Tribute To: S/Sgt. John ‘Taffy’ Jones

Photograph of S/Sgt. John 'Taffy' Jones - Master Tailor RNWMP & RCMP

Photo of S/Sgt. John ‘Taffy’ Jones (Source of photo – Kendall De Menech)

 

 

 

 

John ‘Taffy’ Jones was recruited to the Force and sworn in as a Master Tailor then immediately promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant.

With superior skills and organizational abilities, he was instrumental in upgrading the uniform for all members of the Force.

His contribution to a better uniform for Force members continues today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Background

John ‘Taffy’ Jones was born on January 12, 1876 in Wales.

In 1892 and at the age of 16, he joined the King’s Royal Rifles Corps and trained to be one of the regiment’s tailors.  It was quickly discovered that he possessed excellent craftsman skills and attention to detail.  Taffy was offered and accepted all available training offered by the British Army.  He eventually specialized in tailing in both military and civilian clothing.

While with the regiment, he served in Egypt and in South Africa during the Second Boer War.  During this war, he served with his regiment in the fighting in the campaigns of Transvall, Orange Free State and Ladysmith.

By the spring of 1913 and at the age of 39, Taffy had risen to the rank of Sergeant and held the position of the Master Tailor of the regiment.  He had only recently received is Long Service and Good Conduct Medal after completing 21 consecutive years of service in the British Army. In his mind, it was time to retire and proceed with his plans of opening up his own military shop in London.  His retirement date was set for July 13, 1913.

Two days before retirement, the Adjutant of the regiment directed Taffy to report to the Colonel’s office.  Upon arriving at the office, the Colonel informed him that the Minister of Defence has received a letter from Mr. Fred White (Comptroller of the Royal North-West Mounted Police) who was urgently seeking a military Master Tailor of high caliber to take charge of police uniform requirements throughout western Canada.  According to the letter:

The person the Force had in mind would be required to possess a military background, in addition to being a professional in his chosen vocation.  The Force expected to make some changes to the present uniform, therefore, the skill of drafting patterns, cloth cutting, measurements, pant and coat construction was a must.

The application selected as Master Tailor of the Royal North West Mounted Police would also supervise and instruct tailors coming under his control.  At times, it would be necessary for the Master Tailor to travel across Canada to consult Officers Commanding of Divisions, relative to uniform needs.  Then too, he would be called upon to visit large manufacturing plants in Eastern Canada, where stock uniforms were presently made, to determine that the contract entered into by the Force was being strictly adhered to.

The appointee would be engaged in the Royal North West Mounted Police, as a Staff-Sergeant, with pay at the rate of $2.50 per diem, plus double rations, plus .50 cents per diam specialist allowance.  When he became a senior Staff Sergeant, gauged by the N.C.O.s seniority roll of the Force, a further .50 cents would be forthcoming.  The selected applicant would also be offered allotted living quarters in the “Depot” Division with light and fuel included.”[1]

In their discussions, the Colonel outlined that he would have no hesitation in recommending Taffy for the position of Master Tailor for the Royal North West Mounted Police.  Without much delay, Taffy applied for the available position and received the recommendation from his Colonel – who immediately made contact with the British Minister of Defence.

Joined the Force

Taffy’s application for the position was received and accepted by Jack White and supported by Commissioner Bowen Perry.

Upon being accepted for the position, Taffy was advised to report directly to the Royal North West Mounted Police Commissioner in Regina.  The King’s Royal Rifles Corps carpenters were delegated to pack and crate all Taffy’s family household effects for shipment to Canada.

Tickets covering the transportation from Winchester to Regina by steamer and train had been taken care of by the Canadian authorities in London.  Upon arriving in “Depot,” Taffy was sworn into the Force and assigned the regimental number of 5649.

Photograph of RCMP 'Depot' Division in 1913

Taffy had proceeded his family to Regina.  In November 1913, his family arrived at the railway station in Regina.  The weather considerably colder in Regina than what they were used to in Wales.

They were met by Taffy now wearing a RNWMP uniform, dressed for the cold, winter weather of Saskatchewan  He wore moccasins with grey woolen socks rolled over the top to keep the snow out, a pair of long black woolen socks, running from his feet to a point just below his knees and folded over the legs of his heavy blue breeches for a distance of 3 or 4 inches.  Taffy wore a scarlet tunic also heavy material, then on top of that a ¾ length buffalo coat.  He also wore a beaver cap that had flaps that could be pulled down over his ears along with beaver hide gauntlets, the type issued to Officers and senior N.C.O.

Photograph of RCMP Depot horses in 1914 to 1920.

Photograph of the RNWMP ‘Depot’ horses which were used by officers and staff to pull the ‘Depot’ carriage and sled. (Source of photo – Sheldon Boles)

From the train station on South Railway Street in Regina, they boarded a large landau-type carriage with sleigh runners.  It was being drawn by two jet black horses, highly groomed, with harness and brass cleaned and shined to perfection.  Once in the sleigh the teamster in winter dress covered us with large buffalo robes, to protect them from the cold.

