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(1914-1918) WWI
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Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/22/2020 4:59:49 AM

Right now we’re in the grip of a pandemic, and one of the most infamous aspects is the recrimination about the failure to provide sufficient Personal Protective Equipment ( PPE) to people in health service jobs.

One hundred and five years ago today the Germans unleashed chlorine gas against Allied soldiers in the Ypres Salient. French Algerian soldiers were the first to suffer, followed shortly by the British.

Canadian soldiers plugged the gap.

No gas masks were available .

The ordeal of the men who were gassed was horrible, with death being of an excruciating manner. Heavy artillery bombardment was followed by German infantry attacks, with their new gas masks making the soldiers appear grotesque to the defenders.

The only way for a British or Canadian soldier to seek protection from the gas was to piss on his handkerchief and cover his mouth and nose with it.

The line was held.

Tell Sparta !

Regards, Phil

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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/22/2020 8:09:15 AM

Thank you for the reminder Phil. The Canadian 1st division had only recently arrived in France.

They were so raw and the fact that they determined to stay and fight even as Algerian and Moroccan French troops streamed by, frothing at the mouth, impresses me

I do recall an interview with a Canadian veteran of this battle and he commented that they were so young and foolish that if they had had any sense, they would have run too. But they did not. And for a time the 2nd brigade was isolated and cut off.

They were praised to the hilt. Even the King made mention of the Canadian stand. I don't believe that any of the praise was a disingenuous pat on the colonial back. Field Marshall Sir John French said, "the Canadians saved the day".

But we must note that the British troops did move forward to allow the Canadians to make a fighting retreat and also took massive casualties. This was a near run thing.

John McCrae wrote his poem, "In Flanders Fields" during this battle. So the story goes, McCrae, a surgeon, had presided over the burial of his good friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. The shell blast that killed Helmer left only scattered body parts which McCrae arranged on a stretcher. He used sandbags to fill in the parts of the body that could not be found.
And then he leaned against a wagon and composed his famous piece.

Famous painting of the battle. Note the soft caps that the British and Commonwealth wore



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Regarding gas masks, according to Nathan Greenfield in his book, "Baptism of Fire", the French and British had information about upcoming gas attacks earlier in April.

Two German deserters had confirmed that and both demonstrated a mask that was like a surgical type mask impregnated with sodium hyposulphite to neutralize chlorine. The German soldier's name was Private August Jager and he called the mask his Riechpackchen.

The Canadians and British had no protection on the April 22 but then they did not receive the gas directly. That was reserved for the Algerians and Moroccan French troops.

On April 24, the Canadians were attacked again and this time with gas. It seems that the soldiers had heard that a handkerchief or cloth, wet with water or urine, did have some benefit. Major McLaren of the 13 Battalion did order his men to urinate on a handkerchief so perhaps some orders had come down the line.
One private recalled a high school chemistry class that taught him how to neutralize chlorine and he told his mates to "piss on a cloth and tie it on your face."

I didn't get the sense that, even four days later that the British and Commonwealth troops were protected. The anecdotal reports from soldiers who did cover their nose and mouth was that the technique was not very effective. Perhaps it allowed them to live but most said that they could not breathe even with the wet cloth on the face.

Cheers,

George
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Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/22/2020 8:50:18 AM

Thanks, George.

This was not the first time that gas had been used..

The Germans had tried it, unsuccessfuly, against the Russians earlier in 1915, but it was too cold, and the gas was rendered ineffective.

Not sure about this, but the Germans might have used gas shell this first time, and changed to cylinder expulsion at Ypres.

The stand of the Canadians at Ypres 105 years ago was an epic of sacrifice, made all the more poignant by the very inexperience that you allude to.

I think it significant that Canadians chose Vimy as their symbol of their participation in the Great War.

The success of Vimy, especially with its connotations of national independence, appears to mean more to Canadians than the sacrifice made two years earlier.

Incidentally, as I write this, the format has become tiny, as if I’m writing in a matchbox instead of a proper canvass....I’ll have to post it and then edit, because I can’t read what I’m writing.

