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.


September 20th

1924– Arguably the greatest unsung heroes of the RCMP have been the wives of detachment men. Thousands of women have given up the comforts and luxuries of larger communities to follow their husbands into some of the most remote locations in Canada to live often dull and laborious lives providing unpaid services to the Force. The sacrifices of these women have gone largely unacknowledged and some have lost their lives in the process.

One of the most tragic events happened to a wife of a member happened to 32-year-old Margaret (Maggie) Agnes Clay, wife of #4279 Sergeant S. G. Clay the Detachment commander of Chesterfield Inlet NWT (now Nunavut). 

On September 17thwhile her husband was away on patrol in the Thelon District, Mrs. Clay was attacked by a pack of sled dogs and knocked to the ground while she was walking on the beach near the detachment. By the time Constable #6316Henry W. Stallworthy beat the dogs off of her they had managed to strip most of the flesh from her right knee to her ankle.

Stallworthy and #5718 Corporal Oliver George Petty carried her back to the detachment house where they did their best to treat her wounds, but little could be done to save her leg. Throughout the night Maggie Clay begged the men to amputate her leg and by morning they realized that gangrene was going to set in and it would have to be removed. Unfortunately the closest medical doctor was over 1000 miles away, so the men asked by the local Roman Catholic priest who had some medical training and the Hudson’s Bay Company manager to perform the operation.

At the insistence of Mrs. Clay the two men agreed signed a statement in which Corporal Petty assumed full responsibility and then hastily reviewed a book on surgery, while the two policemen sterilized the surgical instruments and dressings. The twenty-minute operation went successfully and Mrs. Clay rested easily after the surgery and got good night’s sleep. To all she appeared to be recovering from the ordeal and was in good spirits throughout the day but towards evening she slipped into a coma and died shortly before midnight.

The men held off burying her for three days in hopes that Sergeant Clay would return. He arrived back at the detachment three weeks later, unaware that his wife had died. 

1972 – RCMP bomb squad defuses a letter bomb in a park after removing it from the Israeli Consulate. At the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa, the RCMP find explosives in one of six envelopes arriving from Amsterdam. Arab terrorist group Black September believed responsible; Israeli official in London, England, killed a day earlier after opening a letter.

1977– Sometimes proper recognition is delayed, as was the case for #18449 Staff Sergeant Patrick J. Dunleavy, who on this day received one of only two Merit Award and certificates issued by the Commissioner of the RCMP for work he had pioneered in 1958.  Dunleavy, the NCO in charge of the Field Identification Support Services was the first person to record different facial features on transparencies so they could be combined to create a composite drawing of a suspect. The initial kit was produced and distributed by the RCMP throughout Canada and to foreign police agencies. In the 1970’s he updated the kit because hairstyles, facial hair and eyeglasses had changed. The RCMP then licensed the kit to a commercial firm in the United States and the “Identi-Kit” became a global success. In addition to the Merit Award Staff Sergeant Pat Dunleavy was presented a cheque for $1500.

1984– Retired S/Sgt. #9912 W.L. Kennedy age 92 received a blessing from His Holiness Pope John Paul II when he was visiting the Mother of Sisters of Charity in Ottawa. Sitting in his wheelchair after receiving the blessing he remarked with a note of satisfaction “This is the first time I’ve see a pope”.Kennedy served in the RCMP from 1923 to 1949.

September 19th

1980 – Honour Roll Number 166. 

#33580 Constable Thomas James Agar age 26 was killed on duty inside the City Detachment at Richmond, BC.

As a result of injuring his back, Constable Tom Agar was assigned to light duties and was working the front counter at the Richmond City Detachment. As he began his shift at 8:00 pm he had no idea that he would be killed ten minutes later. Less than an hour before a local criminal, Steve LeClair had gone on a rampage in a Vancouver bar and murdered three people. LeClair had been drinking in the pub at the Palace Hotel and had been thrown out by the manager. LeClair’s parting words was that he was going to come back with a gun and kill him and at 7:30 pm he did just that. LeClair entered the Vancouver Bar and opened fire killing the bartender, the manager and a 72-year-old woman who happened to stop in for a beer. LeClair then left the bar and hijacked a car and ordered the occupants to drive him to the Richmond RCMP Detachment because he wanted to kill a Cop.

When he arrived at the detachment at 8:10 pm, he let his hostages go and he walked calmly into the detachment office with his .45 caliber revolver stuffed in his waistband under his coat. 

