OTD: Canada abandons Ross rifle

On today’s date in 1916, Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig advised the Government of Canada to abandon the Canadian-made Ross rifle due to overheating and jamming during combat.

Haig’s recommendation was accepted by the government of prime minister Robert Borden after the issue become public.

Two years earlier, following the break out of the First World War, Canadian soldiers sent to the European battlefront received two basic uniforms, which included:

  • a tunic;
  • insignia;
  • a cap;
  • webbing straps for storage packs and pouches;
  • trousers;
  • a canteen for water;
  • a backpack;
  • leather “ammunition boots”;
  • a MacAdam Shield-shovel for use as both a pick and a shield;
  • wrappings that wound from the soldier’s ankles to his knees to keep the legs dry and provide support; and
  • the bolt-action Ross rifle—a standard issue for most Canadian soldiers until it was replaced by the British-made Lee-Enfield rifle in 1916.

In total, each soldier’s kit weighed 32 kilograms plus whatever weight accumulated from the inescapable mud.

The Ross rifle was also depicted on a 2014-dated $10 silver coin.

2014 ROSS RIFLE COINS

In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mint issued two Fine silver coins featuring the Ross rifle—a $5 coin commemorating the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and a $10 coin commemorating the mobilization of the nation at the outset of the First World War.

With a mintage of 10,000 pieces, the $5 coin has a weight of 23.17 grams and a diameter of 36.07 millimetres. The reverse design, by artist Scott Waters, features a Canadian soldier – Ross rifle in hand – kneeling with his right foot stretched past the circular image frame. In the background, a convoy of ships represents those who first brought Canada to the fight in 1914. The maple leaf crest cap badge at the bottom of the image adds motifs linked to the CEF as a tribute to its contributions.

With a mintage of 40,000 pieces, the $10 coin has a weight of 15.87 grams and a diameter of 34 millimetres. The reverse design, by artist Maskull Lasserre, features a rear view of a Canadian soldier as he embarks on a ship bound for England. Again, the soldier is holding a Ross rifle.

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