Newfoundland Ranger Force

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The Newfoundland Ranger Force was the police force of the Dominion of Newfoundland before its confederation with Canada. It provided law enforcement and other government services to outports for 15 years. It existed from 1935 to 1950, at which point it was merged into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). 209 men served as Rangers during its existence, though at any given time the force did not exceed 72 members.

The Newfoundland Commission decided to model the Newfoundland Ranger force on the RCMP and not the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary which at the time were in operation at St. John's.


Recruits had to be male, single, between the age of 19 (though men as young as 17 managed to join) to 28, have attained Grade 11, stand at least 5 feet 9 inches tall and weigh not more than 185 lbs.

Training, which included paramilitary marching, battle drill and small arms practice, was administered by a Canadian sergeant major.

The uniform, similar to that of the RCMP, consisted of a khaki tunic and breeches with a brown stripe, fur caps as winter attire. The dress uniform was of blue serge and accompanied by swords and sometimes hickory batons for riot control.

The crest was of a caribou head inscribed with the motto ubique, meaning everywhere.


They were responsible for carrying out policies of six government departments;

  • Department of Finance, collection of customs duties and other fees and act as wreck commissioners.[1]
  • Department of Natural Resources, inspection of logging camps, enforcement of game laws, issuing game licences and directing the fighting of forest fires.[1]
  • Department of Public Health and Welfare, issuing relief payments, arranging medical treatment and hospitalization and escorting mental patients to hospital in St. John's.[1]
  • Department of Justice, enforcement of criminal law, investigation of suspicious deaths and in some areas acted as deputy sheriffs.[1]
  • Department of Home Affairs and Education, acted as truant officers and organized adult education programs.[1]
  • Department of Public Utilities, supervising the maintenance and construction of public roads, wharves and breakwaters.[1]


The force was recommended by Deputy Minister of Justice Brian Dunfield in 1932 to the Amulree Commission. The Newfoundland Constabulary was to remain as the police force for the major centres on the Avalon and Bonavista peninsulas while the Rangers would service remote areas of the island and Labrador.

The force was placed under the Department of Natural Resources, though served all six of the Commission's departments, under the control of Major Leonard T. Stick, an officer of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.[1]

The former estate of Sir Robert Bond, the Grange, located at Whitbourne was used as training facilities. Amongst the training in law enforcement they were also trained in how to record vital statistics and submit monthly reports.

When World War II began in 1939, the Dominions Office was forced to declare the Rangers an essential service, thus disallowing members to enlist in other armed services, after thirty-four Rangers had left the service. Those members who had departed joined a variety of military forces, including the Newfoundland Heavy Artillery, the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Navy.

The force was called upon to attend political meetings and also act as observers and during the 1948 referendum they operated the polling stations.

On April 1, 1949, the Newfoundland Rangers were amalgamated with the RCMP.

In popular culture

A lasting tribute to the Rangers is a poem that appeared in the Ranger Bulletin (No.6, 1943) entitled "Courtesy is the Best Policy", it reads in part:

To be a real policeman
Be big and strong by heck
But let the strength be always found
Just above the neck.

Harold Horwood's novel White Eskimo is based upon Frank Mercer, a Ranger who in 1936 travelled across the Kiglapait Mountains in the middle of the winter to investigate a murder and retrieve the body back to headquarters, a feat that was celebrated in the media of the time.

Dean Bragg made a similar feat when he travelled over 140 miles to the interior of Labrador and back to investigate a plane crash.

Earl Prilgrim's novel Will Anyone Search for Danny? gives an account of Dan Corcoran who had left his detachment at Harbour Deep to go to Port Saunders and became lost and was found many days later.

Chief Rangers

Chief Rangers who had served with the force;


  • The Newfoundland Rangers, Darrin McGrath, et al.

External links

Photograph Newfoundland Ranger No.15 Clarence G. Dwyer Port Hope Simpson Detachment 1940-42

Photograph Newfoundland Ranger No.29 Harry Walters second from left Port Hope Simpson Detachment 1935-36

Photograph Newfoundland Ranger No.34 Walter Rockwood, Acting Inspector, Port Hope Simpson Detachment