- Mk. I 1903.
- Mk. II 1905.
- Mk. II .280 1907
- Mk. III 1910
- Mk. IIIB 1914
- Weight 3.9 kg (9.6 lbs)
- Length 1320 mm (52 in)
- Barrel length 711 mm (28 in)
- Weight, 9 lbs 14 0z (c 4.5 kg)
- Overall length, 60½ inches (c 1.5 m), with fixed bayonet.
The Ross Rifle Fiasco: Considering Canada had to compete with the War Office, dependent on British supply, in 1886 the Government approved the purchase of 40,000 .303” Lee-Enfield, Mk. I rifles from Britannia’s Shop-Keepers replacing the obsolete Snider rifle. DHH 1938 etc., official history claim; “2, 3 years post 1886 Borden went to England submitted a proposal to the Birmingham Small Arms Co. with a venture of manufacturing Lee-Enfield rifles in Canada.” This would require Borden to obtain a Lee-Enfield rifle manufacturing license from BSA Co., after serious consideration, the Arms Co., declined Canada’s offer. In 1900 the Second South Africana’ War was in full swing, the Government, MP’s alike, foresaw the need too increase the allotted amount of rifles, preferably made in Canada: “Assuming of course that the rifle to be manufactured is a satisfactory rifle and is worth the money paid.” This prompted Hon. Sir Frederick W. Borden, C.-in-C., to sail over the pond, with the intention of securing an order, however only one company would supply 5, 000 rifles at a future date, at this time while in England Borden submitted a proposal to “BSA Co,.” Carman Miller in: “A Knight in Politics,” claims he approached two Arms manufactures concerning licensing and establishing a rifle factory in Canada. Britannia’s Shopkeepers were producing at full capacity filling the British Army’s orders; Canada’s government fell short on all requests. Considering misleading Ross Rifle accounts, Sir Frederick Borden, Minister of Militia vigorously tried to secure an order for (15,000) according too him, DHH, 1938 official history, mainstream historians etc. While Borden himself first unveils his anecdote on the amount of rifles he wanted to secure in 1900 on February 1907, “it was impossible to secure (1000),” in contradiction at the Imperial Conference of, April 1907 address: “I think I wanted to purchase 15,000,”.303-inch Lee-Enfield rifles from British manufacturers.” DHH, 1938: “The Canadian Government, considering that it was in the general interests of Canada that the rifles required for purposes of Militia and Defence should be manufactured in Canada, adopted the rifle on the recommendation of the Minister of Militia, and on 27th March 1902 entered into a contract with Sir Charles Ross, who undertook to establish and operate a factory near Quebec. The construction of the Ross Rifle Factory proceeded in 1903 on a portion of the Cove Fields, adjoining the historic Plains of Abraham, leased by the Canadian Government for ninety-nine years at a nominal rent of one dollar a year subject to renewal. There was in fact no Ross Rifle Company; although The Ross Rifle Company Act (2 Ed. VII Cap. 96), passed in 1902, authorized the incorporation of a limited company of that name with a number of eminent Canadians as directors, incorporation was never effected.” In April 1906 the Minister of Militia told the House that he did not know who were the directors of the Ross Rifle Company, or who were its shareholders. The contractor, who had privately found $1,000,000 for the project and was also sole proprietor and general manager, elucidated this himself in a letter to the press on 4th Jan. 1917: “there is no joint stock company, there are no shares, nor has anyone in Canada any interest in my business.”
The first delivery of Ross Mark I, 1,000 in number, was made to the R.N.W.M.P, in the summer of 1904 and delivery of another 500 for the Department of Marine and Fisheries was taken on 9th July 1904 after all had been inspected by a board consisting of Lieut-
Colonel R. Cartwright, R.C.R. and Commander O.G.V. Spain, R.N. who although they found 113 defects warranting rejection (14 in bolts and 11 in barrels), were of the opinion “that the rifles had borne the inspection remarkably well.” The Mk. I. rifle, of which 10,500 were manufactured up to 1st January, 1906, cocked on the front stroke, the cartridge was extracted by means of a hammer blow imparted to the extractor by the smart withdrawal of the bolt sleeve, the barrel was 28 inches long with four grooves, the rifling was right hand, the total weight of the rifle was approximately 71 pounds. No provision was made for a bayonet. The Mk. II pattern was not sealed until 18th February, 1905, although 3,000 of them had been delivered on the original contract for 12,000 rifles, and a new order for 20,000 was placed with the Company on 27th March, 1904.
Canadian Government Sessional Papers No. 130, Vol. 14, 4-5 EDWARD VII., A. 1905, Vol. 14 p.788: MEMORANDUM FROM MILITIA COUNCIL, p.18.