Editing : you refer to the massive casualties that the British suffered as they tried to hold the Salient. Foremost amongst them was the 28th Division, that suffered more than 15,500 casualties in the battle. A horrific total, even for that war.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/22/2020 11:03:04 AM

It was not all glory at 2nd Ypres for the Canadians. There was controversy surrounding the management of the battle by Arthur Currie who would go on to lead the Canadian Corps.

EDIT: Note that Currie was the commander of 2nd Brigade. If memory serves, the 1st Div was commanded by Alderson.

The confusion must have been extreme. Chaotic would describe the situation.

At a couple of points, it seems that Currie ordered some troops to withdraw but they did not.
One British officer accused Currie of cowardice but Currie's supporters say nothing of the sort.
Currie had gone to the rear at one point to beg for reinforcements as his brigade was cut off.

If interested, this essay explains the controversy surrounding Currie's actions.

[Read More]

I am most familiar with what this group of Canadians did but there were heroic exploits by the whole of the British force and I would be happy to hear of it.
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Jim Cameron
Ossining
NY USA
Posts: 914
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/22/2020 2:03:27 PM

Phil,
Interesting comment on gas shells versus cylinders, and which was used first. I have always been under the impression that cylinders were employed first, albeit not based on any deep study of the topic.
That said, I have also had the impression that cylinder discharge was somewhat problematical, too dependent on wind conditions and the like, and that gas shells were more effective and eventually superseded cylinders.
Did gas cylinders remain in use into the later part of the war, or did shells completely replace them?
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Jim Cameron Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/22/2020 8:43:02 PM

I think that we should note that the Battle of 2nd Ypres was actually a series of hard fought battles running from April 22 until May 25.

Gravenstafel Ridge ran from April 22 until April 23

St. Julien from 24 to May 5

Frezenburg from May 8-13

Bellewarde from May 24-25

All are interesting and costly affairs for British and Canadian troops.

As well, I would like to note that some of the Algerians and Moroccans stopped in retreat. They had been routed by the gas and the CDN 13th battalion had quickly moved toward the gap and crossed into territory once held by the French. They found a group of Algerians on a rise who were already exchanging rifle fire with the advancing Germans. Some of the Canadians were sent to join the Algerian group and this calmed them.

I just wanted to say that the African troops died by the thousands but that some, once clear of the gas, did reform to fight. Not many perhaps, but these were soldiers too and if able, some chose to fight. Sorry, I do not have a number but I know that they and the Canadians did fight together.

Cheers,

George
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Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/23/2020 3:46:56 AM

Cyril Falls, doyen of British Great War historians and himself a veteran of the conflict, had this to say about the battle :

" Second Ypres" was, for its size, one of the most murderous battles of the war.

Interesting words : " for its size".

Not much more than a local foray for the Germans, limited in scale, maybe experimental. A mere sideshow compared with the grandiose battles they were about to unleash against the Russians, and hardly comparable with what they were experiencing in the huge Artois battles against the French further to the south.

Let me try and find out more about the first gas attack against the Russians, Jim, because I'm aware that I might be wrong when I wrote that this was first tried using gas shell instead of cylinders....if anyone else knows about this, please help.

Editing : Yes...from my volumes Chronicle of the First World War, Gray and Argyle, Sunday 31st January 1915 ( Western Calendar)

Poland - First use of poison gas ( 18,000 shells from 600 guns) by German Ninth Army at Bolimow in diversionary attack (-6 Feb). Gas nullified by intense cold & E wind, so Russians fail to inform Allies of it.

For 22 April the same source states;

FIRST W FRONT POISON GAS ATTACK begun by German Fourth Army at 1700 nr Langemark : ….with 4000 chlorine cylinders. 168t of chlorine released within 5 mins. 2 German divs attack French 45th Algerian Div supported on right by Cdn 1st Div, nr St Julien. Germans wearing respirators cautiously 'mop up' on Pilkem Ridg, taking c2000 PoWs & 51 guns. French Colonials flee across canal causing 800 yd gap in Allied line. Fierce fighting for Canadian W of St Julien, finally secured by Germans.

