He who collects all things RCMP

He who collects all things RCMP

My friend from Germany!

Several years ago, I connected via e-mail with Tim Jöckel who lives in Germany and is a collector of all things RCMP.  I have become his advisor when he is interested in acquiring additions to his collection and is not sure of the item’s authenticity.  I have learned that in the world of collectors there are some sellers that try and replicate pieces of kit purporting it to be NWMP or RNWMP using newer kit.  Buyer beware comes to mind!  

Tim and his wife Anette came to Canada in 2017 taking a bus tour of western Canada.  I was able to meet up with them when they had a stopover in Vancouver.  It was one of those gray and wet Vancouver days.  Knowing of Tim’s keen interest in Force history I took them to the Vancouver Maritime Museum and they were able to tour the St. Roch and later visit the site of the old Fairmont Barracks.

Tim and Anette Jöckel with an old retired Mountie

While serving overseas with Interpol Assistant Commissioner Dale Sheehan (Ret’d) M.O.M. wrote an article for the RCMP Quarterly, Spring 2017, Vol. 82, No2, about Tim’s collection of RCMP artifacts. 

I have always been amazed at the scope of Tim’s collection and often think that he has items that the Heritage Centre at “Depot” would love to have. 

Recently, Tim came in possession of item that is connected to a name that will strike a chord with many members who took equitation training or were members of the Musical Ride.

Searching for NWMP-RCMP items through his collector’s network.  Tim was contacted by a Canadian citizen who had moved to Richmond, Virginia, USA.  This individual while checking out an antique/flea market store and came across a bible that has a connection not only to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II but to our own Sgt. Major Harry Armstrong, Reg # 15067.  He contacted Tim to see if he would be interested…he was, and for $8.00 he obtained the bible.

The Coronation Bible – 1953. Sgt. Armstrong’s Regimental # on the inside

The above picture was also included inside the bible.

The inscription inside the bible reads: “Sergeant Harold Armstrong – None of us will ever forget that day.  We are tremendously thankful for your help.” Unable to read signature.

From an interview in the Ottawa Citizen: “Harry Armstrong recalls that on June 2, 1953, it rained in London — not heavily, but a steady downpour.  Armstrong, 83, remembers that day clearly — how at 25 he rode in full dress uniform through the streets of London, carrying a heavy rifle and flanked by fellow RCMP officers. Their task?   To lead the procession for Elizabeth II on the way to her coronation.  “It was the chance of a lifetime.” For the retired sergeant-major and ride master who moved from Cornwall, England, as a tot, the journey to London all those years ago jump-started his globe-trotting service at the height of the RCMP’s Musical Ride glory days.  “It went off without a hitch,” he told The Citizen last fall when recalling the coronation.  After retiring from the RCMP, Harry Armstrong remained actively involved with the Force through his work with the RCMP Veterans’ Association, where he sat on the executive committee.   He passed away in April 2011.”

How does a coronation bible presented to then Sgt. Armstrong, presumably in London, England, 1953, end up in a flea market in Richmond, Virginia, eventually, ending up in Hamburg Germany?   A mystery that will probably never be solved.    

Harry Armstrong on the left of the photo

From: Mark Gaillard, Historian, RCMP Veterans’ Association:On the afternoon of July 7, 1953, forty-one members and horses rode from Hyde Park to the Buckingham Palace Mews where they were given an opportunity to inspect the State Coach at close range.

At 4 p.m. sharp the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, rode by car from the Palace to the Mews where the Troop was drawn up.  The men were dismounted as the Royal Party passed through the lines, and both the Queen and her husband spoke to several members of the Troop.

It was a most informal and almost casual parade, and was obviously enjoyed by the young Prince Charles (who, as the Prince of Wales, would become Honorary Commissioner of the Force in 2012 when his mother was elevated to Commissioner-in-Chief) and Princess Anne (who, as the Princess Royal, would become Honorary Deputy Commissioner in 2012).”

Sgt. Major Armstrong presents PSH Centenial to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at “Depot”, July 1973.  By Royal prerogative the Queen chose the spelling of Centenial over Centennial as it appears on the horse blanket.

One of Tim’s other notable finds has a close connection to “E” Division’s Surrey Detachment.  This story was reported in the Surrey Now-Leader by Tom Zytaruk, January 18, 2019:

“The hat (Stetson) belonging to Constable Terry Draginda, who was killed while on duty in Guildford in 1974, has been repatriated to the main detachment building in Newton after a collector in Europe discovered it at a flea market in Hamburg, Germany.

Tim Jöckel, a former German police officer who had long been searching for an original John B. Stetson, was thrilled to find the hat, entirely unaware it had belonged to Draginda, who died in a traffic crash more than 44 years ago and 7,760 kilometres away.

To verify the authenticity of his find, Jöckel sent photos of the Stetson, along with the Regimental number 27160 etched on its inside, to a friend in Canada – retired Surrey RCMP Superintendent Ric Hall.

Hall matched the number with Draginda and contacted Inspector Beth McAndie, of Surrey RCMP Investigative Services, Major Crimes.

McAndie, who also maintains the RCMP’s historical record in Surrey, arranged with Jöckel to swap a Stetson she had collected years ago for Dragindas.

Constable Terry Draginda, Reg # 27160, RCMP Honour Roll # 150

“I knew when I heard about Draginda’s Stetson that it belonged here at Surrey Detachment,” she said. “Constable Draginda was only 24 years old when he lost his life on duty, and we must always remember and honour his service in every way we can. We’re very grateful to Mr. Jöckel, not only for locating the Stetson, but also for sending it home to Surrey Detachment. It means a great deal to me, and to the men and women who serve, that our fallen officers are remembered and honoured.”

