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    Advisory Panel Surpmil's Avatar
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    This is what passes for intelligent comment on the Ross Rifle?

    This is painful to read.
    The Ross rifle and its place in the history of the CEF has been a source of controversy since its adoption in 1914 by Minister of Militia, Sam Hughes, as the weapon the first Canadian soldiers going to France would use.
    The Ross rifle wasn’t adopted in 1914; not even the Mk.III variant.

    After more than a year of in-fighting and disappointing performance on the field, the Ross carried by members of the 1st Division was replaced in June 1915, 100 years ago this month, and replaced with the Britishicon Lee Enfield.
    The Ross Mk.III was replaced in mid 1916, not 1915. That said, new examples continued to be supplied to the CEF for sniping use until probably near the end of the war. Rifles dated 1918 were noted in France that year. Photos exist of Canadian scouts and snipers carrying regular Ross MkIII rifles in October 1918.

    For many, the Ross symbolised everything that was wrong with Sir Sam Hughes tenure as minister; it was a preferential deal, given to man who was his personal friend, for a piece of equipment that was not only not functional, but down- right dangerous to the user in battlefield conditions. Like many of the other decisions that he made, Hughes stood by the rifle, and it was only once his influence in Canadian politics had started to wane, in the spring of 1915, that the CEF was finally able to get rid of the Ross.
    The rifle was adopted long before Hughes became Minister of Militia and Defence: he had no part in “the deal”.

    Hughes was a bull-dog, with the vices and virtues of the type. He got things done, but as so often happens, his determination could degenerate into stubbornness and blindness. Those who don’t get anything done rarely have those problems.
    I had accepted this as the established narrative of the Ross until just this week. During a conversation with one of our directors, he mentioned that he wanted to know what I thought about the Ross. After letting me finish my standard spiel about nepotism, misuse and the cost of experimenting in a wartime situation, he told me a great nugget of information that makes the Ross problem all the more complicated. Apparently, Canadaicon was offered Lee-Enfield rifles at the beginning of the war by the British government, but at retail price, which the country couldn’t afford to pay; furthermore, Canada was not allowed to manufacture the Lee Enfield at home, which they could do with the Ross. So, while Hughes may have had undue influence in choosing the Ross specifically, it would appear that the decision to look for a rifle at home in Canada took into account the cost of outfitting soldiers with the Lee Enfield at retail price and was not just driven by Hughes’ nationalistic ideas.
    Anyone who has studied even a little of the surviving original material will know that the Canadian government, with the possible exception of Hughes, was planning for a short and small war - they hoped. Governments of those days were frugal; debt they feared, on principle and for political reasons. The electorate of those dark and distant days looked askance at debt, interest and borrowing. Unlike our progressive times where borrowing from our great-grandchildren to maintain a quality of life our industrial failure cannot provide for is considered perfectly acceptable and politically astute! Progress indeed, but let us not digress!

    Hughes was definitely a Canadian “nationalist” though. It may come as a surprise to our “post-national” snowflakes of today, but most Canadians were “nationalists” in those days. A trait the most successful countries of this world continue to share...

    Ross himself recorded how he could not get the government in 1914 and early 1915 to order the large amounts of machinery and materials he believed were necessary to provide for what Canada would need. He bought much of it himself using his own resources on the expectation that he would be reimbursed when the realities of world war became apparent to the “frocks” in due course.

    Offering the “Lee Enfield Riflesicon” - does the author know a CLLE from an SMLE?? Which was offered, if any were? One suspects that it was more likely that the CLLE was offered - hopefully nothing older(!) - offered because they were being replaced in British service by the SMLE as fast as the somewhat antiquated methods could produce them.

    One is reminded of the offer to purchase 5000 No.32 scopes from Research Enterprises Ltd. in late WWII if they would drop production of their more advanced scopes. Since the British government had not the slightest use for any more No32 scopes than they had already, the whole offer was nothing more than a canard intended to disrupt R.E.L. and their embarrassingly advanced products which it would be hard to compete with in future trials. Repeatedly changing the specifications "required" accomplished the same purpose in the end.

    But to return to the Ross, offering the mystery “Lee Enfields” at “retail price” would hardly make sense as a manoeuvre to undercut Ross, unless it was the offer of Birmingham Small Arms Ltd. rather than the British War Office; the latter could afford to practically donate the rifles, the former of course would hope to make their usual profit.