An excellent source, this, which really helps if you seek a general survey of the war with a first rate chronology.



Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/23/2020 4:32:10 AM

Using the same source, and trawling through the dates, I move forward one year and find this in reference to the Verdun fighting :

Frid 19 May 1916 Germans introduce disphogene gas shell at Chattancourt. Disphosgene is a liquid ( phosgene is gaseous) & is easily handled by gunners.


It's apparent from British medical statistics that this new gas was especially deadly. Not that the total number of casualties from it were high : it was the death rate amongst those who were afflicted by it that stands out.

George, It seems that Currie had a " bad day"....but don't all great military leaders have them ? Monash did, so did Wellington, and Haig did, too ( Landrecies, August 1914).

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/23/2020 6:32:03 AM

Phil, George, Jim
Gentlemen
I found this site very interesting
https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/voices-of-the-first-world-war-gas-attack-at-ypres
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/23/2020 8:20:30 AM

John, I have place your link in a READMORE, for ease of access.

[Read More]

Great site. Always interesting to hear the comments and voices of those who were there.

Cheers,

George
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Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/23/2020 8:27:30 AM

A summary of British casualties at Second Ypres, by Division.

28th … 15,533 ( including 3,274 confirmed killed)
4th...… 10,859 ( 1,653)
5th...… 7,994 ( 1,139)
27th.....7,263 ( 1,177)
Canadian...5,469 ( 1,737)
50th....5,204 ( 636)
Lahore Indian...2,134 ( 183)
Lahore British ...1,754 ( 208)
3rd Cavalry....1,618 ( 304)
1st Cavalry ...1,203 ( 168)
2nd Cavalry...244 ( 40)

Total, 59,275, including 10,519 confirmed killed.

Note that the figure confirmed as killed falls well short of the real fatality toll. Many of the missing were dead, and additional numbers of the wounded died after evacuation. The CWGC data indicate that 14,708 British Empire troops died in the battle, with that being the number cited for Belgium 22 April to 25 May 1915. Of these, 12,581 were British, 1885 Canadian and 242 Indian. The Canadians clearly made the best accounting of their dead : nearly all of them are registered in their divisional casualty return. I suspect that they included the died of wounds, and conflated them with the killed. Look at the Indian figure in the Lahore Division : a tiny proportion of confirmed killed amongst the total casualties ….this is a reflection of the unpalatable truth that great numbers of their casualties were SIWs ( self inflicted wounds), entailing gunshot wounds to the left hand.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/24/2020 8:36:27 AM

Kitcheners' Wood

I do not know whether the concept of active defence was a part of British protocol and we have become aware that the German army would counter after losing ground.

The gas attack on April 22 that created such chaos occurred very late in the afternoon.

By 11:30 PM, two Canadian battalions were ordered to attack a wooded area that had been the position of an artillery battery (British or French? I'm not sure).

For some reason, the Germans who had advanced quickly decided to stop for the night. They had met with resistance from the Canadians who moved into the gap and the Algerians who chose to stay and fight. The CDN 13th battalion had sent two platoons to a ditch in the French zone and two more to another ditch. They were joined by Algerians who had outrun the gas and then turned to fight. It was these widely spread out groups that gave the Germans pause.



British General Smith-Dorrien authorized the release of two British battalions to Gen. Alderson of CDN 1st Division and they moved up too. The whole of British army left flank was exposed because of the gas attack. During the course of the 2nd Ypres battles, 33 British battalions were attached to Gen. Alderson.

The attack on Kitcheners' Wood was a crazy, and poorly organized affair that resulted in many casualties in both battalions. It was an example of what can happen when there is no reconnaissance and when officers and men are so inexperienced. And yet the two battalions, from western Canada managed to take most of the wooded area in a fight that resembled a deadly street riot.



At 10:47 PM on the 22nd, Lt.- Col. Garnet Hughes received an order from CDN Gen. Turner to clear a wooded area just to the NW of St. Julien. This was Kitcheners' Wood.

Note the apostrophe after the "s". This wooded area was not named after Field Marshall Kitchener.
This was the place that the French army had placed its cooking facilities. They called it, bois-de-Cuisinères.