The Ross Rifle Company are now delivering 16,000 rifles. Henceforth it is the intention to purchase from them at the rate of 10,000 per year until a sufficient supply is received.
Second South African War veteran and commissioned as Major of Lovat’s Scouts, Charles Ross was living in British Columbia, on a business venture developing a water-power plant and electrical works. Ross got wind of the Government and Borden’s predicament, foresaw a great opportunity of filling his coffers, as owner of Ross Sporting Rifle Co., at Hartford Connecticut in the USA. Charles owing to his stature in British Colombia, as well connected with the political click in Ottawa made arrangements, with letters in hand from reputable Canadians, he was introduced to Borden. Ross advised Borden he had a rifle factory in the USA, his agent Joseph A. Bennett designed a breech “straight pull” bolt rifle mechanism, and was manufacturing and selling sporting rifles, identical too those manufactured in Québec at the present time. Further added; he favoured manufacturing the rifles in Canada similar to the Lee Infield, with matching bore and cartridge. Borden was motivated, his quest establishing a military rifle factory in Canada, was unfolding in front of his very eyes, while impressed by Ross’s motivation and patriotic proposal. Ross promptly entrained to his factory in the United Sate, re-chambered to .303, and assembled several Austrian Mannlicher Model 1890 replicas with identical mechanism to the original rifle. The Mannlicher mechanism was plagued by defects, cartridge jams, etc., according to the 1892 Report of the U.S. Chief of Ordnance, critical of the rifles performance. Ross traveled back to Ottawa with several new Ross Mk. I .303 rifles,(other accounts claim one rifle), first showed them to his best friend, “Uncle Sam” Hughes and handed them over to the rifle committee, while others claim personally presented them to Borden: DHH OH 1938 etc., claim: “Was so impressed that by 28th June 1901 an agreement with Sir Charles Ross had been drafted for the manufacture in Canada of 12,000 rifles during the calendar year 1902 and 10,000 more per annum for the next five years at a cost of $30.00 per rifle.” On that same day a departmental committee, appointed by the Minister of Militia, met to “enquire into and report upon the merits of a rifle invented and submitted by Sir Charles L. Ross.”
- 98. Return to an address of the Senate, dated 5th June, 1906, for; 1 A copy of the petitions signed by the citizens of Quebec protesting against the choice of the place where Sir Charles Ross has built his rifle factory. 2. A copy of the petitions sent by certain persons asking the government to increase the land placed at the disposition of Sir Charles Ross. 3. A copy of the plan of the land placed at the disposition of Sir Charles Ross. 3. A copy of the plan of the land leased by the government to Sir Charles Ross for the purpose of his rifle factory. Presented 6ch December, 1906. — Hon. Mr. Landry….. Not printed.
- 98a. Return to an order of the House of Commons, dated 23rd January, 1907, for copies of all documents and all correspondence concerning the erection of the Ross rifle factory on the Plains of Abraham, Quebec. Presented 14th March, 1907.—Mr. Lavergne (Montmagny). Not printed.
- 98b. Return to an address of the House of Commons, dated 10th December, 1906, for a copy of all contracts between the Ross Rifle Company and the government, or Department of Militia, for the supply of rifles, ammunition or other articles, and all orders in council, correspondence, reports, documents and papers, relating to such contracts, or to the subject-matter thereof, and to the operations of the company and its dealings with the government, or any department thereof, including the Department of Customs. Presented 14th March, 1907. —Mr. Worthington….Not printed.
- 98c. Return to an address of the Senate, dated 27th November, 1906, for a copy of all correspondence exchanged between the government and the Ross Rifle Company or any other association or military body or any person whomsoever, or between the various departments of the government on the subject of the Ross rifle, of the inspections which it has undergone, of the improvements which have been suggested, of the complaints which have been made, or of the reports which have been made. Presented 13th March, 1907.—Hon. Mr. Landry Not printed.
- 98d. Supplementary return to No. 98b. Presented 3rd April, 1907 Not printed.
- 98e. Supplementary return to No. 98e. Presented (Senate) 4th April, 1907 Not printed.
Sessional Paper 1906-07 Vol. 13, p.23.
- The supply of the Ross rifle has been accelerated.
- This rifle was placed in the hands of the troops in June, 1906. As the rifle aims at being a modification of all modern patterns of small-arms, its introduction revealed the weak points inherent in new models. They are now well known and good progress has been made towards remedying them. A very careful and thorough inspection is made, during manufacture, of components, and of the finished rifle. The materials entering into the composition of the rifle are carefully tested, and defects, as far as possible, obviated.
