Amazing Things about Saskatchewan

Amazing Things about Saskatchewan

Tooting our horn

Things you might not know about Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan’s population is 3.2 percent of the total for Canada, but consider our contributions to Canada!

World War I claimed the lives of 4,385 of our servicemen and World War II more than 70,000.

At 651,900 square kms (251,699 square miles), Saskatchewan sprawls over more real estate than all France at 643,801 square kms (248,572 square miles).

Our provincial network of roads and highways measures 228,200 kms, 29,500 of them paved. 

Saskatchewan is indeed Canada’s “breadbasket,” with 37 million acres of crop-producing land, 41.7 percent of the Canadian total. 

Saskatchewan has 10,000 lakes. The deepest is Deep Bay at Reindeer Lake, a meteor crater gouged more than 100 million years ago. 

Saskatchewan is gaining international renown for its subterranean treasure trove of fossils, including dinosaurs and prehistoric marine and winged creatures.

Saskatchewan boasts a dazzling number of firsts related to the achievement of tax-funded hospitalization and Medicare. 

We have more fly-in fishing camps than almost anywhere in the world.

At least twelve Saskies have received the supreme honour, appointment as Companions of the Order of Canada.

At least fourteen Saskies have been honoured by a British monarch, with appointment to the Order of the British Empire. 

At least ten of our writers are winners of a Governor General’s literary award, at least two have won the Scotiabank Giller award, and at least one was awarded the Booker award in Britain.

[; Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan; Archer, Saskatchewan: A history; Lorne Clinton, Alberta Venture 2 May 2008, and other sources] 

“Wrong” sign | unsplash

You’re so wrong!

Common misconceptions about Saskatchewan

Ranging from observations by Captains John Palliser (Palliser Expedition, 1858) and William F. Butler (The Great Lone Land, 1872) to more recent assumptions, usually made by tourists who crossed the province on the Trans-Canada highway.

Saskatchewan is just a vast flatland.” 

Running from the 49th parallel north to the 60th, Saskatchewan is the fifth largest Canadian province. The north is mostly rugged precambrian rock, while the south is largely overlain by glacial deposits, with scattered coulees (former glacial spillways) and a few flat areas (glacial lake bottoms). The Cypress Hills in the southwest, rising to 1,392 metres above sea level, are the highest place between the Rocky Mountains and Quebec’s Appalachians.

“Saskatchewan is a semi-arid prairie province, lacking water resources.”

In fact, the northern half is essentially boreal forest, dotted by 10,000 freshwater lakes. While Palliser’s Triangle in the southwest is the driest part of the grasslands, it usually gets enough rain for dryland farming.

“Saskatchewan was an empty wilderness before European settlers arrived around 1900.”

In fact, since about 9,500 BCE, it was inhabited by diverse indigenous peoples, each with their own cultures and political systems. Southerners depended on vast roaming herds of bison, while most northerners made their living by hunting and trapping in the boreal forests. In both areas, the First Nations had been making deals with Hudson’s Bay Company agents for more than a century before Canadian settlement began.

Saskatchewan is a rural, agricultural province.”

In fact, since 1950, with 70 percent rural population, until now, when it’s only about 30 percent, Saskatchewan has “urbanized” faster than any other province. Though farm output doubled in that period, the non-agricultural sector has become the economic mainstay, as farm mechanization and improved transport led to rural depopulation. 

“Saskatchewan has a diverse, multicultural population.”

In fact, over 80 percent of Saskies were born and raised here, many to the second and third generation. The descendants of European immigrants with distinctive languages and customs have largely blended into the Canadian mainstream. More recent migrants from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East tend to cluster in the cities, where there are more jobs and more guidance in adapting. Ironically the biggest divide remains between the First Nations and the “interlopers.”

“The people of Saskatchewan are all socialists.

In fact, while it’s true that Saskatchewan was the birthplace of hospitalization, Medicare and other socialist measures under the CCF/NDP, Saskies have been electing Conservative governments intermittently, all along.

Famous Saskies

People everyone should know about

Most Saskies are aware of our superstars such as Joni Mitchell, Tommy Douglas, John Diefenbaker, Gordie Howe, Buffy Saint-Marie. Here are some who lived in Saskatchewan that you might not know about (more info on them and hundreds more are in relevant chapters).

Comedian Art Linkletter, famous for American radio and television series including “People are Funny” and others, was born 18 July 1912 in Moose Jaw to S.W. Kalle and his wife, but Art was adopted and taken to San Diego. He found this out during a 1974 visit to his birthplace.

Nobel Prize winner Gerhard Herzberg was brought to the University of Saskatchewan by Dr. John Spinks in the 1930s, after they had met in Germany. 

Celebrated NFL football player Reuben Mayes of North Battleford came from a famous African-American family in the Maidstone area, who had led about a thousand ex-slaves to the province in 1910.

