A Famous Arctic Officer






Veteran Windy Gale sent to us this article which was written by G. Bartley and appeared in the Vancouver Division’s 1932 edition of the Scarlet & Gold magazine.




Inspector Alfred Herbert Joy accomplished many milestones during his service in the Canadian Arctic such as 1,800 mile dog-sled patrol across the heart of the Queen Elizabeth Islands in 1929.

Photograph of

Photograph of Force member Alfre Herbert Joy (Reg.#3045).

Another honoured member of the R.C.M.P. force, in the person of Inspector Alfred Herbert Joy, passed away at Ottawa on April 29th, 1932, the sad event being on the very eve of his marriage to Miss Carmel Murphy of that city. He had been seriously ill in hospital for some weeks after his trip of inspection to the Far North, in the fall of 1931. He had since regained his health and assured his friends he was in the best of condition. It was when he arrived in Ottawa from Montreal and was preparing for the wedding ceremony that he was suddenly taken ill in his room, where friends found him. He died that same afternoon of congestion of the lungs, following a severe cold.

He was in his early forties. Universally liked and respected in the force, Inspector Joy was a very fine type of Englishman. Coming out from his native Bedford in England with his parents many years ago, he lived with them on a cattle ranch north of Calgary, where he learned to ride broncos, and acquired a love of the outdoor life. Then he enlisted in the Mounted Police on June 19, 1909(. That was in Calgary, when the R. C. M. P. was the R. N. W. M. P. and at an early date, entered its Arctic section.

Arctic Service

Photograph of RCMP Sergeant

Photograph of RCMP Sergeant Alfred Herbert Joy with with several eskimo men.

From the detachment at Fort Smith he gravitated northward down the Mackenzie and into the islands of the Arctic archipelago. His Arctic service dated from 1913 until 1929, when, stationed then at Ottawa, he became officer in charge of the eastern Arctic section of the force, and made an annual tour of all the posts. Sergeant Joy (he became Inspector in 1927) must have been highly recommended by his superior officer, for he was sent to Pond Inlet, the world’s most northerly police outpost. The Commissioner only sends men of sterling qualities to the Arctic. The loneliness is one of the biggest hardships to overcome. Thus one will not find in that region men of moody or gloomy outlook, for they would soon commit suicide up north, where no white man is seen and only a few natives. Where the wind rages constantly, and the winters are four months of night.

Tragic Conditions on Belcher Islands

In 1920 he had a look at the possibilities of his Arctic job when, with Inspector J. W. Phillips, he made a trip to the Belcher Islands in the Hudson Bay to look into the homicides reports said were being committed there. Two Eskimos has been killed on these islands, Ko-Okyauk and Ketaushuk. The causes in each ease were the same – supposed insanity.

They found a starved number of communities, in all 128 people, of whom 33 were men. Living conditions on the Belcher Islands were so tragic that it was not hard to see the reason advanced by the natives as to the cause of the crime. There was so little game on the islands that for clothing they had scarcely enough, while there was practically no bedding for the cold winter months, the natives sleeping with their dogs for warmth. And so there was also little food. As for fish, the kyaks were so flimsy that they could only be used when the bay was smooth, which is seldom.

Highly Respected

Inspector Joy has stood the test, for as those who have come in contact with him in the northland have said there was no more respected officer in the Arctic. His men and the natives all looked up to him. With the natives it is akin to hero worship, for they believed implicitly his every word. Nowhere in the entire Arctic will one find a white man or native who did not respect Inspector A.H. Joy. Though lean and wiry, he had doubtless suffered from the years of hardship attendant upon the long patrols in the Arctic region, where the weather stays away below zero for months at a time, and where sledge travellers have to eat raw meat at times and sleep in snow huts. His untimely death is undoubtedly due to his long and adventurous career in the Arctic service of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who, like a host of other friends and admirers, will lament the passing of a gallant man.

The late Inspector Alfred Herbert Joy, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with headquarters at Bache Peninsular, Ellesmere Island, 653 miles from the North Pole, had been the world’s farthest North policeman.

This beat is a bleak, desolate Arctic waste extending North from Hudson Straits to the Pole, and West to the 90th degree of longitude. In this region winter is four months of darkness. The only inhabitants are a few thousand scattered Eskimos and a few score white trappers, traders and missionaries. Many calls for police assistance, which the late Inspector received, started him on a gruelling dog-sled chase over hundreds of miles of snow and ice. He covered thousands of miles of this bleak territory, including perilous mountain slopes in winter and inland seas in summer. He visited regions where no white man has ever been and others where he found skeletons which told too plainly of Arctic exploration trips which had come to tragic ends.

In this vast “beat” were found remains of the Franklin expedition of 1845, and of the more recent Sverdup expedition. In this territory have sailed in recent years the various expeditions of Commander Donald MacMillan and those of Putnam, the publisher. Somewhere in this domain, Arctic explorers have always hoped to find a short route to China.