- In addition to the above, investigations have been made at the factory by the Inspector of Small-arms on the following main points, in the matter of which some defects have shown themselves:—Sights, bands, butt plates, magazine feed and extractor. A rifle combining these changes will shortly be submitted by the company.
Capt. Ernest Chambers 1907, narrative on events that unfolded: “The committee was appointed, composed of General Otter, of Toronto; Col. Gibson, of Hamilton, for many years president of the council of the D.R.A., and a crack shot; Leut.-Col. Anderson, engineer, of the Marine Department an other expert marksman; Col. Samuel Hughes, MP another veteran rifle shot, and who had served with great distinction in various responsibilities staff appointments during the South African war: and Major Gaudet, superintendent of the Dominion arsenal. This committee examined the Ross rifle, subjected it to various tests and reported favourably upon it. After the reception of this report the minister had no hesitation about entering into a contract for the purchase of sufficient Ross rifles to re-arm the militia, the company agreeing to make the rifle at a factory to be erected in Canada. And so the Ross rifle factory came in established at Quebec with a normal capacity of 1.000 a month, or 2,000 upon emergency.”
There was before the Colonial Conference in London in 1907, an official paper headed “Patterns and Provisions of Equipment and Stores for Colonial Forces.” In paragraph 6 of this paper the Quartermaster General and the Master General of the Ordinance recommended that. “It is most desirable that the area of supply of the warlike stores under reference should be as wide as possible, and therefore the Colonial Governments should be urged to arrange for local manufacture and provision rather than to rely on the resources of the United Kingdom.”
In RC Featherstonehaugh official history on 13th Battalion FC CEF: Second Battle of Ypres, “May 19th ‘Fallin,’ at 5 a.m. was sounded and the Regiment advanced to Le Touret once more. Here the same muddy ditches were occupied for another period of several hours, at the end of which the Battalion, advancing as support to an attack, moved into trenches which had formed the British line previous to the opening of the battle. These were situated in front of a hamlet, which, in memory of troops who had previously occupied it, was known as Indian Village. While in this location half the men were employed in strengthening the position, while the other half were engaged in burying dead, large numbers of whom mutely testified to the severity of the fighting in the recent advance. Incidentally, those of the Highlanders who had not previously done so, discarded their Ross rifles and equipped themselves with Lee-Enfields. The British carried these and scores were lying where they had dropped from the hands of their former owners. The exchange, therefore, was made without formality.”
DHH 1938 Accounts: On June 13th 1915, two days before the assault at Givenchy, 1st Canadian Division re-armed with Short Magazine Lee-Enfield, the Ross rifle was discarded. The final test of battle brought blasphemous despair. Sir John French could not disregard the soldiers’ verdict; 3,050 had discarded the Ross and rearmed themselves with the Lee-Enfield on the battlefields of Ypres and Festubert. His orders for re-armament issued on 12th June were carried out forthwith: the infantry in some cases made the exchange when fatigue parties carried up the new weapons even into the front line and brought back the Ross for consignment to England. In each battalion a few, usually fitted with telescope sights, were retained for the use of snipers.
Sir Frederick Borden Minister of Militia and Defence, speaking in the Big House in February 1907, made following statement:—
Why Ross Factory Established by Sir Frederick Borden: It was impossible to secure a thousand rifles in Great Britain during the time of the South African war, and I thought that it was the duty of this government, under the circumstances, to make as soon as possible some arrangement by which our rifles could be manufactured in Canada. I was in England in 1900 and went to the Birmingham Small Arms people and tried to induce the company to come to Canada. I quite recognize the desirability of our having, if possible, precisely the same rifle in Canada as is used by the British army, because if the militia of this country should ever be called out for war, it would be better that we should have the same rifles. We have one, however, which differs so little from the Lee-Enfield that there will be no trouble on that score. It was found impossible to prevail upon the Birmingham Small Arms Company, or any other small arms manufacturer in England, to come out here and start a factory. About that time Sir Charles Ross happened to be here. He had not then come to Canada for the first time, but, as the hon. gentleman must know, had been living in British Columbia, and had spent a great deal of money there in developing water-powers and establishing electrical works. He was introduced to me, I think, by Mr. Mackenzie, of Messrs. Mackenzie & Mann, and brought other letters from the most reputable men in Canada. He explained to me that he had a rifle factory in the United States, and was selling sporting rifles, rifles similar to what are being manufactured here now. He said that he would be willing to establish a factory to manufacture rifles for Canada with the same bore and to use the same cartridge as the Lee-Enfield rifle. It seemed to me that it was patriotic thing on my part to recommend and on the part of the government to accept this opportunity to secure a factory which would turn out rifles for Canada.
COLONIAL CONFERENCE, 1907 (MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS OF THE). Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1907 Session I, A-05.
