Thursday, November 15, 2012

Herbert Saunders Part 3: Constable H. Saunders of the Royal North West Mounted Police

Constable Herbert Saunders

Herbert Charles Saunders engaged with the Royal North West Mounted Police on March 22, 1905, for a period of five years. His application, dated March 18, 1905, gives his address as Danford Lake, P.Q., his age as twenty, his height as 5’8”, and his occupation for the past five years as “farming”. He answered “yes” to “understands the care and management of horses and can ride well”. A Charles Warwicker wrote a letter of reference for Herbert, stating that Herbert is going to Ottawa to look for work, and although not being at all acquainted with city life,  is a “good, honest hard working young man”, and that  he “was brought up in these parts since about eight years of age, but was born in England and sent to this country. In fact, he has quite a history”. Indeed. He is described in his medical examination, as “complexion: fair”, “eyes: grey”, and “hair: light brown”. Interestingly, eleven years after leaving England as a child, he still names his father James Saunders as his next of kin, and gives an address for him in Bootle, which is different from James’s address when Herbert entered the Liverpool Sheltering Home. Although there were no letters in the file of that institution, this is a clue that there may have been some communication between father and son, even through third parties, during Herbert’s childhood.

Constable Herbert Saunders was made to pay for all his own transportation, which was deducted from his pay, including the journey from Ottawa, Ontario to Regina, Saskatchewan. He appears to have been stationed there at first, but by April 1907 is stationed in Moosamin, Saskatchewan, which happens to be where William and Emma Cook, late of Helpringham, Lincolnshire, are living with their children, including Herbert’s future wife, Faith. William Cook is described in a local history as one of the “original settlers” of the area. Family lore is that Faith and Herbert met when he escorted her drunken father home one night.

By October 8, 1907, Herbert is stationed at Norway House, Manitoba, which seems to have been a remote outpost further north. He receives an increase in pay due to “Yukon service” around this time, but this is the only evidence he was ever in the “Yukon” as such. He always claimed to have worked in the “Yukon”, and to have known the poet, Robert Service. He always said he had done Service a good turn, which seems to have been helping him with an injury, which may have been to his nose. Herbert was known by his family in later life as being a “teller of tall tales”, but some or all of them may have been true despite seeming far-fetched. For example, It is quite possible that Herbert’s claim that he spoke Cree was true, as Norway House is home to a Cree Nation. He also told a story about a man at a camp he was working at walking down the centre of the table to get something he wanted. Next, on August 27, 1908, Herbert was transferred to Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, which was closer to Faith Cook and her family, but still quite far away.

Herbert is granted furlough with pay from February 22nd to March 21, 1910, the last day of his Royal North West Mounted Police service, to “attend to important business in Winnipeg”. He and Faith Cook are married three days after his service ends, on March 24, 1910, at the St. Andrew Anglican Church in Winnipeg. Upon his discharge from the force, the quality of his service is designated "Very Good", the second highest possible standard. Perhaps he did not achieve "Exemplary" status due to having been absent from his post early on in his career.

Their first child, Clara Evelyn Hope Saunders, is born April 8, 1911. Shortly thereafter, the young family moves to Vancouver.

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