Topic February / March 2023. Back in August 2016 we posted a page Supporting the Authorities about the Legion supporting the legal authorities around the Commonwealth, even at times when the legal authorities’ causes might have been considered by some people as doubtful. We raised at that time a number of stories about Canada. In this topic page we will concentrate on Canada and the Frontiersmen’s support as official auxiliaries to both provincial police forces and to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It was with great pride that the Legion accepted official affiliation to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1937. Sadly, this affiliation was to last no more than a couple of years due to one of the very public internal squabbles which have plagued the Legion of Frontiersmen throughout its existence. Fortunately, even though the official affiliation was ended, both the R.C.M.P. and provincial police still found it to their advantage to utilise the Frontiersmen as auxiliaries throughout Canada. With such a large country with great distances to be covered, it was to the advantage of official police to use the services of these well-trained, uniformed, and self-supporting disciplined men locally and ignore any internal disputes which continued to fester in the higher echelons of the Legion. We will here cast a searchlight on some of the events in Canada, although we must emphasise that we are just nibbling at the edges of what is a much bigger story needing considerable research in Canada. We hope we will provoke much thought.
In several earlier topics we have raised the subject of the great fear between the wars of the threat of ‘Bolshevism’ to Western democracy, That fear existed in Canada, particularly in the R.C.M.P.. The Police had to ensure that strikes and demonstrations remained peaceful. The ability to call on the Frontiersmen as auxiliaries was a bonus, especially as Frontiersmen were usually pretty tough characters unafraid of a bit of physicality. This is a subject which, as we said, needs some deep research. At the start of WW2 there was an additional problem with the numbers of Germans settled, particularly in Western Canada, whose loyalties could be at best divided. Many German immigrants or of German descent only sought a peaceful existence, particularly in Canada where they could follow their own religious beliefs without persecution. Any who had exhibited leadership in extremist political parties, such as ones supporting Nazi doctrines, were interned largely at the instigation of the R.C.M.P.,especially in Western Canada. Steve Hewitt, who has written considerably and critically about the R.C.M.P., holds the firm opinion that the R.C.M.P. were more concerned about communists, socialists and strikers than about those who supported far-right groups and those who were even supporters of Hitler and his policies.
The 1930s ended with Canada again at war and the RCMP with additional concerns involving radicals of the far left and right, although the state viewed the former as particularly troublesome because they were too different. Commissioner Wood informed the Canadian public in 1941 that Nazis were not the biggest threat to Canada.¹
This was not the opinion of the Canadian Frontiersmen who were firmly loyalist and determined that Germany should be defeated. They were not afraid to express their opinion, even in areas where there were German settlers. The following is a letter written by Frontiersman George Burlo on 3rd November 1939 to Lt-Col. Louis Scott, Commandant of Canadian Division Legion of Frontiersmen:
Sir: This letter to you will take the effect of a statement. I live in Shepenge. My home town is Two Hills, Alberta.
On October 20th I was waylaid on my way home from Two Hills by three men and I received a severe beating at their hands, thrown over a fence and left there. The reason for the beating was that I had made the statement earlier in the evening that I did not wish to see Hitler win his war.
Without doubt, the men responsible for the beating were Hitler sympathisers. For some time they had been trying to get me to join a secret Nazi society, and I had refused to listen to them, as I am a naturalised citizen, of Rumanian origin and had served overseas in the last war, serving with the 8th CRT in France.
I am bringing my complaint to you for the reason that I believe that this district and these men should be investigated as I really fear for my life, and also for the reason that as a loyal British subject I think a matter of this kind should be investigated without delay.
Hoping that the Government will take some action in this matter, I remain.
George Burlo ²
There is no record in the files of any result to this complaint.
The editor of “The Winnipeg Tribune”, C.V. Combe, was convinced that there was an active Fifth Column in Canada working for the Germans. In a full page article Frontiersmen Help To Keep Canada Safe For Democracy on Saturday May 24th 1941 he wrote:
…Winnipeg, at almost the geographic centre of North America, is as safe as any place in the world. We are defended on the north by the Eskimos [Innuit], on the south by the United States, on the east by the British navy, and on the west by coast defences and the Rocky Mountains. Incidentally, we now have a sizeable army, navy and air force of our own – thanks to the war.
That same war has brought to Winnipeg no present threat of bombing or invasion. But it has created a real danger, nonetheless. There is an active German Fifth Column here as in all other cities throughout the world.
Last summer the Fifth Column stuck its head above ground with clamorous claims of early and inevitable German victory. Then, woe to all who were not Nazi tools nor Nazi slaves. They did everything but parade their Winnipeg Quisling. He was probably languishing in an internment camp, thanks to the efforts of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Simple, loyal, peace-loving citizens who did not know how to protect themselves against these Hun sympathisers were threatened more than the usual run of us. And their complaints revealed a very present danger and, incidentally, brought much hysteria to the surface….