On the fourth day, April 20th 107, Military Defence, p.101.
Sir Frederick Borden; “with regard to one other matter which, as Mr. Haldane said, is a matter of minor importance, that of purchasing through the War Office such military stores as may be required, in the very connection which I have just mentioned I would like to say that in 1900 Canada wanted to purchase a considerable number of rifles. “I think I wanted to purchase 15,000 rifles. I found it impossible to secure a single rifle.” After a time I was offered some 5,000 if I would wait long enough. That is a condition of things which may arise—we hope it will not—at any moment, and that is another argument in favour of having an independent source of supply within the Dominions themselves.”
Factory Was Established: Sir Charles Ross secured a contract from the government; and thereupon erected a factory at Quebec, upon land leased from the government at a nominal rental, and close to the government arsenal. Sir Charles Ross states that his investment in the enterprise stands him in upwards of $2,000,000. He employs from 350 to 500 men. There has been some criticism as to the contract upon the ground that the government pays 75% on progress estimates as the rifles are being manufactured.
This is a usual clause in all large government contracts, and applies to all the departments equally. Colonel Wurtele is the man who makes up the accounts for the progress estimates, he sees every charge in the factory, is acquainted with every voucher, and all the books of the company are open to him at all times, he sees every labourer’s account and knows the detail of the business from end to end. His evidence before the public accounts committee was as follows:—
“Not a Canadian Rifle.” We, the undersigned Canadian workmen, desire to state that this is absolutely and wholly untrue, and calculated to injure our livelihood, ourselves and our families. We desire to emphatically protest against the circulation of such malicious statements, which, visit to this factory at any time will demonstrate to be entirely baseless and absolutely untrue. R. B. Whyte, J. B. Deniss, C. N. Dawson, A. J. McCusker, M. H. Murphy, C. J. Dickson, D. Watters, P. Plamondon, T. Tremblay, N. McClure, E. J. Evans, S. P. Murphy, F. W. H. Porter, D. Power, L. Auger, Charles Wm. Carey, Benie Gagnon, Fred B. Paulin, J. E. McCann.
Who Owns The Factory? There are those in the Conservatives party who have not hesitated to insinuate that there are others interested in the factory besides Sir. Charles Ross. This certificate disposes of this subject.
Declaration of Partnership: Ross Rifle Company of Canada, Canada, Province of Quebec, District of Quebec I, the undersigned Charles Henry Augustus Frederick Lockhart Ross, Baronet of Balnagown, and Bonnington of the Counties of Ross, Cromtie, Sutherland and Lanark, in the Kingdom of Great Britain, residing at the City of Quebec, Manufacturer, do hereby declare that I intend to carry on at the City of Quebec the business of Manufacturer of fire arms, under the firm name an style of “The Ross Rifle Company of Canada” that I am the sole partner composing the said firm, and that I was married at Louisville in the State of Kentucky, one of the United States of America, on the 19th November, 1901 without any marriage contract or deed.
Dated at Quebec, this 19th day of May, 1903.
(Signed) O. L. ROSS.
Filed in the prothonotary’s office at Quebec, this 19th day of May, 1903,[and enrolled herein pursuant to law.
Stamp—A true copy.
(Signed) ED. L. BURROUGHS, Deputy P.S.C.
(Signed T. W. S. DUNN, Deputy, P.C.S.
Comparison of Cost: It has been maliciously stated that not only is the Ross rifle inferior to the Lee-Enfield but the government is paying much more for it. This statement is false. In 1896 the government of which Mr. Foster was a member, purchased from England Lee-Enfield rifles at $26.40 and the cost of the Ross rifle, made in Canada cost of inspection added is $26.90. The cost today of the British rifle latest pattern made in the government factory is $27.35. The same rifle if purchased from the trade would cost $33.60. It will therefore appear that the Ross rifle at $25 and $1.90 for inspection is a cheaper rifle than any other in general use.
Rifles Delivered: The charge has been industriously circulated that the Government have paid large amounts of money for rifles that have not been delivered. This is not the case. A few figures will dispose of this branch of the subject; rifles delivered to date, 45,000. Total paid to Rosa, $1,186,776. There are 17,000 rifles on order now, 7,000 balance of orders given previous to October, 1906 and 10,000 on order dated March, 1908. Every rifle paid for has been delivered in good condition and passed inspection, and at no time have the terms of contract with respect to paying progress estimates been violated. Upon the 17,000 under order now the sum of $106,250 has been paid.