    By 1910 or 11 the Ross had repeatedly humiliated the CLLE and the SMLE at the Bisley Imperial Meetings, which in those days were news all over the Empire and the USAicon. Even small towns often had shooting clubs and active Militia formations. It was much too late to offer what appeared to be an obsolete arm to Canada. Indeed, Ross had already debuted his .280 which he hoped would be adopted with the Mk.III rifle as the Imperial standard service rifle. However the War Office soon began research on a Mauser-actioned rifle designed around a very similar .276 cartridge! Ross' cartridge worked, the War Office's did not; probably they were not amused, and they took up the cartridge again in the 1930s with a similar lack of success. The SMLE had a shorter and lighter barrel than the CLLE and was much depreciated by many British and Imperial marksmen and officers. Thus it would have made more sense to offer the CLLE from that perspective as well, rather than the SMLE.

    Sam Hughes was heard to say that he had carried a long Lee Enfield all over South Africa and saw no reason why others could not carry a rifle as long also; an opinion shared by many others at the time. A long Lee Enfield incidentally, that in 1902 was a single shot rifle without charger-loading and a magazine that was to be “held in reserve” until needed for rapid fire. The Ross Mk.II of 1905 had a controllable magazine platform into which five loose rounds could be dropped in a moment.

    Certainly food for thought! In my mind, it doesn’t detract from the argument that the Ross was not suitable for the task it was meant to do, that is, high frequency firing in muddy, wet conditions, but it’s interesting to see once again how much economic considerations underline what has been laid almost entirely at the feet of Sam Hughes for the last 100 years. Ultimately, the Lee Enfield won out anyway, since it was a solid workhorse of a rifle and would withstand less than ideal conditions without misfiring or greatly affecting its functionality. The Ross, which was always made and tested as a sportsman’s gun, was still used by snipers for its highly accurate and long range shot, and treated with extreme delicacy by them. Interestingly, Ross rifles are still used from time to time today, as they are still one of the best sportman’s guns available.
    ... it would appear that the decision to look for a rifle at home in Canada took into account the cost of outfitting soldiers with the Lee Enfield at retail price and was not just driven by Hughes’ nationalistic ideas.

    It is hard to know what to make of this sentence. Surely the author knows why the Ross was initially adopted and when? The London Small Arms Co. and Birmingham Small Arms Co. declined to manufacture in Canada. Our politicians, frugal as ever, could hardly resist the offer of Sir Charles Ross shortly after the lessons of the Second Boer War to build and equip a factory at his own expense, so long as he was given the contract to supply our military rifles. All over the Empire there was an upsurge of interest of interest in rifles and marksmanship. Tensions were looming: Agadir, the naval race with Germanyicon, the Balkans, Morocco... Lord Roberts urged Britain to adopt conscription, and support the rifle club movement. But what do politicians know about rifles? About as much as academics I suppose.

    Ross of course kept developing his rifles, and the Mk.II with its horizontally locking lugs proved extremely accurate - as did the much later Frenchicon MAS36 which shared the same feature. The Mk.III Ross that followed was as mentioned, designed around the first true magnum cartridge: the .280 Ross. One of if not the strongest bolt action service rifle ever built, and built of chrome vanadium steel probably superior to much of what the Lee Enfield used; certainly one of the fastest bolt actions ever built. The Ross had aperture sights ten years before the experimental MkV Lee Enfield and about twenty five years before the No.4 Lee Enfield brought them into British service.

    “The Ross, which was always made and tested as a sportsman’s gun, was still used by snipers for its highly accurate and long range shot, and treated with extreme delicacy by them. Interestingly, Ross rifles are still used from time to time today, as they are still one of the best sportman’s guns available.”
    “...always made and tested as a sportsman’s gun” I can find at least three errors of fact in that phrase alone. “...its highly accurate and long range shot”. Ye gods, what a dog’s dinner of English, let alone fact! Range is determined largely by the ammunition, not the “gun”(sic). “Treated with extreme delicacy”. I suppose that means they never swore in front of their rifles then?! But wait, it gets better: “they are still one of the best sportman’s(sic) guns available”. Hm, fragile and unreliable and then suddenly “one of the best... available.” Figure that one out if you can!
    "Deer-stalking would be a very fine sport if only the deer had guns." W. S. Gilbert.

