Lawrence William Herchmer



April 1, 1886 - July 31, 1900

Lawrence William Herchmer was born in Shipton-on-Sherwell, England, on April 25, 1840. He attended preparatory school in England, Trinity College in Toronto, then the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. At 17 he obtained a commission in the British army and served until the death of his father in 1862 when he returned to Ontario. After a number of years on a farm near Kingston, Herchmer went west, and served as a supply officer with the British North American Boundary Commission before being appointed an Indian Agent in Manitoba.

Although Herchmer had no previous association with the Force, Sir John A. Macdonald, a family friend, appointed hin the Commissioner of the NWMP in 1886. Herchmer served as Commissioner through the Klondike gold rush and the expansion of the Force into the Yukon. He erected a riding school in Regina, raised recruitment standards, added probationary periods and introduced the Lee-Metford carbine. Perhaps most significant was the introduction of a regular system of patrols with extensive reporting which assembled a comprehensive picture of all activities in any area under the jurisdiction of the Force and proved to be an effective deterrent to crime. Herchmer also improved living conditions and benefits for the members by establishing a pension program, creating divisional canteens and recreation rooms and organizing sports during off-duty hours. Although a capable administrator, he had a quick temper and an overbearing nature that created many enemies. It was particularly unfortunate that one of these enemies was Sam Steele, one of the giants of the NWMP. He became the focus of much criticism in the newspapers and in 1892 was investigated by a judicial commission for misuse of his authority. Although exonerated he remained unpopular and was replaced as commissioner while serving in the South African War in command of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles. It was an injustice he protested until his death on February 17, 1915. He was buried with full military honours in Vancouver.

Herchmer is wearing the blue cavalry patrol jacket with black mohair lace and braid. His field service cap is blue with a yellow top section, piped in gold.


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by Stephen Luscombe