William Antrobus GRIESBACH

GRIESBACH, The Hon. William Antrobus, K.C.

Personal Data

Party
Conservative (1867-1942)
Constituency
Edmonton West (Alberta)
Birth Date
January 3, 1878
Deceased Date
January 21, 1945
Website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Antrobus_Griesbach
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=f157f275-1255-46c8-82b0-b0a17fb78c35&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
lawyer

Parliamentary Career

December 17, 1917 - September 14, 1921
UNION
  Edmonton West (Alberta)
September 15, 1921 - October 4, 1921
CON
  Edmonton West (Alberta)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 4 of 26)


April 29, 1921

Mr. GRIESBACH:

No. There were

four hundred men, one hundred from each of four companies, each man firing one hundred rounds of ammunition. There was no necessity for a test of the Lee-Enfield because its reliability was not in question by the troops who had used both or either. On the first of May we were attacked quite heavily and rapid fire was opened. The two companies with which I was connected slackened fire, and I went amongst them. I discovered that the rifles were jammed, and the actual statistics showed that one company averaged, I think, twenty-seven rounds. In another company their record was not strictly accurate, but they informed me that two-thirds of the rifles had jammed. I found the men trying to open the bolts of the rifles with their boots, and some tried to beat the bolts open with their entrenching tools. I found the men in a very bad way, using expressive language, while some of them were almost crying. Altogether the situation was pretty bad. I promised them that they would never have to use the Ross rifle again, although I had no authority to make such a promise. I told them, however, to help themselves to Lee-Enfield rifles whenever they could, and thereupon there sprang up a traffic between my men and the men in the British hospitals. The price of the Lee-Enfield was five francs. A man going to a British hospital would put his rifle in charge of the orderly, and get a check for it, and the orderly was willing to put a Ross rifle in its place for five francs. In that way I almost succeeded in re-arming my battalion with Lee-Enfields. Then came some fighting at Hooge, and the Ross rifles again jammed.

Topic:   REVISED EDITION. COMMONS
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April 29, 1921

Mr. GRIESRACH:

The story of the Ross rifle, in brief, is that it was introduced into the Canadian militia some time in 1902 or 1903. Up to that time, the Canadian militia had been armed with the long Lee-Enfield, which had been used successfully in the South African war. I have never been able to understand why it was considered necessary that we here in Canada should have a rifle pattern of our own. It is of the very essence of co-operation in military service that all the material which is used shall be standard. Therefore, I think it was a mistake in the first instance to introduce our own rifle which differed from the rifle in use throughout the rest of the Empire. The argument advanced at that time was that it was desirable in the manufacture of rifles that we should be independent, and have a factory of our own and make our own rifles. That argument would be perfectly good still, if we made a standard rifle, but it was decided that we should have a rifle pattern of our own, the latest thing in rifles, and so the Ross rifle came into being. A factory was established at Quebec and the arming of the Canadian militia with the Ross rifle began in 1902 or thereabouts.

My first experience with the rifle was in 1908, when I was attending a board test

of fifty of these rifles in rapid fire. Four per cent of these rifles jammed in the test. Something went wrong with the chamber; there was some weakness in the extractor; after the explosion, the cartridge stuck in the breech and the extractor would not extract it. That seems to have been the difficulty throughout. That was reported on in that year; I was the chairman of the board at that time. After that, the Ross rifle became a political football for the political parties. A lot of men defended it who did not know anything about a rifle, and a lot of men attacked it, who knew less. When the war broke out, the Canadian militia was armed with the Ross rifle, and there at once came a demand all over the world for rifles. It must be assumed that any rifle is better than none at all, and so the Canadian force proceeded overseas armed with the Ross rifle. The unfortunate part of it was-I will say that in favour of the rifle at the moment-that the country was fairly well divided on the value of the Ross rifle. There had been propaganda against it, but on the other hand there were those who favoured it. As a single-shot rifle, as distinct from rapid fire, the Ross rifle was satisfactory; that is to say, in firing single shot there was no heating of the barrel, and generally the extractor worked and the empty shell was withdrawn. There were rapid fire Lists of the Ross rifle in Canada prior to t ie war, at various places and times, and in all these tests a certain number of the rifles would jam That fact was known.

The first severe fighting in which the Canadian troops became engaged was at the battle of Ypres, in April, 1915.' While I was not there, I have been told by hundreds of people-it is a matter of common knowledge, there is no question about it-that the Ross rifles jammed in rapid fire. Those who defend the rifles say, first, that the men were not trained in the manipulation of the bolt. Well, a military rifle should not be so intricate that a man of ordinary intelligence cannot learn to operate the bolt. Next, it was said in favour of the rifle that the ammunition was bad, or at all events was unsuitable to the rifle. Well, troops should not be armed with a rifle that is not suited to all the ammunition supplied. There were six or seven brands of ammunition in use at that time, and the British rifle used them all. I do not know anybody who ever had a Lee-Enfield rifle jam with any of the ammunition that was supplied, though I have heard that they sometimes

did. The fact 3s undoubted that the Ross rifle did jam at the battle of Ypres. Now, if you arm a hundred men with Ross rifles, and it is said before the battle begins that the rifle may jam, the morale of your troops is lowered at the very start. For instance, if you went out to hunt a grizzly bear that was known to be very vicious, you would not stand up when it charged if you had a rifle that you thought might go wrong. Well, there was a tremendous amount of jamming of the Ross rifles. Scarcely any of them stood up under lengthy fire, and the morale of the Canadian troops was seriously damaged in consequence. At the conclusion of the battle, our men threw their rifles away and picked up British rifles that were lying all over the battlefield. It is a matter of common knowledge Ross rifles were lying in heaps all over the place. That is the story of the first division.

