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The History

During the 15-year existence of the Newfoundland Ranger Force, from 1935 until 1950, 204 men enlisted. The Rangers served in the outport and remote areas of Newfoundland and Labrador, providing the main link between the people and their government.

In 1934, during the Great Depression, Responsible Government and Dominion status were suspended in Newfoundland. The country was bankrupt and became governed by a Commission under a British Governor appointed by the mother country of Great Britain. The Commission first created the Rangers to aid in the exploitation of native game animals as a money-making venture. This idea was abandoned very quickly, and instead the Rangers became the government's representatives in the communities of the island and Labrador. Much was expected of them.

In 1968, about 70 surviving Rangers met to hold their first reunion. This group became the Newfoundland Ranger Force Association. The Association ceased to be active in August of 2009, however, it is the members of this group who bring you the Newfoundland Rangers Home Page.

The People

How did the Rangers live? What was it like in Newfoundland before Confederation with Canada? What was the Ranger's status in his community? Let Ranger First Class Norman Crane take you on a ramble through the life and times of the Newfoundland Rangers.

Rangers often used dog teams to travel throughout their districts. Ranger Burn Gill tells the story of crossing Hamilton Inlet in Labrador in 1943 with his wife and infant daughter as the ice was breaking up in the spring. He got out of the sleigh and stood at the back on the runners, up to his knees in water as the dogs jumped from one pan of ice to another, finally making it safely to shore. All in a day's work for a Ranger.

The Rangers have their stories of heroism and valour. One of the most famous is the story of Ranger John Hogan. In 1943, Hogan survived 52 days in the wilderness after bailing out of a disabled aircraft. Not only did he survive, he cared for a fellow passenger who was unable to walk because his feet were frozen. Ranger Hogan kept the two of them alive by trapping a few rabbits, gathering berries exposed when the snow melted and brewing tea from wild herbs. Ranger Hogan was awarded the King's Police and Fire Services Medal for Gallantry for his dedication in caring for his colleague for over 50 days. Had Hogan been able to travel alone, he would have made it out in a much shorter time.

The Rangers were very involved in the rescue and recovery of bodies from the wrecks of the U.S. ships Truxton and Pollux, which went ashore near Lawn in World War II. They also played an important part in recovering bodies following the sinking by enemy action of the S.S. Caribou in the early morning of October 14, 1942.

The End

After Newfoundland's Confederation with Canada, members of the Force were given the opportunity to serve in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Those who did served with distinction.

Norman Crane writes that the Rangers ceased to exist on July 31, 1950. The final entry made by #153 Ranger Walter Greene in the Harbour Breton Detachment diary read:

"Wind South East, Foggy, with Showers. At office all day re final Ranger Force returns. This is the last day that the Ranger Force will be in existence and it is not without feelings of regret that this member puts away for all time the old khaki uniform. FINIS."

The library at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's has a large collection of materials dealing with the Ranger Force. Several Rangers have been interviewed by the Folklore Department at MUN. The Newfoundland Archives at the Colonial Building in St. John's also has information.

This page was created by members of the Newfoundland Ranger Force Association with the assistance of the late Burn Gill's daughter, Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, and their friend, Jan Everly Williams.

This page was last revised August 26, 2009