I’ve always been interested in the Canadian ‘Mounties’ ever since I saw an old 1940s movie called ‘North West Mounted Police’ directed by the celebrated film maker, Cecil B. DeMille.
In particular, I liked the classic scarlet tunics and general uniform appearance of these 1885 ‘soldiers / policemen of the Queen’ as they patrol the vast north-west prairies of Canada during that time.
These are not the first Canadian ‘Mounties’ K&C have produced… Some years ago we released two standing troopers of the NWMP as part of our King & Country Club range that proved quite popular.
Over the years we had quite a few requests for more and so, some months back we got down to work and here they are.
But first a little more background… The North-West Mounted Police was formed in 1873 to maintain law and order in the then new Canadian North-West Territories following the transfer of huge tracts of land from the Hudson’s Bay Company to Canada. This followed the Red River Rebellion and in response to general lawlessness throughout the territory. At the time there was also the fear that the United States Army might even intervene if Canada itself did not ‘police’ this vast area. The decision was made to recruit and train a small, mobile force of mounted paramilitary policemen to patrol and enforce the law throughout this new territory and reduce any potential tensions with their larger neighbour to the south. This new force, the NWMP, deliberately chose red coats to remind friend and foe alike of their British origins and the fact that many of their original recruits were either emigrants from the UK and / or former members of Queen Victoria’s army in Canada. Over the following years the North-West Mounted Police established a chain of forts and outposts throughout their area of responsibility bringing law and order to what had been a sprawling, wild and lawless territory. Within a relatively short time the welcome sight of these red-coated mounted policemen brought a large measure of stability and peace to the vast majority of the region’s original inhabitants as well as the thousands of new settlers that began to arrive.
UNIFORMS, EQUIPMENT & BADGE
In addition to their red tunics the NWMP wore other uniforms and dress to suit their particular duties and environments.
‘Prairie Dress’ typically included a ‘buckskin’ jacket and oilskins for wet weather together with a wide-brimmed hat which eventually evolved into the famous ‘stetson’ hat design which is still worn today. Below the waist, close fitting navy blue trousers with a broad yellow stripe along both sides were tucked into long brown leather riding boots.
During the period our NWMP troopers depict it was common practice to carry both a carbine rifle and a revolver. The weapons selected for most of ‘Mounties’ included a version of the Winchester Model 1876 Carbine and as a side arm, either the .44 calibre Smith & Wesson revolver or the similar .450 calibre Adams. In addition, extra ammunition for both weapons would be carried on the pistol belt as well on a leather bandoleer worn over the left shoulder. The force’s badge emerged around 1876 and comprised a buffalo or bison head surrounded by maple leaves and surmounted by a royal crown underneath which was the French motto “Maintien Le Droit” on a scroll which translates as ‘Uphold The Right’.
This same motto is still used by today’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police.