The Long Patrol…. Very Long!

The Long Patrol…. Very Long!

Imagine you were sitting in your warm and comfortable office in Maple Creek, say around 1914, a senior officer approaches you and says we want you to head north and be part of a team to search for some Inuits who murdered two white men, one American hunter named Harry Radford and a young Canadian surveyor named George Street.   And, by the way the hunt may take around two years!  “Right Sir, I’ll pack my bags!”  That may not have been quite the way Sergeant Major Thomas Caulkin, Reg # 4557, responded to his new orders.  

Thomas Caulkin (O.193) was born in England April 29, 1886.  To expand his sense of adventure, he travelled to Canada, making his way to Winnipeg where he joined the Royal North West Mounted Police on April 19, 1907.    January 30, 1914, he was appointed Sergeant Major for “A” Division at Maple Creek, Sask.

Thomas Caulkin

Below is short version of the search for the murderers of Radford and Street. For more detailed accountings of the Bathurst Inlet Expedition go to the links immediately below on the Vancouver Division web site.  But please read on.

That same year the Force received word two white men, Radford and Street, had been killed at Bathurst Inlet in 1911 by local Inuit.  The area of the murder was described as “peculiarly inaccessible” in the arctic and the efforts to get there would be difficult and tedious.  It was estimated that the capture of those responsible would take “the best part of two years.”

Commissioner Bowen Perry and the Canadian Government approved the Bathurst Inlet Expedition, made up of one officer, one NCO and two Constables.  Inspector Walter Beyts (Reg # 2866 – O.161), Sergeant Major Caulkin, Constable Alfred B. Kennedy (Reg # 5626) and Constable Ernest Pasley (Reg. #5720) made up the team.  Insp. Beyts was assigned as the head investigator and his team set off to Chesterfield Inlet, Hudson Bay. The team experienced extreme weather conditions, poor health and survived for long periods of time on deer and bear meet, often eaten raw.  They set out on what became the longest dog team patrol in the history of the Force, 5, 153 miles, which was covered by dog sled, walking and canoeing.  It was not until 1915 that this patrol established a base camp on Baker Lake. Weather conditions and a scarcity of caribou prevented further patrols.  

Inspector Walter Beyets
Back Row L-R Akular, Cpl. Conway, Cst. Kennedy, Cst. Pasley and Joe
Front Row L-R. Insp. Beyts and Sgt. Major Caulkin taken at Baker Lake. July 1916

In 1916, Inspector Frank French, Reg # 4355 & O.163, came to relieve Inspector Beyts who was ill.  French was joined by Sgt. Major Caulkin and 4 Inuit with 20 dogs. On May 17, 1917, the team located the Inuit camp on the Coppermine River.  Statements were taken and by all accounts it was suggested the two Inuit responsible for the death of the two men had been defending themselves from beatings by the two men.   Insp. French, Officer in Charge, of the team, decided charges were not warranted and no arrests were made.  The patrol returned to Baker Lake on January 29, 1918 after 10 months and 5,153 miles (8,292 kilometers) by dog team.  Upon completing their patrol, both Frank French and Tom Caulkin asked to be transferred out of the North to recover from the prolonged periods of isolation and starvation.  The Commissioner approved both transfers.

Francis “Frank” French

Sgt. Major Caulkin returned to Regina in August 1918.   His adventures were not over.  In late August 1918 he enlisted in the newly formed “B” Squadron, RNWMP which would be heading to Siberia to be a component of the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force.  He was appointed to the military rank of Lieutenant.  

Upon his return, he was awarded the King’s Police Medal, which was commonly referred to as the “policeman’s Victoria Cross” by HRH Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) for the Bathurst Expeditionary Expedition.

Insp. Caulkin receiving his King’s Medal from the future King (albeit a short-lived reign)

Thomas Caulkin was named C.O. “N” Division at Rockcliffe in July 1937 and the next March he also was given top post of “G” Division with headquarters in Ottawa.  He took over the Command of “A” Division (Ottawa) in August 1939 and was promoted to Assistant Commissioner on April 1, 1940.  In November 1940, he was appointed Director of Training at Headquarters.   Assistant Commissioner Caulkin retired to pension on April 19, 1942.  He passed away August 28, 1965 in Victoria, BC.

