C/S/M Tim Griffin – More Details

Photograph of Tim Griffin




Over the past few months, we have posted two previous articles on the famous Corps Sergeant Major Tim Griffin.

The following article was discovered in our publication of the Scarlet & Gold magazine (49th edition – 1867):




In 1910 a famous Light Cavalry Unit of the British Army, the 18th Hussars, held an endurance test.  This competition was one to try the courage and atheltic ability of young men who made up the personnel of this well-disciplined unit.  The test which was watched by many interested and prominent people consisted of a rigorous human steeplechase over a course covering 25 miles.  Every contestant used a horse and a bicycle.  There was also an interval of swimming as well as a touch route march in completing the course.

One of the men whose stamina and superb athletic ability caught the attention of the observers was Trooper Griffin.  His style and, in particular, his obvious familiarity with horse were noted by one of the attending experts in this field – Inspector West of the R.N.W.M. Police.

Following conclusion of the endurance test, young Griffin was approached by Inspector West, who suggested that he come to Canada and take charge of their equitation course.  Completion of this was a requirement for all Mounted Police recruits before bieng sent out on detachment duty.

Details as to permission to leave his unit and assurances of steady employment in far-off Canada had to be discussed and decided upon.  Finally, arrangements were completed and in 1911 the young cavalryman, who was to take his mark as one of the best riding instructors in the history of the Force, came to Regina and for the next thirty years instructed men in the care and handling of horss.  It was because of his excellence as a trainer of riders that much of the glamorous history of the Mounted Police has been written.

There were many duties for Tim Griffin, who became a Sergeant-Major.  One of these was the purchasing of suitable horses for the many uses for which they were required, and this important duty resulted in a line of fine-looking and well-trained animals that have been on exhibition in many parts of Canada, England and the United States in the famous Musical Ride, and on regular detachment work.

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As interesting note in the care and selection of horses took place in 1939 on the occasion of the visit of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.  This had to do with the selection of horses by S/M Griffin, who decided to use only black horses for the escort.  Under the direction of S/M Griffin the full-mounted Royal escort was formed, with Inspector Wm. C. Grennan and Assistant Commissioner A.G. Irvine as officers in charge.  This marked the first occasion that all-black horses were used, and was a radical change from the 1911 Corontation Contingent, which used horses of varied colors – the emphasis beign on quality.  The origin of the all-black mounted escort set a precedent for horses of the future.  It is also interesting to note that the late Commissioner Stuart T. Wood, following his retirement, supervised a breeding centre at Maple Cree, using black horses for the Mounted Police.

Photograph of RCMP S/Major Tim Griffin demonstrating his outstanding horsemanship.

Photograph of RCMP S/Major Tim Griffin demonstrating his outstanding horsemanship.

In the history of the Force there is probably only one other who has given so much of his knowledge to the improvement of the riding habits of the Mounted Police.  He was Inspector Church, who had been in charge of the riding school at Regina before Tim Griffin arrived on the scene.  Few how have had their training at the hands of these two outstanding men can fail to remember those early days where riding was a requirement of the recruits’ training, and if tehre is one nostalgic thought in the minds of many old-timers, it is in connection with the almost-forgotten use of horses in police work.

Some groupings of good riders had been picked haphazardly about the turn of the century.  These were men who had some riding experience in their ealier years, but it was only after Tim Griffin’s arrival as a trainer and instructor that a concerted effort to form a specially-trained group was undertaken.  From this effort the famouse Musical Ride was formed and later developed into one of the best known exhibitions of its kind in the world.

For the purpose S/M Griffin had in mind and from his knowledge as a member of one of the crack cavalry regiments, he carefully chose a number of relatively good horsemen.  Of paramount iimportance was his own ability to transport his knowledge of horses to the men under his command.  This was the winning keynote in the initial success of the Muscial Ride, an understanding that helped form part of the success-image that is associated with Canada’s law-enforcement agency.  The training of horses to take a graceful part in the manoeuvres of this outstanding spectacle required patient understanding of the abilities of horses, and the skill of their riders.

It is natural that there should be favorite horses that he had trained, and, during his service with the Mounted Police Tim recalls three horses that possessed unusual ability.  One was a black horse, appropriately named “Blackie,” whose speed and agility in all maneuvers marked his as a throw-back to a special breed of horse that was suited for this kind of work.