Here in Manitoba and some other provinces volunteer, energetic, auxiliary police forces were sworn in to supplement the local and Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Chief of these groups, of course, were the Manitoba Volunteer Force which has companies in 40 Manitoba towns and the Legion of Frontiersmen which did heavy recruiting, particularly in the Greater Winnipeg area.
In a recent issue of The Tribune magazine the M.V.R. and its work were explained. This article aims to do the same thing for the Legion of Frontiersmen, showing its place in the Home Defense picture. With some 300 active members in five squadrons in Winnipeg and a sixth in Neepawa the organisation is going great guns.
The aim and function of the Legion of Frontiersmen in these perilous times is to act as a special police reserve to the local and R.C.M.P….in order to keep Canada safe for democracy… It is a worthwhile job in these days when history is being written perilously and in blood…
The full page was well illustrated with photographs of local area Frontiersmen and showing them practising first aid, rifle and revolver shooting and learning unarmed combat; the whole article reassuring to local citizens worried about possible enemies in their midst. He quotes from a Canadian Frontiersmen magazine:
“The name Frontiersman has long been a tradition; he was a man considered capable of tackling any job that came along, and in our organisation there is a place for all, as there is no age limit, and a place for one’s special interest as a hobby, be it radio, riding, telegraph, transport, engineering, flying, boating, first aid, etc..
We are really, more or less, a corps of irregulars composed of men of experience and trained in various capacities.
We are a voluntary, self-governing, self-supporting body, with no political creed, banded together to be of service to our country in time of need, or when called upon…” ³
In 1942 the Germans bombed a British factory which was making highly secret sonic submarine detectors. It was decided to move production to Canada for security and the stables of the famous Casa Loma in Toronto were chosen as a site unlikely to be discovered by saboteurs:
…A picked staff of twenty started assembling those detectors. The employees staggered working hours, entering and leaving singly. Parts were shipped in by private cars. Doors were guarded day and night. Sometimes as many as 1,000 tourists a day passed within a few feet of these stable doors, being told by the guide the stables were under repair.
The members of ‘B’ Squadron, Toronto, Ontario Command, are proud that they did their part in guarding this war plant, having from two to six men on duty any night that the Castle was open to the public, and only three members of the Squadron actually knew what was going on behind these doors.4
There is an excellent paper on Nazi Sabotage in Canada by Grant Grams which serves as a useful background.
On September 4, 1939, six days before Canada went to war, three hundred and three Germans and German-Canadians were arrested. The public appeared to be grateful that these individuals were detained. When the Phoney War (September 1939 – May 1940) ended in Western Europe fears raged about fifth columnists in Canada… The Globe and Mail (Oct. 10, 1939) informed its readers, “if history means anything they [Germans] are equipped with money, leadership, brains, dynamite, bombs and poison… These Nazi thugs will stop at nothing.” In early 1940 an inquiry into the possible release of enemy aliens interned in Kananaskis revealed that the majority of interned Germans expressed loyalty to Hitler and the Third Reich…
How many agents were active in North America is unknown, but between 1939 and 1945 the fear of sabotage required increased safety measures, thus holding Canadians at home that were otherwise destined for Europe. Nazi sabotage in Canada during World War Two did occur, although denied by the RCMP within the official history of Canada. These sabotage acts reveal a government unprepared to protect the nation, the RCMP were more worried about public opinion and saving face than service to the state through truth and transparency. The lack of research on Canadian security between 1939 and 1945 serves to continue the unsubstantiated myth of the Mounties as a consistently competent law enforcement agency… It can be accurately stated that sabotage by Nazi elements did occur in Canada, yet exact figures remain a matter of historical debate. 5
There is doubtless much more to be discovered regarding the Frontiersmen’s work as auxiliaries during World War 2.
After the end of the Second World War there was still a demand for the Frontiersmen to assist various police forces across Canada. The complaint of lack of money to support public services is far from a new one. A highly disciplined and well-trained uniformed body of men (and women) keen to serve the community as volunteers was welcomed with open arms. On January 14th 1948 “A” (Vancouver) Squadron, British Columbia, held their annual dinner. Guests were the Chief of Police, W. Mulligan, Superintendent W. Lemon of the Traffic Department, and Colonel Hill, whom they recorded as an ex-Commissioner of the R.C.M.P. and ex-member of the Vancouver Police Commission. The three main local newspapers sent representatives who faithfully reported the proceedings:
Chief Mulligan informed the members that he had received authority from the Police Commission to recruit a reserve Police Force to the number of one hundred men and he recommended that “A” (B.C.) Squadron endeavour to increase their membership to this number so that the Reserve Force would be comprised solely of members of the Legion of Frontiersmen, who could thus serve under their own officers…
On January 21st the Squadron received the first lecture on Police Training from Superintendent G. Lefler. The lecture was given in the lecture room of Bessborough Armouries…
On the 17th March, the Chief of Police himself inspected the Squadron at the Bessborough Armouries and had a word to say to every member on parade. Following the inspection he gave a very interesting talk to the Squadron in the lecture room, enlarging upon his idea as to the duties which the Squadron would be called on to perform as members of the Police Reserve…
June 30th saw the Squadron on parade at Callister Park. This was at the request of the Police Department, who were hosts to a number of visiting Police Officers from various points in the United States. The visitors put on a splendid display of horsemanship and a huge crowd enjoyed the show. By their attendance they again assisted the cause of charity.