Grant MacEwan, who moved with his family to Melfort in 1915, once taught animal science at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, and was briefly an editor at the Western Producer. He was an MLA and lieutenant-governor of Alberta, best-selling author of fifty-five books, the man with a college named after him.

Lucy Maud Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables) lived for a year in Prince Albert after her father moved there with his new wife, but returned to Prince Edward Island to write her remarkable series of Anne books.  

Television broadcaster Keith Morrison of Lloydminster honed his skills as CFQC Saskatoon, and later became a familiar face as CBC-TV anchorman, NBC Dateline.

Leslie Nielsen of Regina acted in serious films such as Forbidden Planet and The Poseidon Adventure, and zany ones like Airplane and the Naked Gun

Celebrated actor and comedian Eric Peterson of Indian Head trained in the U of S drama department. He played the famous flying ace in Billy Bishop Goes to War and in the TV series Street Legal, Corner Gas, and This is Wonderland.

Actress Shannon Tweed, formerly of Saskatoon, is best known as the wife of Kiss band member Gene Simmons.

Tenor Jon Vickers of Prince Albert, was an international opera star who performed major roles in London, Milan and New York.

[Linkletter: Not Only a Name: a Long Love Letter from Moose Jaw; MacEwan: Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan,567-8 ; Mayes: CBC; Battleford News-Optimist]   

Surprising connections

Famous (and infamous) folks with ties to our province

The legendary American outlaw Butch Cassidy and his “Wild Bunch” used to hide out in the Big Muddy badlands in southern Saskatchewan. The caves are still there.

Father Bacchiocci, a Swift Current priest, was said to be the grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Al Capone's Hideaway motel in Moose Jaw.
A motel in Moose Jaw commemorates the famous Chicago gangster said to have stayed there often
during the Prohibition era. Photo by Patricia Pavey.

Chicago gangster Al Capone is said to have frequented Moose Jaw during the Prohibition era. Saskatchewan authors and the tourism sector have exploited this belief.

Inspector Francis Dickens, son of novelist Charles Dickens, was commanding the NWMP garrison at Fort Pitt during the Riel Resistance, but was persuaded to evacuate his men to Battleford, under threat of attack by militant warriors in Big Bear’s band. 

Poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s nephew Bertram Tennyson homesteaded at Cannington Manor near Moosomin. His book of poems did not launch a spectacular literary career, but he stuck to his day job, lawyering.  He was also known to have pinch-hit as stagecoach driver from time to time. 

Aristocrat from Whitewood
Count Beaudrap, who lived at Cannington manor for a while, was said to be related to Joan of Arc!

A couple of nobles associated with the French settlement at St. Hubert, were not shy in their claims to historical prestige. French count Paul de Beaudrap de Denneville (Marche) claimed he was a distant relative of Joan of Arc. He farmed for a while at St. Hubert.

Eminent literary critic Northrop Frye was once a student minister and itinerant preacher at Stonepile near the Cypress Hills for about two years.  The problem was, he couldn’t ride horseback. He was later ordained as a United Church minister.

American author Sinclair Lewis in 1924 went on a canoe trip with his physician brother Claude and the “treaty brigade” officials of the Department of Indian Affairs on their annual trek to dispense treaty money to northern tribes. 

Author Gabrielle Roy had a family connection to Eastend (or Dollard just down the road). Her uncle brought French settlers to the area so she had at least one first cousin in the town. Her autobiography, translated into English as Enchantment and Sorrow, received the Governor-General’s award in 1987.

Writer Robert Fulford was the nephew of Theresa Fulford Delaney, one of some eighty white settlers who spent two months in the camp of Big Bear in the 1885 North West Resistance.

Maple Creek rancher and storekeeper Horace Greeley was a second or third cousin of the famous American author and statesman Horace Greeley.

Hollywood horror film star Boris Karlov performed in Saskatchewan during his early acting years, with a repertory theatre company that suddenly folded. But the very next day the “Regina Cyclone” devastated much of Regina, and he got a job helping to clean it up.

William Wordsworth’s wife was reportedly the aunt of Henry Hutchinson, the first settler in the Souris area between Carnduff and the American border.

The famous physicist Albert Einstein played hockey as a youth in Germany. Einstein is famous for having developed the theory of relativity and for his contributions to quantum mechanics theory. Reportedly, one winter while formulating his world-shaking theory, he took a break in Saskatchewan to play for the Canwood Canucks.

Aldous Huxley once carried on a lively correspondence with Humphrey Osmond, who was working on psychedelic drugs at the Weyburn mental hospital. Osmond coined the word “psychedelic.”

Band leader Matt Kearney worked on the harvest excursions at Moosomin, in southern Saskatchewan.

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons television series, was the son of Homer Groening, whose name inspired his Homer character. The senior Groening, born in Main Centre, Sask., was a cartoonist too.