Rejected or Dangerous Rifles: There has not been a single rifle rejected permanently. Some slight accidents have occurred, which have done damage easily reparable. The Ross rifle is not dangerous, and the statement that it is dangerous is a diabolical invention intended to injure the rifle, injure the factory, alarm the militia of Canada, and discredit the Government. The magnificent scores made, the glowing tributes of the European press are a sufficient answer to these calumnies. Canada is to be congratulated upon the possession of a rifle factory turning out the best small arm made in the world today.
ROSS RIFLE Best small arm in the world—Won highest honours at Bisley—Establishment of Factory a patriotic act—English Press opinion. “Being a total of 726 out of a possible 750, breaking all records.”
The most astonishing and unpatriotic misrepresentations have been scattered broadcast, throughout the country with regard to the Ross rifle and the dealings of the government with this firm. There was before the Colonial Conference in London in 1907, an official paper headed “Patterns and Provisions of Equipment and Stores for Colonial Forces.” In paragraph 6 of this paper the Quartermaster General and the Master General of the Ordinance recommended that. “It is most desirable that the area of supply of the warlike stores under reference should be as wide as possible, and therefore the Colonial Governments should be urged to arrange for local manufacture and provision rather than to rely on the resources of the United Kingdom.”
English Press on Ross Rifles as fallows:-
MORNING POST—July 16th.
“Long range champion—breaks all records—a rifle of wondrous precision.”
DAILY EXPRESS—July 16th.
“Records broken at Bisley—fine Canadian rifle.”
“Triumph for Ross Rifle”—“Ross beats all the world’s rifles” “Lee-Enfield now obsolete; scrap it.”
NOTTINGHAM GUARDIAN—July 17th.
“Many experts declare that Ross better than new U. S. rifle. Ross rifle renders Lee Enfield obsolete.”
MORNING POST—July 15th.
“An individual triumph”—“Lee-Enfield hopelessly behind.”
DAILY EXPRESS—July 15th.
“Victory for the Ross rifle from Canada.”
THE TIMES—July 16th.
THE MERITS OF THE ROSS MATCH RIFLE—“After having been yesterday in the unhappy position from a patriotic point of view of being forced to compare our own service rifle and that of the United States very much to the disadvantage of the former, it is a pleasure today to refer to one that has been much in evidence during the first three days of the meeting and which can claim to have been designed manufactured and used as a service weapon within the limits of the Empire.”(Then follows a column of praise).
MORNING POST—July 16th.
“Mr. Jones shot throughout with the Ross rifle and has undoubtedly succeeded in demonstrating that this arm, which has been served out to the Canadian Militia is of wondrous precision.”
THE SPHERE—July 25th.
“A plague of possibles.”
Owning the Government was committed in contract with Ross, and “many experts declare that Ross better than new U. S. rifle. Ross rifle renders Lee Enfield obsolete.” Even though complains on defects, malfunctions ect., by July 30th 1914, 12,200 were delivered out of orders totalling 30,000. Production was stepped up to capacity, and another 30,000 rifles were ordered on August 10th.
SESSIONAL PAPER No. 40
CERTIFIED copy of a Report of the Committee of the Privy Council, approved by His Royal Highness the Governor General on the 8th August, 1914.
The Committee of the Privy Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Militia and Defence, advise that a contract be made with the Canada Tool and Specialty Company, Limited, of New Glasgow, for the conversion of 10,000 long Rossrifles, and the supply of 10,000 screw elevating sights and charger guide bridges, subject to the following conditions:
- That the company take delivery, F.O.B. cars, New Glasgow, of 10,000 long Ross rifles, in carload lots, packed in chests.
- That the company remove the sight bases and hand guards, etc., from the rifles, and fit them with new screw elevating sights and new charger guide bridges, placed on the rear position, and also new hand guards of a proper pattern.
- That the design of the sight and bridge should be the same as that approved for the long Ross Mark II, and that the components should be interchangeable therewith.
- That the new sights, charger guide bridges and hand guards should all be manufactured by the company in their factory at New Glasgow.
- That all the work and materials, to be done and provided under the proposed contract, be subject to inspection by the Chief Inspector of Arms and Ammunition, or other officer appointed for that purpose by the Minister; and shall be accepted only upon the report of such officer.
- That the inspector shall have access to the company’s factory during the progress of the work at all reasonable times.
- That all necessary plans, drawings and specifications be furnished by the Minister.
- That after the completion of the work and its acceptance by the Inspector, the company shall repack and ship the rifles to the Chief Inspector of Arms and Ammunition, Quebec; or to such other address as may be required.
- That the company be paid $3.50 for each rifle so converted, F.O.B. cars, NewGlasgow; this price to include the work of conversion and the supply of new sights, charger guide bridges and hand guards; as well as the cost of all plant, tools, jigs, fixtures, etc., necessary for the work.
