During the 15-year existence of the Newfoundland Ranger Force, from 1935 until 1950, 204 men enlisted. The Rangers served in the outport and remote areas of Newfoundland and Labrador, providing the main link between the people and their government.
In 1934, during the Great Depression, Responsible Government and Dominion status were suspended in Newfoundland. The country was bankrupt and became governed by a Commission under a British Governor appointed by the mother country of Great Britain. The Commission first created the Rangers to aid in the exploitation of native game animals as a money-making venture. This idea was abandoned very quickly, and instead the Rangers became the government’s representatives in the communities of the island and Labrador.
After Newfoundland’s Confederation with Canada, members of the Force were given the opportunity to serve in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Those who did served with distinction.
In 1933, Newfoundland was bankrupt and Great Britain appointed a Royal Commission of Enquiry “to examine into the future of Newfoundland and in particular, to report on the financial situation and prospects therein.” This Royal Commission was headed by Baron Amulree and the report which was submitted, comprising 283 pages, became known as the Amulree Report. It was this report that recommended the suspension of Responsible Government in Newfoundland and that government by Commission should be instituted until such time as it might be deemed feasible to revert to Responsible Government. It is also in this report that we find mention made of the first circumstance which led to the formation of “The Newfoundland Rangers.” This Commission had but two avenues open to them if they were to make recommendations that would lead to betterment of the financial picture of Newfoundland. They could make recommendations that would involve the development of the natural resources of the Island and they could make recommendations to affect economies in the administration of government. The greatest natural resource was, of course, the fishery. This resource was in trouble at the time and because of this, it was natural that a close look should be taken at the land-based resources; as so we see a reference to a fur industry, followed by the following comments:
“One such a scheme has been worked out, from both the scientific and administrative standpoints the next step would be to arrange for a new body of game wardens which would doubtless be required for its execution. This body might, we suggest, be organized on similar lines to The Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”
Later in the report, we again find reference to the proposal of a fur industry and the formation of a new force of game wardens, but the recommendation now goes on,
“Should such a body be formed on the lines we recommend, it might be practical to assign to it other duties than those of game wardens. In the North West Territories of Canada, for instance, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police enforce all Federal Criminal Statutes as well as those of the North West Territories Council.”
The report then goes on to list the numerous duties then performed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the North West Territories. It also proceeds to envisage the proposed Force to be empowered to–and I quote–
” . . . eventually take over all public works, not only in the interior, but in the outports as well. They might collect the Customs and other revenue at all but the most important posts, might assist in the operating of the Post Office and Railway, and generally might undertake duties, excluding those assigned to the Magistrates and Fisheries Inspectors, which are at present distributed among a number of minor officials. On this basis, the establishment of such a Force would combine efficiency with economy. The Force might also operate in Labrador.”
In 1934, the recommendation of the Amulree Royal Commission that Responsible Government of Newfoundland should be suspended, was acted upon and another Commission was set up to govern the Country. It is clear that the new Commission placed a lot of faith in the recommendations contained in the Amulree Report as they proceeded to take action on some of them, one of which was the “formation of Game Wardens.” Early in 1935, legislation was enacted authorizing the organization of “The Newfoundland Rangers.”
The first recruit was taken on strength on July 9, 1935 and before the end of July, a full authorized complement of thirty men had been sworn in. More than one-third of this first contingent were recruited from Royal Newfoundland Constabulary members. In total, 23 members were recruited from the Constabulary during the 15-year history of the Ranger Force. See more about the RNC and the Ranger Force here.
All enlistments were for a five-year period. Qualifications were high for the period. An applicant had to have a Grade XI certificate, be between the ages of 21 and 28 years, be single, physically fit in every respect, be a minimum of 5’9″ in height and weigh not more than 185 pounds.
Whitbourne was chosen to be the site of the Headquarters for the Rangers.
The Detachment offices ranged from the most elegant (being one or two rooms in a public building), to rented premises which could range from a converted milk house or one-car garage to a condemned public building which had deteriorated to such a degree that it could not be considered safe.
There were few roads at the time, so vehicles for transportation throughout detachment Districts were minimal. The Force had a few motorcycles and perhaps two automobiles in places around the Burin Peninsula and St. Georges, Deer Lake and Badger. Around the coast, travel was by boat in summer and by dog team and by foot in the winter in Northern Newfoundland and Labrador. On the South Coast, boats could be used all year round. The Force did have three boats of their own, known as the 301, 302 and 303. These were supposed to be more or less floating detachments and were to be manned by personnel outside the normal detachment complement. They served for a number of years. Two were lost in separate instances and never replaced. Advantage was taken of whatever mode of transportation that was available when needed. Rangers travelled many thousands of miles on railway speeders and handcars — those pump-operated trolleys operated by sectionmen and Forest Fire Patrolmen who used to follow through on the tracks after the old coal-fired steam locomotives had pulled a train through. Of course, the Railway itself was used, as were the Coastal Boats.