Fast forward 100 years.  Recently I was contacted by my friend Curt Tugnum, former C.O. “Depot” Division, who had been contacted by an acquaintance of his, Clark Cook, who now lives in Surrey.  Clark Cook has an old family album from the 1920s that has some pictures of Sergeant Major Caulkin from his time in the north.  He thought the RCMP may be interested in them.  Curt connected Cook with me due to our being in close proximity to one another.  

I met with Clark Cook and he brought his old family album.  It has seen better days, after all it is 100 years old!  The album is of the type many of us will remember from our own families.  Black pages with hand written notes in white pencil below the photos.  Cook explained that his fatherDr. Alfred James Cook and his wife Annie Cook (nee Richie),lived and worked in the north.  They obviously had contact with the RCMP during their time in north as the album contained many photos of RCMP members and buildings used by the RCMP.  There were many pictures of Inuits which gave a good understanding of their living conditions, along with the white community, in the 1920s.  Many of the photos are yellowed with time and they are very small.

The photo below is one that caught Clark Cook’s eye and thought it may be of interest to the Force. 

Written below the photo:  Sgt. Major Caulkin at cairn erected by Radford and Street from their starting point on Wegg Island, Hudson’s Bay, when they left on their journey to the Arctic (undecipherable) from which they never returned.  S/M Caulkin spent four years on the trail of the Eskimo murders and eventually secured (indecipherable).  

Photo above must have been taken on a second tour of the north as Caulkin is now an Inspector: “Inspector Caulkin and Tommy [son] at Herschel

“Mrs. Caulkin at Herschel”

Note: the signage on the building

“S/M Caulkin in Eskimo dancing costume”
“S/M Caulkin in the winter dress of the Barren Lands”
“Inspector & Mrs Caulkin camp at noon on South West end of Herschel Island”
“Police warehouse at Herschel”
“Loading sleighs for a patrol from Baker Lake to Cape Fullerton, Hudson’s Bay – 500 miles”

A tad different than todays vehicle pre-inspection before hitting the road to go on patrol.

“Police launch “Lady Borden” in winter quarters at Baker Lake”
The Lady Borden on Patrol – Photo courtesy of Kenneth John Haycock’s “The History of the RCMP Marine Services”.
“Police launch at Aklavik”
The Fitzgerald on Patrol – Photo courtesy of Kenneth John Haycock’s “The History of the RCMP Marine Services”.

Remembering the Good Ol’ Days by;

T. B. Caulkin, Asst. Commr. (Rtd.)

Copied from the RCMP Vets. Scarlet & Gold Magazine 36th edition of 1954

When you threw on the old stock saddle,
With its double cinch, wallets and horn.
And the way you slung your carbine,
When you left the Detachment at dawn.

Do you remember your first patrol lad?
How you wished for a compass and maps.
Remember trading your trunk and clothes,
For a lariat and woolly chappes.0

When you trussed up the old pack-pony,
With a squaw or diamond hitch.
And the- son-of-a-gun pitched madly.
And landed the pack in a ditch.

Do you remember the cussed Patrol Sheet,
That we carried around on our beat?
And cajoled the wily old rancher,
To kick through with a hunk of meat.

Do you remember the Weekly Diary,
When you quoted it fifty below?
And you couldn’t get thru to the next ranch,
On account of the blinding snow.

So you and the buckskin stayed over,
At the ranch of the Lazy B,
And you wallowed in cooky’s omelets,

And his pies were a luxury.
You surely remember the buckboard,
That rattled the prairie trails,
And the old 5 gallon coal oil cans,
That we used in lieu of pails.

Do you remember the alkali water,
You hauled from a nearby slough?
How it carbonized your tonsils,
It’s a wonder we ever pulled through.

Do you remember the beans and the sourbelly,
They used to send out from the Stores?
And the way they cluttered your pantry,
With prunes and dried apple cores.

When you think of the wretched old haystack,
That caused you a load of grief.
How it shrank from a stack of 50 tons,
And the plugs had to go on relief.

Those days are gone forever lads,
The good old prairie range,
They only gave us 60 cents.
Tho’ we always had some change.

The life was tough but healthy,
And I’m sorry that it’s gone.
With cars and planes and motorboats,
The poor old plugs are done

A big thank you to Clark Cook for sharing his photos with me and in turn with you the readers of the Vancouver Division web site.  Clark after removing some of his family’s photos left the album with me to do with it as I saw fit.   I felt the best place for it would be with the RCMP Historical Collections Unit at “Depot”.  Clark agreed.  That is where it now rests.

Ric Hall 24394/O.1330