Military Service of WPS Members
Remembering members who served "King and Country"
On November 11, Canadians wear poppies and gather at war memorials across the nation to pay tribute to those who died in war. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the time the Armistice of World War I was signed in 1918, we observe two minutes of silence to remember. While all members are undoubtedly aware of the significance of the WPS Colours, which commemorates our members who have fallen in the line of duty, many may not be aware of our own war memorials.
Housed directly across from Station Duty at the Public Safety Building, two eloquent memorials adorn the walls paying tribute to those who served and those who fell while serving our country during the First and Second World Wars.
The larger memorial recognizes each WPS member who served in World War I and draws attention to those who were injured (some more than once), those who were killed and those recognized with military honours for their contributions.
In 1914 when World War I broke out, 152 of our officers were granted leave to join the King's Forces in the trenches of Europe. This volume of men caused somewhat of a shortage in our ranks at the time, and the Service had to limit the number of leaves that were granted.
Twenty-nine of these members died in the line of duty and many more were injured along the way.
Police Museum Curator Jack Templeman points out that just 78 of the 152 members who went over to serve returned to their duties with the Police Department.
"Many men came back suffering from injuries or damage done by the terrible gas that was used during that war," he says.
Among those to return was Cst. Charles Gilles MM. He returned from World War I with the Military Medal, earned "for bravery in the field". He rejoined the Service and after surviving the horrors of the War to End All Wars, was shot and killed in the line of duty on a Winnipeg street in January 1936.
The smaller memorial draws attention to those who served in World War II.
While definitive statistics are not as readily available regarding the involvement of Winnipeg police officers in World War II, we do know five additional members were killed in that campaign. Their sacrifices are commemorated on this memorial.
Many serving members followed in these patriotic footsteps having served in the Armed Forces during the Korean War and in many of the Peacekeeping Operations before they joined the Police Service. Many members continue to serve in the Reserve Forces of Canada today.
Mr. Templeman advises WPS members have always shown themselves ready to serve our country. Through the archives he's found evidence of members who served as far back as the Boer War (1899 - 1902). Many photos of early members feature those members displaying the Boer War Medal.
No mere newsletter article can really reflect the sacrifice of these members who so unselfishly gave of themselves. Nor can such an article capture the importance of what these people did and the importance of the efforts of those who continue serve Canada on our behalf.
So, if you should find yourself in the Public Safety Building this Remembrance Day or someday down the road with a few extra moments, take that time to visit our own war memorials.
Lest we forget.