|Lieutenant General Sir Sam Hughes, K.C.B., M.P.|
Painted by Harrington Mann
Beaverbrook Collection of War Art
Hughes' bulls-eye was no lucky shot. He was a member of several shooting societies and president of the Dominion Rifle Association (Haycock, p. 4). During the Laurier years, Hughes reputation was welded to the manufacture of the Ross rifle, a weapon adopted by the Canadian militia at the end of the Boer war. From 1901 on, Hughes would support the rifle against numerous complaints in the House of Commons regarding its manufacture. The British were none too pleased about the Dominion straying from their standard Lee Enfield rifle, and disqualified many Canadian shooters at the British National Rifle Association's competitions for light triggers or heavy barrels. (Haycock, p. 123)
|"Interior View of Ross Rifle Factory" 1900-1905 Credit: Library and Archives Canada / PA-107378|
The unfortunate results of these British rebuttals was the altering of the Mark III Ross Rifle to insure victory at these marksmanship competitions. As Haycock notes, "Machine tolerances were tightened; fit was made better; and the weapons won. But close bearing surfaces, complicated and fragile target-type sights, and tight chambers capable of firing only exact dimension ammunition changed the rifle from an efficient combat weapon to an efficient target one." (p. 123)
The failure of the Ross rifle in the swampy conditions of the First World War, and Hughes' persistence that the weapon was sound, would contribute to Hughes' final dismissal as Militia minister in 1916.