Sgt. Thomas Wallace

Number 58 on the Honour Roll

Suggested reading; "Dead Right, Dead Wrong", by Patricia Parker

Thomas Wallace had distinguished himself in the service of the crown long before he joined the RCMP. Born in Banffshire, Scotland, Wallace served overseas as a sniper with the Gordon Highlanders, where he was mentioned for displaying conspicuous gallantry and received the Military Medal and the Mons Star.

He joined the Alberta Provincial Police when he came to Canada in the mid twenties and held the rank of Sergeant when that force amalgamated with the Mounted Police. After being sent to Regina for training he retained his previous rank, served as drill instructor at Lethbridge and was later stationed at Calgary, then at Banff.

Sgt. Wallace was a good shot; in fact, he was the best. Having served in the army as a sniper, he was good with a rifle but he was even better with a revolver. While in the APP, he was won the Bryon Trophy and was considered the best pistol shot in the force. But on October 7, 1935, Wallace became a victim in one of the most infamous crimes in the history of Western Canada; a crime spree which in the end saw 7 people dead, four of whom were police officers.

It all began on Friday, October 4th on the Saskatchewan Manitoba Border. Constable William Wainwright (the Town constable from Benito Manitoba) and RCMP Constable John Shaw of the Swan River Detachment stopped an unlicensed car and questioned its three occupants; John Kalmakoff, Joseph Posnikoff and Peter Woiken. The trio had been questioned by the two officers earlier, and fit the description of three men who were wanted by the RCMP in Saskatchewan.

The three suspects were placed in the back of the police car to be taken to Saskatchewan. While the car was in motion, one of the men in the back attacked Wainwright with a knife. The driver, Shaw, tried to fend them off but was cut badly. The trio overpowered Wainwright, took his revolver and shot the two constables. The three then stripped the constables of their identification and valuables and drove away in the unmarked police car.

A search was launched on Saturday, but the bodies of the two police officers were not found until the following Monday, October 7th. By that time, the three fugitives were in Alberta and headed for Banff National Park.

On the afternoon of the 7th, the fugitives stopped at a diner in Canmore and barely had enough money for food. After they were turned away at the Banff Park gates because they didn't have the $2.00 entrance fee, they headed back to Exshaw and bought $1.00 worth of gas. The service station attendant's wife recognised the car from the description that had been given on the radio and phoned the Canmore RCMP.

At this point, the fact that the bodies of the slain policemen had been found had not yet reached the Alberta police forces and as far as they were concerned, they were just looking for a missing police car, not three murderers.

When the call came in, Sgt. Wallace and Constable Combe (who were both off duty at the time and in civvies) joined two other officers, George Harrison and Grey Campbell and drove out on the highway hoping to intercept the missing police car.

Meanwhile, Kalmikoff, Posnikoff and Woiken had stopped a car and robbed the inhabitants, Mr. and Mrs. Scott. They got about $10.00. They then told the Scotts to get in their car and "drive like the dickens". The fugitives then proceeded to drive west following the Scott's car.

Just east of the Banff Park gates, the Scotts stopped beside the car containing Wallace, Combe, Harrison and Campbell and told them they had been robbed by the three men in the car behind them. Wallace and Harrison got out of their car and headed toward the stolen police car containing the three murderers. The fugitives stopped and fired two shots through the windshield of their car hitting both Wallace and Harrison. Harrison managed to shoot out the headlights of the fugitive's car before losing consciousness and Wallace kept firing and calling for help before he too was overcome and collapsed.

Combe and Campbell returned fire until another police car arrived; Kalmikoff, Posnikoff and Woiken ran into the bush. Campbell then loaded the wounded Harrison and Wallace into their car and headed for the Canmore Hospital. Combe remained at the scene. The wounds to the two officers were severe enough that the Canmore doctors transported the two wounded officers to Calgary by ambulance. Back at the scene of the gunfight, Combe had shot and killed Posnikoff (who was still in possession of Constable Wainwright's revolver).

A manhunt was organised with many of the outraged citizens of Canmore and Banff volunteering their services. The Police were heavily armed and searched all cars and trains going through the area. This was also the first time that a new weapon in the police arsenal was used under fire; a police dog named
Dale, who soon picked up the trail of the remaining two murderers. Just Northwest of the Banff Park gates where another gun battled ensued.

One of the citizens involved in this gun battle was a Banff Park Warden named William Neish who, unfortunately for the fugitives, was a crack shot. With a few well aimed shots, Neish mortally wounded both Kalmikoff and Woiken.

The two murderers and the two policemen all died on the same day. Kalmikoff's body was claimed by his family and buried in Saskatchewan, not so with Posnikoff and Woiken. The citizens of the Banff area were so outraged by the killings that the two were refused burial and were finally laid to rest in an unmarked grave at Morley.

Constable Harrison's grave at the Banff Cemetery

Thousands of people attended the double funeral of Wallace and Harrison and lined the streets to watch the procession. Harrison was single, survived by his mother in Scotland. Wallace was survived by his wife Helen who was at his side in the Col. Belcher Hospital when he died.

Sgt Wallace's monument seems to stand out in this section of the cemetery. It reflects the clean lines and the bold graphics that were becoming evident in the growing modernist movement in architecture at the time.

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