In 1913, the RNWMP barracks were on the western outskirts of Regina, a city of about 22,000, was a typical army setup fashioned after various barracks in England.  The house allotted the Jones family, constructed of clapboards, had been brought west from eastern Canada, in sections, in the late 1800’s.  It consisted of six rooms, all on the same floor, bolted together with large nuts and bolts.  In the winter, these nuts and bolts were always covered with a heavy frost, inside and out.  There was no basement for the house,  The lower part of the house in the winter was stacked with horse manure, brought from the stables, to keep the frost out.  Each room, with the exception of the kitchen, provided with a cook stove, was equipped with large pot belly coal stove.  The stove was regularly stoked with coal and emptied of ashes each morning.

Twice a week, a member of the family would go to the Quarter Master Stores in the basement of “A” Block, with a large white cotton bag to pick up several loaves of bread delivered to the barracks by a local bakery.  Once a week, each family living at ‘Depot’ would receive their ration of 10 pounds of meat was also retrieved from the Quarter Master Stores.  After the Officer’s had their first pick of the best meat cuts being delivered, the Sergeant Major made his selection of meat.  Whatever meat cuts left over was distributed to the Staff Sergeants, Sergeants and Corporals.

In 1913, there were only a few automobiles in Regina.  However, no such vehicles were seen at “Depot.”   Horses and carts were the primary mode of transportation.

Photograph of Maggie Jones - sister of S/Sgt. John 'Taffy' Jones

Photograph of Maggie Jones – sister of S/Sgt. John ‘Taffy’ Jones (Source of photo – Kendall De Menech)

 

Several months after S/Sgt. John Jones arrived at “Depot,” his sister Maggie Jones arrived and was able to secure a position as a matron in the women’s gaol at the “Depot” Guardroom.

As a matron, her most notable experiences was a surprise to find a man in her bed.  One of the male prisoners had died suddenly in his cell early one evening.  Upon being informed of this death the Commissioner ordered that the corpse be held in barracks overnight before being transported to the undertaker in Regina.  The Commissioner was anxious that a complete and thorough investigation be made, so that no blame could be attached to the Force later on.  The Coroner was advised at once and a time set the following day for an inquest.

The Provost-Sergeant, not wanting to keep the body in the men’s cell in the Guardroom over night, due to possible complaints from other prisoners, and being aware that the matron was out-of-town on duty for a number of days and not expected to return to Regina for at least two days, had the prisoner’s body taken to Maggie’s room and placed in her bed with a white sheet over it.

Photograph of the NWMP, RNWMP & RCMP Guardroom in "Depot" in Regina

Photograph of the NWMP, RNWMP & RCMP Guardroom in “Depot” in Regina (Source of photo – RCMP Veterans’ Association – Vancouver Division)

However, plans changed and Maggie returned to Regina sooner than expected. When Maggie entered her bedroom it was totally dark.  Unable to find a light to brighten her room, she made her way towards her bed and sat on the edge of the bed.  It was at this moment, Maggie discovered a large lump on her bed.  She frantically sought for the droplight and when discovered she returned to her bed to find a dead male in her bed.  Apparently, Maggie let out a scream that would have woken the dead but not the fellow laying dead in her bed.  Upon receiving the wrath of Maggie, the Provost Sergeant had the corpse removed to a more suitable location.

Photograph of the wedding of Maggie Jones and Richard Nicholson on January 17, 1917.

Photograph of the wedding of Maggie Jones and Richard Nicholson on January 17, 1917. Seated left to righ back row: Taffy Jones, Sgt. Bullock, Sgt. Nicholson, Sgt. Thwaites, Maggie Jones, Helen (daughter of Supt. Watson) Nancy Jones (daughter of Taffy Jones) (Source of photo – Kendall De Menech)

As a matron, she made many trips to North Battleford with female prisoners.  While in this position, Maggie Jones met and later married Sergeant Richard Nicholson (Reg. #5611) in January 1917.

Photograph of RNWMP 'Depot' in 1915.  Building on left is A Block and B Block on right

Photograph of RNWMP ‘Depot’ in 1915. Base flag pole is in the foreground, A Block on the left and B Block on the right. (Source of photo – RCMP Veterans’ Association – Vancouver Division)

In the spring of 1920, a memorable event occurred at “Depot.”  The rope carrying the flag to the top of “Depot” flagpole came off the uppermost pulley and it could not be moved.  Acting Sergeant Ernest Knott (Reg. #5024) step forwarded and volunteered to shinny up the flag pool and place the rope on the pulley again.  Ernest Knott was a former merchant marine sailor and had many years of experience shinning up sailing masses. For his actions, he was awarded a gratuity of $10.00.

