100 Years Ago: Death of Leo Ross, Soldiers Request Tobacco

The Intelligencer June 25, 1915 (page 2)

“In the letter from Sergt. Spafford, which we published yesterday, were several references to the death of Gunner Leo Ross. They were omitted in deference to the feelings of Mrs. Ross, mother of the deceased soldier, who we were informed was pained at the references to his death which appeared from time to time.

Mrs. Ross called at The Intelligencer Office this morning, and stated that she read with eagerness the references to her son’s death, and that they afforded her comfort. Under these circumstances we publish the following extracts from Sergt. Spafford’s letter, which were omitted yesterday:—

‘Gunner Leo J. Ross, killed in action on April 30. Gunner Ross had been associated with the 34th Battery since its inception, and one of the most accurate gun layers in the 1st Brigade. He died a hero’s death. We were under terrible gun fire, and owing to the necessity of supporting our infantry we had to stand by our posts. Gunner Ross was one of the few men who had stood the test of our trying duties of the past two weeks.

I note by the paper that there is doubt about my comrade, Gunner Leo Ross. I carried the lad from the gun myself, when he was hit, to the rear. I saw him buried in a beautiful garden of a near by Chateau, amidst the beautiful flowers that grow there. A cross with his name and date of death inscribed, mark the place; beside him are some of our other comrades, Percy Rivers of Vancouver, and two Montreal boys.’ ”

The Intelligencer June 25, 1915 (page 7)

“Intelligencer Tobacco Fund. ‘A Few Cigarettes’ Soldier’s Last Request. While the form of the soldier’s request for tobacco as seen in countless letters received from the Canadian boys at the front, varies almost infinitely between the direct demand and the gentle hint, perhaps no more forcible appeal, though it was made too late, has reached Montreal than that embodied in the last writing of a young soldier to his mother.

When the boy had been instantly killed by a German shell the sergeant of his company noticed a small black note book sticking out of his pocket and on the pages of this he found a letter which the soldier had written to his mother during the previous night in the trenches. …  Begging his mother to keep her money and not to spend it, as she had offered, in buying her son any little luxury that might be a comfort to him in the trenches, the soldier went on to say that, if she must remember him by sending some gift, a few cigarettes would indeed be most welcome, as some of the men had smoking materials and it was misery to watch their enjoyment while he had nothing to smoke himself. The request came too late.

There are 25,000 Canadians engaged in the fighting, however, and these need their smokes as urgently as the young man who watched the few lucky ones with envy and wrote of his feeling to his mother the night before he lost his life. The appeal is endorsed on every hand and the smokes go quickly so that the tobacco hunger is renewed almost as soon as it is assuaged. By contributing to The Intelligencer Tobacco Fund the greatest quantity of tobacco which it is possible to buy is sent by those who want to help.”