Saskatchewan author Fredelle Maynard’s daughter Joyce was a teenager at Yale, on scholarship, when she fell in love with author J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye) and left after a year to move in with him.  He was thirty-five years her senior. A year later he dumped her and she wrote At Home in the World about it all, but it was panned. She did not return to Yale.

People with links to Saskatchewan
Actor and musician Kiefer Sutherland is Tommy Douglas’s grandson.

Actor Kiefer Sutherland is the grandson of former premier Thomas C. Douglas, whose daughter Shirley married actor Donald Sutherland. Kiefer plays the highly-principled “accidental president” in the television series Designated Survivor

[Einstein: Saskatchewan Book of Everything, 126. Fulford: Sarah Carter’s introduction to Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear. Joan of Arc: Count De Beaudrap from Revue Historique vol 10 no. 2 at U of S Archives & Special Collections; Whitewood Museum; Revue Historique v. 10 no. 2 December 1999. Karlov: G. Ross Stuart, The History of Prairie Theatre, 70. Maynard: Vogue 13 Sept 2018,Vanity Fair September 1998. Napoleon: Spasoff, Back to the Past. Tennyson: Literary History of Saskatchewan, p.46, vol. 1. Count Uytendale, display panel at Whitewood Museum. Fulford: Saturday Night, June 1976, 970. Wordsworth: McCourt, Saskatchewan, 33-4; ]

Portrayed on screen and stage

Outstanding Saskies who inspired dramatic interpretations of their lives 

Archie Belaney is portayed in Grey Owl, a movie directed by Richard Attenborough, starring Pierce Brosnan. Belaney was an outspoken early conservationist, but pretended to be Grey Owl, an Aboriginal in the northern wilds, and was one of Canada’s most intriguing imposters. 

illustration of Big Bear
Illustration of Big Bear by Ruth Millar – based on a photograph]

Chief Big Bear, Cree leader in 1885 Northwest (Riel) Resistance is the subject of a CBC Television mini-series Big Bear based on Rudy Wiebe’s novel The Temptations of Big Bear, starring Gordon Tootoosis. Unlike other Cree chiefs, Big Bear refused to sign Treaty Six until the starvation of his tribe forced him to capitulate.

Hugh Cairns, VC, war hero is depicted in the play The Great War by Don Kerr, 25th Street Theatre. A statue commemorates him in a Saskatoon park.

Morris Cohen, former juvenile delinquent in Saskatoon in the early 1900s, inspired Don Kerr’s play Two-Gun Cohen, and reportedly an early Hollywood film The General Died at Dawn was loosely based on his life. A full-length book, Two Gun Cohen, was published by New York author Daniel Levy.

Nicholas Flood Davin is characterized in Ken Mitchell’s play, Davin: The Politician. A colourful, outspoken journalist, lawyer and MP, he founded the Regina Leader newspaper. He is noted in history for his ill-starred relationship with journalist and author Kate Simpson-Hayes.

illustration of John Diefenbaker
Diefenbaker – illustration by Ruth Millar for

John Diefenbaker, the only prime minister from Saskatchewan, is depicted in the play Diefenbaker by Thelma Oliver. It starred Terrence Slater, Norma Edwards and Patricia Lenyre.

Thomas C. (Tommy) Douglas, a father of Medicare: Prairie Giant, is portrayed in a CBC Television miniseries; and Keeper of the Flame (documentary). 

Gabriel Dumont, Metis leader in the North-West Resistance is depicted in the play Gabriel Dumont by Ken Mitchell. Dumont escaped to the U.S. where he joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Father Athol Murray of Wilcox: the play Murray of Notre Dame by Tony Cashman, is the main protagonist in the movie The Hounds of Notre Dame by Ken Mitchell, starring Frances Hyland, and Barry Morse.

Louis Riel, Metis leader in North-West Resistance, is portrayed in The Trial of Louise Riel, a play by John Coulter (1967) based on the transcripts of Riel’s trial.

Seager Wheeler, a plant breeder known as the Wheat King, inspired the play Harvest Moon, shown every year in Rosthern for years. 

Colin Thatcher, son of former premier Ross Thatcher, is depicted in Love and Hate: The Story of Colin and Joanne Thatcher, by Maggie Siggins and Suzette Couture. Colin Thatcher was convicted of having his wife murdered, but he always claimed to be innocent. 

Order of Canada medals
Order of Canada medals

“Knights” of the realm

Companions of the Order of Canada

“Companion” (CC) is the top rank of the Order of Canada (the others are CM, Member, and OC, Officer). The Order of Canada could be considered our version of knighthood. (These are cited elsewhere at more length in this website.) Some were also honoured as Fellows of the Royal Society, and the Royal Society of Canada (too many to list here).

Lloyd Barber, born in Regina – former president of the University of Regina.

Lloyd Axworthy, born in North Battleford – former minister in Prime Minister Chretien’s government.

Samuel Bronfman of Wapella – liquor industry baron and philanthropist associated with the mighty Seagram’s.