Photograph of the RCMP "Depot" Riding School burning down in 1920

Photograph of the RCMP “Depot” Riding School burning down in 1920 (Source of photo – RCMP Veterans’ Association – Vancouver Division)

Another major event of 1920 was when the large riding school at “Depot” burnt to the ground.  It was in 1929, when a replacement riding school was completed.

In 1920, the government changed the name of the Force from the Royal Northwest Mounted Police to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  With this change in name, the Force’s jurisdiction expanded all over Canada to enforce all the federal statutes.  With this name change, the headquarters of the Force transferred from Regina to Ottawa.

Photograph of Rachel Jones - sister of S/Sgt. John 'Taffy' Jones - RNWMP & RCMP member

Photograph of Rachel Jones – sister of S/Sgt. John ‘Taffy’ Jones – RNWMP & RCMP member

 

 

In 1921, another sister of Taffy arrived in Depot – Rachel Jones.  She was a Registered Nurse and was appointed the Matron of “Depot” Division post hospital and remained that position working alone side Surgeon Morrison for a number of years.  During World War I, Rachel had been a senior nursing sister with the British Army and was awarded the Royal Red Cross by King George V for gallantry in the field.  She had attended the wounded and sick soldiers in Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, India, Egypt, Salonika, Alexandria, Calcutta and the Dardanelles.

 

 

 

Wedding photograph of Rachel Jones and RCMP Cst. William Howe

Wedding photograph: (back row: unknown male & John ‘Taffy’ Jones. (Front row left to right: RCMP Cst. WIlliam Howe, Rachel Jones and Nancy Jones (daughter of John ‘Taffy’ Jones)

She eventually married Constable William Ernest Howe (Reg. #9722) who was a former Captain in the British Army.

Photograph of S/Sgt. John 'Taffy' Jones as a member of the RNWMP

Photograph of S/Sgt. John ‘Taffy’ Jones as a member of the RNWMP (Source of photo – Kendall De Menech)

In the late fall of 1924, Taffy received word from the Commissioner that he was being transferred to the RCMP Headquarters in Ottawa.  With this move, Taffy was directed to setup a large tailor shop. It was the wish of the Commissioner to have uniforms made from scratch instead of the previous practice of having the uniforms manufactured in Montreal.  This new approach was undertaken as it was viewed to be more economical and efficient.  The shop was located on the top floor of a building occupied by “A” Division at 167 Queen Street, in close proximity of the House of Commons.

Taffy supervised the alterations to the top floor of “A” Division building, having carpenters and other artisans of the Department of Public Works at his beckon and call.  Battleship linoleum was placed on the floor throughout, many rooms of various sizes constructed, a large cutting room, stockroom, fitting room, pattern room, office and a large working space for tailors, both male and female, the majority of them being proficient in the construction of tunics, breeches and slacks.  Many machines were acquired by the purchasing agent of the Force, button-hole machines, fur machines, sewing machines and cutting machines.  The building as a whole had its drawbacks, however, there was no elevator despite the fact the old building, formerly a Public Works workshop was four stories high.  The entire structure was a great haven for rats.

As the master tailor, Taffy was instrumental in making many progressive changes to the uniform of Force members.  Some of his changes were:

– eliminating the heavy, hot, woolen material from breeches, slacks, brown-and-red serge tunics;

– replacing same with a lighter and more expensive cloth;

– dispensed with the heavy grey, woolen socks and extra heavy two-piece woolen underwear that itched    from the time you put it on in the fall until removed in the spring, the weekly laundering making no difference.

With this single tailor shop, Taffy effectively coordinated all staff work and supplies being available to ensure a new replacement uniform was provided to each member of the Force each year.   Clearly, this was a masterful undertaking which Taffy was able to provide to the satisfaction of the Force members.

Passes Away

On September 12, 1927 and still in the Force, Taffy suddenly passed away. His sudden death was a shock to everyone.  In Ottawa, he received a full military funeral with gun carriage and many pall bearers.  Taffy was laid to rest at the Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, Ontario.

Clearly, Taffy loved the Force.  Three of his sons joined the Force:

Reg. # 10038 – Trooper Dave Jones    

Reg. #10139 – S/Sgt. John Jones

Reg. #10351 – Constable Thomas Jones

Two of his sisters married members of the Force:

Reg. #5611 – Sergeant Richard Nicholson (killed on December 31, 1928 when wrestling with a moonshiner who grabbed a rifle.  Rifle discharged during the struggle and Richard Nicholson was wounded and died a short time thereafter).

Reg. # 9722 – Constable Bill Howe (killed in a motor vehicle accident in January 1924 just outside Punnichy Saskatchewan)

The Force has attracted many different individuals to the ranks of the Force.  Taffy was one of those notable Force members.

Photo - Sheldon Boles author of article block

[1] Jones, John – “Memories Of Depot Division: R.N.W.P. & R.C.M.P – 1913-1926” – Scarlet & Gold magazine (60th edition – 1978) – page 7.

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