- That the work should be begun on or before October 1st, 1914, provided the rifles are available at that time; and should be completed on or before April 1, 1915. Any delay in the delivery of the rifles to the company will entitle the company to a corresponding extension of the time for completion of the contract.
- That all payments to be made to the company under the proposed contract shall be charged against Appropriations for the then current fiscal year.
Clerk of the Privy Council.
CERTIFIED copy of a Report of the Committee of the Privy Council, approved by His
Royal Highness the Governor General on the 10th August, 1914.
The Committee of the Privy Council have had before them a Report, dated 10th August, 1914, from the Minister of Militia and Defence, recommending that an order be given to the Ross Rifle Company for 30,000 Rifles, 30,000 screw Elevating Sights therefore, and 30,000 bayonets complete with scabbards, for delivery during the calendar year 1914.
The Minister states that under the terms of the contract existing between the Government and the Ross Rifle Company it is provided that in case of war, actual or threatened, or any national emergency, the Contractor shall do his utmost to manufacture at his factory and deliver to the Government all such rifles as may be reasonably required and shall, if need be, operate his factory at any time to twenty-four hours per day until delivery of the Rifles required is completed. The Minister further states that this order shall be subject in all respects to the provisions of the existing contract with the Ross Rifle Company for the manufacture and supply of Rifles, and subject also to the following further conditions:
- That the Rifles shall be Long Ross, Mark III, Pattern, and the screw Elevating Sight shall be the Pattern which was adopted for that Rifle. Also that the said Sights shall be attached to, and delivered with, the Rifles alluded to above.
- That the Bayonets and Scabbards shall be of the Pattern authorized for use with Mark III Rifles.
- That in accordance with the provisions of Orders in Council dated 7th April, 1913, and 7th November, 1913, the price of the Rifles is to be $2-6.90 each without the Screw Elevating Sight; the price of the Sights $1.10 each; and the price of the Bayonets, each complete with Scabbard, $5.25 each.
- That delivery will be taken by the Department of Militia and Defence at the
Inspection premises of the Chief Inspector of Anns and Ammunition, Quebec, delivery of the entire lot to be completed on or before 31st December, 1914. The Committee concur in the foregoing and submit the same for approval. (Sgd.) RODOLPHE BOUDREAU, Clerk of the Privy Council.
CERTIFIED copy of a Report of the Committee of the Privy Council, approved by His Royal Highness the Governor General on the 14th May, 1915.
The Committee of the Privy Council have had before them a report, dated 6th May, 1915, from the Minister of Militia and Defence, submitting the accompanying copy of a memorandum, dated 25th March, 1915, from Major-General Gwatkin, Chief of the General Staff, upon the requirements of the Canadian Military Forces in respect of rifles and rifle ammunition; and recommending, in particular, that additional orders should be placed at once for 60,000 rifles and two hundred million rounds of ammunition, It is believed to be highly important and necessary that these recommendations of Major-General Gwatkin be acted upon without delay. The Minister, therefore, recommends that authority be given for the purchase of 60,000 rifles, from the Ross Rifle Company of Quebec, of the latest pattern known as Mark III, at the price last paid, viz: $28 for each rifle complete with screw elevating sight; and also for the purchase of 60,000 bayonets therefore, of the latest approved pattern, at the contract price, viz: $525 for each bayonet complete with scabbard; and that these orders be given the Ross Rifle Company subject to the conditions of the existing contracts with that company for rifles and bayonets.
The Minister further recommends that an advance payment of $200,000 on this account be made the Ross Rifle Company at the time of the making of the contract. The Committee submit the same for approval. RODOLPHE BOUDREAU, Clerk of the Privy Council.
Headquarters, 2nd Cdn. Inf. Brigade, 16th March, 1915.
- From: The G.O.C. 2nd Can. Inf. Brigade.
- To: D.O.O. 1st Can. Division.
With reference to your letter dated 12th instant, asking for a report on the ammunition, etc., at present in use, the Officers Commanding Battalions of this Brigade have reported that the Small Arm Ammunition of British Manufacture (Kinoch) does not work as well in the Ross Rifle as the ammunition of Canadian manufacture. They find, after firing a few rounds, that the shells seem to stick in the bore and are not easily extracted, in fact, more than the ordinary pressure must be applied. It seems that the cartridge case is slightly smaller than those of Canadian manufacture and on expansion fits the bore so tightly that the difficulty mentioned above takes place. This seems to me to be a point where the most rigid investigation is necessary, as a serious interference with rapid firing may prove fatal on occasions.
A.W. CURRIE, Brigadier-General. G.O.C., 2nd Can. Inf. Brigade.
Note: The O.C. 7th Battalion says he has no grounds for complaint.
