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.
Topic: REVISED EDITION. COMMONS