Ric Hall: The Mysterious Giant White Pillow Case

RCMP Red Serge with Sergeant Stripes

 

 

 

Recently I was contacted by e-mail the great granddaughter of a former member of the Force who lives on Vancouver Island. She had some of her great grandfather’s uniform pieces stored in a box.

 

 

 

She wanted to dispose of the kit and was looking for the best way to go about it. She had no family members that were interested in the uniform and she really knew very little about her great grandfather’s service in the RCMP. She described the contents as a red serge, breeches, uniform cap, spurs and a “horse blanket.”

Her great grandfather’s name was Robert John Threadkell. Doing some digging I was able to find his obituary in the RCMP Quarterly. Robert was born in Playford, Suffolk, England in 1884. It is unknown when he moved to Canada but he joined the RNWMP at Calgary, January 13, 1917 and was issued the regimental number 6602. He served for 26 years, being invalided to pension in 1943. It appears his service in the Force was all in Alberta. He died in October 1969. Unfortunately, I could find nothing more about his service or his life after leaving the RCMP.

After several e-mails back and forth my new friend decided to send the box of kit to me to use as I see fit. If anything was worth using in a display that would be fine. If not of use it could be destroyed.

1920 - Photograph of Robert Threadkell with "Spotted Eagle" somewhere in Alberta (Source of photo - Glenbow Museum Archives).

1920 – Photograph of Robert Threadkell with “Spotted Eagle” somewhere in Alberta (Source of photo – Glenbow Museum Archives).

The box arrived and I was like a kid at Christmas…what treasures would be inside?

Photograph of Robert Threadskell's tunic, cap and spurs.  Note the crown above the chevrons opposed to today's chevrons which are straight. (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

Photograph of Robert Threadskell’s tunic, cap and spurs. Note the crown above the chevrons opposed to today’s chevrons which are straight. (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

The red serge was interesting in that it was made of a very heavy wool, much more substantial that the current issue, and the waist and chest size were very small. The tunic also had the old brass RCMP shoulder badges, buttons, collar badges, all with the “Tudor Crown” often referred to as the King’s Crown. The breeches were not what one would imagine, they were a heavy wool and brown with no yellow stripes. I say to myself “What is that all about?” The waist of the breeches is very small. Safe to say Robert was not a very big man. The absence of fast food franchises in the 1920s through to the 1940s, that are so available today, and the fact a lot of equitation training was still taking place, probably kept members back in the day slim and trim!

Buried in the box is an old cloth cap with the yellow piping on the brim and the “Tudor Crown” cap badge. It has been squashed in the box probably since 1969 when Robert Threadkell passed away. But with a little tender love and care it springs back to its original shape.

Remember the “Oddjob Man” in the James Bond movie “Goldfinger?” He used his bowler hat to bring down his adversaries. Robert Threadkell’s hat could be used for the same purpose….it was like Oddjob’s bowler it seemed to be lined with steel!

His jack spurs and leather look like they have been ridden hard and put away wet!

Photograph of a little Silvo and shoe polish on the spurs and leather clean up quite nicely! (Source of Photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

Photograph of a little Silvo and shoe polish on the spurs and leather clean up quite nicely! (Source of Photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

I am looking for the “horse blanket” thinking of the traditional blue shabrack with yellow striping and the fused MP and crown in each corner. At the bottom of the box I find what appears to be a large white pillow case. It is made of a heavy linen material and has an open end and a fused MP in two corners. A mystery….what would this have been used for? Perhaps, some sort of storage bag?

A quick e-mail message to Don Klancher, he who knows all about uniforms and equipment, and he suggests that in fact it probably is a horse blanket. Interesting! A quick check of the photos I have of members on horseback with the early versions of the Musical Ride, reveal some of the following photos.

Photograph of the white sheet with the fused 'MP' (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

Photograph of the white sheet with the fused ‘MP’ (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

Photograph of Sergeant Major Tim Griffin, on the left, training horses.  Note the blanket on the centre horse. (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection)>

Photograph of Sergeant Major Tim Griffin, on the left, training horses. Note the blanket on the centre horse. (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection)>

1919 - Photograph of RNWMP Musical Ride at "Depot" Division on the Parade Square with white blankets.  Officer's residence in the background. (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

1919 – Photograph of RNWMP Musical Ride at “Depot” Division on the Parade Square with white blankets. Officer’s residence in the background. (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

Photograph of RCMP member on horseback with a white Shamrock (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

Photograph of RCMP member on horseback with a white Shamrock (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

Photograph of a RCMP horse with a white shamrock (Source of photo - Ric Hall's Photo Collection).

Photograph of a RCMP horse with a white shamrock (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

Now the mystery of the brown breeches needs to be solved. Digging into Doctor Boulton’s book on “Uniforms of the Canadian Mounted Police” I find that brown breeches were issued to Regular Members in the 1920s and 1930s. Perhaps they were used for daily wear keeping the blue breeches with the yellow Cavalry stripe for special events. Unfortunately, there are not many left from those days who can answer that question.

The brown breeches and the horse blanket (aka pillow case) have been shipped off to the Music Ride for their retention and for display purposes.

UPDATE: Veteran Joe Collinson sent us a message and photograph which includes the brown breeches. Photograph below appeared the RCMP Quarterly (Volume 80(1)) – RCMP members on the range wearing breeches with no stripes.

Photograph of RCMP Recruits shooting at the outdoor range at "Depot" Division (Source of image - RCMP Quarterly - Volume 80 - 1).

Photograph of RCMP Recruits shooting at the outdoor range at “Depot” Division (Source of image – RCMP Quarterly – Volume 80 – 1).

The remaining bits of Robert’s uniform have been shared between Surrey Detachment and “E” Division HQ’s at Green Timbers, Surrey, for display.

I am sure that when Robert Threadkell left the Force in 1943 he never imagined that some of his old kit, that had been stored away, would be on display 72 years later.

image of Ric Hall closing block for his Photo Corner webpage

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