Note the name Lt.-Col. Garnet Hughes. He was the son of the Canadian Minister of Militia and Defence. Garnet Hughes was a friend of Arthur Currie who went on to great fame in this war. But Currie refused to give his friend command of a division of his corps earning him the eternal enmity of the Hughes family.

Garnet Hughes relayed the order to the 10th and 16th battalions to attack. The 10th was in position at Mouse Trap Farm but the 16th would not arrive until it was time to attack. The Germans were shelling and the Canadians could see to their rear that Ypres was afire. The noise was deafening.

As they formed up they were taking MG fire from another farm, Oblong Farm. That position had not been cleared.
Lt. Col. Hughes formed the two battalions up in a very odd and unprotected formation. He set them up in two, 10 deep columns of four men, with men moving forward shoulder to shoulder. The 10th battalion was to the front with the 16th right behind. Men were being cut down by MG as they waited.

One Canadian historian claimed that a close order formation like this hadn't been used since the War of 1812. Another said that a formation like this was not designed to deal with MG and rifle fire. I did read that it wasn't uncommon for close order formations like this to be used in WW1 as it was felt the the closeness of the men gave comfort to them and if speed of advance was desired, then a formation like this would lend itself to speedy advance.

The men were receiving a flurry of orders as they waited in columns. Packs on, packs off, packs on. Greatcoats on, greatcoats off, back on. Fix 17inch bayonet, unfix, fix bayonet. In the end, the packs and greatcoats were left behind. But the confusion was discomfiting to the men.
They advance with bayonets attached to their Ross rifles.

And so at 11:45, the Canadians began their first major attack of the war. The advanced toward the wood in columns quite silently until they encountered a thick hedge interlaced with wire. Gen. Turner, a VC winner in the Boer War and Lt.-Col Hughes had decided not do any reconnaissance and so this hedge was an unexpected obstacle.

Using rifle butts and hands, they clawed through the hedge and then were hit with an incredible volume of MG fire from Oblong Farm. Officers were yelling and encouraging their men to move toward the wood and they did so. No one had thought to detach a squad to deal with the MG nests to the left. Inexperience. The Canadians ran this gauntlet of 300 metres and men were falling an lying in heaps as men from behind tried to fill their places only to be cut down as well.

The Canadians claim that they cleared most of the Kitcheners' Wood, all but the SW corner. The Germans claim that the Canadians only breached the out edge of the wood.

The fighting in the wood was bitter and raw. It was hand to hand and bayonet and butt were employed liberally.

It seems that the Canadians did seize the wood and some units passed through and about a mile beyond. The Germans were taken by surprise by the ferocity and speed of the attack.

The 10th Battalion war diarist wrote:

Quote:
The enemy were completely taken by surprise and hundreds desired to surrender, but owing to the fierceness of the attackers and the large number of the enemy and fact that some of the enemy continued to shoot, very few prisoners were taken and many lives were lost by enemy forces.


The fighting in the SW corner proved that some junior officers understood their craft quite well and they reduced a German position after taking the time to reconnoitre and then to dig a trench at right angles to the German trench, allowing them to enfilade the German position.
It was this group that came across the 4.7 inch British guns battery and the bodies of British soldiers, Turcos and Germans were all around the weapons. The brave British boys defended their guns to the end and exacted a heavy toll.

All the while, the Canadians had been under the impression that they were supported on the left by French troops who were supposed to attack. But the French officer, General Putz did not keep his promise to attack. The confusion must have been great but there seems to have been no attempt by the Canadians to contact the French to determine whether the Algerians were going to retake Pilkem Ridge as they promised. I believe that it was the French that requested the attack on Kitcheners' Wood, to relieve pressure on them as they attacked the ridge. They were no shows and it seems that the communication between the allies was non-existent

Canadian officers reported back that they had won a great victory but at a tremendous cost.

About 1900 officers and men in the two battalions had attacked. When it was all over, there were only 10 officers and 449 men left standing. Lt. Col. Leckie told his Brigadier that he could not expect to hold this position without reinforcements.