Routine patrols were undertaken every month through the detachment district and routine reports submitted. Each month, the Rangers were required to submit a “General Conditions Report.” This would contain a complete résumé of the number of people on relief in the detachment area; the amount of money involved for this purpose; the activities taking place in the fisheries, logging construction, etc., and the number of people involved; the prospects for economic improvement or otherwise and any particular circumstance which would have an effect upon the population of the detachment district. These reports received the attention of the highest authorities in Government. Some copies still exist in the archives bearing the initials and comments of every Commissioner, indicating that great store was placed in those reports and that the recommendations and opinions expressed by the Rangers were respected.
To gain an insight into the number and variety of duties and responsibilities assigned to “The Rangers,” it may be well to look at the structure of Commission of Government. Under Commission, the bureaucracy was reduced to six basic departments to which all Government agencies were assigned. These departments were:
- The Department of Finance, under whose jurisdiction came such agencies as Customs, Posts & Telegraphs, Assessors Office, Savings Bank and Railway;
- The Department of Natural Resources, which encompassed Fisheries, Forestry, Lands, Game, etc., and was the department which was responsible for “The Rangers” and by which they were administered;
- The Department of Health and Welfare;
- The Department of Justice;
- The Department of Home Affairs and Education;
- The Department of Public Utilities, which covered Public Works, Roads and Supply.
The Rangers were administered by the Department of Natural Resources, but assumed duties spanning all six departments of Government. Duties summarized by department:
- Finance: Acted as Customs Officers in designated areas, inspected weights and measures and acted as Wreck Commissioners for Customs; inspected and collected fees for Radio Licenses for Posts & Telegraphs.
- Natural Resources: Inspected logging camps and logging camp operations; enforced game laws and issued small game and sports fishing licenses; issued and inspected licenses for lobster and salmon canning factories; and not the least of which was organizing and directing the fighting of forest fires.
- Public Health & Welfare: Issued Relief, able-bodied and sick; processed and recommended or otherwise applications for Old Age Pensions and Widows’ Pensions; arranged for medical treatment and hospitalization of patients and certification and escort of mental patients.
- Justice: Enforced the criminal law and all statutes of Newfoundland; investigated sudden deaths and fires; acted as Deputy Sheriffs in designated areas.
- Public Utilities: Looked after and supervised maintenance of local roads, government wharves and breakwaters.
- Home Affairs & Education: Acted as truant officers and assisted in the organizing of the Adult Education Movement.
- In addition to these duties, the Rangers cooperated with and assisted all government field workers, such as Fisheries Officers, School Inspectors, Adult Education Teachers, Film Board Operators, etc.
Ranks and rates of pay in effect from 1935 to 1943:
|Staff Sergt.||$3.25 per day|
|Sergt.||$3.00 per day|
|Corpl.||$2.50 per day|
|Ranger 1st Class||$2.00 per day|
|Ranger 2nd Class||$1.75 per day|
|Ranger 3rd Class||$1.50 per day|
The Ranger Force was commanded by a Chief Ranger, who was responsible to the Commissioner for Natural Resources. From 1935 to 1950 the Chief Ranger position was held by five individuals:
|1935-1936||LEONARD T. STICK||First Chief Ranger. Major Stick was the first person to join The Royal Newfoundland Regiment in WWI.|
|1936-1939||FREDERICK ANDERTON||Mr. Anderton was seconded from The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).|
|1939-1940||E. W. GREENLEY||Mr. Greenley was a retired Staff Sgt. from the RCMP.|
|1940-1942||RAYMOND D. FRASER||Major Fraser joined the force with the rank of Inspector. He was promoted to Major when he assumed the position of Chief Ranger.|
|1942-1950||EDWARD L. MARTIN||Major Martin was the first Chief Ranger to come from the enlisted ranks. He was Regimental #10 and a member of the first group of recruits. At the time of his appointment he was attached to Headquarters Staff as Training Officer.He served as Chief Ranger until the Force was disbanded in 1950, when he transferred to the RCMP and attained the rank of Assistant Commissioner.|
When Confederation became a reality, those members who were service at the time were given the opportunity of transferring to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Because members of the R.C.M.P. were paid on a higher scale than Rangers, one stipulation was that Rangers, upon transfer, would have to drop one rank. It was a purely economic transfer; no consideration was given to ability or service. All who transferred and remained achieved at least the rank of Sergeant. Most attained Staff Sergeant and some attained officer rank. Many Ex-Rangers have gone on to other successes.The Force ceased to exist on July 31, 1950. The following is the final entry made in the Harbour Breton Detachment diary on that date.
“Wind South East, Foggy, with showers. At office all day re final Ranger Force Returns. This is the last day that the Ranger Force will be in existence and it is not without feelings of regret that this member puts away for all time the old khaki uniform. FINIS.”