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    Really Senior Member tr63's Avatar
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    Very well said and meaning full information !! Thank you .

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    Really Senior Member Paul S.'s Avatar
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    And yet the original, hand-written War Diary of the 48th Highlanders (15 Battalion CEF) states they were issued 'Enfield Riflesicon" in February 1915 shortly after arriving in Franceicon from Englandicon where they had been for months.

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    Really Senior Member henry r's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Surpmil View Post
    The Ross had aperture sights ten years before the experimental MkV Lee Enfield and about twenty five years before the No.4 Lee Enfield brought them into Britishicon service.
    wot abou' the P14?

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    The biggest issue with the Mk. III Ross was it wasn't given enough time to fully develop. By 1916, the design was mature and effective, with all the kinks worked out (improved bolt stops and locking lug heat treatment, etc.). Just all faith was lost in the design by that point.

    In comparison the Lee Enfield took just as long (if not longer) to develop from the Lee Metford single stack rifles to the SMLE of WWI. Along the way there was many issues with that design and constant improvements needed (hense why there was so many variants). Issues like the sights on the long Lees not being zeroed properly being a simple example (one of the issues of the Boer war, especially fighting against the Boers at long range with there fantastic Mausers and Krags).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul S. View Post
    And yet the original, hand-written War Diary of the 48th Highlanders (15 Battalion CEF) states they were issued 'Enfield Riflesicon" in February 1915 shortly after arriving in Franceicon from Englandicon where they had been for months.
    I've read their diary for February 1915 here I don't see any mention of Enfield or Ross rifles, only that rifles and equipment were inspected on February 20th at Caestres at 12 noon. Can you provide a link or image of the page?

    Quote Originally Posted by henry r View Post
    wot abou' the P14?
    Fair point, but of course the P14 was never issued for general service was it?

    Last edited by Surpmil; 05-26-2019 at 04:54 PM.
    "Deer-stalking would be a very fine sport if only the deer had guns." W. S. Gilbert.

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    This article you have appropriately dissected is a great example of where some modern journalism has gone--little research, lots of broad sweeping statements, little fact or substance. Kind of like what we face as gun owners here in Canadaicon with media thoughtlessly regurgitating drivel put forward by the government and anti-gunners.

    Where to start.....maybe for starters that the Ross was "adopted" for Fisheries and the RNWMP with the Model 1903, and the Militia went through numerous "Marks" before the Mk III was adopted. It is also worth noting that the rifle Sir Charles submitted had an enclosed magazine, and the final version of the Mk III actually adopted was the camel-like result of a committee. Surpmil's comments about the teething problems of the Lee Metford/Lee Enfield are completely correct--the troops issued the Long Lee in the Boer War couldn't hit anything because of the sights being miscalibrated, and that was a scandal which died down. In the end, it was all politics but the ones who suffered were the Canadian troops who had a fine rifle issued with tight tolerances and poor quality Britishicon ammunition. It is interesting to note that although the British pilloried the rifle, it didn't stop them from keeping the rifles and issuing them to Naval Units, guard units, the Middle East, etc etc.

    Ed

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    Quote Originally Posted by Surpmil View Post
    Fair point, but of course the P14 was never issued for general service was it?

    Sorry to show up so late to this post, but I've only just joined and my searches are just now turning these things up.

    Nearly 1,244,000 P14's were produced by the 3 U.S. factories and issued to Britishicon forces, seeing limited service on the Western Front before diminished need for new rifles saw them used for support units and passed on to commonwealth forces. The initial prototypes of the P13, with aperture sight, were designed in 1910-1911, and apertures were fitted experimentally to various Enfields from 1900-on, as a result of Boer War experiences.
    Last edited by vykkagur; 11-18-2019 at 03:44 PM.

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    You can have the most accurate rifle in the world but if your supplied with crap ammo then you may as well throw wheat at them seems there was more than one ammunition blunder by the Brit's in that conflict which they thought would be a short affair like who needs cannon shells and you can only fire 20 odd a day otherwise we will run out!

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    "It'll be over by Christmas"!!!!!!!!!!
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