Constable Agar went to the front counter to deal with LeClair and asked how he could help. LeCair responded by asking him his name and when he replied “Constable Agar”, Steve LeClair pulled his revolver and said, “How fast can you draw” and shot Agar in the chest.

#35115 Constable Wayne Hanniman was in the nearby radio room heard the shot drew his revolver and rushed out to see LeClair turn to face him and he was shot the shin breaking his leg. Hanniman went down on his knees and fired two rounds one of which hit LeClair in the chest a few inches from his heart. At the same time #22667 Corporal Peter Lucas came onto the scene from another part of the office and pointing his revolver at the wounded gunman ordered him to drop his gun and surrender. 

Constable Tom Agar, a native of Montreal, Quebec had only four years’ service. His wife Joyce was eight months pregnant with their second child when he was murdered. Joyce and their one year old daughter Samantha along with over 1000 people attended his funeral where he was buried with full honours at the Ocean View Cemetery in Burnaby BC.

Steve LeClair was convicted of the multiple murders and sentenced to life imprisonment. Constable Hanniman and Corporal Lucas were awarded Commissioners Commendations for their actions and Letters of Appreciation were presented to municipal employees Sheila Wilson for rendering aid to Constable Hanniman and to Irene Truba for her role in staying calm throughout the incident and dispatching members to key areas during the attack.

1941– “It was the finest thing I ever saw” was how John MacKenzie the one-legged Captain of the “Pink Star” described the actions of second officer James Howard Cassidy, after their ship had been sunk by a torpedo attack.

Former Marine Division Able Seaman #12314 James Howard Cassidy’s tale of self-effacing heroism has been lost in the annals of WW2 and he was all but forgotten by his country. Born in Newcastle, New Brunswick, Cassidy enlisted as a mess boy on the R.M.S. Bayhound a vessel in the RCMP Marine Section in 1933 and re-engaged as an ordinary seaman in 1934. He served in Marine Section until the outbreak of war in April 1939, when he joined the Merchant Navy as a third mate aboard the “Lord Kelvin” eventually ending up as the second mate on the “Pink Star” in 1941.

The story of the Pink Star reads like a novel that should have been made into a movie.

She was originally named the “Saga” when she was built in 1926 by Nya Varvs A/B Oresund, Landskrona in, Denmark. The 4.150-ton steam merchant ship was re-named the “Lunby” in 1931 for A.E. Reimann Stensved. In 1941 the United States government seized all foreign ships in US waters and transferred them to the US War Shipping Administration and the Lunby was assigned to the US Lines Inc. and re-named the “Pink Star”. The Danish crew was asked to continue to serve aboard her for the war effort, which they agreed to do because their homeland was then under Nazi control.

Cassidy was assigned to the Pink Star after spending eight months at sea working on coastal vessels around the United Kingdom. He had survived previous attacks from U-Boats and German cruisers and recovered from wounds he received when he was struck by a shell fragment.

On her final voyage the Pink Star was traveling in convoy SC-44 from New York to Liverpool steaming in calm seas 275 miles northeast of Cape Farewell off the southern tip of Greenland. When German U-Boat, “U-552” captained by Erich Topp encountered her. Topp fired two torpedoes at the convoy but only the Pink Star was hit. She sank quickly after breaking in two in only eight minutes. 

Only 23 of the 36-man crew survived the five-hour ordeal before a British Man O War picked them up. Most of the survivors managed to crowd into the only remaining lifeboat. When Jim Cassidy made it to the life boat, his shipmates reached out to pull him aboard, but he realized that the lifeboat was dangerously overcrowded and that if he tried to climb aboard her it would likely capsize and endanger his shipmates. Cassidy, a strong swimmer swam around the boat for a couple of minutes and over the protests of his mates he then waved farewell to the crew and said “Go on, I’m all right, so long”, then turned and swam off into the dark, never to be seen again.

The wooden legged Captain of the Pink Star was later quoted in the press “Cassidy swam up as cool as you please, saw the situation and swam away, we never saw him again. It was the finest thing I ever saw”.

When word of his heroism hit the press, there was talk that he should be recommended for the “George Cross” but it appears he never was. James Howard Cassidy’s sacrifice eventually faded away in to the annals of history like he did in the cold waters of the North Atlantic.

September 18th

1874– The men of the March West had their first view of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains over 100 miles away from the Sweet Grass Hills of Alberta.

1875– Canada’s 15th Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker (1895-1979) was born on this day in Neustadt Ontario.