Surrey RCMP Constable Terry Draginda, 24, is one of five police officers who were killed while on duty since the force began policing Surrey in 1951.

It’s a mystery how Draginda’s Stetson ended up in Germany.

“I would love to be able to give you that answer,” McAndie told the Now-Leader. “There were some possible theories that have gone out, back and forth, amongst the veterans. We haven’t been able to 100 per cent secure what might have transpired, but Terry Draginda was on the Musical Ride back in the Centennial Ride Tour and we were trying to see if the tour had actually gone over to Europe and would Terry have been on the Musical Ride at the time, which could explain how the hat got to Europe.”

It’s a mystery how Draginda’s Stetson ended up in Germany.

“I would love to be able to give you that answer,” McAndie told the Now-Leader. “There were some possible theories that have gone out, back and forth, amongst the veterans. We haven’t been able to 100 per cent secure what might have transpired, but Terry Draginda was on the Musical Ride back in the centennial ride tour and we were trying to see if the tour had actually gone over to Europe and would Terry have been on the Musical Ride at the time, which could explain how the hat got to Europe.”

The mystery of how Harry Armstrong’s bible and Terry Draginda’s Stetson ended up in flea markets on two different continents will probably remain a mystery for all time.

Another mystery!

Tim acquired, in trade for a German police hat from an American collector, a well-worn Union Jack which has the markings indicating it was once the property of the RNWMP.   It also was marked “P.S. Vidette”.   He was asking me if it could actually have been used by the RNWMP.

The Vidette on patrol in the Yukon – note the Union Jack flying. Photos from the Scarlet and Gold magazine.

A quick check revealed that the “S.S. Vidette” was acquired by the Force in 1902 for $3,000 and used during the summer. Patrols were made along the rivers and lakes by boat. The small steamboat “Patrol Ship Vidette” and motor vessels “Jessie” and “Tagish” were used along the Yukon, Stewart, and Pelly Rivers. These water vessels also carried civilian passengers and cargo as well as cargo for the police posts. The “Vidette” was later transferred to Dept of the Interior.

My friend took the flag to his police laboratory and they did tests on it and confirmed the age of the flag and the ink markings on it are consistent with the flags age.

The P.S. Vidette had a role in the death of a member whose name is forever etched on the RCMP Cenotaph at “Depot” Division. From Larry Burden’s “This Day in the RCMP.” Constable Michael James Fitzgerald, Reg # 3617, age 37, (# 40 on the RCMP Honour Roll) drowned August 27, 1913, in the White River, Yukon Territory while enroute to a new posting near the Shushana Gold Fields.

It seems that fate had intended Constable Michael James Fitzgerald to meet his end by drowning.

Twelve years before he escaped death when he and two others, Cst. Norman Malcolm Campbell, Reg # 2972 (#24 on the RCMP Honour Roll) and Cst. Spencer Gilbert Heathcote, Reg # 3463 (#25 on the RCMP Honour Roll) ended up in the Stikine River in Alaska. In that incident Fitzgerald was the sole survivor and his two mates drowned. Constable Fitzgerald was traveling up the White River aboard the steamer “Vidette” to his new posting when he offered to help the crew maneuver a barge the ship was pushing around a bend in the river. As he and the rest of the crew began pulling on a dragline that was attached to the barge, the nose of the craft became caught on some submerged brush and the “swing handle” on the line broke free and smacked Fitzgerald on his head. The force of the impact threw him overboard and into the water. As the crew scrambled to launch a boat and row out to him, everyone aboard thought that he was ok, because he was swimming towards the boat. But then suddenly he threw his hands in the air and sank beneath the surface. The crew quickly recovered his body and took him ashore and attempted to revive him. The unconscious Constable Fitzgerald was bleeding from both of his ears and though they spent two hours attempting to revive him, he never regained consciousness. A later examination of his body determined that he had suffered a fracture at the base of the skull from the impact of the sweep handle.

If flags could talk! Imagine the adventures that took place for the men who worked in the Yukon and travelled under the flag of P.S. Vidette! And how did a RNWMP flag used while patrolling the rivers of the Yukon Territory in the early 1900s end up in the United States and get traded to a police officer in Germany?

My German friend seems to have the knack for acquiring some interesting pieces of RCMP history.

While travelling in Alaska in the 1970s he stopped in an “antique” store. His eye was taken by a poster of John “Duke” Wayne, when he asked “how much?” He was told it was part of a bundle. The bundle included a battered old map case, with a map inside, and a pair of handcuffs. They were all purchased for $20.00.   The map and case are dated 1875, London, and show part of eastern Canada and the United States. The map case, although well worn, has gilt edging and embossed lettering “Presented to, Supt. A.G. Irvine, NWMP”. The handcuffs are stamped NWMP. Historical treasures and all for twenty bucks!

It would appear at one point this map case belonged to Acheson Gosford Irvine, Commissioner of the NWMP from November 1, 1880 to March 31, 1886.

NWMP Commissioner Acheson Gosford Irvine.

Irvine was the first native-born Canadian to command the NWMP. After a career in the militia, he joined the NWMP and moved quickly from Superintendent to Assistant Commissioner before being appointed Commissioner. As Commissioner, Irvine increased the number of members from 300 to 1,000, raised the age of recruits, established a permanent headquarters at Regina, and created the training facility in Regina which remains the longest active division of the Force to this day.

The cartographer of the map was John Bartholomew, F.R.G.S. (Friend of the Royal Geographical Society). A Google search revealed that the Bartholomew family, for generations, were famous in the making of maps.   Four generations of Bartholomew had the name of “John”.

Photograph of NWMP handcuffs (Source of photo – Tim Jöckel.

Ric Hall 24394/O.1330

Vancouver Division


Photograph of retired RCMP Superintendent Ric Hall (Source of the photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).