PINCHER CREEK’S MILITARY HISTORY
The Pincher Creek area has had military traditions of which it can be justly proud. Pioneers from this rural ranching district was very patriotic in enlisting in international conflicts that supported both home and country as part of the British Empire.
Some of these traditions started with the law enforcement and agricultural endeavours of the Northwest Mounted Police which came west to Pincher Creek from Fort Macleod in 1878 to establish their horse ranch. The detachment was located on the south side of the Creek at the point now occupied by the multi-purpose building and the ranch traversed the prairie landscape to the south and east. Local outposts which patrolled the rural Prairies featured the Big Bend/Kootenai, North Fork, Peigan, Police Flats and Porcupine often which operated from the late 1880s to the pre-First World War era.
The Pincher Creek area’s next connection with military traditions came with the 1885 Riel Rebellion and the formation of Troop Number Three of the Rocky Mountain Rangers. This was a para-militia group of local pioneers designed to keep the peace on the Canadian Prairies but it saw little military action due to quick end of the uprising which also witnessed more activity further east and north. Local pioneers who volunteered for the Rocky Mountain Rangers included Lionel Brooke, John George “Kootenai” Brown, James Christie, Albert Connelly, A. E. Cox, John Herron, Thomas Hinton, Henry Hyde, Frederick Inderwick, George C. Ives, Charles Kettles, William R. Lees, Frank LeVasseur, A. H. Lynch-Staunton, Peter McEwen, James Schofield, Sam Sharpe and Charlie “Jughandle” Smith.
The South African War of 1899 – 1902 stirred up emotions in the Pincher Creek area, largely stocked with British pioneers. Close to thirty men from town and country enlisted in the war effort, a significant contribution from a settlement whose population numbered only 300. Three pioneers paid the ultimate price in the war. Robert Kerr and Fred Morden were killed in action on June 22nd, 1900 at Honing Spruit (Honey Creek), South Africa. The third casualty was Ovide Smith.
The First World War saw several town and country recruits from the Pincher Creek area sign up for the war effort. Sixty of those local recruits paid the ultimate sacrifice and did not return alive from the war effort. Three pioneer families, the Broadwells from Pincher Creek, Knights from Twin Butte/Waterton Lakes and the Jughandle Smiths from Beauvais Lake, witnessed multiple casualties.
A similar story is told from the Second World War where Pincher Creek recruits fought in many of the pivotal battles. Veteran Frank Bruder for instance participated in the support teams for the Invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Hank Planger was a member of the Devil’s Brigade which saw action in Italy. Seventeen local veterans were killed in action during the war. Pincher Creek native Matthew Halton (1902 – 1956), after whom the local high school is named, reported on many of the harrowing war battles for the BBC.
Canadian Armed Forces recruits from the Pincher Creek area during the post-Second World War era have seen military action and peace keeping duties in a variety of international theatres. Our community also is known for its active and long serving Legion. Known as Branch Number 43 of the Royal Canadian Legion, it was established in 1927 and first was housed in the former Methodist Church building on the south side of Main Street. At the end of World War Two in 1945, the local branch set up shop in the two-storey sandstone building that once housed the department store owned by Pincher Creek pioneer Timothee Lebel.