The history of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland officially joined Canada at midnight, March 31st, 1949. The next day, April first, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officially arrived in the country’s newest province. But the RCMP actually arrived in the province on March 21st, 1949. On that date, eight Mounties arrived by RCMP aircraft to form the first permanent troop in the newly created ‘B’ Division.
The first eight included: #11392 Inspector Tony D.A. McKinnon, #12035 Sgt. Bernard Peck, #10544 Sgt. Theodore Bolstad, #12373 Cst. Alexander Gillespie, #11761 Cst. Alexander Ewing, #11686 Cst. Bernard Harvey, #12627 Cpl. Lawrence Gilchrist, and #12642 Cst. Archibald Watson.
The next day, #14510 Cst. Joseph A. Pinto arrived on the ferry driving the first marked RCMP police car to be used on the Island.
They had their work cut out for them. Their duties included: setting up the new ‘B’ Division Head Quarters on Kenna’s Hill, and begin preparations for the planned absorption of Newfoundland Rangers.
The RCMP took over the duties of the former Newfoundland Rangers and members of the Newfoundland Constabulary serving outside St. John's.
The Force was given a policing contract for all of Newfoundland and Labrador except for the capital city.
For the first year, RCMP Members performed Federal duties. Then on August first, 1950 fifty-five Members of the Newfoundland Rangers and thirty-five Members of the Newfoundland Constabulary became Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It was the beginning of the RCMP’s contract policing history in this province.
Eventually the growth in the establishment of the RCMP led to the force opening sub-division headquarters in Corner Brook and St. John's in 1954. As the force continued to expand, sub-divisions were then added in Gander and Labrador.
Although the RCMP absorbed the Newfoundland Rangers and members of the Newfoundland Constabulary they were not the first Newfoundlanders to join the Force.
That honour goes to Regimental No. 2178 Constable Ernest Peyton who joined the North West Mounted Police, the forerunner of the RCMP, in 1888. He was the son of a prominent family from Twillingate and was believed to be 21 at the time. Cst. Peyton served for only three months. He succumbed to a sudden illness on September 25, 1888. A plaque honouring Cst. Peyton is proudly displayed at the Twillingate Museum.
Cst. Patrick J. Whelan from Placentia was eighteen when he joined the NWMP in 1911. Cst. Whelan served at several postings on the prairies. In 1914, war broke out in France and Canada began to mobilize to contribute to the aid of the British. In 1915, Cst. Whelan left the Mounties and enlisted with the 50th Battalion in Calgary. He was sent to France in 1916 and was injured several times in front-line action. On April 25, 1917, he was killed in action during a night reconnaissance mission at Fresnoy, in the battle for Vimy Ridge. He was buried in a military cemetery at Villers du Bois near Arras.
Two RCMP Members were killed on duty in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Cst. Terry Hoey was 21 years old when he was serving in Botwood, November 6, 1958. Cst. Hoey, along with two other RCMP members, responded to a domestic dispute between the owner of a local restaurant and his son. After getting no response from inside the living quarters of the restaurant and fearing for the son’s life, the three members entered a side window and knocked on the living room door. They received no answer and found the door had been heavily barricaded. They called out to the owner and asked him to open the door. Immediately a shotgun blast ripped through the wood of the closed door striking Cst. Hoey in the chest. He died at the scene. A great part of his family’s sorrow was in knowing that Terry had wanted to be a policeman all his life and that wish had led him to his death.
Cst. Robert Amey was 24 years old when he was killed December 17, 1964 in Whitbourne. Four men broke out of Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s. They stole a car and headed west along the Trans-Canada Highway. Near Whitbourne, they ran through an RCMP roadblock that had been set up by Csts. David Keith and Robert Amey. A chase ensued, and the four fugitives soon abandoned their car and ran for cover. They were discovered hiding in Whitbourne. Even though they were cornered, they refused to surrender. Amey went to the car radio and called for help. When Amey was in the cruiser, the four rushed Cst. Keith and after beating him severely, took away his service revolver. When Amey came running back, he could see that Keith was down and one of the fugitives was armed. Amey attempted to hold the prisoners at gun point but the fugitive fired three shots, one of which hit Amey in the chest.
Four RCMP members who were born in Newfoundland and Labrador have their names engraved on the Honour Roll:
Cst. Richard William GREEN - Died 6 August 1958 along the East Shore of Skaha Lake, BC while performing his duty (spotter)when the RCMP Aircraft he was in crashed.
