A/Commissioner Theodore Sandys-Wunsch – #5185/O.195

Photograph of Assistant Commissioner Theodore Vincent Sandys-Wunsch

 

 

Theodore Vincent Sandys-Wunsch, O.B.E. was well-known within the Force as a ‘renowned straight shooter.’ His courage was demonstrated on many occasions in leading his men into dangerous situations.

 

 

 

 

 EARLY LIFE

Theodore Vincent Sandys-Wunsch was born on January 9, 1892 at Knutsford Cheshire England.  His parents were Jean Eleanor (Roiter) and Edward Sandys-Wunsch.

In 1910, he immigrated to Canada at the age of 18 and resided for a short time in Winnipeg where he obtained employment driving horse teams for  W. Gorman of Birds Hill.

JOINS THE FORCE

On April 1, 1911, Theodore joined the Royal North West Mounted Police (RNWMP) as a Trumpeter and was assigned the regimental number #5185.  Over the next three years, he was posted to Regina and Holdfast Saskatchewan.

With the outbreak of World War I, many Force members were anxious to get into the action.  One such person was Theodore who purchased his discharge from the Force on July 25, 1914 and returned to England with the intent of joining the British Army.  However, he was rejected from the British Army because he was nearly blind in one eye.

Still not being discouraged, he discovered that the Legion of Frontiersmen were forming a “Manchester Troop” for possible insertion into the British Army.  Many other Canadians from Edmonton, Moose Jaw and Vancouver had also joined this troop.  Much to their disappointment, the British Government was not interested in accepting the Frontiersmen’s troop into the British Army.  So, 40 of these  Canadians  decided to volunteer for the Belgium Army.  One of these volunteers was Theodore.

Photograph of

1914 – Photograph of Canadian members of the Legion of Frontiersmen’s “British Canadian Horse” unit taken in London just prior to departing for Belgium.  (History & Archives – The Legion of Frontiersmen).

On October 12, 1914, the Canadian Frontiersmen joined the 5th Platoon of the 3rd Lancer Cavalry Regiment which was a component of the 1st Belgian Division.

With the 3rd Lancers, he fought at the first Battle of Ypres (October 17-31, 1914) and was wounded at Nieuport on October 21, 2914.

In this battle, the British, Belgium and French Armies were able to stop the German’s ‘race-to-the-sea‘ and the full occupation of Belgium.   However, the Belgium army sustained massive casualties – 60,000 soldiers killed or wounded which represented 1/3 of their entire Army.  Only 15 of the original 40 Canadian Frontiersmen survived the battle.

During the battle, Theodore captured seven German prisoners and saved the regimental flag.  For his actions, he was awarded the Yser Medal by King Albert I of Belgium.

Photograph of

Photograph of the Belgium Yser medal

While in an English hospital recovering from his wounds, Theodore was approached to join the British Army and was Commissioned to the rank of temporary Captain on April 14, 1915 in the Royal Scots Regiment.

World War I - Photograph of the Royal Scots Officers of the 6th Battalion. Capt.

World War I – Photograph of the Royal Scots Officers of the 6th Battalion. Capt.Theodore Sandys-Wunsch.

Within the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots, he went on to serve in Tripoli, Sinai and Palestine.  He was wounded in 1915 during the Senusi revolt.

After recovering from his wounds, he was sent to the British Staff College.  After graduating, Theodore served on General Edmund Allenby’s staff in the British Empire’s Egyptian Expeditionary Force during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign.  

Photograph of

Photograph of

While on staff, Theodore  met Major Thomas Edward Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) who he accompanied on patrols with the Camel Corps to the Dead Sea before the attack on Jerusalem.  For his service, Theodore received a permanent commission as a Captain.

After being demobilized from the British Army on April 30, 1919, he responded to a notice sent out from the British War Office that all ex-RNWMP members were encouraged to re-enlist in the Force.  At the time, the Canadian government was anxious to increase the number of Force members in Western Canada to counter the increased labour unrest.

On May 8, 1919, Theodore re-engaged into the Force on May 8, 1919 at Buxton Derby England and was provide transportation orders to Canada.

Photograph of the

Photograph of the Royal North West Mounted Police members establishing a street position during the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.

Theodore arrived back in Canada and was deployed to Winnipeg as a component of the RNWMP contingent to suppress the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.

