UPDATED – Ric Hall: “Billy” The Horse – Reg.#2036

Billy - the famous RCMP horse (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

 

 

 

Last week, Ric Hall posted this webpage about “Billy” the horse and the details were of interest to many individuals.

 

 

 

 

 

In this article (outlined below), Ric outlined that it was Recruit Troop S (1965/66) was the last members to perform a riding display.

According to Ric ” I also noted that many others from different troops have clamed to have had a riding display when they graduated after “S” Troop 65/66. First to come back on me on was one of our own Vancouver RCMP Veterans’ Association members, John Patterson, Reg.#24696. He has provided me with photographic proof with a picture of him aboard “Admiral.” John was a member of “A” Troop 66/67, entering training in April 1966 and graduating shortly after “S” Troop 65/66 in September 1966.

Photograph of Constable John Paterson (Reg.#

Photograph of Constable John Paterson (Reg.#24696) at the time of his graduation in September 1966 as a member of Troop A.

So the question being put to RCMP Veterans, “Is there another troop which were the last to have a riding display when they graduated?” Please forward your response to Ric Hall at rshall69@shaw.ca

THE ORIGINAL STORY IS BELOW

Follow-up to “Billy” the Horse article. I did mention that “S” 65/66 Troop was the last troop to have ridden and had a riding display when they graduated. I also noted that many others from different troops have clamed to have had a riding display when they graduated after “S” Troop 65/66. First to come back on me on was one of our own Vancouver RCMP Veterans’ Association members, John Patterson, Reg # 24696. He has provided me with photographic proof with a picture of him aboard “Admiral.” John was a member of “A” Troop 66/67, entering training in April 1966 and graduating shortly after “S” Troop 65/66 in September 1966.

Who is next with a claim to be a member of the last troop to perform a riding display upon graduation?

 

In the October 1946 RCMP Quarterly an editorial item was done on RCMP horse “Billy” and some thoughts on why the Force should retain horses.

 

 

 

 

Among RCMP horses Reg # 2036 “Billy”, pictured above, was unsurpassed in beauty, stamina, intelligence and good disposition, which with the possible exception of Reg # 214, “Black Peter”, a famous equine member of “Depot” Division for a number of years after 1909.   Ridden by our present Commissioner, (Stuart Taylor Wood), “Billy” in 1936 led the RCMP contingent at the Coronation of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and while on that trip took part in a command appearance before the Queen in which he was especially admired by the two Princesses (Elizabeth and Margaret).   Many serving ex-members of the Force will fondly remember “Billy”, who was five years old when purchased by the Force in 1927 at Cochrane, AB.   He participated in the International Horse Show, and saw service at Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Regina, where he was destroyed in 1944.”

Dealing with police horses in general, news dispatch widely circulated some little time ago may have left a wrong impression. “That fine figure on horseback – the mounted policeman -“, it stated, “has had his day.

With this statement we cannot agree. Despite the horse’s rapid decline in the past half-century, we are convinced that he will not vanish completely from the police scene before the onward rush of mechanical equipment.   True, he had largely been superseded and gone forever is the hitching-post era of the North West Mounted Police, when he was relied upon exclusively for overland travel. Police Forces everywhere have become mechanized. But while this supplanting process has advanced far, it is certain from the police viewpoint that a final blow to live horse-power never will be struck.   Though nearly ousted by the motor car, motorcycle and plane in the fast pace set by modern law enforcement the horse still must take over on back concessions on those not infrequent occasions when Nature holds the polished machine helpless in her grip.

Photograph of young Winston Churchill during military service.

Photograph of young Winston Churchill during military service.

There are two phrases often quoted to Sir Winston S. Churchill; no hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddleand There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a manwhich has been paraphrased by many famous men over the years including our own former Commissioner S.T. Wood. In the same editorial it went on to state; “Riding gives a man self-discipline and self-reliance that he retains for life, and down the years equitation has figured prominently in RCMP training.   “There’s nothing like a horse to bring out any weaknesses in a man”, stated the Commissioner a short time ago.

In the end the editorial writer sums up what must have been a common thought of members of the Force in the 1940s; “Certainly he (the horse) need not fear the assembly-line threat any further, for his superiority over some of its creations has been proved. This traditional co-worker and friend of man still has something which at least until vehicles assume the human traits predicted for them, the police cannot afford to be without.”

I wonder if the writer lived to see the day, twenty years after the writing of that editorial, the last troop to ride during their graduation, September 1966, performed a riding display.   The following day RCMP horses at “Depot” were auctioned off.

S Troop 65/66 the last troop to graduate with a riding display being inspected on the Parade Square, September 1966.  Funny, how so many members from different troops from 1966 claim they were in the last "riding troop."

S Troop 65/66 the last troop to graduate with a riding display being inspected on the Parade Square, September 1966. Funny, how so many members from different troops from 1966 claim they were in the last “riding troop.”

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Although unsaid in the editorial item “Billy” was one of the favourite horses of the late CSM Tim Griffin who has always been acknowledged as a magician when working with horses. He spent many years instructing equitation at “Depot” and on tour with the Musical Ride during the 1930s.

During the visit of the Prince of Wales to “Depot” in 1919 a photograph appeared in the Regina Leader Post that attributes the horse then Sgt. Major Griffin was working with as “Billy.”   “Billy” was not obtained until 1927, and clearly the markings on the horse in these photographs are different to the picture of “Billy” in the Quarterly editorial. So…could there have been two horses named “Billy”?   Another mystery to be solved!

October 9, 1919 - RNWMP  "Depot" Division - photograph of S/Major Tim Griffin with his horse  "Billy" (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

October 9, 1919 – RNWMP
“Depot” Division – photograph of S/Major Tim Griffin with his horse
“Billy” (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

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The picture below shows CSM Griffin carrying the Force’s Guidon on horseback.   By the blaze marks on the horse, when compared to the Quarterly photograph, the horse he is riding is the famous “Billy”.

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A newspaper clipping from CSM Griffin’s collection showing him leading the Ride through Hyde Park, London, June 1930. He is riding “Billy“.

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Horse patrols were rough on both man and animal. Many hardships were encountered on those patrols.   The last official horse patrol was undertaken to combat horse stealing, cattle rustling and smuggling along the international border.   The patrol through the Big Muddy Badlands was done by Constable Doug Minor, Reg # 11788, who was issued RCMP saddle horse #2257, “Timmy”, commencing June 10, 1938. The patrol ended October 31, 1938.   No arrests were made. It was intended to continue with the horse patrols in 1939 but with war looming on the horizon the horse patrols of 1939 were cancelled.

Photo below was taken from a Scarlet and Gold magazine detailing the last official horse patrol.

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Gone may be the day when the Mounted Police galloped across the prairies on horseback conducting patrols and checking on the well being of farmers and looking for stills and smugglers, but we still have our horses. Primarily used for ceremonial duties and public displays they continue to be loved by Canadians and people from all over the world.

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If you have any old Force photographs that Ric Hall can include in a forthcoming webpage, please email Ric at rshall69@shaw.ca.

image of Ric Hall closing block for his Photo Corner webpage

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