THEN AND NOW
At about 11:00 AM on the 26th of July, 1962, two young men from Moncton, New Brunswick stood before a Commissioned Officer of the RCMP in Fredericton. Gary Leaman was the first one into his office to be sworn in, followed by myself. We were then driven to Fredericton Junction where we boarded a train for that faraway place of Regina to begin our recruit training.
Our training syllabus included many different activities, one of which was swimming. At that time it was required that every member immerse themselves into the pool, from the deep end. One soon learned that they were either a swimmer or a non-swimmer, and I fit into the swimmer category, but just barely.
During the following nine months, David Dean, our instructor, caused many a member to swallow (in their own mind) half of the pool. The one thing that I learned from swimming was that it made me comfortable in and around the water, as I finished training with my Bronze Medallion and Award of Merit. Not bad for one who initially could only swim one and one-half lengths of the pool.
I was transferred to B Division from Depot in May of 1963 and during the fall of 1963 found myself stationed at Lewisporte Detachment. Lewisporte is a seaport town in Notre Dame Bay on the Northeast coast of the province. Being the junior member at the Detachment most of the mundane duties fell to me but they were a great learning experience. Conducting driver's tests was one of them, and anyone who tested a driver's skill can tell some hair-raising stories.
On the 8th of April 1964 a gentleman by the name of Albert Blackwood came to the office to be tested, and as I was the only one in the office at the time, the chore fell to me. In reality, he was supposed to be tested in Gander Detachment as he was from Carmanville, and not from our Detachment area. He passed the written test so we proceeded to go out and do the driving portion. This entailed driving from the Detachment through town and making a few turns, stops and starts.
At this time of the year the harbor ice was breaking up so there were many places with open water. On the way back to the office, on Main Street, at the end of the test, I looked out the passenger side window and saw two young children, a boy and a girl, standing on the ice, at the edge of some open water. I looked back to the highway again, checking on the driver. When I looked at the children again, there was only the girl standing on the ice, the boy had fallen into the water.
I had Mr. Blackwood stop the vehicle and I proceeded to go down over the embankment to the ice at the harbor edge. I ran out to where the child was standing and noticed the second child was going under the ice - the tide was going out at the time. I jumped into the water and went under the ice and brought him back to the open water. Mr. Blackwood had followed me down onto the ice and had taken the girl away from the water's edge. After I managed to get the boy and myself out of the water, I went to the nearest house on Main Street to see who the boy might be.
The first house I visited I was told by the lady of the house "Well, he's not mine." That was not exactly the response I was hoping to hear. When asked if she knew where the boy lived, she indicated a couple of houses away. At the second house, there was no such reaction when the lady of the house opened the door, as she was very surprised and shocked. I took the young man into the house, undressed him and got him settled in some warm water in the bathtub before I left.
As I had did some falling and bumping into rocks on the way down the embankment I had to get to a local doctor to have a leg attended to as it had received some cuts, scrapes and bruises. I later learned the young boy was Brill Clarke, aged four, son of Bram and Lucy Clarke.
I was transferred to Goose Bay Detachment in July of 1964 and at that time Labrador was under the administrative jurisdiction of Corner Brook Sub/Division. I received a personal invitation from Insp. Sweeney, the Officer Commanding to attend the Sub/Division Ball in October of that year. At the Ball I was presented with the Commissioner's Commendation for Bravery by Insp. Sweeney for saving Brill Clarke.
I transferred to various places in B Division until I took my retirement on the 19 Aug 1991 while stationed in Gander. Sometime after retirement, I was approached at my home by Brill, and was asked if I might drop in and see his mother in Lewisporte. It was stated that she had never thanked my for saving Brill and that she wished to do so.
Later that particular summer I was in Lewisporte and looked up the address for the Clarkes and knocked on the door. Mrs. Clarke was hesitant of letting me in the house until I told her who I was, at which time I was more than welcome to enter.
We spoke for awhile about the past and current matters, she thanked me, and when I was ready to depart, she said something to me that remains very special to me, and that was "You are as welcome in my house as any of my family." I do not believe that any greater compliment can be passed on to a policeman than that.
Advancing forward to 2012, Barry Clarke, Brill's older brother, contacted me, around the middle of July, to see if I would attend his parents' 60th wedding anniversary party on the 31 July 2012. I agreed to do this and learned that only Barry and his wife would know I was to be there. He stated that but for me saving Brill in 1964; the entire family would not be at the party. When I arrived at the party, Barry asked Brill and his daughter to come forward and it was then I was introduced to them and the other people in attendance. It was a surprise to Mr. and Mrs. Clarke, as well as the rest of the family and I found it to be somewhat emotional.
This was the first opportunity I had to speak to Brill and he stated that he could remember going into the water, losing a boot, going underwater a couple of times and starting to feel comfortable. The next thing he remembers was being in a warm bathtub.
At the time this happened in 1964, I had the confidence to go into the icy harbour water as a direct result of learning to swim from my days in Depot. Many of the activities we endured and learned during our training days were a benefit to our members after the 'Passout' and some still hold us in good stead today.
Reg # 22711 (Rtd)