And two days later, the Battle of St. Julien began in another gas attack and heavy counter attack by the German army. Canadian and British troops would pay a heavy butcher's bill in that phase of 2nd Ypres.





[Read More]

Quite a fight.

Cheers,

George
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Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/24/2020 9:52:37 AM

Quite a fight indeed, George....and quite a post by you, as well.

Thanks for that.

It really makes you shudder, doesn’t it ?

Such primitive tactics, pitting flesh and blood against high explosive, MG fire, not to mention the dreaded gas clouds.

The extreme loss rates suffered in that divisional table I posted become all too explicable when you read that account .

The remarkable thing is how these prodigally used British and Canadian soldiers managed to inflict the damage they did on the Germans : thirty five thousand German casualties attest the ferocity and effectiveness of their resistance, despite the tactical disadvantages they fought under.

BTW, thanks for explaining the provenance of the name “ Kitcheners’ Wood”, and explaining the apparently misplaced apostrophe !

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/24/2020 11:04:02 AM

Phil, the three battles that followed after Gravenstafel Ridge on April 22 were difficult contests and many imperial battalions were cut up with a couple of them destroyed in the rest of the month to follow. I believe that the CDN 1st Div was withdrawn on May 3 and British imperial forces moved into position to allow that withdrawal.

I like to think that there were lessons learned in 1914 and 1915 that British and Commonwealth troops put to use later.

Cheers,

George
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Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/24/2020 4:55:12 PM

Quote:


I like to think that there were lessons learned in 1914 and 1915 that British and Commonwealth troops put to use later.

Cheers,

George

George,


Therein lies the unique tragedy of that war : at least, that’s how I see it.

Lessons were always being learned : but it was a two way thing, and if British and Dominion officers were learning, and their Allied counterparts , it was a given that the Germans were honing their expertise, too.

I say “ unique “ for a reason : never before or since have soldiers from liberal democratic nations been exposed to such relentless battlefield massacre. I obviously exclude the Nazi Soviet warfare of 1941-45 from this assessment, because they were not liberal democratic regimes, as were the societies of Western Europe and the British Dominions, and , eventually, the USA , that sent their men to die 1914-18.

There can be no better exemplar of this phenomenon than the gas attack at Ypres in 1915. A small affair compared with battles that were fought in the years ahead, but a horrible indication of what the soldiers were expected to endure.

All the more so when we remember that, at the very time that the fighting in the Salient was raging, a huge battle developed not far away to the South in Artois, with heavy British casualties at Aubers and Festubert, and truly massive loss of life for the French in the Vimy sector near Arras.

And to make the cup run over, the British and Anzac forces landed on the Gallipoli peninsula 105 years ago tomorrow .

What the Germans had in store for the Russians was something dreadful, unleashed within a week or two of their little Ypres foray.

I often wonder if the purpose of their attack at Ypres was to give them some experience and lesson learning that they could apply in their major strategic initiatives on the Eastern front.

I suppose that one lesson that the Allies learnt - and applied - from Second Ypres was the need to provide respirators and to heed the evidence of deserters regarding what might be coming their way.

I wish the British Government had thought about the lessons of this battle when they had several weeks to prepare for the onslaught of Covid 19 !

Regards, Phil



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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/24/2020 10:10:48 PM

Phil George

Even more amazing was the Canadian soldiers went into the fight with an inferior weapon. The Ross Mk.II (or "model 1905") rifle was highly successful in target shooting before World War I, but the close chamber tolerances, lack of primary extraction and overall length made the Mk.III (or "1910") Ross rifle unsuitable for the conditions of trench warfare, exacerbated by the often poor quality ammunition issued.The Model 10 was the standard infantry weapon of the First Canadian Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force when it first arrived in France in February 1915.

