Sir WILFRID LAURIER:
I will come to that. Of course, my information is not official; it is such information as I can collect and such as comes to me through correspondence and otherwise. If I am wrong as to the battle, if it was not St. Julien, it was some other battle in which the soldiers in tears and rage threw down the Ross rifle and took up the Lee-Enfield. To quote from the poet, Walter Scott:-
But woe awaits a country, when She sees the tears of bearded men.
The Government saw the tears of these bearded men, but they did nothing to correct the condition of things that existed. The commander in chief, Sir John French, had to take notice of the situation. He did not wait to report to the War Oflflce, but he instituted an inquiry, and on the 19th June, 1915, he made his report. After having stated that rumours with regard to the Ross rifle had come to him, and that he had appointed a committee to investigate, he proceeded :- 1
(1) To the unanimous opinion of my committee that the Ross rifle could not he relied upon to work smoothly and efficiently in rapid fire with any ammunition other than that of Canadian manufacture;
m [Sir Wilfrid Laurier.J
(2) to the fact that no ammunition of this nature was available in this country, and that sufficient supplies could not he obtained from' England, and,
(3) to the want of confidence in the rifle which a large number of the infantry evidently felt, as evidenced by the fact that over 3,000 had, without authority, exchanged their rifles for those used by their British comrades, and taken from casualties on the battlefield.
I did not feel justified in sending this Division into battle with the Ross rifle, and ordered the re-arming of the infantry of the Division with the Lee-Enfield rifle, which was carried out before they went into action on the 15th instant.
Sir John French said that he armed one division with the Lee-Enfield rifle. Now, I come -to the interruption made by my hon. friend from Victoria (Sir Sam Hughes). Sir John French goes on to say:-
6. I would, therefore, suggest that the Army Council should send to this country one or more of the most highly qualified experts obtainable to make the necessary tests under service conditions and report whether ammunition of British manufacture is or is not suitable for use with the Ross rifle. For this' purpose a supply of ammunition of Canadian manufacture should be brought out for comparison.
I have expressed and acted on my opinion, that, so far as I can judge, the ammunition of British manufacture is not suitable for use with Ross rifles, and that there is a large and growing feeling of want of confidence in their rifle on the part of the men in the Canadian Division, which is amply justified by the report of the committee.
My hon. friend (Sir Sam Hughes) was right. It was not the rifle which was condemned, but the dissatisfaction arose from the fact that it was not supplied with the proper ammunition. The fact is that the Ross rifle jammed, and the men were left without any weapons to defend themselves. That is the charge I make against the Government. The General Commanding wanted a test made, and a commission was appointed to make that test, but to this day, in so far as my knowledge goes, and in so far as the information brought before the House shows, there never was a test made of the Ross rifle with proper ammunition.