Balfour Currie, Kindersley and Saskatoon – head of physics at the U of S, founder of Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies, and other lofty academic posts.

E.M. Culliton, Elbow – former Justice of the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan and Chief Justice of Saskatchewan.

Brian Dickson, Yorkton – lawyer, puisne justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and later Canada’s fifteenth Chief Justice of Canada.  

Tommy Douglas, Weyburn – former premier of Saskatchewan, one of the two Fathers of Medicare, once voted our country’s “greatest Canadian.”

Willard Estey, Saskatoon – moved to Ontario, appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal, became Chief Justice of Ontario, later appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Emmett Hall, Saskatoon – law professor and judge, one of the two Fathers of Medicare. He became Chief Justice of Saskatchewan and chaired several royal commissions and public inquiries.

Gerhard Herzberg – Nobel prize winner and professor at the U of S; he fled to Saskatoon from wartime Germany. His many important posts include that of physics director at the National Research Council.

Ray Hnatsyshyn, Saskatoon, MP and cabinet minister, and later a senator.

Albert Wesley Johnson, Insinger – held several top posts in the federal government before becoming president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Chalmers Jack (CJ) Mackenzie, Saskatoon, former dean at U of S, called the most important Canadian in the growth of science after World War II. In Ottawa he became president of Atomic Energy of Canada and the National Research Council of Canada.

Joni Mitchell, Saskatoon – world-renowned singer.

Hilda Neatby, Saskatoon – academic, professor of history at the U of S, especially noted for her ideas on education.

Jeanne Sauve, Prud’homme – former governor-general.

Walter P. Thompson, Saskatoon, scientist and former University of Saskatchewan president.

Jon Vickers, Prince Albert – a former farm boy who soared to international opera stages, notably Covent Garden in London, England

[The Canadian Encyclopedia and other sources.]

“For King and country”

Saskies honoured by the Order of the British Empire

Being invested in Britain’s OBE carries impressive prestige. A surprising number of Saskies were so honoured, usually for heroic efforts abroad during the world wars. The ranks are: Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE), member (MBE).

George Findlay Andrew served in British intelligence in China in both the world wars. Here he wears traditional Chinese garb with pride,
in the country of his birth.

Findlay Andrew (OBE), who moved to Saskatoon in 1959, received his award at Buckingham Palace on July 20th, 1920, for secret war work in China. If secrecy was involved, the OBE handbook often doesn’t cite specific actions of people so honoured. His papers, which include a letter inviting him to London to receive the award, suggest it was for sending vital “intel” to the British from his strategic location in the northwest. Some thought it was for helping prevent a Uighur uprising, which could have led to another pro-German front.

Henry Black of Regina was made a commander of the OBE in 1935 for his work with the Saskatchewan Relief Commission, created by the Anderson government in 1931 to administer relief measures during the desperate days of the Depression. The commission was axed in 1934 by Liberal premier J.G Gardiner due to public criticism.

Elizabeth Cruikshank was a leader in the Local Council of Women in Regina. She was noted for her war work, and was active in the Saskatchewan Natural History Society. She was also an author and a Leader-Post columnist. [Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan]

Dr. Robert George Ferguson, a heroic figure in the fight against tuberculosis in Saskatchewan,  reportedly was honoured with an OBE. [Star-Phoenix, undated clipping, likely in 1942.

Joan Bamford Fletcher of Regina got her OBE for leading some two thousand women and children to safety out of a Japanese prison camp in the jungles of Sumatra, in twenty separate convoys along dangerous switchback roads, at the close of World War II. The jungles were swarming with hostile Indonesians fighting for independence from the Dutch. Japanese soldiers, now demobilized, assisted her in the hair-raising exodus.

Air Vice Marshall Arthur Clinton Maund (CBE) of the hamlet of Cando was also honoured as Commander of the Order of the Bath, and with the Distinguished Service Order, and received one Russian and two French medals for his military exploits in World War I. He had enlisted in the Saskatchewan Light Horse in Battleford but transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. After the war he served in Russia, 1919-20.

RCAF Group Captain Ernest Archibald McNab (OBE, CD, DFC) of Rosthern also received a Distinguished Flying Cross. An air ace, he commanded Canada’s first RACF fighter squadron abroad in 1940. Son the McNab who became lieutenant-governor, he got his OBE for outstanding war work.

Violet McNaughton on stage with dignitaries
Farm leader Violet McNaughton addresses crowd at Indian Head celebrating founders of the Territorial Grain Growers Association, August 19, 1955. Also on stage are James Gardiner (left), ex-premier, and T.C. Douglas, premier. Photo by Western Producer, from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library

Violet McNaughton (OBE) was an outstanding feminist, newspaper columnist and women’s editor at the Western Producer, noted for her role as a leader of farm women and in achieving the franchise for women. She was active in many important early farm organizations. In 1924 King George V conferred to her the OBE for services to rural women.

