February 2, 1917

L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Sir SAM HLTGHES:

I should like to see it. I say that such a test was never made -by Sir John French. A hearsay report was ,made by one of his officers, but no comparative test.

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LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. A. K. MACLEAN:

If the report is produced, what will the hon. gentleman say?

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Sir SAM HUGHES:

It cannot be produced for no comparative tests were made there by any authority whatsoever. I saw one report in a Canadian paper of a test between the two rifles that never occurred. One day they were illustrating to General Carson and Sir Max Aitken the defective cartridges. They took a boy, who was an engine driver and who had never fired more than twenty shots out of a Ross rifle in his life, to handle the Ross rifle, putting him in competition with an expert artillery man who was using the other rifle. As soon as a competent man was put on to handle the Ross rifle, with the defective cartridges it was found that the Lee-Enficld jammed more quickly than the Ross.

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LIB

Frank Broadstreet Carvell

Liberal

Mr. CARVELL:

That is not the comparative test referred to' by the Prime Minister this evening.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Sir SAM HUGHES:

I do'not know to what the right hon. gentleman referred.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

It was some test referred to in Sir John French's report made on the 5th of June, 1915.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Sir SAM HUGHES:

There was no

such test for mud and dirt and all that sort of thing.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

I did not say it was for mud or dirt; it was for defect in jamming.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Sir SAM HUGHES:

That is the point I am making. The. jamming was due to defective ammunition. I had the reports and I presume they should be in the department. I do not know whether they have been read here tonight or not. There was a report of the 28th Regiment of Regina having a mine exploded in front of them and in their attempt to take the trench, twelve of the rifles jammed. The cry immediately went up "Ross rifles jamming." Col. Embury knew from experience that it

27*

was the ammunition that was bad because they had been trained in England not to use certain brands-of ammunition; but in spite of all the orders that this ammunition was not to be served out to the Canadian troops, it was found bad mixed with good in every regiment that had the Ross rifle and it was not found in a solitary regiment that had the Lee-Enfield rifle. Five thousand rounds of defective ammunition were found in the pouches of one particular regiment after the fighting was over,

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?

John William Bell

Mr. CAR YELL:

Was it a German conspiracy ?

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Sir SAM HUGHES:

I do not know; I was not there. The men were disgusted with the rifle, the consequence being that Colonel Embury took the twelve men with the Lee-Enfield rifle and twelve men with the Ross rifle and made them test their rifles with the defective ammunition, and every man was convinced that defective ammunition jammed in the Lee-Enfield rifle after fifteen or twenty rounds had been fired, and in the Ross rifle only after fifty or sixty rounds had been fired. The Lee-Enfield rifle was put out of action after seventy-five or ninety rounds had been fired, and the Ross rifle only after a hundred to a hundred and twenty-five rounds had been fired. In every instance the Ross rifle proved better than the Lee-Enfield with defective ammunition, but with good ammunition neither rifle jammed, and they could not possibly jam. I could produce officers who are in the city to-night who fought with the Princess Patricias, with the Munster Fusiliers, with the Guards, with practically every British regiment- there are none in the city who fought with the Gordons-and they know that it was the defective ammunition that caused the jamming. There were three brands of it. Soft shells or soft cartridge cases would glue to the sides of the chamber and could not readily be extracted; but the tests are in the department and can be produced, if that has not already been done, showing where in England, France and Belgium these tests were made, and in every solitary instance with good ammunition there was no trouble with either rifle. With the defective ammunition, the Ross rifle would sometimes jam, but always later than the Lee-Enfield, the fault being entirely due to the ammunition. Although the British forces did not seem to be aware of it early in the war, they are aware of it now. The Canadian forces were not aware of it. At

the battle of St. Julien and the second battle of Ypres, a great deal of the ammunition the boys carried was Canadian ammunition that was absolutely perfect, and there was not one case*of jamming except where defective ammunition was .served opt to one of the brigades.

