After his discharge from Overseas Service, James Rycroft re-attested to the Special Guard CMPC. I was a a loss as to what this was, so as I dug into it, I found out more of our Canadian Military History. I am sure to many here, it is not new information, but to me, it was news for sure.
Below is the write up for the Special Guard. I cannot and will not take credit for this information as the research belongs to another. I hope I am not in any breech of copywrite as that is not my intention. I wanted to bring this information forward to share with everyone, as I suspect the information is not widely known.
Special Guard, C.M.P.C.
James Rycroft attested to the Special Guard CMPC 26 August 1919, demobilized 3 March 1920
NOTE: Historically, a coolie (variously spelled cooli, cooly, kuli, quli, koelie etc.) was an Asian slave or unskilled manual labourer, particularly from Southern China, the Indian subcontinent, the Philippines and Indonesia during the 19th century and early 20th century. It is also a contemporary slur towards people of Asian descent, particularly in South Africa. The term Coolie refers to people from South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, etc. as coolies came from across the entire continent of Asia
The following was extracted from the research work of the late Sgt-Maj (retired Major) Donald A. Tresham C.D. Titled “The Origin of the Canadian Provost Corps”
In September 1919 he Department of Militia and Defense was asked by the British Government to furnish a unit to process, handle and transport Chinese Coolies from Halifax to Vancouver. It was also requested to staff a Transit Camp at William Head B.C. These Coolies were members of The Chinese Labour Corps, a unit that served under British Command in France and Flanders during World War One. This Corps was termed “expendable” and was used to dig trenches and other earth works, construct and repair roads and rail lines. At the conclusion of World War One there were about 100,000 of these Coolies in France. The Imperial Government decided that they would be returned to China. Most of the Coolies did not want to return, but a decision was made to interne them and have them returned to China. It was projected that some 25 to 30 thousand Coolies would be returned to China via Canada. The plan was to transport them by ship to Halifax, load them on special trains and transport them under guard to William Head and Vancouver B.C. At Vancouver they were to be put aboard ships for passage to China.
The Department of the Militia accepted this distasteful task and decided that a Special Guard of the Canadian Military Police Corps be formed to handle this duty. As a result the Special Guard CMPC was authorized with an establishment of 542 all ranks. The Headquarters was in Halifax with Train Guard Detachments of 492 all ranks. Another Guard Unit of 2 Officers and 50 Military Police was located at the Transit Camp at William Head B.C.
The work of the Special Guard CMPC was made extremely difficult because of:
a. The nature of the duty. Many found it to be distasteful.
b. The long days put in by the train guards riding trains from Halifax to Vancouver- William Head and return, sometimes with a day or less rest in between return trips. After several return trips, with little or no time off, the guards were exhausted.
c. The arrival of ships at Halifax by day and by night carrying Coolies, sometimes with an hour or less prior notice to the Special Guard CMPC.
d. It was originally estimated that 20 o 30 thousand Coolies would be processed. It appears that some 70,000 were transported across Canada. Incomplete CMPC records account for 48, 726 Coolies. The Special Guard CMPC establishment of 542 all ranks was simply not large enough, so its members had to work double and sometimes triple time between September 1919 and April 1920.
In spite of the work load placed on the Special Guard CMPC it met all the requirements on time. During the entire operation there was never a delay in handling disembarkations at Halifax, or loading trains and transporting the Coolies to Vancouver-William Head. The CMPC were always on time with the required personnel to carry-out their duties.
The Special Guard CMPC was composed entirely of men with “Overseas Service”. It is recorded that their dress, deportment and attention to military duties were “Second to None”. The Special Guard CMPC had a distasteful duty to carry out but they did their duty with the firmness required by the situation.
General records seem to indicate that about 70,000 Coolies were returned to China via Canada, however, the Special Guard CMPC reports only account for 48, 726. The Special Guard records at Halifax indicate;
Date – Coolies processed and guarded by CMPC
Disposition of Coolies
Deaths at Halifax- 5
Sent forward by Train- 48,721
Deaths in route- 3
Died at Vancouver- 1
Died at William Head- 13
Missing- Believed Drowned- 1
Sailed from Vancouver and William Head- 48,703
The last Coolie sailed for China on 4 April 1920. Guards at Halifax and William Head were immediately demobilized with the exception of a small rear party to clear out each of the units.
The Commandant of the Transit Camp at William Head was demobilized on 30 April 1920 and the last CMPC Guard Struck Off Strength on May 31 1920.
The Officer Commanding the Special Guard CMPC at Halifax received notification that his unit was reduced to nil strength and that he himself was demobilized on 18 June 1920.