Day By Day© by Chris Muir - Get This Guy Syndicated!

April 26, 2004

A painful parting - at Auction for The Spirit of America!

Canadian Soldiers Turning in Their Mark 2 Ross Rifles, Kingston, Ontario, June 2, 1915 (Canadian Archives)

It's also time for a reminder on why you should donate - even if you don't want a genuine Ross bayonet!


Now Dean may have scored Cox and Forkum, and Michele has something up her sleeve besides answering questions - specifically, she beat me to Chris Muir. Our lead over Michele is widening, but Dean has actually closed the gap a little bit. But we're still ahead. And we'll stay that way, despite them landing the real celebrity endorsements. We'll do this the old fashioned way - i.e., the hard way (Yes, Dean, Kevin, Michele - that is the sound of Sour-F**king-Grapes!)

But are any of them truly sacrificing for the cause? Really?

I think not. Well, Dean, maybe, cuz' he is giving out pretty good pics of Rosemary's rack. Michele's husband wasn't as generous, piker. Kevin enlisted his kid.

I'm giving away a bayonet. You don't know what that means. I'm a collector - not a dealer or trader. The only thing that means more to me than my family, my friends, my soldiers, my critters - are the artifacts in my collection.

I don't go for the flashy, never got used, packed in cosmoline and stored-in-a-vault-after-it-was-made stuff - I collect stuff that helps to connect me to the past.

So to give up bits and pieces of the Arsenal is a sacrifice - even though many of you might find that bemusing, even silly. Piffle on ya.

Take this bayonet, for example.

rossbayonet.JPG Here's a larger image. (not for dial-up connections, believe me!)

Looks pretty simple. It is pretty simple. In fact, in the world of bayonets, the Ross bayonets are pretty unique, with their odd blade shape, and odd butt configuration. What does this bayonet have to say? Well, the markings say it was made in February of 1916. It was destined for war. Canada's first big war, in fact. And in that bayonet, and more importantly, in the rifle upon which it was affixed, lies a story of the pride of Canada, and the pride of men. And how men let their pride put their nation's soldiers at risk. Who'd have thought the Canadians would produce one of the more controversial cartridge firearms in a century dominated by names like Mauser, Enfield, Lebel, Mosin, Arisaka and Springfield?

In the latter part of the 19th century, like the latter part of the 20th, Canada was a pretty safe place to be. The only threat was drunken yankees who wouldn't go home because they misplaced their horses - and the occasional Sioux chased across the border by George Crook or such-like, though they were usually pretty well behaved, not wanting to get chased back down south. Consequently, the British didn't keep the Canadian militia high on the list to receive new arms. So, while most armies had switched to small-bore, smokeless powder weapons, the Canadians are making do with single shot, large bore black-powder guns like the Martinis and Snider's. (A photo essay for a later time -bandwidth!)

When the Canadians took ship to fight in the Boer War, they were given single-shot Martini's re-barreled to the new .303 cartridge, but still a second-line weapon. The Canadian government tried to buy Mark 1 Lee-Enfields magazine rifles, but the jerks at the War Department back in Whitehall said "No."

Tired of that kind of attitude, the Minister of Militia told the Canadian Government that Canada would just have to make their own rifles.

Enter the Scot Charles Henry Augustus Frederick Lockhart Ross, Ninth Baronet of Balnagown and a right rich fella. Sir Charles was not a caricature of a Modern English Gentleman of the era. He had a right mechanical streak in him and a life-long interest in firearms. He patented his first rifle, a 'straight-pull' design derived from the Mannlicher, in 1893. A 'straight-pull' bolt is just what it's name indicates; rather than rotate the bolt handle to lock and unlock the bolt, you pull straight back and push straight forward. These are fast locks, but do suffer from primary extraction issues (being the initial impetus to withdraw the fired cartridge case) which makes them vulnerable to bad ammunition and dirty bores. Not a good trait in a battle rifle.

Along with his genius, Sir Robert had a small flaw. He was impatient, and did not take criticism well. These are not good traits in someone building a rifle that is intended for combat use. Rushed development - and don't gripe at me because things aren't quite right!

An otherwise astute business man, Ross offered to build his rifles in Canada, and to set up the factory at his own expense. That was too good a deal to pass up, so the Canadian government said, "Come on over, eh?" So he did. And although the rifle was officially adopted in 1902, the factory was started in that year and the first rifles delivered in 1905.


Another innovation of the Ross Rifle was the Harris Controlled Platform Magazine. It was essentially a long lever attached to the magazine floor, with a finger-operated gizmo on the right side of the rifle that pulled down the follower to facilitate loading. A dirt-trap.


Why this was used in the era of clip-loaded magazines... well that's a good question.

The Ross had a troubled development history, too long to go into here. One of the reasons there is a profusion of 'marks' of the Ross Rifle was a patently deliberate attempt on the part of General Sir Samuel Hughes, who so loved the rifle he ran interference for it for years while the Minister of Militia. It's no coincidence that Sir Samuel's tenure as Minister of Militia and the Ross rifle's tenure as the main weapon of Canadian military forces both ended in 1916, when Sir Samuel lost his job.

