When the first Canadian contingent arrived in France, they were equipped with the Canadian-made Ross rifle. It was a finely crafted weapon, superior to the British Lee-Enfield in both range and accuracy. However, the Ross rifle was not designed to withstand the rigours of trench warfare. It jammed easily in the muddy conditions at the front, and the rapid firing often caused the rifle to overheat and seize up.

At the Second Battle of Ypres on 22 April 1915, many Canadian soldiers learned first-hand about the deficiencies of the Ross rifle in combat conditions. They quickly discarded their jammed weapons and armed themselves with Lee-Enfield rifles taken from the dead British soldiers. As a result, a significant change was made the following month. Despite strong objections from Minister of Militia Sam Hughes, Lieutenant-General Alderson re-equipped the 1st Canadian Division with British Lee-Enfield rifles. Many snipers, however, preferred the Ross rifle. Indeed, the weapon was still in service exclusively as a sniper rifle as late as the Korean War (1950-1953).

 

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Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre
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