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LIB
L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Sir SAM HUGHES:

No, I think it was the brigade under General Currie. The only thing the Canadians had to defend themselves with, with the exception of a few machine guns, was the Ross rifle, whereas the Germans had rifles, machine guns by the hundred and also their artillery and aeroplanes flying over our troops, and yet the Ross rifle firing the good Canadian ammunition carried our soldiers right through. The next day or two after the first three days of the fighting the Durhams and the Yorks were brought up to fill up the gaps on the right of the Third Brigade. When they began to fire with the defective ammunition, they found they could not Ato their rifles and many of them were shot down. They threw away their rifles and did the only thing they could do- fell back; they had no other recourse than to retire. Some of our rifles firing the bad English ammunition also jammed and there was considerable trouble, all due to the ammunition. Neither the Lee-Enfield nor the Ross rifle has jammed with good ammunition. Those who are familiar with rifles know the sand and mud test, of getting the rifles - and ammunition all dirty and testing them out. Where such tests have been made, with good ammunition or bad ammunition, the Ross rifle with the large chamber has beaten the Lee-Enfield.

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LIB

James Joseph Hughes

Liberal

Mr. J. J. HUGHES:

Then why was the Ross rifle condemned?

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Sir SAM HUGHES:

I did not condemn it. You had better ask those who did. It has been pointed out that the Ross rifle is longer than the Lee-Enfield. The Ross r.fle is practically the same length as the Mauser rifle and it is the standard length. For trench warfare, of course, it is handier to have a short rifle. The only objection General Turner told me he could find to the Ross rifle was its length. When I pointed out that it was the same length as the Mauser rifle, he said that the soldiers had got the idea that the Lee-Enfield rifle was handier for running through a trench at night. That may have been true, but all that is done away with. Those who

make raids on the trenches use bombs and revolvers; only the men who stand out on top of the trenches use rifles. General Turner told me last summer and also previously that the Ross rifle was a little long for work in the trenches. When the decision came this year to change the rifle,' I spoke to General Byng about it. The Prime Minister offered to have a competitive test, if I remember aright. I presume it has been produced to-day.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

No.

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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Sir SAM HUGHES:

Why was that test not held, may I ask? It was because everyone on either side knew that there would be bnly one result. We had scores of tests in England and. in France, and they knew that if a comparative test was made with good ammunition, the Ross 'rifle would come out on top for mud tests, and they knew that if there was a comparative test for bad ammunition-and we have had them again and again for each rifle in such a way that no favouritism was shown -the Ross rifle would always stand up a little better than the Lee-Enfield.

I have made no fuss about it, because the rifle was gone, and I felt that many of the boys were honestly uncertain about the rifle from the attacks made upon it, and many others were made uncertain. I would say: Don't carry a rifle that you have not confidence fn, but if you feel that way about it, change it. It was on that ground that General Byng advocated the change. He said he did not know the merits or demerits of the rifle, but the story was abroad that the Ross rifle jammed. A number of the English soldiers got the idea that our rifles were not what they ought to be, and a lot of Canadians got the idea that maybe our rifle was not as good as the English rifle. Another point. I have reports here, but I do not wish to bother the House with them-for the thing is past-showing the action of some of the regiments when they were ordered to give up the Ross rifle and take the Lee-Enfield. I might mention one case. Colonel Rose, of the Welland regiment, as well as others, entered a most determined protest. He said that he had tried again and again to make scores with the Lee-Enfield without success, but with the Ross rifle the score was 75 per cent for the entire regiment at 600 yards down to 100 yards rapid fire. And that is the sort of shooting that made the Germans hesitate at St. Julien, and caused them to believe that the Canadians were armed with

machine guns. With the Lee-Enfield tried over and over again, Col. Rose's regiment had only been able to make a score of 29 per cent for the whole regiment. He declared that it meant murder to change the rifles; one man with a Ross rifle was equal to two men with the Lee-Enfield, the shooting was so rapid and so accurate, and the sighting so easy. I say I have reports to this effect, but I have not bothered to give them, for the thing has gone by, so let it go.

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LIB

Frank Broadstreet Carvell

Liberal

Mr. CARVELL:

While we are cleaning up things and getting information, would the hon. gentleman (Sir Sam Hughes) tell us what took place about the bolt of the Ross rifle? I have seen reference to the fact that enormous sums of money were spent

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Subtopic:   OPINION OF COMMITTEE.
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L-C

Samuel Hughes

Liberal-Conservative

Sir SAM HUGHES:

Not much money. Well, there was a good deal of it, too. The cam action of the bolt depends upon the lugs, as they are called. These lugs were made soft so that they would stand the recoil without breaking. They were tempered to just the proper consistency. Somebody conceived the idea that these should be hardened, and this was done in the case of a number of the rifles. By whose authority this was done, I do- not know, but I believe it was that of some officers at the camp in Kent. We sent over three thousand bolts properly tempered. But these people hardened them again, as we found out afterwards.

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LIB

February 2, 1917