Canadian soldiers so disliked this rifle in combat, they happily went into battle with British units - so they could pick up the discards and casualty-dropped weapons of British forces. Why did they dislike it? Unless they were snipers? Well, it would jam in combat. The magazine was a dirt trap, which did not help the primary extraction problem, because ammunition got dirty even more easily than usual. And then there was the little problem of it was possilbe to reassemble the bolt incorrectly and it would fit in the rlfe just fine. Chamber just fine. And fire, just fine. What did I miss? Oh, yeah - locking. It would chamber and fire - but not lock. This little flaw resulted in the bolt flying back out of the rifle, into the shooters face. Not A Good Thing. Very annoying to the shooter.

The Ross was an accurate rifle in trained hands, and many examples survived and still do, as hunting and target rifles. But in the trenches, it was dangerous to the user, and after Sir Samuel lost his job, so did the Ross - as the first picture in this post shows!

It enjoyed a brief comeback in WWII, as a Home Guard weapon, and as a training rifle in the US, which is how my rifle found it's way to the here. One thing about pre-WWI Commonwealth weapons - lots and lots of markings, such as these on the butt of my Ross, showing Canadian usage. And these, which show my rifle's induction into US service.

So, that's why I don't often let my artifacts go. But I have two other Ross bayonets, one US marked, and the other Canadian, so I will reluctantly offer up this one to a worthy cause, and perhaps spark some interest on the part of Canadian readers (and there are quite a few) of this scrivener's ravings.

Bidding opens at $100 (a relative bargain these days), bid in the comments, highest offer that follows through with a receipt that post-dates the auction wins. wins. Auction stays open until 6PM CDT Wednesday, 28 April. I was tempted to do a sealed bid, using receipts... but I simply don't have the time to manage that (assuming that you guys flood the gates!) To keep it interesting, unless you have an overwhelming interest in owning the bayonet - I'd bid in small increments, just to get a thread going!

Regardless, thank you all Fighting Fusileers and those who have donated - for your time, effort, creativity and support!

Fusileer 6, out.



John | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (9) | Spirit of America
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Comments on A painful parting - at Auction for The Spirit of America!
michele briefed on April 27, 2004 04:57 AM

Isn't trafficking in weapons illegal?

Fusileer 6 briefed on April 27, 2004 06:25 AM

First - just to be clear - it's the bayonet up for grabs, NOT the rifle.

If the rifle was the item - it would be freely transferable between myself and any qualified resident of any of the states bordering Kansas.

Beyond that range, unless the winner had either an 01 or 03 FFL (I have an 03) it would have to go to a licensed 01 FFL holder in the winning individual's state, for subsequent transfer to the winning individual.

All transfers that ended up being between myself and a licensee would be subject to all the paperwork. A transfer between myself and the individual would also be subject to all applicable paperwork, as that rifle is 'booked' in my "bound book" required under the terms of my license from the feds. All transactions would be IAW all applicable local, state, and federal requirements.

The bayonet is just a knife. There are jurisdictions where there might be local restrictions, but most restrictions on knives regard carry off of your property, not possession on your property. If that weren't the case - cooking would be a real pain.

Boudicca briefed on April 27, 2004 07:08 AM

The significance of this bayonet is not lost on those of us that still root for Navy over Army. :) We're all really still on the same team!

That said, I start bidding at $150.

michele briefed on April 27, 2004 07:15 AM

Bidding, schmidding. Stop trackbacking me or I'll charge you with blog harassment!

Kevin briefed on April 27, 2004 07:32 AM

The first 5 pings were plenty, then next 5 were overkill :-).

Open your MT.CFG and uncomment the PingTimeout line. Make it say PingTimeout 30.

Dr_Funk briefed on April 27, 2004 07:39 PM

Excellent post, and a fine looking bayonet. One small correction: Sam Hughes, to his chagrin, was never promoted to General. His highest military rank was Colonel in the Canadian Militia. Lets not mention the lobbying to have himself awarded the Victoria Cross for his activities in the Boer War.
My bayonet seems to be a prewar model: 5-10, which would seem to mean May 1910. I've been looking about for a Ross, but most of the one's I've found are sporterized versions. Like you, I prefer true military weapons. Dirty, with a past, so to speak.

Imperial Firearms Advisor briefed on April 27, 2004 08:20 PM

Wait a minute... Dean's posted pics of Rosemary's rack?

Link, please.

Dr_Funk briefed on April 28, 2004 07:40 PM

Correction to prior comment: Sam Hughes was made a Major General of the Canadian Militia in October 1914 (appointment retroactive to 1912). This over the objections of his own Prime Minister and the Governor General, HRH The Duke of Connaught. One amusing Hughes-ism: a newspaper claimed that 3 Turks had been arrested in London, Ont. And that the men had instructions to assassinate Hughes. Hughes' response was that he was glad they didn't have Ross rifles because if they'd had them, they would have got him for sure....

Al Morra briefed on May 1, 2004 11:41 AM

I have a bayonet with the markings as follows

an arrow pointing down the blade with the letters XOA below the arrow.

Can anyone help?