Another called “Ginger,” was an expert jumper and on numerous occasion leaped the 7 ft. hurdle.  The third horse was named “Prince.”  When ridden by his master and on his command, Prince would perform in a graceful way a number feats, which proves that the noble animal in the hands of a skillful and understanding trainer could entertain and astonish onlookers, with a dexterity and gracefulness that is magnificent.

1940 - Photograph of RCMP C/S/M/ Tim Griffin leading mounted RCMP members

Photograph of RCMP C/S/M/ Tim Griffin leading mounted RCMP members

S/M Griffin retired from the Force in 1941.  During his long service he received many awards of merit from people in high places, both in the Force and in other walks of life.

Photograph of a document from Buckingham Palace to RCMP S/Major Tim Griffin

Photograph of a document from Buckingham Palace to RCMP S/Major Tim Griffin

Among the tributes that he has received is a stickpin presented by Lord Bessborough, when he was Governor-General of Canada.  He had the privilege of teaching Lord Bessborough’s daughter to ride.  Tim left behind a tradition of efficiency in his most important and specialized work, as well as a host of well-trained men to fill the role of “Mounted” policemen.

Photograph of post for the North West Mounted Police Movie

In 1941 Tim Griffin received a further honor.  Subsequent to the request of Cecil B. DeMille, the world-famous film director, he was granted leave-of-absence from the Force to go to Hollywood and assist in the production of the film “North West Mounted Police.”  There, his knowledge of horses and their role in the early years of the Force, together with his insistence upon proper equipment and details of the part they played, were of great importance towards factual production of the film.

This picture was, for the first time, an authentic and historical drama in which the Mounted Police was the central depicted the 1885 era.  The cast included the elite of movie colony.  Gary Cooper headed the male cast while lovely Madeleine Carroll was the feminine lead.

Photograph of Director Cecil B. Demille with RCMP C/S/M Tim Griffin

Photograph of Director Cecil B. Demille with RCMP C/S/M Tim Griffin

Mr. DeMille, one of the truly greats of the movie industry, was the director, and his insistence on accurate detail in every respect was one of the problems that confronted S/M Griffin in training the detachment of riders required for the film.

The men selected for the troop came under strict discipline.  Their riding habits, military formations, correct dress and riding posture were practised until every man knew what to do and how to do it.  Tim’s efficiency endeared him to the sometimes petulant DeMille, and had he wished to do so he could have remained on Mr. DeMille’s staff following completion of the picture.

In Hollywood he worked with and met many of the great movie stars of the era and tokens of their admiration for his ability are in evidence in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Griffin,  located on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

Following comletion of the picture, Tim’s service were in demand to supervise the breeding of choice stock on several estates on the Lower Mainland, as well as the care and training of prized horses.  For fifteen years he supervised the breeding and training of horses for several estates of prominent citizens.  His career was terminated as a result of an accident in which he sustained serious injury, and he retired as an active trainer.

At C/S/Major Tim Griffin’s retirement function at “Depot” Division, the Regina newspaper reported:

Briefly, Assistant Commissioner LaNauze paid tribute to Sergeant-Major Griffin, mentioning his splendid work as riding instructor, his ability to turn out the best muscial rides ever seen, and the fact that Sergeant-Major Griffin was largely responsible for the beauty and organization of the grounds at the barracks.  Not forgotten was the officer’s work in connection with the motion picture, “North West Mounted Police,” termed by the assistant commissioner as “the best darn Picture ever put on, thanks to Sergeant-Major Griffin.”  Most appropriate for the occasion, he thought, were the words: Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Commissioner Woods, in his letter, conveyed the wish that Sergeant-Major Griffin enjoy long life and continued good health and said the Force will recall his work with pride.”

You may wish to read our two other webpages on the most notable member of the Force:

C/S/Major George Frederick Griffin – Check out this story

Latest Discovery: C/S/Major Tim Griffin – Check out this story

In our article “History of the RCMP Musical Ride,”  we also included details of Tim Griffin’s contributions to the Ride. Check out this story

On April 9, 1977, Tim Griffin passed away in Surrey, British Columbia and his buried was laid to rest at the “Depot” Division cemetery.  At the time of his burial, a temporary grave marker was placed at his burial site.



Eventually, a RCMP regimental grave marker replaced the temporary one.  It is this great horseman who contributed so much to the Force and left his legacy.

photograph of C/S/M Tim Griffin's grave marker