After the General Strike, he was promoted to Sergeant on July 5, 1919 and ten days later promoted to Inspector.  As an Inspector, Theodore was transferred to “Depot” Division as the Training Officer until March 1920.

With the Force becoming the national police force of Canada, the name was changed from the Royal North West Mounted Police to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  As such, the Force’s headquarters was moved from Regina to the national capital Ottawa.  At this time, Theodore was moved to “N” Division in Ottawa but was later transferred back to “Depot” as the musketry officer.

In 1921, Theodore won the  Dominion Shooting Championship Gold Medal Match then the Saskatchewan Shooting Gold Medal as well as the first bronze medal awarded by the Canadian Rifle association.  Then in 1923, he was a member of the Bisley rifle team and its adjutant in 1928.

In October 1923, Theodore was transferred to Vancouver BC where he would remain until 1932.

In 1926, he opened the RCMP Detachment at Liard, BC with Constables John Paton (Reg.#9261) and William Cooper (Reg.#9587).  On January 16, 1927, the three members left Liard to take mail out to Porter’s Landing – 160 miles south of Dease River.   For this mail run, Constable Paton led the group breaking trail through the deep snow with Theodore and William following each driving a dog team.  While on route, Constable Paton developed frost bitten hands.  Gangrene had set in on Constable Paton’s hand which resulted in Theodore amputating part of Paton’s finger.

After 1932. he was transferred to Montreal to the position of Officer Commanding the Eastern Arctic.  Over the next ten years, Theodore saw many transfers:

Fall 1933 – Acting Officer Commanding Sydney Sub-Division;

June 1934 – Officer Commanding “G” Division;

Fall 1934 – Officer Commanding “Ottawa” SubiDivision;

March 1, 1935 – Promoted to Superintendent – Office of Finance;

Summer 1937 – Officer Commanding Yukon Sub-Division;

August 1940 – Officer Commanding Regina Sub-Division;

1941 – Commanding Officer of “Depot” Division;

October 15, 1941 – Commanding Officer of “D” Division and promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner.

 While as the Officer Commanding Yukon Sub-Division, his action and bravery were noted in the “Report of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for the year ending March 31, 1940” (page 117) –

On July 23, 1939, the constable in charge of Granville Detachment in the Yukon Territory, was informed that James Croteau, a miner, aged 68 years, had become violently insane and had threatened persons with a rifle.  Granville is a small settlement, situated a few miles from Dawson, Yukon and the small white population there is engaged mostly in gold mining operations.

Word was passed on to the Officer Commanding at Dawson, Superintendent T.V. Sandys-Wunsch, who left the next day by car for Croteau’s cabin.  He was accompanied by three members of the Dawson Detachment being joined by Constable Watson at Granville Detachment.  All members were in plain clothes and unarmed, but a rifle was concealed in the car.

It was learned that Croteau had, on July 21, knelt and aimed his rifle at Mr. Taddie, when the latter was driving his truck towards Croteau’s cabin.  Taddie called out to Croteau that he was a friend but the insane man ran off into the bushes.  It appears that Croteau had evidently nursed a grudge of some months standing against a mail carrier, George Fulton, and on July 22 he had approached the mail truck, when it stopped near his cabin, expecting to find Fulton in it in order to shoot him.  Luckily Fulton was not in the truck on this particular day.  Croteau returned to his dwelling without carrying out his intentions.

Before reaching Croteau’s cabin, Superintendent Sandys-Wunsch and Constable Metcalfe transferred to Mr. Taddie’s truck and drove up to Croteau’s cabin.  The other three members of the Force followed in the police car some distance behind.  Alighting from the truck, Superintendent Sandys-Wunsch and Constable Metcalfe walked up to Croteau’s cabin carrying a box of food, while calling out to Croteau that they had arrived with his food.  Croteau rushed out from behind his cabin, where he had been hiding, and thrust a rifle into the Superintendent’s stomach.  The superintendent spoke to Croteau, in French, and endeavoured to appease him.  By this time, two of the Constables from the police car, which had been left parked down the road, arrived on the scene and were closing in on the cabin.  Croteau ran to the back of his cabin and from there dashed to the rear of another cabin about 15 yards distant.  He aimed his rifle from around a corner of the building and fired at the police.  The bullet fell between Constables Watson and Bond.  The Police then threw gas bombs overthe cabin.  One bomb exploded and Croteau ran into the woods.

