Gilbert E. Sanders



If you wanted a job done in the most efficient way possible, you could give the assignment to Gilbert Sanders. Sanders was born in Yale, B.C. and educated in England and at the Royal Military College in Kingston. He was granted a commission in the NWMP in 1884 and served under General Middleton during the North West Rebellion, seeing service around Carleton and Prince Albert.

In September of 1885, it was decided that the Governor General of Canada should make a tour of the West. The tour was seen as necessary to the moral of the people of the Northwest following the Riel rebellion. Even though hostilities had ended and Riel had been sentenced, the tour was still seen as hazardous. Gilbert Sanders was chosen to command the detail assigned to protect the Governor General through Southern Manitoba.

In his later years, Sanders was critical of the government's actions during the Rebellion and of General Middleton in particular. Sanders (like Denny before him) claimed that the mounties could have settled the matter with little bloodshed had they been allowed to negotiate in their own way.

In 1886, Sanders established a detachment at Chin Coulee (East of Lethbridge), another 40 miles east of that, and one at the West end of Cypress Hills. The addition of these small outposts now provided a chain of detachments stretching from the Manitoba Border to the Rocky Mountains.

1887 saw a rash of horse stealing between the Blood and Assiniboine in the South. The disputes threatened to escalate into violence between the two peoples. Some of the horses in question were spirited across the border. Sanders, Chief Red Crow and a small detail of police proceeded to Montana to recover the property. Not only did they recover the horses, they also helped negotiate a treaty between the Blood and Assiniboine which stopped the horse stealing and prevented the dispute from erupting into violence.

1889 saw Sanders engaged in duties familiar to the people of the West even today; fighting prairie fires. The area around Maple Creek was quite dry and sparks from the trains smoke stacks were igniting fires along the right of way. Sanders and his men were assigned to fight these fires, exasperating work which spread over a two week period.

In 1898, following the transfer of Superintendent Sam Steele to the Yukon, R. Burton Deane added Steele's command at Macleod to his own, giving him a lateral front of over 600 miles to command. The Canadian Pacific had also begun construction through the Crowsnest Pass and the Mounties had been placed in charge of the line under construction. This added another 400 miles to Deane's command. Fortunately, he also had Gilbert Sanders to delegate authority to. Deane had nothing but praise for the job Sanders did when in charge of the Crowsnest Pass.

Following the outbreak of the Boer War in South Africa, it was decided that an additional 4 squadrons of mounted rifles were needed in the conflict; a perfect recruiting ground for these squadrons was the ranks of the NWMP. Men were given a years leave from their duties to fight in the war, among them was Gilbert Sanders who commanded `D' Squadron of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles and was given the rank of Lt.- Colonel. Sanders was wounded twice in the conflict, was mentioned twice in dispatches and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

He was in command at Calgary when he returned to Canada in 1901 and in 1906 was given command of the training division at Regina.

In 1911 he left the force and was appointed magistrate, a position in which he served until his retirement in 1932 with a short sabbatical to command the 2nd Canadian Pioneers during the First World War where he was again mentioned in dispatches, those dispatches being signed by Winston Churchill. Following his discharge, he was made a Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.

Sanders was very active in the community. He was president of the Ranchman's Club from 1921 to 1923 and president of the Calgary Division of the NWMP Veteran's Association from 1920 to 1926, lending his assistance to benefits and other programmes for fellow veterans.

Also of interest is his wife Caroline, the Daughter of senior NWMP Surgeon Augustus Jukes. Jukes, who, as senior Surgeon, was on the commission that judged Louis Riel to be sane and subsequently was present at Riel's hanging, was the one who pronounced him dead. Caroline wasn't the only Jukes girl to marry a mountie. Her younger sister Katherine married Superintendent George Moffat.

The daughters of Mounties marrying Mounties themselves is quite a common occurrence. It will be interesting to see, given the fact that more women are joining the force, if we will see sons of women Mounties in turn marrying members of the force.

Sanders' monument, like that of Sir Cecil Denny, is an example of a lost art. Pins at the back of the metal letters are inserted into holes drilled in the stone at a 45 degree angle. The technique can either last a long time or deteriorate very quickly, depending on the skill of the artisan.

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