13.3.15. A.A. & Q.M.G. (See 111.)
The Commander-in-Chief ordered the Ross rifles of 1st Canadian Division to be exchanged for S.M.L.E. forthwith, and notified the Secretary of the War Office of his action:
From: The Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, British Army in the Field.
To: The Secretary, War Office, London, S.W.
GENERAL HEADQUARTERS, 12th June, 1915.
In continuation of my telegram No. Q/37 dated 11th instant I have the honour to transmit for the information of the Army Council a copy of a report submitted by a Committee appointed to make certain tests in order to ascertain whether repeated complains which had reached me regarding the Ross rifle were justified. It will be seen from the Report of the Committee that while this rifle works smoothly and well with ammunition of Canadian manufacture it is v liable to jam when using ammunition of English make.
I intend shortly to employ the Canadian Division in offensive operations and, as there is no supply of Canadian ammunition immediately available, I have decided that, in view of the definite statements made by the Committee and of the reports I have received of a want of confidence in their rifles on the part of the Infantry of this formation, it is necessary immediately to re-arm the Canadian Division with the Lee-Enfield rifle. Instructions have been issued for this to be done at once: utilizing for the purpose the rifles referred to in my letter No. O.A. 2-99 G. dated 8th June, 1915.
It will not be necessary to re-arm the 2nd Canadian Division if the necessary supplies of Small Arms Ammunition of Canadian manufacture become available by the time this Division is sent to France. It is understood that the trouble with the English ammunition is due to the fact that the cartridge case fills the chamber so tightly as to cause a jam. It is possible that by a slight alteration in the chamber it may be found possible to remedy this defect. I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant, J. D. P. FRENCH, Field-Marshal. Commanding-in-Chief, British Army in the Field.
GENERAL HEADQUARTERS, BRITISH ARMY IN THE FIELD.
28th May, 1916.
I have the honour to inform you that I have satisfied myself, after extensive enquiries carried out throughout the Canadian Corps, that as a Service Rifle, the Ross is less trustworthy than the Lee-Enfield, and that the majority of the men armed with the Ross rifle have not the confidence in it that is so essential they should possess. The enquiry on which these conclusions are based, was the outcome of an urgent application from a battalion of the 3rd Canadian Division for re-armament with the short Lee-Enfield, in consequence of a high percentage of jams experienced with their Ross rifles during. a hostile attack on the 1st May, 1916.
- I am accordingly of opinion that the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions should be re-armed with the short Lee-Enfield rifle. It will be remembered that the lot CanadianDivision was so re-armed on 12th June, 1915.
- I am not in a position to effect this with the means at my disposal in France. I have the honour to enquire therefore, whether the necessary number of rifles can be supplied from home sources, without interfering with, or delaying the arrival and arming of the Divisions due from England and Egypt on which I am relying.
I have, etc., D. HAIG, General, Commanding-in-Chief, British Armies in the Field.
GENERAL HEADQUARTERS, 21st June, 1916.
In reply to your letter No. 77/15/5307 (M.G.O.) of 10th June, 1916, forwarding copy of a telegram dated 6th June, from the Governor General of Canada, I have the honour to inform you that the efficiency of the Ross rifle has been thoroughly tested by actual fighting in the field, and the application conveyed in my O.B./174 of 28th May, 1916, was made after very careful consideration of all the evidence available.
- I have again consulted the General Officer Commanding Second Army in case any fresh points have come to light during the recent heavy fighting by the Canadians near YPRES. He tells me that his experience of the working of the Ross rifle during the last fight has only confirmed him in his opinion that the Canadians in the 3rd Division at all events, have lost confidence in their rifle and he recommends that the rifles in this Division be exchanged.
- Although the reports from the 2nd Division are not to the same effect, I am of opinion that the Lee-Enfield rifle should be issued to all three Divisions of the Canadian Corps. I must therefore adhere to my recommendation that the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions should be re-armed with the short Lee-Enfield, and I would urge that the necessary steps to give effect thereto be taken without delay.
I have, etc., D. HAIG, General, Commanding-in-Chief, British Armies in France.
