Gross, John William

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John William Gross
2 November 1919 – 14 April 2016
Gross, John William photo.jpg
Place of birth Listowel, Ontario
Place of death Port Elgin, Ontario
Place of burial Sanctuary Park Cemetery, Saugeen Shores, Bruce, Ontario
Allegiance Canada
Service/branch Canadian Army
Rank Major
Major John William Gross "Jack" (2 November 1919 - 14 April 2016) was a Canadian soldier who served in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals during the Second World War. For his courage and bravery during the Battle of the Scheldt he was named Chevalier de l’Ordre de Leopold II avec Palme (Belgium).

Early Life

John was born in Listowel Ontario on 2 November 1919 to parents Charles Casper Gross and Arnetta Schmidt. Shortly after his birth, John’s family moved to Kitchener, ON where he lived until 1942. John attended King Edward Public School from 1926 to 1932 for Kindergarten to grade 6 and Suddaby Public School for grade 7 and 8 from 1932 to 1934.[1]

John delivered the "Toronto Telegram" by bicycle to the whole city of Kitchener from 1929 to 1934. In 1934, John started high school but one month in, his principal asked him if he would like to work at J. Forsythe Shirt Company in Kitchener, ON. John left high school in 1934 to sell ties until 1937. From 1937 to 1939 he was the payroll clerk at Dominion Tire Co.


John joined the Navy Reserve in Kitchener, ON at age 16 in 1935. He was hoping to become a Morse Code Wireless Operator on a ship and so he set out to learn Morse Code. John joined the Radio College of Canada which was a commercial wireless operators school. After 4 years of night study, John accomplished the speed of 24 words per minute which was needed to pass the examination and receive his certificate. The certificate was needed to become an Officer aboard a ship before the Second World War.

By 1939-40 his rank was “Corporal” in the Signal Platoon of the Headquarters Company of the "Scottish Fusiliers of Canada", but when the war broke out in 1939, he found out that too many ships were sinking from battle: he immediately transferred to the Army. At the same time, John was asked to be an Officer in the Royal Canadian Corp of Signals and go to war. There was a slight problem with John’s citizenship because his birth was not registered and he did not yet meet the education requirements for a Signal Officer as he had left high school early to work. John was able to obtain a birth certificate from the doctor his mother had at the time of his birth and he attended a 2 hour examination at the Board of Education whereby, at the conclusion of the session he was granted a "Senior Matriculation" from the Province of Ontario. John was now eligible to attend the "Officers Training Course" in Brockville, ON in the fall of 1940. Following this course, he traveled to Kingston, ON where he took a "Officers Training Course" at the Royal Canadian School of Signals from which he graduated as a full Lieutenant.

He proceeded to England and was appointed 2nd in Command of D Section when he joined 3rd Canadian Divisional Signals on 12 September 1942. He remained with 3rd Canadian Divisional Signals and was a Lieutenant in charge of "E" Section on D-Day which was in support of 12th Canadian Field Regiment. On 16 June 1944 he was transferred to command "L" Section in support of 9th Brigade.

During the night of 9 October 1944, during Operation Switchback (part of the Battle of the Scheldt), 9th Brigade made an amphibious crossing of the Braakman inlet aboard Buffaloes (a tracked amphibious landing vehicle). At the behest of the Brigade Commander, Brigadier John Rockingham, "L" Section established a communications link across the inlet as part of the successful operation.[2]

In October 1944, Gross is shown as an Acting Captain. He was promoted to substantive Captain effective 10 February 1945. Effective 19 November 1945 he was stricken off strength of 3 Div Sigs for repatriation back to Canada.

For his service during the war he was Mentioned in Despatches (MID)[3], made a Chevalier de l’Ordre de Leopold II avec Palme (Belgium)[4] and awarded the Croix de Guerre 1940 avec Palme (Belgium)[4].

[Service after the war to be promoted Major?]

Personal Life

After the war, John married Margaret Louise "Marnie" Guymer in London, ON On August 24, 1946. From 1946 to 1950 John lived in London, ON where he worked as the Store Manager for Firestone Tire. During this time, John and Margaret welcomed their first daughter, Linda in November 1948. In 1951, the family moved to Calgary, AB when John became the District Manager for Firestone Tires. During this time John and Margaret welcomed another daughter, Mary in April 1951 and a son, John in March 1953. In 1954, the family moved back to London, ON as John became the District Manager for South Western Ontario with Firestone Tires, a position he held with the company until 1962 at which time he became the Ontario Territorial Manager for Firestone Tires out of Toronto, ON. During this time the family continued to grow with the birth of daughter Catherine in November 1956 and son Michael in September 1959. In 1965, the family moved again to Grimsby, ON as John was appointed Vice-president of Sales Canada for Firestone Tires. In 1977, John retired and opened up his own Firestone store in St. Catharines, ON. At the age of 82, John retired in 2011 and turned the store over to his eldest son John. Sadly, Margaret passed away July 21, 2008 and that same year John moved to Port Elgin, ON. John died on 14 April 2016 and is buried with his wife at Sanctuary Park Cemetery, Saugeen Shores, Bruce, Ontario.

Notably, he is the uncle of Canadian actor/director, writer Paul Gross who in 2008 produced Passchendaele, a WWI drama based on his maternal great­ grandfather’s war experiences.[2]

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References and Notes

  1. Jack Gross Plaque write-up, The Signallers Club of Canada
  2. 2.0 2.1 12th Field Regiment Association
  3. The London Gazette, Supplement 37138. 19 June, 1945. Page 3229.
  4. 4.0 4.1 The London Gazette, Supplement 37853. 14 January, 1947. Page 328.