Vancouver Division: 100th Anniversary




On May 19th of this year, the RCMP Veterans’ Association – Vancouver Division marks their 100th anniversary.

The early history of the Vancouver Division was first outlined in an article entitled “How We Started” and was published in the 31st edition of the Scarlet & Gold magazine (page 129).

Noted article was written by retired Cpl. Charles Robert Filtness (Reg. #3095) who was on the original Executive Committee and was elected to the post of Treasurer.

Portion of his article has been included below to provide Association members a bit of history on the origin of our Vancouver Division:

Some people may not be interested, others may wonder why we have such an institution as this Royal North West Mounted Police Veterans’ Association.

Prior to the spring of the year 1913, ex-members of the Force were continually meeting with others, talking over old times and enjoying the exchanging of yearns.  On one occasion, three old-timers met, and knowing that there were several others in the city they decided to put an advertisement in the local papers stating that a meeting would be held and for all those interested to attend.

Photograph of Chaplain Lewis Hooper - RNWMP Chaplain for Vancouver Division


One, very interested in having this organization started, had in his younger days sailed the seven seas, and his ship, having arrived at an eastern Canadian Port in the early 1880’s, took his discharge and thereby ceased to be a sailor.  Swallowed the anchor for good.  He had heard of the North West Mounted Police, and decided that might be the life for him.  Arriving at Regina he was medically checked over, sworn in, allotted a regimental number given a uniform of Scarlet and Gold, and was then known as Constable H.C. Lewis Hooper (Reg. #878).  He took part in the Riel Rebellion in 1885 and in a very few years to that of Sergeant Major.

After the South African war, in which S/M Hooper was engaged, he returned to Regina and took his discharge from the Force with a pension, a changed man in many ways, for he studied for the ministry of the Church of England, and in due course became the rector of All Saints Church on Victoria Drive in Vancouver, B.C.  The Rev. Lewis Hooper kindly allowed us the use of the Sunday school (which was the basement of the church) for our first meeting on May 19, 1913, at which there was about seventy ex-members of the Force present, all of whom enthusiastically declared that we should form an association and meet often.  A motion was carried accordingly.

Officer elected at the organizational meeting were:

Photograph of the first RNWMP Veterans' Association President and two vice-presidents

President, Lt. Col. Lawrence W. Herchmer (Reg. #O.72), ex-commissioner of the Force.

Vice-Presidents: Lt. Col. John H. McIllree, (Reg. #6 – O.13) D.S.O., ex-assistant commissioner and Major A.E. Snyder.

Adjutant: Cyril C. Kernahan.(Reg. #4688)

Secretary: P.S. Howard (Reg. #4101)

Treasurer: C.R. Filtness (Reg. #3095)

Chaplain: Rev. H.C. Lewis Hooper (Reg. #878)

Executive Committee:

Herman des Barres (Reg. #1034)

Sydney H. Goodall (Reg. #3142)

Sydney Burgoyne (Reg. #2031)

William Latimer (Reg. #355)

Gilbert Mathewson (Reg. #1280)and

Reginald A. Meakin (Reg. #4684)

A committee was appointed to prepare the by-laws and a constitution which were subsequently adopted, but have now, after the experience of serveral years been subject to some minor changes to suit the changed conditions.  But one of the main objects for which the association was formed and which is still maintained is “To hold itself as a body at the service of the Government of Canada when called upon.”  Also “To assist in every way the parent body.” (Now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police).

Monthly meetings were commenced and nearly every member had a proposal of some kind to bring forward for the cause.  One member proposed – and successfully – that the Association maintain an official record of its decisions in a certain local magazine, but at a subsequent meeting it was decided, after much criticism to discontinue this method of recording and especially so as the name of the magazine was “The Animal Gazette.”

But our London (England) correspondent Mr. A.M. deBeck, Editor-in-chief of Canadian News was to be supplied with full details of the organization.

The first annual general meeting was held in the conservative club rooms, 601 Granville Street Vancouver on September 5th, 1913.  Divisions were in the course of formation in other cities: Victoria, BC and Ottawa included.  Lt. Col. McIllree came over from Victoria to preside, and many new resolutions for the welfare of the Association were recommended.  Guest speakers for the occasion were Captain George H. Sloan and Lt. Frank Corchester of the Legion of Frontiersman.  During the succeeding months of this year meetings were held regularly, club rooms having been secured at 570 Granville Street, and furnished by donations of chairs, desks and other necessities, including an interesting library from several members of the Association.

The key to the rooms was kept in its usual place above the door, thereby being accessible to the members at all times.  The meetings also were held here.