1990- After responding to a complaint of assault at Igloolik, NWT, (now Nunavut) #33661 Corporal Eric R. Streeter & #35784 Constable John D. J Ennis were shot at shot at by the suspect when they approached the house. While the two policemen negotiated for over four hours with the suicidal suspect, Mrs. Denise Ennis handled the detachment radio and telephones. The suspect eventually surrendered and was safely taken into custody. For their role in successfully apprehending the gunman without incident both policemen were awarded Commissioners Commendations for Bravery and Mrs. Ennis was given a Letter of Appreciation.

1947– #10700 / O.439 Rene Carriere received a Commendation for his outstanding work on an investigation involving the Wartime Prices & Trade Board Orders.

2004– #45370 Constable Craig Andrew Thur MB, Medal of Bravery.

Earlier in the evening police responded to a complaint of a noisy bush party, where nearly 200 youths had been partying at the snow dump near Porter Creek Pond in Whitehorse, Yukon. After the majority of partygoers left the scene, Constable Craig Thur remained to conduct a foot patrol of the area and heard someone calling for help. Constable Thur followed the sound to the edge of the pond where he found a hypothermic 15-year-old boy in the water, barely managing to hang on to the edge.  While Thur was pulling the boy out he heard a muffled gurgling sound coming from further out in the pond. Realizing that another person was in trouble Constable Thur scanned the surface of the pond with his flashlight and spotted a second teenager struggling to stay afloat. Thur alerted #29237 Corporal Ken Putnam and had him care for the first boy while he proceeded to wade out into the pond. 

Initially he thought the pond was shallow but he soon found himself swimming in deep water being weighed down by his uniform and equipment. Struggling to swim with his flashlight in one hand, while being hampered by submerged tree stumps and hanging branches he kept the 14-year-old boy illuminated until he slipped below the surface. Having witnessed the youth submerge, Constable Thur was able to quickly find the boy’s body and grabbing hold of the victim’s jacket pulled him to the surface. The boy had only been submerged for approximately 30 seconds and immediately began breathing. Thur then towed him back to shore where the boy was transported to hospital by ambulance to join the first who had been taken in a police car.

Had Constable Thur not bothered to remain at the scene and do a follow-up patrol of the party area, both boys would likely have perished.

For his actions Constable Craig Andrew Thur was awarded Commissioners Commendation and later the Medal of Bravery.

September 17th

1954– Honour Roll Number 109.

#15802 Constable Douglas Earl Ferguson age 26, died of carbon monoxide poisoning aboard a boat near Cape Alexander, N.W.T.

Constable Douglas Ferguson had joined the RCMP in 1949 and after serving for two years on the East Coast of Canada, applied for northern service. The day before his death he boarded the 40’Hudson Bay trading boat “Kingalik” along with four other men at Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island. He was traveling to Bathurst Inlet to work on a number of files. 

Early the next morning Lorne Woodward discovered Constable Ferguson along with Peter Natit and Asger “Red” Pedersen unconscious in the cabin below deck. Suspecting carbon monoxide poisoning, he shut off the main engine and assisted by Jack Ehakataitok pulled the men out of the cabin. Peter Natit and “Red” Pedersen quickly regained consciousness and survived.  Unfortunately Constable Ferguson could not be revived after 20 minutes of artificial respiration. 

The Coroner’s investigation determined that Ferguson had died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a defective engine exhaust pipe that allowed the odourless gas to leak inside the vessel. 

Constable Douglas Earl Ferguson’s remains were returned to his mother where he was buried in his hometown of Brockville Ontario.

1961– Honour Roll Number 114. 

#20958 Constable Wayne Sinclair age 24 died of internal injuries received in a traffic accident near Regina, Saskatchewan

Constable Wayne Sinclair a member of the Regina Highway Patrol was patrolling on his police motorcycle on Highway #6, twenty miles south of Regina. Sinclair had only recently passed the police motorcycle course and was on his fourth patrol on the bike. Traveling in good weather at approximately 45 miles per hour he lost control of the motorcycle when he came to a slight curve in the road and his front tire left the pavement onto the gravel shoulder. Unfortunately he overreacted when he applied the front brakes too hard and somersaulted into the ditch and failing to let go of the handlebars. He received massive internal injuries when the motorcycle crushed his chest when it rolled over on him and he died en-route to the hospital. 

Constable Sinclair had only two years’ service in the Force when he was killed. His remains were returned to his parents in St. Vital Manitoba where he was buried with full honours. 