Ellaf Olafson (MBE), a war hero born in Shaunavon and brought up in Eston, studied engineering at the U of S. In World War II, as a captain in the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, he designed an innovative portable bridge that was built in record time to expedite Allied river crossings in Italy.

George Porteous (MBE) of Saskatoon was posted to Hong Kong with the Winnipeg Grenadiers during the Japanese siege of 1941 when more than 1075 Canadians were killed or wounded; others were taken prisoner. He was awarded his MBE for maintaining morale among his fellow prisoners, who for four years suffered unspeakable ordeals. A Scot, he had come to Canada in 1910 and attended high school and university in Saskatoon. Long after the war he became the 14th Lieutenant-Governor of Saskatchewan.

Alleyre Sirois (CM, MBE) originally from Vonda, was invested as a member of the OBE for his war work in intelligence for the British Special Operations Executive in France. He also received the French Croix de Guerre. On his return to Canada he studied law and, practiced in Gravelbourg before becoming a Queen’s Court judge in Saskatoon in 1964.

Dr. John William Tranter spinks, former president at the U of S, – Photo from University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections.

John William Tranter Spinks (CC, MBE, SOM), president of the University of Saskatchewan 1960 to 1975, was invested as a member of the Order for his work in Britain during World War II, “developing search and rescue procedures for missing aircraft.“ He was also named a Companion of the Order of Canada, member of the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame, the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, and a Saskatoon Citizen of the Year.

Harry Thode, born in Dundurn, received two degrees at the U of S followed by a PhD in the U.S. Noted for his work in atomic research, he was honoured by the Order of Canada and the Order of the British Empire, and was also a Fellow of the Royal Society. He became president and chancellor of McMaster University in 1961. [Star-Phoenix 14 April 2017]

Plant breeder Seager Wheeler (MBE) known as the Wheat King, helped boost Saskatchewan as the “bread basket of the world.” He assisted mother nature in selecting the best wheat seeds (some from mutants) he had grown, exhibiting them at agricultural fairs around the world and developing new strains.

Pilot Officer E.A. Wickenkamp (OBE) of Stenen joined the RAF in 1938. He received the OBE for rescuing two crew members after the crash of his aircraft. A month later, he was shot down and killed during an attack on a battleship.

[Andrew: unpublished ms. by Ruth Millar. Black: Commander_of_the_Order_of_the British_Empire. Fletcher: Millar, Saskatchewan Heroes & Rogues. Maund: Canadian Virtual War Memorial and other websites. McNaughton: Herstory, 1971. Olafson: Spasoff, Back to the Past. Porteous: Sirois: Green & White fall 2005. Spinks: Canadian Encyclopedia. Other sources: Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, Wikipedia]

Saskatchewan emblems

In 1941, the western red lily was chosen as our official flower. It grows in meadows and semi-wooded areas where its flaming red blossoms stand out like flames against a natural green background. 

The sharp-tailed grouse was selected as the provincial bird emblem in 1945.

Our official flag was adopted in 1969. It features the provincial shield of arms, with the western red lily. The flag’s upper half is green, symbolizing northern forests; the lower half is gold, symbolic of southern grain areas.

The Saskatchewan fish is the walleye.

Saskatchewan’s fruit is the Saskatoon berry

In 2001, needle-and-thread grass was chosen as our official grass. It’s a native bunchgrass common to the dry, sandy soils of the northern plains. Its seeds are sharply pointed and have long, twisted, thread-like fibres.

Our provincial district tartan features the colours gold, brown, green, red, yellow, white and black. Registered in Scotland in 1961, it was introduced in 1997 for highland dancers. 

In 1988, the white birch was adopted as Saskatchewan’s official tree. This hardwood tree is found across the northern 75 percent of the province. 

Sylvite, a.k.a. potash, is Saskatchewan’s official mineral. We are the world’s largest producer and exporter of potash, over 95 percent of it used for fertilizer.

The white-tailed deer became our official animal in 2001. It tends to be larger in the north than in the south. Adults have a reddish-brown summer coat and a greyish-brown winter coat, with white underparts. 

Curling became our official sport in 2001. It has a rich history here, from the Richardson brothers in the 1950s to Sandra Schmirler in the 90s. 

“From Many Peoples Strength”: The provincial coat of arms was granted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986, adapted from the 1906 shield of arms. With a crest of a beaver and crown on top, a lion and deer flank the shield, which displays the royal lion and three gold wheat sheaves. Western red lilies form the base.

Cast in stone (or bronze, or…)

Saskies immortalized in statues & monuments

Chief White Cap and Saskatoon founder John Lake are depicted in a sculpture near the east end of the newly-built Victoria Bridge in Saskatoon. 

Chief Payepot (Piapot), cast by Lyndon Tootoosis, marks the signing of Treaty 4 in Regina. 

Statue of Metis leader Gabriel Dumont in a Saskatoon Park.
Statue of Metis leader Gabriel Dumont
in a Saskatoon Park.