Slayers of Janes Arrested

Inspector Joy held the title of “the world’s most northern policeman” since the summer of 1921, when armed with a letter of instruction from Ottawa, he sailed for Pond Inlet on Baffin Island, then Canada’s most northern police post.

Joy’s commission gave him the powers of magistrate, coroner, customs officer and postman. His job was to patrol all the region in the neighbourhood. His special undertaking was to bring to justice the murderers of Robert S. Janes, a fur trader. Young Joy’s task was a solitary one. No ship would touch at his headquarters; no communication could be had with Ottawa or any other city. As soon as the post was in proper shape for the heavy winter, Inspector Joy, then a staff sergeant, set out with a dog team over the early snow and ice to Cape Crawford, where he learned that Janes had been murdered by a native named Nookudlah, who had been aided by Oorooreungnak and Ahteetah. The crime was committed in a little Eskimo village near Cape Crawford, where Janes had stopped overnight on his way out of the Arctic.

Joy swore in three or four traders to act as a coroner’s jury and its verdict was, after hearing eight Eskimo witnesses, that the three suspected natives should stand trial. Then, as Justice of the Peace, Joy issued warrants for the arrest of the three men and, as a policeman again, set out after them. The chase led across 500 miles of trackless ice and snow to an isolated little Eskimo village to which the guilty had fled.

The Court Trials and Sentences

The following summer (1922), the trial took place at Pond Inlet, when there arrived at this police and trading post a collection of legal lights such as never before had been witnessed in the North. The party was headed by His Honour Judge L. A. Rivet of Montreal, assisted by counsel for Crown and Defence.

The trial was carried on with all pomp and ceremony, as if it were transpiring in a dignified Supreme Court room in one of the big cities of Canada. Scarlet-coated police officers acted as escorts for the judge and as guardians for the prisoners. His Honour was robed in the traditional black gown with white tabs, as were the attorneys. The jury was drawn from the traders, government officials and officers of the supply ship.

The verdict was that Nookudlah was guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to serve 10 years at Stoney Mountain Penitentiary. Oorooreungnak was given two years at hard labour in the guardroom of the Mounted Police post at Pond Inlet, and Ahteetah was acquitted.

So ended one of the most notable murder cases in the Arctic, one wherein the police officer had acted in his own capacity, as well as that of coroner and justice of the peace in bringing his culprits to justice.


Photograph of (left to right): Dr. L.D. Livingstone, Inspector H.A. Joy and Captain Morris aboard the “Beothic” in 1927.

At Bache Peninsular

Inspector Joy’s patrol of March, April and May of 1927, the first year that any police outfit wintered at Bache Peninsular, brought him high praise from Ottawa. He covered 1320 miles in 54 days. From Bache Peninsular he struck inland through the heart of Ellesmere Island, across a frozen sea at Axel Heiberg Island, the Ringnes Islands and King Christian Island – all the most northerly islands on the North American map. During the whole trip not one human being was encountered, but there were large numbers of caribou, bears, musk-oxen, hares, wolves and ptarmigan.

Dogs Disappeared

On a similar patrol Joy had his narrowest escape from death. He was travelling along with his dog teams on one of those days which happen so seldom in the north, when it is clear and cold. They were making their way downhill at a fast pace when suddenly a chimera caused the whole landscape to change. It seemed as if they were going uphill, yet their pace showed him to be still going down. And then the dogs disappeared. In a minute they came up over the surface again. They had broken through the deep snow into a crevasse. The other team coming behind was also running at a fast pace, for they make time when they can in the Arctic. There was no time to stop it.   Down . . . down went the whole outfit, dogs, harness and all. But the harness held, and the dogs came up again, minus one mate. His harness had broken loose. He had fallen down the crevasse. No trace of the bottom could be felt at 80 feet, nor was the dog seen again.

Record Journey

In 1929 Inspector joy and one or two Eskimos made a record-breaking sledge journey of an estimated 1,800 miles in 80 days travelling from Dundas Harbour on Devon Island down Lancaster Channel (the East end of the famous North West Passage), to Melville Island and northward to Bache Peninsular, Ellesmere Island. En route Inspector Joy opened several historic caches connected with the Franklin search parties and found among other things a letter which had been left there in 1852 by Capt. Penny, R.N. In 1925 Joy met Commander Byrd in the Arctic and was cordially invited by Byrd to accompany him on his journey to the Antarctic.

S.S. “Beothic” Lay Fast In Ice 

Photograph of

Photograph of the S.S. Biothic supply ship for the Canadian Arctic.

The annual inspection of detachments in the Eastern Arctic was carried out by Inspector A.H. Joy, who made the round trip in the steamship “Beothic”, leaving North Sydney in July, 1931, and returning in September. In August during this trip when the “Beothic” lay fast in the heavy polar ice of Smith Basin, unable to go forward or retreat, and where was just a possibility that they might lose the ship or get stuck in the ice for the winter, Inspector Joy, though not anticipating such a calamity, remarked: “If we should get stuck her for the winter I shall be the most disappointed man on this ship.” He was thinking of his fiance.

Windy Gale closing block with the "Royal Navy" being added