1976– RCMP Air Division pilot #22499 S/Sgt. Karl-Inge G. Gschwind was awarded the Commanding Officers’ Commendation for courage and exceptional capabilities as a result of completing two hazardous landings in CF-MPF during a rescue operation at Foxe Basin on Baffin Island.

1995 – After 31 days, the armed standoff at Gustafsen Lake, BC ends. The $5.5 million operation was one of the largest such police operations in Canadian history involving the deployment of four hundred tactical assault team members, five helicopters, two surveillance planes and nine armoured personnel carriers (APC) and support from the Canadian Armed Forces. 

1988– The St John Meritorious Certificate was awarded to RCMP Constable #34752 Gary J. Clarke and Delta Municipal Police Constable Kerslake for saving the life of a automobile accident victim by performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and CPR on the Deas Island Highway at, Delta, BC.

The conflict was a result of some members of the Shuswap Nation believing that property on a privately-owned ranch belonging to the James Cattle Company was unseeded land and a sacred space. A few years earlier Faith Keeper Percy Rosette and some other Shuswap elders had a vision that the site was sacred and they approached the ranch owner Lyle James for permission to hold a Sun Dance on his property. He agreed to let them hold ceremonies at the site for four years so long as they did not erect any permanent structures on the property. Instead of honouring the agreement, Rosette and his partner Mary Pena set up a permanent residence on the property and refused to leave. In June 1995 a fence was erected to supposedly keep cattle from the ceremonial area so the group was served an eviction notice while they were preparing for another Sun Dance. In response to the eviction notice an occupier named Splitting the Sky called for an armed defensive stance and press releases were sent out by the occupiers in which they claimed their right to practice their religion on unseeded indigenous land. Soon shots were fired and the RCMP was brought in to secure the area.

On August 18, 1995 a native Indian group calling themselves the Ts’peten Defenders believed that a police invasion was imminent and shot at some RCMP Emergency Response Team (ERT) members who were discovered on the property. Throughout the standoff the RCMP conducted negotiations with the leaders of the group and the standoff eventually ended peacefully on September 17 when the remaining occupiers left the site under the guidance of medicine man John Stevens.

Fourteen indigenous and four non-native people were arrested charged following the siege, of which fifteen were found guilty and sentenced to jail terms ranging from six months to eight years. 

September 16th

1891– The first Ukrainian settlers arrive in Edmonton Alberta.

1960– RCMP Air Division pilot Staff Sergeant #15969 / O.633 Robert Lorne Fletcher responded to a mayday call of a United States Air Force Otter. The bush plane that was carrying eight people had developed engine trouble and was forced to make an emergency landing in rugged terrain near the mouth of Knegland Bay in the NWT. Flying a floatplane, Fletcher rushed to the scene and battling poor visibility and piloting an overloaded aircraft succeeded in rescuing the crash victims. In recognition of his meritorious service the US Air Force awarded him with ‘a scroll of appreciation”.

1974– The first 32 women sworn into the RCMP as regular members began their training at Depot.  All of the women were sworn in at exactly the same time in every Province in Canada except Prince Edward Island. The first female troop was Troop 17/1974 and 32 years later on December 16, 2006 one of its members Deputy Commissioner Beverly Ann Busson LLB, COM, OBC was appointed the RCMP’s interim Commissioner following the resignation of Commissioner Zaccardelli. 

September 15th

1874 – Treaty #4 is signed by members of the Cree, Saulteaux Assiniboine nations near modern day Qu’Appelle Saskatchewan. Other native nations in Southern Saskatchewan and Alberta sign on to the treaty as well. The terms of the treaty involve; 120,054 sq km of land and provide $12 per person plus the guarantee of schools, farm instruction and land for farming. Descendents of the native communities involved in the treaty along with members of the RCMP to this day participate in a ceremony to commemorate the event and receive the stipend of cash.

September 14th

1874– On this day #392 Sub Constable Elliott Thornton decided to leave the detachment to hunt for fresh game. He ended up getting lost and his horse collapsed from exhaustion and malnutrition. He eventually found his way back to camp five days later. The hard life in the fledgling Mounted Police Force was not to his liking and he left the Force after only a year.

1906– The very first automobile in Yorkton, Saskatchewan was owned by the local doctor, Dr. Thomas V. Simpson. The good doctor gave the local detachment commander a ride in his new car. As they sped through town at a whopping speed of 15 miles per hour, the terrified Staff Sergeant #3430 / O.149 Christen Junket pleaded “For God’s sake stop or we’ll be killed!”

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