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– #21290Constable 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– The Meritorious 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 Cst. 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.


April 13th

1935 – In a special ceremony at Depot the new RCMP Guidon was presented to #O.240 Commissioner Sir James MacBrien by the Earl of Bessborough the Governor General of Canada. Present in the official party were #O.223 Supt Robert Tait, #O.189 Supt Cecil Hill & #8773 Sgt Joseph Leatham.

1973– Commissioners Commendation awarded to #19780 Charles F. Martyn and #28861 E.R. McClare for a drug investigation at Toronto. 

1997-The Commissioners Commendation for outstanding service was awarded to #42298 Constable David Hardy of the Jasper Alberta Detachment.

When Cst. Hardy entered the detachment cells, he was jumped by a violent prisoner named Dean Welsh who overpowered him and proceeded to beat the constable with his own baton and handcuffs. Welsh then gouged at Hardy’s eyes, and pepper sprayed him, as he attempted to get his gun. Though he was suffering badly from the attack Constable Hardy managed to get hold onto his gun in the struggle and in effort to save his own life he had to fire eight rounds into the man before his attacker was finally killed. 


April 12th

1902– An Order in Council granting compensation of 30 cents per day for life to #3513 Constable Seymour Farquharson because he lost his arm in a shotgun accident at Lake Labarge Yukon. Constable Farquharson served from 1900 to 1902. He collected his pension until he died in 1964. 1908 – Honour Roll Number 32.#4584 Constable George Ernest Willmett age 23 was murdered by a burglar, while on night patrol, in the town of Frank, Alberta. 

Cst. Willmett had less than a year service when he was assigned to special night patrol in the Town of Frank due to a sharp increase in break and enters. While making his patrol he encountered two German immigrants; Mathias Jasbec and Fritz Eberts behind the Imperial Hotel. Without warning Eberts who had slipped into the shadows shot the plain clothes constable in the neck and face with a blast from his shotgun killing him instantly. After an intensive three-year investigation, Erberts was fingered by his partner and he was subsequently convicted for murder. While in prison Erbert convinced death row inmate Sam Wilinsky to confess to the murder in hopes of being acquitted after Wilinsky was hanged. Fortunately, an alert guard found Erberts notes to Wilinski written on toilet paper thereby foiling his plan. Cst. Willmet originally from Derby England was buried in the MacLeod Cemetery.


April 8th

1931 – Constable#10732 Joseph Sixsmith is sent to Big River, Saskatchewan to open a new Detachment. Located north of Prince Albert, Big River was the departure point to the far north, and the graded dirt road leading to it ended fifteen miles south of town thereby leaving the traveler a choice of a number of winding trails leading out of the into the bush. The new detachment office was also the constable’s house, a medium size bungalow with no electricity or water and a wood stove for both heat and cooking. The office phone was listed in the directory as number nine, that being the total number of phones in Big River at the time. In addition to policing the village by himself Constable Sixsmith was also responsible for policing a large rural area covering the Big River Indian Reserve, Shell River, Debden, Stump Lake, Park Valley, and as far north as Dore Lake. Patrolling these areas in the 1930’s often meant getting the police car hung up on a stump or stranded in a mud hole. Sixsmith served from 1929 to 1957 and retired as a Staff Sergeant.

1942– The Kings Police Medal for gallantry was awarded to #11979 Lionel Fred Muirhead Strong, for his bravery on this day in rescuing a nine-year-old boy from a crumbling cake of ice in the Hillsborough Bay harbour, in PEI.  

After a report that a young boy was adrift on an ice flow was received, several members of the RCMP and the Charlottetown City Police rushed to the scene, but no boat was available. When the ice flow the child was on broke in two and he fell into the frigid water, Constable Strong stripped off his hat and tunic and wearing his high brown boots and breeches dove into the frigid water and swam two hundred yards to the child’s aid. When he reached the boy, he was clinging to a broken piece of ice with only his head above the surface. Grabbing hold of the child he towed him back to shore. Prior to the implementation of a Canadian bravery awards system in 1972, the King’s Police and Fire medal which was instituted in 1909 was the highest civilian award for bravery for police officers in the British Empire.