Looking back now upon this our first year of operation, it is most difficult to understand why so many members were continually bringing forward new resolutions and motions for the god and welfare of the Association.  Nor does it appear unreasonable that some of the older members, meeting others for the first time in several years, should remind one another of amusing and sometimes ridiculous experiences during their term of service as Mounted Policemen.  For instance, a sergeant seized a suspicious looking keg from a freighter’s wagon while travelling along the trail.  The driver had previously been convicted of carrying a keg of whisky, with other freight, strictly against the law, and says the sergeant, “here he is with another one.”  The case would naturally come before a magistrate with the newly acquired keg as exhibit “A.”  The lawyer for the accused asked the sergeant what the keg contained, “whisky of course” said the sergeant, “wait” said the lawyer, “let’s have the bung punched before this man is convicted.” The court waited until a brace and bit were obtained and a hole bored.  The lawyer put his nose into the hose then invited the sergeant to do the same.  The lawyer addressed the court.  The sergeant – blushingly – was silent.  The magistrate in deep sincerity said “case dismissed.”  It was a keg of coal oil, and the sergeant hereafter was always known as “Coal oil Johnny.”

The year 1914 commenced with its regular meetings.  A new division had been formed in Winnipeg.  Letters were sent to the Right Honourable R.L. Borden, the Prime Minister, through Mr. H.H. Stevens, M.P., suggesting that recognition by the Government of Canada be given in the form of land grants to the members of the North West Mounted Police who took part in the fighting during the Riel Rebellion, as had been done to all other volunteers who had taken part.  But even after much voluminous correspondence and the sending of a delegate to Ottawa during the Sessions no land grants were forthcoming, the Government evidently being unwilling to open up this matter after laying dormant for so many years.

The sick and visiting committee during April and May of this year (1914) were busy.  Mr. H.J. Batten had a very serious operation.  Gordon Rolph – a very old-timer – was having difficult time owing to illness.  William (old Bill) Ritchie, one of the original members of the Force, was in a home for the aged, and was visited regularly.  In the following month, we regretfully attended the funeral of Mrs. Snyder, wife of Major A.E. Snyder (vice president).

On July 31, 1914, the Executive Committee and it was resolved to send the following telegraph to Prime Minister Sir Robert L. Borden, Ottawa: –

“At a meeting of the executive committee of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police Veterans’ Association held this morning it was decided in view of the serious aspect of the International situation to respectfully request you to refer to paragraph B, Section 2, of our constitution wherein we pledge ourselves to service of the Government of Canada when called upon and through you to tender our unrestricted services to the Minister of Militia and Defence.  Our Divisions at Vancouver, Victoria, Prince Alberta, Medicine Hat and Regina have been instructed to hold themselves ready for service and at the disposal of the Department of Militia and Defence at their individual headquarters.”

A reply was received from the Prince Minister expressing his appreciation of the offer from the Association.

A special committee meeting was held at 4 p.m., August 4th 1914.  Members present were Major Snyder (chairman) Goodall, Filtness, Reid, Kernahan, de Barres, McDConnell and P.S. Howard.  It was suggested by the chairman a letter be forwarded to the Premier of British Columbia, Sir Richard McBride, enclosing a copy of our telegram previously sent to the Government of Canada should war become a fact.  But while the resolution was being discussed, newsboys passed our window  shouting “Britain declared war.”  This was the incentive that caused three of our members to volunteer to go to Victoria the following morning to present our cause personally to the Premier.  Major Snyder, McConnell and Filtness arrived at the parliament buildings in the afternoon of the 5th, to learn from Attorney General William Bowser that the Premier was in Seattle inspecting the submarines which the Government had purchased but that he was expected to return to Victoria by 6:30 that evening.

During our interview the Premier telephoned to Colonel Oglivie stating the purpose of our journey which was to organize a mounted brigade, taking on our members as a nucleus.  Major Snyder also offered his services personally, independently of the Association.  Colonel Oglivie suggested that a telegram be sent to Colonel Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia at Ottawa which was done immediately, but no reply was received.

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Soon after our journey to Victoria, Major Snyder received a telegram from Commissioner Perry, R.N.W.M.P., requesting him to enlist 500 ex-members of the Force 45 years of age and under, to pass a medical examination and be given transportation to Regina.  In a  comparatively short time the task was accomplished as several members of the Association, remembering the clause in the constitution to “assist” in every way the parent body, came forward and re-engaged, including  C.R. Filtness who had the privilege of assisting Major Snyder in attending to transportation and other details.  These enlistments were for the purpose of increasing the strength of the Force and to relieve other men, British Army Reservists and others who could be spared and were desirous of volunteering for war service.

Older members of the Association were not idle at this time, having organized what was later known as the Vancouver Volunteer Reserve.  Boys from 16 years of age and men of all ages could be seen two or three evenings marching down Georgia Street, headed by a bugle band to the Horse show building where drill instructors awaited them.  This Reserve, several hundred in number, became a rich supply for the active army recruiting sergeants until conscription became law, then those who were tool old or otherwise unfit for active service, continued to serve as a Home Guard.