The shortcomings of the rifle were made apparent before the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry was the first unit to voice its objections about the rifle, the regiment replaced the Ross rifle with the more familiar and rugged Lee-Enfield and later persuaded the 3rd Division to switch to the Lee-Enfield. The rifle showed poor tolerance of dirt when used in field conditions, particularly the screw threads operating the bolt lugs, jamming the weapon open or closed; it also had problems when British-made ammunition was used, which was produced with lower tolerances than Canadian-made one. Another part of the jamming problem came from the bolt's outer face hitting the bolt stop, then deforming the thread shape. The bolt could also be disassembled for routine cleaning and inadvertently reassembled in a manner that would fail to lock but still allow a round to be fired, leading to serious injury or death of the operator as the bolt flew back into his face. However, reports of such incidents with regard to this specific failing were relatively minor. Still another deficiency was the tendency for an affixed bayonet to become dislodged and fall off during discharge of the rifle. Many Canadians of the First Contingent (now renamed the 1st Canadian Division) at Ypres purposefully retrieved Lee–Enfield rifles from fallen British soldiers to replace their own inferior Ross rifles.Lieutenant Chris Scriven of the 10th Battalion, CEF, commented that it sometimes took five men just to keep one rifle firing Major T.V. Scudamore of the British Columbia Regiment, having been captured at Ypres after being wounded, wrote of the "contemptible" Ross rifle, "Those in the front line with that rifle will never forget... what it is like to be charged by the flower of the German army... and be unable to fire a shot in return."
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
PPE, 1915 style
Posted on: 4/26/2020 7:42:09 AM

Thanks for that John. Indeed there are reports of young soldiers at the Battle of St. Julien (Apr. 24) actually in tears as they attempted to clear a jam on the Ross Rifle.

I mentioned earlier that the Lt. Col. at the charge at Kitcheners' Wood was Garnet Hughes. His father was the Minister of Militia and Defence, Sam Hughes.

There are people who feel that Sam was crazy, not to be too blunt. He should be given credit for building the CEF. Within weeks he built a military base at Valcartier, Québec and did so from scratch. There was nothing there when he began.

But he also practiced cronyism and gave war contracts to his friends.

He would ride around the base on his horse as training was ongoing and he would stop and, without consultation with anyone, give a promotion to some officer or enlisted man.

Hughes wanted to lead the contingent but was not permitted to do so.

He hated the French-Canadians. One of the reasons that many refused to volunteer was because there was no use of the French language in the Canadian military. Sam wouldn't hear of it. And at this time 25% of the country spoke French as a first language.

He also held disdain for the few professional soldiers that Canada had, feeling that the volunteer citizen soldier would be superior in every way.

He also refused to use the militia system to build an army and he was in charge of the militia. In those days, men from Calgary were proud to serve in a Calgary regiment, as an example. But Sam got rid of the traditional regimental names and decided to number them all. And so, the 15th battalion of 1st division were not identified by their regimental name, the 48th Highlanders of Canada. So Sam dispensed with the mobilization scheme that would have involved using the militia stationed all across the country, to raise an army.

He was a nationalist and was determined to use Canadian made equipment and that included the Ross Rifle. But he would also grant production contracts to friends and was prone to approving odd pieces of equipment that appealed to his sense of originality. Hence we had the MacAdam Shield Shovel, a shovel with a hole in it that would allow a soldier to prop the shovel up and slide his rifle barrel through the hole. That the shovel could not stop a rifle bullet didn't concern Sam. The shovel was named after his secretary, Ena, who had come up with the idea. She held the patent. That was Sam's way.

Sam with the shovel





The combat boots that Sam had approved were of inferior quality. They could not handle the rain and mud and would disintegrate in short order.
Their webbing was inferior and was replaced even before the 1st Contingent left for Britain.

Eventually, PM Borden got tired of Hughes' odd behaviour and kicked him out of cabinet in 1916.

Hughes was bitter and especially about the commander of the Canadian Corps, Gen. Arthur Currie who refused to grant a divisional field command to his son, Garnet Hughes. That's another story but Currie had to defend himself after the war because of accusations by Hughes and his friends that Currie was a butcher who sacrificed Canadians to bring glory upon himself.

The procurement process under Hughes was a mess and there is a good section on that in the following article published in the Legion Magazine. The Ross Rifle was not the only piece of equipment that was problematic but certainly it was the most critical. Perhaps the artillery shell crisis was of equal importance.

[Read More]

Cheers,

George

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