Two Mounties who were killed while on duty — 127 years apart — will be honoured Sunday during a memorial service at the RCMP's training academy in Regina.
Const. George Johnston, who died May 23, 1882, is being added to the RCMP's Honour Roll thanks to the research efforts of a descendant who was curious about his family history.
Johnston was 21 when he died at Fort Walsh in what was then known as the Northwest Territories. Saskatchewan was not created until 1905. Indeed, Johnston served in the predecessor to the RCMP, the North-West Mounted Police.
RCMP Insp. John Gibson Glavin, based in Ottawa, learned about Johnston — a great-great uncle — as a child. His mother spoke about Johnston, but did not have many details about what happened to him.
"She would go on about there being a lot of uncertainty about how he died and why he died," Glavin said. "It was just always something that was in the back of my mind as just one of those family stories.
"It was a curiosity, it was very interesting and, like any small boy, I was fascinated by the Mounted Police, especially back at that time."
Glavin found the record of Johnston's death, as well as documents and handwritten statements about what happened that day in May 1882.
'He's properly recognized as having given his life trying to provide service to the country.' —RCMP Insp. John Gibson Glavin
They show that Johnston had just come off guard duty on the night shift at Fort Walsh, the former western headquarters of the Mounties.
"Another member was trying to discharge and unload his rifle and one of the cartridges in his rifle was stuck," Glavin explained.
"This other member stuck his service knife into the breach of the rifle and it came into contact with the firing pin of the cartridge that was stuck and the rifle went off and shot George Johnston in the chest."
The wound was fatal.
RCMP Memorial began in 1934
While Johnston was buried with full regimental honours, Glavin said his death predated the RCMP's establishment of a permanent memorial in Regina, which was set up in 1934.
"He was looked after the way he should have been at the time," Glavin said. "Then it went into history and out of people's memory."
An RCMP review committee decided in late spring that Johnston's name should be added after Glavin presented the information.
Also on Sunday, the RCMP will memorialize Const. James Lundblad, who died May 5, 2009, in a traffic accident while on duty near Millet, Alta. Lundblad, 41, was doing speed enforcement on Highway 2A.
When a speeder raced past him, Lundblad tried to pull a U-turn and his police vehicle was hit by a grain truck. Lundblad had been with the force 8½ years.
Glavin, who has been on the force for 24 years, says it will be a day of "very raw emotions" for Lundblad's family.
For his own family, Glavin says the service will provide "a final bookend to the story." Johnston had been a Mountie for just under three years.
"We can feel as if he's properly recognized as having given his life trying to provide service to the country and that's where he properly belongs."