Inspector. Thomas Wellington Chalmers

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A Royal Military College graduate who joined the North West Mounted Police and was later killed in battle during the Boer War in South Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

EARLY LIFE

Thomas Wellington Chalmers was born on October 14, 1862 in Adolphustown Ontario.  His father earned a living sailing on Lake Ontario and would later become a full-time farmer in 1871.

After completing high school, Chalmers entered the Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston. His nickname was “Scissors’”due to my long, thin legs.

He graduated in 1883 with a 1st class certificate, as well as both military and civil engineering credentials. Following his military training, he became a lieutenant in a voluntary militia group – No 4 Battery, Montreal Garrison Artillery while his full time employment was as a surveyor for the Dominion Lands Survey in the North-West Territories. Thomas surveyed one of the most controversial sections of the Klondike Trail north of Edmonton.

He became a cowboy for retired Major-General Thomas Bland Strange on his 70,000 acre Military Colonization Ranch east of Calgary. When the North-West Rebellion broke out in 1885, Thomas left the Strange ranch and headed east to join his militia unit.  He might have seen more action by remaining with Strange, who organized forces in Alberta that engaged the Cree at Frenchman’s Butte. Thomas did not see any action because the Montreal Garrison Artillery didn’t receive orders to proceed to the North-West until after Louis Riel had already surrendered by the time we arrived in the West on May 20.

Photograph of the Montreal Artillery Garrison in 1893.

Photograph of the Montreal Artillery Garrison in 1893.

Montreal Garrison Artillery members were housed in Regina and their Commanding Officer Colonel W.R. Osward wrote “.. a number of us feel that this loafing is not what we came for. We are all ready and anxious to fight for our country …”   Within a month, most of the troops were on their way back east.

For his service during the North West Rebellion, he received the North West Rebellion Medal without a bar.

Photograph of the 1885 North West Rebellion medal (Source of photo - Sheldon Boles).

Photograph of the 1885 North West Rebellion medal (Source of photo – Sheldon Boles).

JOINS NORTH WEST MOUNTED POLICE

While in Ottawa, Thomas Chalmers sought a commission in the North West Mounted Police, which already had many graduates of Royal Military College.

At the time, the Force had doubled in size from 500 to 1,000 members in response to North-West Rebellion and pressure for settling the prairies.  In these early days, officers were “selected through the usual government mixture of political patronage and geographical representation.”   As such, Thomas wrote to Sir John A. Macdonald on July 27, 1885, supported by a letter of reference from Col. Oswald who wrote that “I can recommend him as a most excellent painstaking officer, well up in his work and thoroughly reliable in every respect.”

Major-General Thomas Strange wrote Sir John A. Macdonald a letter of recommendation on February 12, 1886. He explained that Chalmers had been a very good cowboy with a good head on my shoulders, a good physique, was steady, hardworking, and gentlemanly. In conclusion, Strange warned that if a commission was not forthcoming, that Chalmers was thinking of going to the United States and “it is a pity to educate these fine young Canadians for a foreign country.”

Thomas Chalmers received the approval of Sir John A. MacDonald and was sworn into the North West Mounted Police on April 10, 1886 with an officer regimental number of 74.   His entire service in the Force was spent in the Fort Macleod and Edmonton area.  On April 30, 1893, he took his discharge and purchased a large track of land near Fort Saskatchewan.

Photograph of Inspector Thomas W. Chalmers (seated on left) with two other NWMP officers (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

Photograph of Inspector Thomas W. Chalmers (seated on left) with two other NWMP officers (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

BOER WAR

Photograph of officers of the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles heading off to the Boer War (Source of photo - Doug Madill).

Photograph of officers of the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles heading off to the Boer War (Source of photo – Doug Madill).

With the outbreak of the Boer War, Thomas joined the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles and was commissioned as a Captain.  After being equipped with uniforms and training, the Canadian Mounted Rifles headed off to South Africa where they joined the other contingents from all over the British Empire.

In South Africa, Captain Chalmers was described as “the most efficient officer of them all.”

He saw much service in the South African War near Bothaville, Nooitgedacht and Belfast. At the latter battle he was with an advanced guard under Major Sanders, Officer # O.52, who during the fight, was wounded. Captain Chalmers went to his assistance, although Major Sanders implored him not to come to him under such heavy fire. He, however, did so, and was killed. He was commended by Major-General Smith-Dorrien for his bravery, and who “deplored the death of this splendid officer.”

Captain Chalmers was mentioned in General Lord Kitchener’s despatch of March 8th, 1901, for “his great gallantry and stubborn fighting.” He is buried at Belfast, Transvaal, South Africa. The circumstances almost echo those of Sgt. Arthur Richardson, Reg # 3058, who rescued a fellow soldier during the South African War and Richardson received the Victoria Cross!

Photograph of the grave marker for Thomas Wellington Chalmers (Source of photo - eGGS Library).

Photograph of the grave marker for Thomas Wellington Chalmers at Belfast Transvall South Africa (Source of photo – eGGS Library).

Captain Chalmer’s name appears on the commemoration plaque on the inside wall of the Royal Military Memorial Arch at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston Ontario.

Photograph of the memorial plaque mounted on the inside of the Royal Military College's Memorial Arch (Source of

Photograph of the memorial plaque mounted on the inside of the Royal Military College’s Memorial Arch (Source of Nigel Fitzpatrick of Vancouver, BC)

Another recognition given to Thomas Chalmers is that a street was named after him in Red Deer Alberta – “Chalmers Street.”  This detail was revealed in the book entitled “Honoured In Places: Remembered Mounties Across Canada” by Veterans William Hulgaard and John White.

image of Ric Hall closing block for his Photo Corner webpage

 

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