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April 29, 1921

Mr. GRIESBACH:

We are not training for war now, it is a peace training we are providing for.

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April 29, 1921

Mr. GRIESBACH:

The private himself paid it. We were armed partly with Ross rifles and partly with Lee Enfields. In the meantime, attempts had been made to get an issue of Lee Enfield rifles authorized. We were first of all confronted with the statement that it was difficult to get Lee-Enfields because there were not enough of them, and of course one was also conscious of the fact that the old discussion still persisted and that there were still friends of the Ross. However, after the fighting at Ypres in June an order was

[Mr. Griesbach. 1

finally issued re-anming everybody with the Lee Enfield.

The member for Mackenzie (Mr. Reid), speaks of the danger of the bolt blowing out. As a matter of fact, if the Ross rifle has anything to recommend it, apart from its accuracy-because it is a very accurate rifle-it is the fact that, in the interlocking of the bolthead, it is a stronger rifile than almost any other, because the bolt-head interlocks at the base, and the chamber has really a stronger bolt-blocking than almost any other rifle I know of. I do not recall having heard of any Ross rifle bolts blowing out, but I have heard of this having happened in connection with Lee-Enfields. Of course, there may possibly have been bolts that blew out on Ross rifles, but that is not the objection to that rifle. It would be a technical defect in any event, and would not amount to very much. The fatal objection is that it will not stand up to rapid fire because it jams, and that has been proved absolutely to the hilt. There cannot be much discussion on that point. But in addition to this fatal defect, there was the question of the desirability of our having the same riffle as used by the troops from other parts of the Empire. We were going to cooperate with them, and there was no reason why we should not have the same equipment, because they have the facilities and the means for the testing of military equipment in England, and they are willing to spend more time and money in this direction than we can.

The hon. member for Cape Breton North and Victoria (Mr. McKenzie) raises another question. A good deal has been said on the subject the hon. member has brought up, that as a result of being armed with the Ross rifle many men were killed. I really do not know how just that accusation is.

I heard it made by a man who lost his son at Ypres in 1916. It was very unjust for two or three reasons. First, the son was serving in the Princess Patricias who were armed with the Lee-Enfield, not the Ross rifle at all. In the second place it was purely an artillery encounter and our men might just as well have been armed with shotguns in that particular battle. In the first battle of Ypres there was no doubt the firing of the Canadian troops was very much less effective, and the enemy enjoyed a certain immunity, from the fact that the Canadians were armed with an inferior weapon. It might be possible that in that engagement there were advantages to the enemy and disadvantages to us which re-

suited in heavier casualties, but at that time I do not think there was very much doubt that no other rifle was to be had, no other rifle was available.

Now that is the story of the Ross rifle as I know it. I never had any use for it myself. I discouraged the use of the weapon at its inception-I thought its use unwise and unsound. I knew that it was defective in its bolt manipulation and rapid fire and absolutely proved it to be so by actual use. As I have said, it is a very accurate rifle, there are very few more accurate rifles than the Ross. But it is not a military weapon which stands up to the tests which actual warfare put upon it.

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April 29, 1921

Mr. GRIESBACH:

In the early part of the battle the Canadian troops were using the Ross rifle, but as they moved about the field they would pick up a Lee-Enfield and throw their Ross rifle away. As I have said, the Ross rifles were lying in heaps all over the field at the end of the battle. Finally they were armed with the Lee-Enfield rifle and never had anything more to do with the Ross.

Then the Second Division came over to France armed with the Ross rifle. In the meantime, there had been a great deal of tinkering with the Ross rifle in England, reaming out the breach and strengthening the bolt head, and then there were divided opinions as to whether what was being done to the bolt head was doing it more harm than good. Immediately there was a difference of opinion on that question, and there was a sort of political line-up, one might say, on the issue. The Second Division was pretty closely watched, and I may say that an order was issued in that division threatening rigorous punishment to any man who possessed himself of a Lee-Enfield rifle. I have a copy of that order. Then the Third Division came out armed with the Ross rifle, with the exception of the Princess Patricia's, who had never

been armed with that rifle. There was considerable discussion regarding the merits of the Ross rifle, and the Third Division troops, who had somewhat more to do with the First Division troops than had the Second Division, coming more in contact with the men of the First Division, were told all about the Ross rifle; and the men of the First Division, by their conversation, very seriously impaired the confidence of the Third Division in the Ross rifle. Indeed, so much so was this that we felt called upon to see whether we could not re-establish confidence in that rifle. At that time we were informed that we should have to use the Ross rifle because there were no Lee-Enfield's to be had. I desire to lay stress on that point.

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