Metis leader Gabriel Dumont is commemorated in a statue in a riverside park in Saskatoon.

A statue of Metis Leader Louis Riel in Regina showing his private parts so offended the Metis Association that the offending image was banished to the basement of the Mackenzie Art Gallery. 

First premier Walter Scott is depicted in a statue in Regina.

A statue of Edouard Beaupre, the Willow Bunch giant, stands in front of a local museum named in his honour.

A full-length statue of Sgt. Hugh Cairns VC, World War Ihero, is in Kinsmen Park in Saskatoon.  

A life-size equestrian statue of artist Count Berthold von Imhoff adorns the village of St. Walburg. 

A head-and-shoulders bust of early MP and newspaper owner Nicholas Flood Davin by Earl G. Drake graces Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa.  

A statue in Saskatoon by sculptor Bill Epp immortalizes the Saskatchewan-born senator Ramon Hnatyshyn, an esteemed Ukrainian-Canadian hero and governor general of Canada for five years.

Statues depicting an encounter between newsboy John Diefenbaker (later prime minister) and Wilfred Laurier is prominently displayed at 1st Avenue and 21st Street in Saskatoon.

A head-and-shoulders bust of early MP and newspaper owner Nicholas Flood Davin is in Ottawa.

Statue of writer Farley Mowat
Statue of writer Farley Mowat on
the U of S campus

A statue of Farley Mowat, famous author, graces the U of S campus.

Famed hockey star Gordie Howe, can be seen in effigy at Sasktel Centre.

Popular radio host Denny Carr’s statue is located in a Saskatoon riverbank park. 

A statue of luminary Frederick W. Hill in Regina, was created by Russian artist Leo Mall (Leonard Molodozhanyn).

In the College of Education Building, University of Saskatchewan a new bust stands in the main hallway to commemorate beloved professor David Kaplan, who was a vibrant and influential mentor in the music world in Saskatoon. His Klezmer Band was and is extremely popular amongst Jews and gentiles alike,

Military: Keeping Us Safe

Military: Keeping Us Safe

Personal stories of Saskatchewan’s military men and women during the First and Second World Wars illustrate the fatal ironies of war, as well as close calls and lucky breaks.

Victoria Cross

Saskie recipients

The VC is the Commonwealth’s most prestigious award for valour in battle.

Harry Churchill Beet: (Boer War) British Army, died at Wakkerstroom, South Africa. He also served in the Canadian Army during WWI. He was from Glasylyn.

Hugh Cairns in In WWI army uniform
Sgt. Hugh Cairns VC, in his World War I uniform. Photo LH 3029 from Local History Room,
Saskatoon POublic Library

Hugh Cairns: (WW I) 46th Battalion, CEF, Saskatchewan Dragoons; died at Valienciennes, Belgium.  A statue of him graces a park in his home city, Saskatoon. 

Hampden Z.C. Cockburn: (Boer War) Royal Canadian Dragoons; Komati River, South Africa.  He retired to a ranch near Maple Creek.

Robert Combe: (WWI) 27th Battalion, CEF, Royal Winnipeg Rifles; Acheville, France. He ran a drugstore in Melville.

David Currie, VC.
Major David Currie and his wife, being honoured by the mayor of Sutherland, Florence McOrmond, in 1944. Photo B 1755 from Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library.

David Vivian Currie: (WW II) 29th Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (South Alberta Regiment). Born in Sutherland, he later lived in Moose Jaw.

Edmund de Wind (WWI) 31st Battalion CEF, Grugies, France. A mountain in Alberta is named for him. He worked as a bank clerk in Yorkton and Humboldt.

Gordon M. Flowerdew (World War I) Lord Strathcona’s Horse, Canadian Cavalry Brigade; Bois de Moreuil, France. He homesteaded near Duck Lake.

Arthur G. Knight: (World War I) 10th Battalion, Royal Winnipeg Rifles and Calgary Highlanders; Villiers de Agincourt, France. He immigrated to Regina in 1911.

Cecil Merritt, (World War II) though not from Saskatchewan, led the South Saskatchewan Regiment at Dieppe, France. He is recognized on a plaque at Estevan.

William J. Milne of Moosomin: (World War I) 16th Battalion, CEF, Canadian Scottish Regiment, Vimy, France. He worked on a farm near Carol before enlisting.

George H. Mullin (World War I) Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Passchendaele, Belgium. His hometown was Moosomin.

Michael O’Leary: (World War I) Irish Guards, Cuinichy, France. Served with RNWMP in Regina.

John Robert Osborn: (World War II) 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles, WWII, Hong Kong. He farmed near Wapella.

George Randolph Pearkes (World War I) 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles, Passchendaele, Belgium. Federal Minister of Defence 1957; Lt. Gov. of British Columbia 1960-1968. He trained at the RNWMP in Regina.

