Association and attended the occasional meeting and maintained an interest in the surviving officers of the war.
At that time the veterans movement was chaotic. There were 14 nationally chartered organizations in Canada, all clamoring for support. It was obvious that success could not come about unless there was unity in the movement.
He was invited to attend a convention in Regina. Under the plan, Saskatchewan was to have three delegates to a "unity conference" in Winnipeg. He attended the convention and was named honorary treasurer of the first provincial council of the Canadian Legion in Saskatchewan.
The first dominion convention was held in Winnipeg in 1927. The Saskatchewan command was asked to nominate members to the standing committee that would be responsible for formulating the policies of the Legion. He was nominated and was named a member of the resolutions committee.
At the initial meeting of the committee in Winnipeg, the chairman did not arrive and General Ross was nominated for that position. After late hours and hard work, the myriad of resolutions from the various branches were arranged in order and presented to the convention. He held this position for seven years until he was named Dominion president in 1934.
In his new capacity, he was involved with the task of belatedly securing some measure of justice for the ex-servicemen.
In 1926 he organized and became first president of the Yorkton Branch and continued until his election as provincial president in 1930.
During that period the position of the ex-serviceman became difficult. The Legion suffered as financial support dwindled as the depression set in. A special appeal was made for funds and a conference was called in Ottawa in 1934.
There was dissention among the Legion members and as a result the Legion suffered. It was at this convention that he became dominion president. He was given time from his judicial duties by the government to reorganize and try to get the Legion back on its feet.
When he retired as president after four years there was a great improvement in the government's administration of veterans affairs, the Legion was in a solid financial position, most local problems had been solved and there was unity in the Legion.
In 1936 the Vimy Pilgrimage was carried out, a fitting ending to his four years as dominion president.
As the years progressed the Legion was aware of the danger of war, and took steps to mobilize the strength of the Legion to develop a program of auxiliary services for the armed forces. Hence the incorporation of the Canadian Legion War Services with General Ross becoming the chairman of the Board of Directors with the responsibility of developing a program.
With other members of the board being called up for service, General Ross found he was directing Legion affairs, first to provide comfort and amenities for the men serving and also to develop a program to enable them to improve their education while serving, thus making the rehabilitation easier.
Money was always the problem. That meant organizing a national campaign, which was successful.
After the fall of France during the Second World War, a civil defense organization was set up, with General Ross in charge. He had the assistance of the local branches of the Saskatchewan Legion to recruit members. In all some 6,000 men were enrolled in this organization.
At the same time the provincial government became concerned about the rehabilitation of men returning from overseas and established a committee made up of various groups in the business world to act in an advisory capacity. Alexander was vice chairman of the committee, and the policy outlined by this committee was largely adopted by the federal government.
He was named Saskatchewan director for civil defense, and later was asked to be Dominion director, which involved moving to Ottawa. While there, the Minister of Veterans Affairs asked him to chair a committee to revise the regulations dealing with medical treatment of veterans.
This involved considering all existing legislation and drafting and providing improvements.
He returned to Yorkton in 1945 to take up his life as District Judge.
In 1955, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the province of Saskatchewan, he was recognized as a pioneer of the province and in that same year was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Saskatchewan. He was also awarded the Centennial Medal for "distinguished service."
At the age of 88 he finished his memoirs by saying, "I do feel that whenever I was asked I did my duty and I am content." General Ross died October 19, 1973.
General Ross will be remembered as taking part in the annual November 11 Remembrance ceremonies at the local Legion, and holding court at the dinner held that evening.
Many people have fond memories of their association with the General.
I worked closely with him when he was president of the local chapter of the Canadian Red Cross. My husband used to say he knew when I was on the phone with the General because I was standing at attention, saying Yes Sir!