Lance Corporal Sutherland who up till this time had remained in the car, now brought out the rifle and joined the other members in pursuit of Croteau through the woods.  Croteau turned and fired at Lance Corporal Sutherland, whereupon, Shutherland fired and hit Croteau in the left foot.  Croteau, however, kept on running and Superintendent Sandys-Wunsch took the rifle and followed him into a clearing, calling upon him to stop and return, assuring him that the police would do him no harm.  Croteau fired at the Superintendent who in turn sent two shots over Croteau’s head.  Croteau dropped to his knees and fired three or four more shots at Superintendent Sandys-Wunsch, one of which inflicted a superficial wound on the Superintendent’s temple.  It was a narrow escape from death.

Croteau then stood up and the Superintendent fired twice at his legs, hitting him both times in the left leg.  Croteau dropped to the ground and the Police closed in on him.  Constable Bond fired one round at Croteau from the gas gun rifle but the bomb failed to explode.  Croteau struggled to his knees and aimed the rifle at Constable Bond who was running towards him and who was only 10 yards away.  Superintendent Sandys-Wunsch then fired at Croteau, aiming at the left shoulder.  The shot struck slightly below the shoulder and came out in front of the man’s stomach.  This was the fatal bullet.  First aid was rendered to the unfortunate man by the police and a nurse who had been sent form Granville.  He died about two hours later after receiving the last rites of his church, administered by Mr. Taddie.

We quote Superintendent Sandys-Wunsch concerning the death of the man: “I regret extremely the man’s death.  I had made several plans as to the section to be taken if Croteau came to the door, or was absent, but his sudden appearance prevented any arrest by peaceful means.”

On July 26, 1939, an inquest was held before His Honour, Judge MacCauley.  His Honour, in addressing the Jury, spoke most favourably of the actions of the Police in this case.  The Jury brought in the following verdict:

“James Croteau died at his cabin on Dominion Creek, Yukon Territory, on July 24, 1939, from a gun-shot wound fired by a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from a service rifle and issued ammunition while performing their duty.

We wish to commend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the capable way in which they handed this case.”

The Commissioner of the Force has been pleased to commend Superintendent T.V. Sandy-Wunsch and his men on their courageous stand and action in the face of grave danger, and upon their evident care in endeavouring to arrest Croteau alive.

Photograph of

Photograph of Superintendent Theodore Sandys-Munsch (Source of Photo – RCMP Quarterly Magazine.

Unfortunate for James Croteau, he didn’t realize the shooting abilities of Superintendent Sandys-Munsch.  Despite his age and limited vision in one eye, Theodore was still an excellent marksman with both a revolver and rifle.

While the Commanding Officer of “D” Division and the third most senior officer in the Force, Theodore was in charge of escorts for the Duke of Windsor, the King of Siam and President Roosevelt on of their visits to Canada.

In recognition of his dedicated service, he was awarded the Officer of the Order of the British Empire on July 6, 1946 and was a serving brother in the Order of St. John.

Photograph of the Officer of the Order British Empire medal.

Photograph of the Officer of the Order British Empire medal.

IN RETIREMENT

On February 28, 1947, Theodore retired from the Force after completing 35 years of service.

On August 17, 1947, the Calgary Herald printed an article about Theodore –

Take a chapter from Kipling, another from Robert Service, season them with a dash of pulp-magazine fiction and you’ll have the career of Assistant Commissioner T.V. Sandys-Wunsch of the RCMP, a story-book here if there ever was one.  He had redden with the Camel Corps in the Middle East, fought with the Belgian cavalry in Flanders, holds a world’s revolver record, has been shot in the head by a crazy trapper, and make his own fishing flies out of polar bear hairs.”

He and his wife settled into their new home on Maple Bay Road near Duncan, BC.  In retirement, he took up fishing, gardening and found time to volunteer in the community – president of the Boy Scouts’ Association in Duncan and a member of Temple Lodge No. 33, A.F. and A.M.

On July 24, 1966, he passed away in the King’s Daughters’ Hospital at Duncan, B.C.

Photograph of the grave marker for Assistant Commissioner Theodore Vincent Sandys-Wunsch.

Photograph of the grave marker for Assistant Commissioner Theodore Vincent Sandys-Wunsch.

Photo - Sheldon Boles author of article block

 

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