The following day a parade was held through downtown Vancouver. Units of the R.C.M.P. the Provincial Police, and the Vancouver City Police headed the parade followed by Navy, Army, and Air Force units and mounted and motor-cycle units represented at the gymkhana the previous evening. “A” (B.C.) Squadron, as the Vancouver Police Reserve, marched immediately behind the City Police Detachment…much favourable comment was heard regarding the appearance of the Legion of Frontiersmen on parade…
In August Lt.-Col. Louis Scott, commanding Canadian Division, visited and a dinner was held in his honour at the Georgia Hotel. Chief Mulligan was also in attendance. The following day a meeting was held at Police HQ with Louis Scott:
Also discussed was the forthcoming Convention of Police Chiefs of Canada to be held in Vancouver at which time Chief Mulligan promised to bring to the attention of the visiting Chiefs the various units of the Legion of Frontiersmen throughout the Dominion and the possibility of swearing them in, in their respective locations, as Reserve Police. 6
In May 1946 “W” Squadron of Windsor Ontario was accepted by the Windsor Police Department and sworn in as Special Police Constables. Eight years later in 1954 they were still carrying out much praised duties:
One of the main objectives is our constant fight in combating Juvenile Delinquency in an effort to protect our younger generation from the horrors which often endanger their very lives in this fast-moving age in which we are now living. 7
It may come as a surprise to read that teenage tearaways were a problem even all those years ago, although those teenagers – if still living – are now sedate elderly citizens who would tell you that they have been good law-abiding people all their lives.
Moving on to 1961 and the Province of Manitoba:
Frontiersmen have been putting in as much as fifteen hours a week on auxiliary police duties. Our men work along with the R.C.M.P. and City Police. They take on such duties as convoy, transportation, street and traffic control.
Each year on the first Sunday of June, we celebrate our Decoration Day Parade, on which we assemble, have an inspection and march out with [Winnipeg] City Police. On completion of this our men are placed on all street corners to control traffic and keep order, Twice each year we assist the Transcona Police with a large detachment of our Frontiersmen. In addition we respond to numerous calls for duties chiefly in Police work. 8
And so the Frontiersmen continued for many years across Canada until the numbers dwindled and younger people found countless other ways of using their spare time. We can only here just scratch the surface of this story and of course we will add to it when more interesting snippets come to light. The work of the Frontiersmen with the Police forces is a far bigger story and one in need of much more extensive research.
INDEX TO ILLUSTRATIONS:
1. Frontiersmen parade at Winnipeg, believed to be 1939, led by Fred Riley, M.C. and Bar, Manitoba Commandant of Legion of Frontiersmen.
2. Some of the varied Auxiliary Police shields from across Canada worn on left breast above pocket.
3. Casa Loma, Toronto
4. Quebec Frontiersmen 1960, note the Police shields being worn.
Photos 1,4, courtesy of Legion of Frontiersmen Archive, Bruce Peel Collection, University of Alberta.
Photo 2 by courtesy from the collection of Historian Dean Bruckshaw.
We regret we have been unable to locate the source for photo 3.
1 “Riding to the Rescue – The Transformation of the RCMP in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1914-1939”, University of Toronto Press, 2006, p.139
2 Letter reproduced by kind permission of Legion of Frontiersmen, Canadian Division. The original letter is now held at the Legion of Frontiersmen archive in the Bruce Peel Collection, University of Alberta.
3 “The Winnipeg Tribune”, May 14th 1941, page 3
4 “History of the Legion of Frontiersmen, with particular reference to Legion of Frontiersmen Canadian Division” Regina, Canada n.d. 1980(?) p.184
5 “Enemies within our bosom: Nazi Sabotage in Canada” Grant Grams
“Journal of Military and Strategic Studies”, volume 14, issues 3 and 4, 2012
(© Centre of Military and Strategic Studies, 2012 ISSN : 1488-559X)
6 “A” (B.C.) Squadron Historical Diary 1948, Legion of Frontiersmen Canadian Division HQ Edmonton. Original document at the Legion of Frontiersmen archive, Bruce Peel Special Collection, University of Alberta.
7 Canadian Division magazine March 1955. Legion of Frontiersmen Canadian Division HQ. Edmonton. Original magazines are at the Legion of Frontiersmen archive, Bruce Peel Special Collection, University of Alberta.
8 Canadian Division magazine, June 1961. Legion of Frontiersmen Canadian Division HQ. Edmonton. Original magazines are at the Legion of Frontiersmen archive, Bruce Peel Special Collection, University of Alberta.
© Copyright Geoffrey A. Pocock. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form, in part or in full, without prior permission.