Private Charles Ross Francis
Charles Ross Francis, known as Charlie, was born in 1889 in Headingly, Manitoba, and was working as an insurance inspector in Winnipeg at the time that he joined up. His father was from Kent, England, where he still had many relatives (who Charlie would later spend the majority of his leave with). On his mother's side his Canadian roots ran much deeper: his ancestors included Alexander Ross, a Scottish fur trader and his wife Sally, the daughter of an Okanagan chief (who would help found the Red River Settlement) as well as John Black, the first Presbyterian minister in Western Canada.
Charlie joined up in October 1915, originally with the 90th Battalion, Winnipeg Rifles. Upon reaching France he was transferred to the 8th Battalion (the original battalion of the Winnipeg Rifles). He served in the trenches at the Somme and at Vimy Ridge, though was fortunate not to take part in any major attacks.
In January 1917 he lost his Corporal stripes for "Neglect of Duty" for not reporting three men as drunk while he was on watch. This was discovered when he testified on their behalf in their court martial hearing for having failed to obey the Major's direct order to attend parade. As a private again, Charlie applied for and was accepted as a Clerk at the 1st Canadian Division Headquarters.
He remained in this role until being demobbed in 1919, when he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the Prince of Wales for his contribution to the war effort. Charlie's survival of nearly 3 years at the front owed more than it's fair share to fortunate timing. He joined the 8th Battalion the day after an attack in which they lost 525 out of 750 men. He left the Battalion for 1st Div. HQ on 8th April 1917, the day before the assault at Vimy Ridge that claimed the life of the Corporal who had replaced him, along with so many others in the Battalion.
This account was provided by Charlie Ross Francis' grandson Alex Francis.
A Soldier's Diary - 1916
A Soldier's Diary - 1918