My Thoughts on the above: I cant express the amount of accounts on CEF FC, and Sec., accounts, etc., where the Ross rifle jammed, misfired etc., while in battle under repetitious fire, leaving companies of men without a weapon to suppress the enemies advance into their trenches. From its conception it went through numerous modifications due too numerous defects; the Mark II pattern went through eight. However at Bisley the Canadian marksmen used the Ross rifle with great success as records were broken, developed a reputation as a precision rifle on firing ranges, in target competition. However when first issued caused grief to the PF, complaints poured in from training camps questioning its efficacy, efficiency with constant malfunctions in the field under unfavourable conditions. The Canadian Defence, Canadian Field and Canadian Military Gazette within their deference’s, entrenched in their position on the Ross rifle, lobbied their agendas too their readers, MP’s, Goverment. While in Parliament, press a controversial frenzy erupted, with one camp critically scrutinised the Ross rifle plagued with issue vs Rifle of Champions, proven marksmen rifle. Consequently Col. Sam Hughes president of the Small Arms Committee, was a strenuous supporter of the Ross rifle for the Canadian Militia. This committee supposedly ran rifles through “a series of rigorous test known to modern science.” In conclusion in the comparison of test made of the Lee-Enfield and Ross rifle 66% of the Lee-Enfield became unserviceable under the test, that is three out of five. Some results were the barrels bulged, Magazine arrangement gave out and could not be made to work, by replacing other magazine or with the means at the Dominion Arsenal. One shook to pieces and could not be fired. All of the Ross rifles passed the tests (6) Mk. III, (2) Mk. II, in a most extraordinary good manner demonstrating not only their superiority to the Lee-Enfield, but surpassing all other military rifles.
For over a year in the trenches of the First World War, Canadian Corps were pledged by the Ross Rifle’s performance, as complains were sent to High Brass as fallows:-
- Too heavy at 4.5kg [9 lbs 14 0z] and too long at 1.5m [60.5”] for manoeuvring in trenches or attacks.
- Solders sustained saviour facial, eye injuries from “blowback,” from the men reassembling the “straight pull bolt.” Solders were not authorised, constantly dissembled cleaned and resembled the bolt mechanism and inserted into the rifle incorrectly.
- Rounds supplied too Canadians for the Ross rifle were not compatible, complaints of exploding rounds etc.
- The magazine was poorly designed prompting, poor ammunition feed into the chamber, causing rounds.
- In combat conditions the bolt would get dirty casing jams and misfires.
- When the rifle was fired would have a tendency of falling off.
- Thumb injuries, cuts on the thumb from, in or disengaging the safety catch.
In this day and age, after 100 years Ross Mk.II & III rifles are being fired while hunting at ranges without incidents, as seen on youtube and tests conducted including rapid fire, without issues when the “straight pull bolt,” is properly assembled, inserted into the rifle. In dirty conditions etc., the Ross and S.M.L.E. would be prone to jam, misfire, however the Lee-Enfield was preferred by Canadian soldiers. The British rifle was lighter, shorter, less complicated in dissembling cleaning and assembly etc., unlike the Ross rifle. D. HAIG, Gen., C.-in-C., British Armies in the Field: “After extensive enquiries carried out throughout the Canadian Corps, that as a Service Rifle, the Ross is less trustworthy than the Lee-Enfield, and that the majority of the men armed with the Ross rifle have not the confidence in it that is so essential they should possess.” The Colt “Model 1914,” “Potato Digger” machine-gun used until summer 1916, replaced by the Vickers machine-gun. The Ross rifle and Clot were prone too jam using British ammunition, while at Salisbury Plain: The Cdn. High Brass placed an order for 250 Colt guns on October 17th, however fifty Colt’s were previously ordered on August 29th. As US production dragged their heels, only 17 were issued to CEF Inf. battalions at Salisbury Plain on November 26th, 1914 and the remainder delivered on January 31st 1915. There were several serious difficulties with the Colt gun, not compatible to fire British ammunition, serious design and mechanical defects were reported, First Contingent CEF sailed to France without resolving the Colt’s issues. The high casualties endured by the Canadian contingent’s in 1915-16 can be attributed too several factors. While some 1st a 2nd contingent battalions fared better then others, they were citizen soldiers hastily assembled, equipped and trained as the casualties accumulated and a constant supply of green reinforcements were sent. The British batted an eyebrow, alarmed by the boots, gear, weapons, horses, transports, etc, of FC CEF, instead of training wasted time re-outfitted at Salisbury Plains. The soldiers were ordered not to disassemble the bolt; many in non-compliance did, reassemble incorrectly which attributed too their injuries. Officers and NCO’s negligence in poor instruction, supervision on cleaning, maintenance of the rifle in combat conditions also contributed, while the non compatible British ammunition added to the casualty count. The Ross rifle was used by Canadian snipers, scouts, etc throughout 1917, after the Battalions discarded it in 1916. The bad rap received on the Ross rifle in historical anecdotes throughout 100 years was slightly unwarranted, exaggerated, certainly wasn’t solely responsible for countless of casualties, however was pledged by defects etc.
SVP: DHH FWW OH 1962-65 falls short, for comprehensive account on the Ross rifle see Appendix 111 p. 75-99 Colonel A. F. Duguid, Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War, 1914-1919, General Series, Vol. I (Ottawa, 1938).