Sgt. Hubert Thorne – Reg.#4290

2014-11-06_17-57-18

 

 

His nickname was “Nitchie” to his friends and was described as a “capable, courageous, hard-working and above all, imbued with an unflagging sense of duty.”  His image was captured by one the Canadian Group of Seven artists: Franz Johnston’s painting called “Beyond The Law.”  For many years, this painting was hung in the Senior NCOs Mess at “Depot” Division.

 

 

Early Life

Hubert “Nitchie” Thorne was born at Christchurch Hants, England on May 13, 1884.  He immigrated to Canada and took up farming at Whitewood in Saskatchewan.

Joins The Force

On December 3, 1904 he joined the Royal North West Mounted Police (RNWMP) in Regina and was issued the regimental number #4290.

In 1905, officials in Ottawa decided that it would be appropriate to have a ‘back-door’ route to the Yukon. Instead of tasking the Canadian Royal Engineers to construct the travel trail, the RNWMP were delegated to build the 375 mile route and it would be later be known as the Peace River-Yukon trail. The trail specifications were to:

– cut through timber with a path width of eight feet;

– build bridges over creeks and swamps; and

– build rest homes every 30 miles.

The Commissioner appointed Superintendent Constantine to lead this construction crew and was assisted by Insp. John Richards and 32 NCO and Constables. The construction started on June 15, 1905 and was finished by the summer of 1907.  Constable Thorne was one of these 32 members.

On September 1, 1907, Constable Thorne was transferred from “N” Division -Lesser Slave Lake Detachment  to “G” Division – Fort Saskatchewan.

In 1911, “he was given a grant of $25 in recognition of good work while on patrol near Prairie Creek.  He had brought in the body of a trapper under trying conditions.”

Later the same year, Constable Thorne was selected to be one of the members of the 1911 Coronation Contingent that went overseas for the coronation of King George V.

Photograph of

Photograph of the Royal North West Mounted Police contingent for the 1911 Coronation (Source of photo – RCMP Historical Collection Unit – “Depot” Division).

Upon returning to Canada, he purchased his discharge on December 22, 1911.

A year later, Hurbert re-engaged on October 3, 1912 and in 1914 – he was placed in charge of Fort McMurray Detachment.

In the fall of 1915 at Fort McMurray, Constable Thorne received a knock at the Detachment door and opened it to be faced with a native Indian and a half frozen Harry Sykes.  According to Sykes, he was out checking his traps when he spotted a moose.  Without a thought, Spykes set out to pursue the moose but neglected to take either food or a tent.  After six days of wondering through the bush in the sub-zero temperatures, Sykes made it back to his camp cold and exhausted.  He hired a local native to transport him to the Fort McMurray Detachment.

With no medical facilities in Fort McMurray, Constable Thorne decided to transport Sykes 300 miles south to Athabasca Landing on dog sleigh.  It was Constable Thorne’s assessment that Sykes was developing gangrene.

According to Thorne’s report – “The trail between Fort McMurray and Lac La Biche is mostly muskeg, the trail is very deep and narrow and the dog sleigh was riding on one side or the other most of the time.  This made it very uncomfortable for Sykes who was helpless all the way and fingers being frozen and he was in great and continual pain.  The pain was a g great mental and physical strain upon him and this, with the added loss of sleep, made him very despondent toward the end of the trip.”

Photograph of

Photograph of RNWMP Corporal Thorne on the left with another unknown RNWMP member (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

The actions of Constable Thorne saved the life of Harry Sykes.

Commissioner Bowen Perry forwarded a copy of Constable Thorne’s report onto Laurence Fortescue – Comptroller of the RNWMP who in turn forwarded it to Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden.  Upon reading the report, the Prime Minister forwarded a message to Commissioner stating:

The report you sent me of Const. H. Thorne’s action in conveying and caring an unfortunate trapper from Fort McMurray to Athabasca Landing, a distance of nearly 300 miles, and thereby saving his life, is an inspiring document.  It show a finely unselfish and courageous deed done as in the ordinary routine and that it was done voluntarily but makes it the finer.  Both the actions itself and the manner of reporting it fully sustain the splendid tradition of the RNWMP.”

Based on his actions in assisting Harold Sykes, Hubert Thorne was promoted to the rank of Corporal and received $25 from the RNWMP fine fund.

On October 28, 1915, Corporal Thorne was the only member at the Fort McMurray Detachment when three men came to the Detachment.  They complained about a bushman by the name of Otto Buschner and they were concerned about a local sheriff’s bailiff by the name of H.J. McColley.  Apparently, the men left the bailiff with Buschner at his cabin.  While some distances away from the Buschner cabin, they heard a gunshot coming from the area of the cabin but didn’t return to investigate.

Based on the concerns raised by these men, Corporal Thorne arrived at the Buschner cabin and found it ablaze.  There was no sign of Buschner.  The following day, he discovered the burnt body of H.J. McColley inside the cabin.  The pursuit of Otto Buschner began.

