THE LONGEST TRANSFER ??
I completed my Recruit Training at “N” Division in mid-June 1956 & was transferred to Cloverdale Detachment in “E” Division where I was teamed up with a Senior Constable, Donald J. Berkey. He had recently been transferred from Yellowknife Detachment in “G Division. Don was to be my trainer & mentor &, needless to say, he regaled me with stories of the North.
Consequently, I ended up applying to go North in 1957 &, much to my surprise, in mid-May 1958, I was informed that I was being transferred to Alexandra Fiord. No one, including Don, knew where this Detachment was other than it was in the High Arctic someplace.
My first stop on my transfer was to take the train to Edmonton & attend a 2 week Northern Familiarization Course which was held at the Charles Camsell Hospital. Here a group of approx. 15 members learned how to give inoculations, pull teeth & deliver babies & then we put “M.D.” behind our names in preparation to go North. While attending this Course, I met C/Supt. Henry A. Larsen, the C.O. “G” Division, who showed me on a map where Alexandra Fiord Detachment was located. It was the most northern Detachment in “G” Division, located approx. half way up the east coast of Ellesmere Island & was approx. 700 miles from the North Pole. I was informed that there would be two (2) regular members stationed there & two (2) native Special Constables & their families & that was it. Also, I would be remaining there for a three (3) year period without any vacation time. His kind words of assurance were “You will like it there, son”. On this Course, I also met Terry Kushniruk who was stationed at Port Edward Detachment which is located near Prince Rupert, BC. He was returning to Port Edward Detachment but said he would meet me in Montreal at the end of June as he was being transferred to Pond Inlet Detachment on the northern tip of Baffin Island. Little did either of us know what we were getting ourselves into.
Upon completion of the Course, I proceeded by train to Brandon, MB where I took 2 weeks vacation at my home in Dauphin, MB following which I was to report to “G” Division H.Q. in Ottawa, ON. I spent the next 2 weeks working in “G” Division H.Q. under the supervision of Cst. Brian D. Sawyer who had recently been transferred from Alexandra Fiord Detachment.
On July 04, 1958, the “H.Q.” Duty Driver picked up C/Supt. Henry A. Larsen & I & transported us to the docks in Montreal where we boarded the C.C.G.S. (Canadian Coast Guard Ship) Labrador, a Canadian Ice Breaker recently turned over to the Ministry of Transport by the R.C. Navy. Shortly after our arrival, Cst. T. Kushniruk came aboard in preparation for our northern “Cruise”.
The following morning, the Labrador sailed out of Montreal & we overnighted in Quebec City. This would be last time that Terry & I would see the “bright lights” for the next 3 years. Needless to say, we didn’t spend our last night in civilization sitting around in a cabin on the Labrador. However, we were informed before leaving the Ship to be back on board by 6:00 A.M. as the Labrador was sailing promptly at that time. Stupidly, we made it back on time.
On July 06th , we sailed out of Quebec City, down the St. Lawrence River, through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Strait of Belle Isle & then north in the Atlantic Ocean. Here we were, 2 “stubble jumper” policemen who had never been on a boat before let alone a Ship/Ice Breaker headed north in what was to be the greatest adventure of our lives. Needless to say, the Labrador rolled like a log in the waves & for a few days, both of us were pretty green around the gills & our appetite was not what it used to be.
We headed north to the Hudson Strait where we spent approx. 2 & a half weeks patrolling & breaking up larger ice pans in the Strait in order for the Grain Ships to get through to Hudson Bay & subsequently to Churchill, MB to pick up grain for transport to Europe. Upon completion of this assignment, once again we headed north along the east coast of Baffin Island with our destination being Pond Inlet. Here we dropped off Terry Kushniruk on August 06th before once again proceeding north in Davis Strait. Numerous large ice pans & icebergs were encountered in Davis Strait, Smith Sound & then in Buchanan Bay before we finally arrived at Alexandra Fiord in the early A.M. of August 10, 1958 which was to be my home for the next 3 years.
Here I met B. Peter Sims, who was to be my soulmate for the next 2 years, & A. Blake McIntosh, who I was replacing & who could hardly wait to get aboard the Labrador with all his personal effects. The task of unloading all the supplies for the Detachment for the next year was completed much too quickly & efficiently & the Labrador pointed its bow southward. The crew would be the last “white men” I would see until the Ship returned again the following summer. As it disappeared around a point of land, I had a big lump in my throat & the silence was stifling. I was to remain stationed here until August 22, 1961 when I was transferred to Whitehorse Detachment in the Yukon for “debushing”.
My estimate of the distance travelled on my transfer from Cloverdale Detachment to Alexandra Fiord Detachment is approx. 12,400 km, (4,900 km by train & 7,500 km by Ship). Can anyone beat that transfer for distance travelled ? It also took me almost 3 months to get there.
Alexandra Fiord Detachment was opened on August 18, 1953 & was closed on September 03, 1963.
As a point of interest, Fred J.R. Stiles was a young Constable who helped build & open this Detachment & he was in attendance at the Northern Nights Reunion which was held at Red Deer, AB on September 26th & 27th, 2003. Brian D. Sawyer, who had spent 2 years at Alexandra Fiord, also attended the Reunion in Red Deer on September 26th only.
(James A. Armstrong)