Larry Burden’s This Day In The RCMP

The achievements and contributions of the Force have been built upon the individual contributions of many past Veterans. These contributions have largely been forgotten.

Veteran Sgt. Larry Burden ( #35982), who served  in “E” Division for 20 years, has spent over ten years researching and summarizing these achievements by specific date. Nearly every day, Larry sends out an email message with a selection from his work in progress manuscript “This Day In The RCMP” to individuals interested in these historical notes.

In an effort to share his research to a large group, Larry has agreed to permit us to develop a webpage on our website. Each webpage will post Larry’s historical notations over the past week.

If you wish to contact Larry Burden or provide additional information about his research, please email him at larryburden8@gmail.com.


April 18th

1885– During the Northwest Rebellion #O.44 Supt Aylesworth Bowen Perry who later became the Commissioner, led twenty men with a nine-pound field gun to Edmonton to join General Strange’s Force. They reached Calgary in three days having traveled 105 miles, (170 kilometers) then endured seven days of very bad weather en route to Red Deer. There they constructed a raft and used 400 yards (365 meters) of picket ropes to cross the river. As they were crossing the river the raft, loaded with the field gun, broke free. Superintendent Perry and #910 Constable Herbert Diamond swam to shore to secure the ropes thereby saving the field gun. After the raft was finally secured they had to cut a through the bush as they continued on to Edmonton. The trip was accomplished in only 13 days that included almost 4 days to cross the river at Red Deer.1935– Columbia Pictures releases the 58-minute movie “Fighting Shadows”. 
The movie starring Tim McCoyas Constable Tim O’Hara is sent to Indian River to investigate a fur-trading racket wherein the local trappers are being intimidated into practically giving away their furs, instead of selling them to the Hudson Bay Company. Our hero finds himself in trouble accused of shooting a prisoner in the back and is jailed by a fellow Mountie until a former enemy; Brad Harrison (Ward Bond) arrives and clears his name.

1941– The largest prisoner of war escape in Canadian history occurred. The Angler POW Camp near Neys Provincial Park on the north shore of Lake Superiorin Ontario held numerous German POW’s. After secretly digging a 45 m (150 ft.) long tunnel, 80 prisoners attempted to make their escape. Only 28 men managed to make it outside the camp’s walls before the escape was interrupted. The military quickly found five of the men sleeping in a railroad car and were shot. Four other escapees managed to hide in a boxcar of a freight train but were arrested by RCMP members who were riding on board the same train. All of the remaining escaped prisoners were eventually recaptured, but the two who managed to make it the furthest away from the camp was Horst Liebeck and Karl Heinz-Grund, who had boarded a westbound freight train and made it as far as Medicine Hat, Alberta, before being captured and returned to the Angler camp. 

1969– #21290 Constable Helgi Sigurdur “Tommy” Tomasson age 30 was killed in a traffic accident near Sheho, Saskatchewan. He was on routine patrol from his Yorkton Detachment when his police car rammed into the back of a tractor.

Born in Winnipeg Manitoba, he joined the RCMP in 1960 and spent all of his service in “F” Division. He was survived by his wife Paulette Sophia Kramer and his two-year-old daughter Kimberly Dawn. He was buried Memorial Gardens in Yorkton Saskatchewan.

On September 21, 1969, a memorial plaque in his memory was dedicated at the RCMP Chapel at Depot. He is not on the RCMP Honour Roll.

1981– When fire broke out at a residence in Whitehorse Yukon, Corporals Laurie Tubbs and #27071 Gordon Crowe along with Mrs. Karen Crowe risked their lives assisting several elderly people from the burning building. All three were later awarded Commanding Officers Commendations.

1982 – The Constitution Act comes into effect as Canada’s new Constitution. The Act was proclaimed the previous day by Queen Elizabeth II in a ceremony on Parliament Hill. The Act ends British authority in Canada and replaces British North America Act with Canada remaining a constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth. It incorporates a new Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

April 17th

1885– After the massacre at Frog Lake on April 2ndChief Mistahimaskwa “Big Bear” voice of peace and reason fell on deaf ears and the 200 warriors led by War Chief “Wandering Spirit” decided to continue the violence and rid the land of the white man. On April 14th250 Indians arrived on the ridge above the fort and then they rounded up the cattle and shot several and proceed to feast on them. Later in the day a note was sent to the Hudson Bay Chief Factor W.J. McLean requesting that he meet with a delegation of chiefs. He went out to meet them and was informed that Big Bear wanted to meet with him the next day. While meeting with the Council of Chiefs the meeting was disrupted by a report that the “Red Coats” were attacking. It was in fact the scouting patrol sent out to find the main encampment. After chasing the three-man patrol back to Fort Pitt and killing Cst. Cowan, the war party demanded the surrender of the fort.