In view of the fact that Buschner was an excellent bushman, Thorne deputized 30 local men to assist.  On November 4, 1915, Buchner was located by two deputies and a short exchange of gunfire took place.  Shortly thereafter, Buschner was found dead from a self inflicted gunshot.

The artist Franz Johnston created his painting entitled “Beyond The Law” based on the Buschner incident and the member in the painting was that of Corporal Hubert Thorne.

Photograph of

Photograph of Franz Johnston’ painting entitled “Beyond The Law” and the member in this paint is that of Sergeant Hubert Thorne (Source of photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).

In 1916, Hubert was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

On April 9, 1917, he was married and two years later was in charge of Fort Simpson Detachment.

With the recruitment notices advertising for applicants for the RNWMP Cavalry Draft to serve on the Western Front in World War I, Hubert Thorne  submitted his application and it was accepted.  His Canadian Expeditionary Forces number was 2684184 and was promoted to the rank of Corporal in the Canadian Army.

May 1918 - Photograph of Cavalry Draft RNWMP tents at "Depot" barracks in Regina (Source of photo - RCMP Historical Collections Unit - "Depot" Division).

After the Cavalry Draft received some basic training at “Depot” Division, the members were loaded onto two trains heading for Montreal.  From Montreal, their troop ship met up in Halifax and travelled to England in a naval convoy.   Their three months of preparation for service on the Western Front was taken at the Canadian Military base at Shorncliffe England.

Once the training was completed, the Cavalry Draft was broken into three primary groups.  One of these groups was the “A” Squadron RNWMP which consisted of all ex-RNWMP members.  It was this Squadron that travelled to France and distinguished themselves in France, Belgium and Germany.  Full details about “A” Squadron RNWMP can be viewed here. In Europe, Corporal Thorne was assigned to the Canadian Light Horse for the remaining months of the war.

With World War I over, the Squadron members returned to Canada and Hubert Thorne was demobilized on April 14, 1919 and immediately re-engaged into the Force.

Photograph of

March 1921 – Photograph of the two Imperial Oil Company planes just prior to departing for Slave Lake.  This trip was the first sub-artctic travel by aircraft in Canada.

On March 24, 1921, he was a passenger on the Imperial Oil Company’s plane which flew to Fort Simpson and Fort Norman.  The company’s party wished to call at several places between Windy Point and Fort Norman; Sergeant Thorne was instructed to accompany them to Fort Norman and back to Fort Simpson as an observer.  This airplane trip was a novel experience in the history of the Force and the Mackenzie River district.

In the same year, Sergeant Thorne did an excellent piece of police work in the Albert LeBeaux case.  He spared on pains in the investigation; and had custody of the prisoner and the corpse on the long journey from Fort Providence to Fort Smith.

No matter how distasteful his duties were, he invariably performed them with cheerful readiness.  His detachments were always kept in spotless condition, and the various posts of which he was in charge bore the reputation of being as clean and tidy as any in the whole Force.  Both of his promotions – corporal and sergeant – were awarded him for good work on particular cases.”

“A testimony to the high regard in which Sergeant Thorne was held by the public is the following letter from the secretary treasurer of the Advisory Council, Jasper Alta.

‘The Jasper Advisory Council, a representative body of the people of Jasper, appeal to the superintendent of police at Edmonton, and the R.C.M.P. Commissioner to make the position of Sergeant Thorne a permanent one…. We feel that there has now been a man placed here who has the interests of the town at heart, who will not only be a credit tot ht town and will place it on the lofty pedestal to which it belongs, but who will be a credit to the police force of which his a member….'”

Commissioner Starnes commended him in 1923 and awarded him $100 from the RCMP Benefit Trust Fund in recognition of duty well done, – the carrying of important orders to Herschel Island, Yukon Territory, in connection with the execution of two Eskimo murderers there, .. Alikomiak and Tatamigana.  Leaving Edmonton on October 5, 1923, he travelled via Vancouver, Seward and Fort Yukon, Alaska – an arduous trip in which he encountered several unpreventable difficulties; through the exercise of resourcefulness and initiative, he overcame these and arrived at this destination on December 6.”

In July 1925, he was transferred to Fort Rae Northwest Territories and remained there until July 1928.  On May 10, 1929, he was placed in charge of La Pa (Manitoba) Detachment.  

Photograph of RCMP Sergeant Hurbert Thorne (Source of photo - RCMP Historical Collections Unit - "Depot" Division).

Photograph of RCMP Sergeant Hurbert Thorne (Source of photo – RCMP Historical Collections Unit – “Depot” Division).

Retires From Force

On October 2, 1929, he retired from the Force and established a home at Jasper Alberta where he operated a novelty shop for the next few years.  In 1934, he and his family moved to Victoria.

With the outbreak of World War II, Hubert volunteered to become a RCMP Special Constable and was appointed a supervisor of the dock guards at the Canadian Navy base at Esquimalt, BC.  He resigned from this position on August 1, 1941 and passed away on November 19, 1941 at Victoria BC.

Photo - Sheldon Boles author of article block

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