Cst. Derek Thomas IVANY - Died 24 June 1971 at St. Arthur, NB., while performing his duties in a Police Vehicle Accident.
Cst. Lindbergh Bruce DAVIS - Died 8 December 1979 at Portage Le Prairie, Manitoba while performing his duties in a Police/Train Accident.
Cst. Douglas Ambrose Mark BUTLER - Died 16 October 1982 near Oxbow, Saskatchewan, while performing his duties in a Police Vehicle Accident.
The image of Sgt. Reg Gulliford is displayed on the Conception Bay South Monument of Honour, a solemn tribute to those who serve, and have served. On March 6th, 1986, Sgt. Gulliford and his partner, Special Constable Rob Thomas were in Powerview, Manitoba when they were shot while on duty. Special Constable Thomas died at the scene and Sgt. Gulliford was seriously injured. He underwent 29 operations and by September 1987 was back on his feet. Incredibly, he returned to work with the RCMP in St. John's the following January. Gulliford worked at RCMP Headquarters in St. John's until his death at the age of forty-six. He died January 13, 2008 after a courageous battle with a rare form of cancer that was related to radiation exposure. This exposure was from the endless X-rays to help him recover. As always Sgt. Gulliford faced this terrible disease with strength of character and a positive approach. Sgt. Gulliford is buried in the Buchans Community Cemetery in Buchans, NL.
On September 16, 1974, three women from Newfoundland and Labrador made Canadian policing history when they were sworn into the RCMP’s first female troop. They included: Cheryl LaFosse, Gail Courtney, and Rose Marie Russell-Coffee. While LaFosse and Courtney were posted to the mainland, Cst. Russell-Coffey was posted to Corner Brook in 1975, making her the first female police officer in Newfoundland and Labrador.
On August first, 2020, the RCMP celebrates their 70th anniversary in Newfoundland and Labrador. Since Confederation in 1949, the Force has become entrenched in the history of the province. They held the line at the Badger Riot in 1959, engaged in a pursuit on the high seas with two Spanish trawlers that kidnapped two Fisheries Officers, in 1986 processed the Tamil refugees, responded to the Arrow Air Flight DC-8 crash on Dec. 12, 1985 that killed all 256 American soldiers and crew. RCMP Members coordinated the response on September 11, 2001 during the terrorist attacks that brought 17,000 international airline passengers who landed in the province.
The RCMP has been sown into the cultural fabric of the province through well-known iconic songs like Aunt Martha’s Sheep. The image of a Mountie standing proudly is depicted in the painting ‘The History of Newfoundland’ by artist Harold Goodridge which is hung in the lobby of the Confederation Building in St. John’s.
The RCMP’s history in Newfoundland and Labrador has been document in two books: The Mounties: The First Fifty Years in Newfoundland and Labrador, edited by Gerald Leahy, for the RCMP Veterans' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.
In Search of Adventure: 70 Years of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The RCMP NL Veterans Association was formed in 1977 by a group of retired members. It has been continually active since that time.
Today the Newfoundland and Labrador RCMP Veterans Association have approximately 300 members throughout the Province. The Association is active as a social committee, regularly supporting veterans, their families, RCMP events and our communities.
The NL RCMP Veterans Association has made many contributions to numerous charitable organizations. They participated in the provincial Adopt a Highway program for ten years, volunteered at senior’s residences on special occasions, assisted at shelters serving and feeding persons in need and volunteer to run the RCMP’s annual Klondike Night.
Our Veterans continually volunteer at George Street United Church, The Gathering Place and Choices for Youth, among others.
The NL Veterans Association also offers camaraderie through an annual breakfast for the staff at B Division Headquarters, a monthly supper/ meeting for Veterans, annual summer BBQ and auction where money raised is donated to charity.
Our Veterans march and stand proudly along side our serving members during the Remembrance Day Ceremony, Memorial Day and during the annual Police Officers Memorial.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Veterans Association – We are proud to have served, and we are proud to be Veterans.
Find these and more RCMP stories in: In Search of Adventure – 70 years of the RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador by Helen C. Escott available at: Chapters, and Coles. Also, online at indigo.ca Apple – iTunes, Nook – (Barnes & Noble), Amazon, and Kobo. National and international orders can be placed by calling 1-866-739-4420 ext. #22 or you can send e-mail email@example.com