Fort Pitt had been built as a Hudson’s Bay trading post on flat land with wooded hills all around it and was nearly impossible to defend. The officer in charge of the fort was Inspector Francis Dickens the ill-fated third son of novelist Charles Dickens. Over the objections of Wandering Spirit W.J. McLean who was also the Justice of the Peace for the North-West Territories, negotiated a deal with Chief Big Bear wherein the policemen would leave the fort unmolested and the 44 civilian inhabitants would be taken prisoner by the Cree. 

Completely surrounded and outnumbered 5-1, Inspector Dickens capitulated and led his men on a six-day journey by barge down the North Saskatchewan River to Battleford. After the police left the fort, the Cree warriors cleaned out the stores and burned the fort. The civilians were treated well by the Cree and the lives of the police were spared by the intervention of Big Bear. Inspector Dickens life and career was one clouded by a reputation of heavy drinking, laziness and poor judgment. He was medically discharged in 1886 due to increasing deafness and as fate would have it he died in Moline, Illinois on June 11, 1886 of a heart attack the night before he was to start a speaking tour in the United States.

The twenty men Inspector Dickens led back to Battleford were #1083 S/Sgt J Widmer Rolph #41 Sgt John Alfred Martin #565 Cpl Ralph Bateman Sleigh, Constables #615 William Anderson #858 Henry Thomas Ayre #515 James W Carroll #661 Herbert A Edmonds #538 Robert Hobbs #695 Robert Ince. #707 Ferriol Leduc #822 George Lionais #925 Clarence McLean Loasby #737 John A Macdonald #739 Laurence O’Keefe #748 Charles T Phillips #751 Joseph Quigley #865 Brenton Haliburton Robertson #381 Frederick Cochrane Roby #604 George W Rowley #762 Richard Rutledge #866 Walter William Smith #781 John W Tector #942 Falkland Fritz-Mauritz Warren.

1993– Mountie is “mention in dispatches” 

While he was serving with the United Nations as a Police Monitor for the United Nations Protection Force Civilian Police at the Sarajevo Airport in Bosnia-Hercegovina, #33249 Constable Raymond Watson safely evacuated the crew of an aircraft that was under sniper fire. 

The official report stated “On April 17, 1993, an immobile aircraft was hit by sniper fire, spilling fuel from its tanks. Realizing the dangers posed by the escaping fuel and the surrounding sniper fire, Constable Watson, along with foreign monitors, alerted the aircraft Commander and safely evacuated the crew and passengers. His selfless actions averted a potential disaster.”

April 16th

1966– TheMeritorious Certificate from Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem was awarded to #22363 Constable Richard McCarthy for saving the life of a woman at Nanaimo, B.C. by performing mouth to mouth resuscitation for two hours.

1977– While investigating a complaint involving the possession of a stolen vehicle,#24541 Constable Thomas William Semmens found himself on the wrong end of a rifle. 

Semmens had driven into the suspects’ driveway on the Fishing Lake Indian Reserve near Waddena, Saskatchewan. Upon his arrival, he discovered that an intoxicated youth had been threatening to shoot several people when the suspect came out of his house and aimed a loaded rifle at him. Pulling his revolver from his holster and taking cover behind his police car, the constable ordered the man to drop his weapon. The gunman responded by ratcheting the rifles bolt and threatening to kill him. Remaining calm, Constable Semmens ordered the man to drop his weapon or he would shoot. The suspect finally complied and was taken into custody. In recognition of his calmness and perseverance Constable Semmens was awarded a Commanding Officers Commendation.

1997– Commendation awarded to #44322 Constable Dan Morrow for rescuing drowning person in hazardous conditions God’s Lake, Manitoba.

April 15th

1885– Honour Roll Number 9.

#635 Cst. David Latimer Cowan age 22 was killed by Indians at Fort Pitt, N.W.T. during the North-West Rebellion. 

Constable David Cowan had been part of a three man Scouting party that had stumbled into the camp of Cree Chief Big Bear. The trio then attempted to ride back to Fort Pitt while being pursued by a hostile war party. After his horse went out of control Cst. Cowan dismounted and tried to run the final distance back to Fort Pitt. As he ran to towards the stockade a Cree warrior on horseback pursued him and tried to hit him in the head with his rifle butt and then Cst. Cowan was killed by a shot in the head by a Cree named “Louison Mongrain”. 

The other two members of the scouting party; #925 Clarence M. Loasby and Henry Quinn managed to make it back to the Fort alive but Loasby had received two bullet wounds to his back. The warriors then stole Constable Cowan’s body away and refused to give it back, it was eventually recovered on May 25thhaving been horribly mutilated, having been scalped and his heart cut out of his body and left hanging on a stick. 