Arthur H. L. Richardson (Boer War) Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians; Wowlespruit, South Africa.  Trained with NWMP at Regina and was posted at Battleford until enlistment.

Raphael Zengel: (World War I), 5th Battalion, CEF, North Saskatchewan Regiment, Warvillers, France. Had lived at Burr, a small town near Humboldt.

[Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan; For Valour: Saskatchewan Victoria Cross Recipients, 1995.]

Saskie flying aces in World War I

Fighter pilots who shot down at least five enemy aircraft in World War I or II

Many of them received medals such as the Distinguished Flying Cross, Military Cross, and Distinguished Service Cross. In World War I, they flew with Britain’s Royal Flying Corps (RFC), or the Royal Air Force (RAF, formed 1 April 1918) or the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

Alfred Clayburn Atkey of Mineboro was a journalist with the Toronto Telegram when war broke out. He became a bomber pilot in Britain’s RAF (or RFC), and was dubbed the “most successful two-seater pilot” of the war. In two-seaters, the “observer” (gunner) flew in front of the pilot, and Atkey and various observers claimed thirty-eight aircraft shot down.

Fred Ernest Banbury was born in Regina and studied law at the University of Toronto. He learned to fly in the U.S., joined the RNAS and was sent to France. He flew with 9 Naval Squadron in 1917, was promoted to flight commander, and claimed eleven kills. He was killed 1 April 1918.

Conway McAlister Farrell, born in Regina, was a member of 24 Squadron in March 1918, just before the RFC became the RAF. He downed seven aircraft. 

Ernest Francis Hartley, from “somewhere in Saskatchewan,” flew with the 41 Squadron from 30 October 1917 until 2 July 1918. He was credited with seven hits.

Harold Evans Hartney, lawyer and air ace, first joined the Saskatoon Fusiliers. Billy Bishop enticed him to join the RFC in Britain, and Hartney was credited with seven “kills” before he was shot down by the Red Baron, but he survived. In June 1918 he transferred to the U.S. Army’s air service, and the Americans claimed him as theirs. In 1914 he published the book Up and At ‘Em.

Harold Waddell Joslyn of Sintaluta was in 20 Squadron of the RFC. Flying FE-2s with two gunners, he claimed seven Albatross Scouts. He died in August 2017 when his aircraft was shot down.  

Hugh Bingham Maund (from somewhere in Saskatchewan) flew with RNAS and RAF in WWI and is credited with shooting down eight craft – seven planes and one observer balloon.  He was also a flight lieutenant in World War II. He was probably related to Air Vice Marshal A.C. Maund of Cando.

Clifford McEwen (known as “Black Mike”) of Saskatoon and Moose Jaw, joined 28 Squadron of Britain’s RFC. He shot down twenty-seven enemy aircraft in Italy. He eventually became RCAF Air Vice Marshal in World War II, and upon retirement a director of Trans-Canada Airlines for two years. Moose Jaw air base was renamed after him in 2003.

William Ernest Shields, born in Lipton, joined the RFC and was posted to France in March 1918, where he scored twenty-four victories, including zapping some air balloons. Shields was killed in a Canadian Air Force flying accident in 1920. 

Merrill Samuel Taylor of Yellow Grass and Regina first joined the RNAS and later the RAF, and racked up seven hits. He claimed to have helped deliver the kiss of death to the illustrious Baron von Richthofen.  He was shot down himself in July 1918, and France honoured him with the Croix de Guerre. Britain apparently did not honour him.

Edmund Roger Tempest, though born in England, had farmed with his brother Wulstan in Saskatchewan. When war broke out, they returned to England and joined the RFC in which Edmund became a flight commander. He was credited with seventeen hits.

(Shores, Above the Trenches;; Drake: Regina: The Queen City, and other sources.]

Flying aces, World War II

Many trained under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and fought with the RCAF

Mark Henry (Hilly) Brown was credited with eight downed enemy planes and one shared, and even received French and Czech medals. At one point, despite having been shot down into the sea and burned severely, he went back flying after ten days. Although born in Manitoba, he did live in Saskatchewan for a while.  

E.F. Jack Charles, raised in Lashburn, was a pre-war RCAF officer who transferred to the RAF in 1939. He destroyed at least fifteen enemy fighters and damaged many more. 

James Francis (Stocky) Edwards of Nokomis scored more than twenty hits. He shot down Otto Schulz, a German air ace, took part in the D-Day landing, and served in Africa. He is the subject of the book The Desert Hawk: The True Story of J.F. (Stocky) Edwards, World War II Flying Ace.

Bruce Ian Maclennan of Gull Lake, was credited with downing seven enemy planes in the Battle of Malta, and damaging several others. 

Henry Wallace (Wally) McLeod, a teacher from Regina is acknowledged as the “highest-scoring ace in the RCAF.” In World War II he achieved a total of twenty-one enemy aircraft destroyed, three possibly destroyed, eleven damaged, and one shared damaged. McLeod scored thirteen kills during the Battle of Malta, earning the nickname “The Eagle of Malta.” Mcleod was killed in an aerial dogfight in September 1944.