Constable Strong joined the RCMP in 1933 retired as a Sergeant in1958.

1942– Many fund-raising activities took place across Canada by a variety of organizations during WWII, and the police were no different. Through the efforts of Windsor Ontario policeman James Wilkinson and the Police Association of Ontario $25,000 was collected to purchase a Spitfire MK fighter plane for the Royal Canadian Air Force. 

On this day in 1942 the first plane named “Canadian Policeman” BL900 was formally presented to the RCAF in North Weald England and assigned to the 403 Squadron. Present at the dedication ceremony were RCMP Provost Corps members #11507 Major George Ball, #12609 Captain James Stewart, #11747 Lieutenant Charles Wilson, #11965 Lieutenant Maurice Byers and #12604 Lieutenant Henry Law. 

The pilot chosen to fly her into combat was #12568 Pilot Officer Constable Gordon Francis C. “Ben” Hoben, who had served as a Wellington bomber pilot in Italy and Germany. Unfortunately, the spitfire was destroyed on May 4th,1942 during a taxiing accident. The nameplate was transferred to another plane but sadly Hoben was killed and the “Canadian Policeman” was destroyed when on July 11th,1942 Hoben decided to show off in front of his former Bomber Squadron (102) buddies and do some hot-doggingover top of the Topcliffe Aerodrome. After flying between two hangars below the rooftops, Hoben rolled his Spitfire and lost control of the aircraft and crashed. 

Over the decades a number of stories about the “Canadian Policeman” appeared in a variety of publications (including the RCMP) that told the tale that the Spitfire was badly shot up in combat and that Pilot Officer Hoben heroically managed to land his plane near but died soon after. The propaganda that was created to portray Hoben as a hero was deemed necessary so as to deceive the enemy and the Canadian public because the Air Force still needed recruits. The five-year veteran of the RCMP was buried in England.

1950– The RCMP Schooner “St. Roch” leaves Esquimault Harbour and journeys to Halifax through the Panama Canal. Commanded by Inspector #11814 / O.372 Kenneth William Newman Hall arrives in Halifax on May 29, 1950 becoming the first vessel ever to circumnavigate North America.

1978– Commanding Officers Commendations were awarded to Constables #31682 Dana B. Gibbons and #34152 M.K. Stewart along with civilians Mr. N.G. McPherson and Darren Page for saving the life of a man by rescuing him from burning house at Churchill, Manitoba. 


April 7th

1877 – The saying that the Mounties “always get their man” is usually considered to be the creation of Hollywood. But, surprisingly, the phrase can be traced to 1877, many years before the film industry. In 1877, the Fort Benton (Montana) Recordreported the following story from Fort Macleod:

“Thanks to the vigilance of Major Irvine and the energy of Captain Winder, of the N.W. Mounted Police, another attempt to smuggle whiskey has been frustrated by the arrest of three men, who were tried, found guilty and sentenced to pay a fine of five hundred dollars each or be imprisoned for the minor period of six months. They preferred the former. Horses were sacrificed for the arrest, but the M.P.’s are worse than bloodhounds when they scent the track of a smuggler, and they fetch their men every time.” 

1964 –Commendation awarded to #16590/ O.584 Jack Denison Routledge D.F.C. for his bravery in apprehending man who had threatened to kill a member of the Force.  He served from 1950 to 1979 and 2003 after having retired as a Chief Superintendent he authored a book about his life entitled “Lancaster’s & Lanyards”. In which he described his adventures the Royal Canadian Air Force in WW2 where he joined Bomber Command as a rear gunner at the age of 16 and flew in over thirty bombing raids and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross as well as his adventures in the British Columbia Police Force and the RCMP. 

1980- Commanding Officers Commendations were issued to #30078 Christopher Fernandes and #34583 R.L. Eldridge for apprehending a mentally unstable man with handgun. Constable Fernandes served for several years as a member of the “E” Division (British Columbia) Underwater Recovery Team and became the first police diver in Canada to contract Aseptic Bone Necrosis and had to get a hip replacement. This did not end his career the black belt in karate received a new hip and returned to active duty.

1989- Gunman hijacks bus near Montreal and drives it to Parliament Hill where he is disarmed by police.

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