Initially he was buried where he had been killed but in 1909 the body was reburied at the Frog Lake Cemetery along with several others who had been killed in the massacre. The actual location of his grave in the cemetery is unknown but a monument erected in 1925 marks the cemetery as a national historic site. David Cowan was from Ottawa Ontario and had served in the Mounted Police for three years and his North-West Canada Medal was not claimed until 1973. Constable Loasby was later granted a medical discharge.

1932– MonogramPictures releases the movie “Mason of the Mounted” starring Bill Codyas Constable Bill Mason. The Canadian Mountie is sent into the United States in search of a horse thief. His only clue to the identity of the villain is a watch chain that was left at the scene of the crime. Along the way the Mountie makes friends with young Andy Talbot and when bad guy Calhoun hits Andy, our hero gets into a fist fight with Calhoun and in the scuffle Calhoun’s watch with the missing chain is dislodged revealing him as the criminal the Mountie is searching for. Our hero then sets out to bring in Calhoun and his gang.

1979– Constable #30852 J.E.R. Bourdages and Mr. Robert Manderson of Bushville New Brunswick earned Testimonial Certificates from the Canadian Red Cross when they rescued two men from the icy waters of the MiramichiRiver. Benoit Chavarie and Alan Malley had capsized their canoe in the half-mile wide river and would likely have died had Constable Bourdages and Robert Manderson rushed to their aid in a small boat.

1981– The Provincial Court in Regina Saskatchewan rules that the Reverend André Mercure does not have right to have his trial on speeding charge held in French. The court ruling severely limits use of French in Saskatchewan and Alberta courts.

1988– Commendations were awarded to #22232 Michael Eastham, #27387 Richard Lawrence, #28733 Randy Munro and #34245 Barrie Hurrie, for their efforts in the “Paper Bag Rapist” case. The lengthy investigation concerned a deviant who had attacked and raped several women in the Vancouver area over a three-year period while using paper bag over his head as disguise.

The combined efforts of these policemen resulted in the arrest and conviction of John Horace Oughton for 14 sex offences in 1987. Although Oughton was only convicted for 14 offences he is believed to have been responsible for more than 100 sexual assaults in the greater Vancouver area between 1977 and 1985. He was later declared a dangerous offender and given an indefinite sentence.

April 14th

1965– Honour Roll Number 130.

On April 10th 1965 #20824 Constable Neil McArthur Bruce age 26 was shot after attending to a complaint involving the kidnapping and rape of a 16-year-old girl. 

A newspaper boy passing a house in Powerview, near West Bank B.C. noticed a woman in the window signalling that she needed help. He called police and Constable Bruce and #23354 Constable. Kenneth Jones attended to the scene. Believing that he could talk the suspect into surrendering and negotiate the girl’s release, Cst. Bruce removed his gun belt and walked out into the open to show that he was unarmed and was no threat to the suspect. What Cst. Bruce did not know was that the suspect, Russell Spears was a cop hater with a long criminal history and in addition to being a notorious sexual deviant he had bragged in prison that he would sooner shoot a policeman than be captured. As Bruce walked towards the house, Spears promptly shot in the chest with a .22 caliber rifle. Russell Spears then fired off several more shots as his captive who had been raped several times and shot in the shoulder and jaw ran screaming from the house. Spears then burst out of the house and fled into the bush. 

Cst. Jones then radioed for help and tended to both victims’ wounds until Cat. Bruce and the 16-year-old girl were transported to the hospital. Immediately after the shooting the RCMP began a massive manhunt for Spears that lasted ten days.  On April 12thdoctors operated on Cst. Bruce and successfully removed the bullet from his right lung and it appeared that he would recover, but at 07:00 am on April 14th, he succumbed to pneumonia. 

On April 20th a woman in the village of Trenpanier, ten miles south of Kelowna saw a suspicious man run across a field and she call the police. Shortly afterward the posse closed in and police dog handler #19758Cst. George Hawkins and his dog “Prince” tracked Spears to a ravine. The dog flushed him out of the trees and instead of surrendering to the police; Russell Spears shot himself between the eyes with his rifle. 

New Brunswick native Neil McArthur Bruce had been in the RCMP six years and was married with two small children. 

1977– Commissioners Commendations were awarded to #15451/O.559 Raymond Quintal and #15313/ O.673 Ian Taylor for their role in planning the security for the1976 Olympics at Montreal. Quintal served from1948 to 1981 retiring as a Deputy Commissioner a Taylor from 1948 to 1983 as a Chief Superintendent. 

1983– While he was to speaking to a motorist who had stepped out of his vehicle after stopping on the highway near Keremeos, BC, #33431 Constable Mark Randy Sargent reacted to an approaching vehicle whose brakes failed. Constable Sargent pushed the motorist out of the way of out of control vehicle but in saving the motorist Sargent was hit and received serious leg injuries. His actions in saving the life of the motorist were recognized by him being awarded the Commanding Officers Commendation. He served from 1976 and retired in 2003 as Sergeant.

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