WWII Flying ace Ernest McNab
WW II Flying ace Ernest McNab as a U of S hockey player. From composite photo
LH 9780, 1923 by Ralph Dill, from
Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library

Ernest Archibald McNab (son of Peter Archibald McNab, lieutenant governor) was a native of Rosthern. He commanded the RCAF’s Squadron No. 1 in 1940, and scored twelve “kills” in the Battle of Britain. In February 1942 he was back in Saskatoon, commanding No. 4 Service Flying Training School, but returned later that year to command a fighter station in England. Among his awards and honours were a Czech War Cross and an OBE. After all that excitement, he lived to be seventy-three.

Squadron Leader John D. Mitchner of Saskatoon was a double-ace pilot in World War II, according to fellow pilot Stocky Edwards. Mitchner led the RCAF “416” Unit and the “City of Oshawa” Unit.

Navigator James D. Wright, also from Rosthern and flying pilot Don McFadyen were credited with downing seven enemy aircraft, plus five V-1 rockets. 

[Bartlett: Coughlin, The Dangerous Sky, 174 ; Charles: Ralph, Aces, Warriors & Wingmen; Edwards: Hehner, Desert Hawk; Mitchner: Hehner, The Desert Hawk; Moore: Coughlin, 92-95, Others: Barry, Age Shall Not Weary Them; Bishop, True Canadian Heroes in the Air; Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan]

Other notable Saskie flyboys 

Other pilots who distinguished themselves, whose careers are chronicled in articles and books.

Pilot Dick Bartlett, raised at Fort Qu’Appelle, was a real POW at Stalag Luft III, depicted in The Great Escape movie. He looked after the clandestine medicine ball in which was stored “the canary” — the radio POWs used to listen to the BBC News. He also secretly received encrypted intelligence messages. When not in use the radio was hidden in an unused toilet.

Another pilot named Bartlett from Fort Qu’Appelle, initials C.S., might have been related to Dick. In World War II, C.S. flew transport planes escorting military bigwigs around the Middle East, and later did coastal bombing missions. His biggest coup was leading a secret mission to destroy a strategic bridge in Syria to thwart the Nazis. For technical reasons aerial bombing was impossible with his aging aircraft, so he they had to do the job on the ground. With thirteen sappers he landed his Valentia in a field. The sappers tumbled out, planted explosive charges around the bridge, and quickly scrambled aboard again. The plane took off as enemy guns blazed, but they escaped and the bridge exploded. Bartlett later became a wing commander. He was awarded a posthumous DFC after he was killed in a raid over France.

Gerald Keith Bouey (CC), Governor of the Bank of Canada from 1973 to 1987, was born in Axford, Sask.  In World War II he was a flight lieutenant in the RCAF. 

Malcolm Colquhun of Maple Creek was a navigator on a bombing mission in 1943 over Dusseldorf when his plane was shot down. He was eventually taken to Stalag Luft III (scene of The Great Escape movie in 1944). He helped with “Wooden Horse”, another tunnel escape plan. He had been transferred to another camp when the escape finally took place. 

Peter Dmytruk, born in Radisson, was an RCAF rear gunner when his Lancaster bomber was shot down over France. He survived the crash and worked with the French Resistance before being captured and executed by the Nazis. The French awarded him a posthumous Croix de Guerre.  A street in a French town was named for him, and a monument erected at the spot where he died. [EoS, 250)

Robert R. Ferguson of Fort Qu’Appelle became a squadron leader in the RCAF. He later distinguished himself in agriculture, and was on the boards of governors of both Saskatchewan’s universities.

William (Les) Kell of Canwood helped build the escape tunnels at Stalag II POW camp in Germany, southeast of Berlin. Because he didn’t speak German, he opted not to join those who attempted the escape. Most of them were captured and executed. 

Ernest Bigland Knight crash landed off the coast of Libya in a Sunderland. He distinguished himself for walking back to a military base leading 150 Italian prisoners. Unfortunately, he did not survive the war. 

Arthur Clinton Maund (CBE) homesteaded around 1908 near Cando, and ultimately became an air vice marshal (a lofty position) in Britain’s Royal Air Force. He joined the Saskatchewan Light Horse when World War I was declared, but transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916. Flying with the RAF in World War II, he was killed in 1942.

Flying Officer K.O. Moore of Rockhaven sank two submarines right after the other, with his nine crewmen aboard their Liberator, which flew transport as well as bombing missions in the English Channel.

Ian Tweddell of Lashburn was another Saskie flying officer interned at Stalag Luft during the Great Escape preparations. He is remembered as the one who ordered engineering textbooks from the U of S so he could get a head start on his career. 

[Barris, The Great Escape: the Canadian Story, 93-94; Barry, Age Shall Not Weary Them; Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan;; Maple Creek community history; StarPhoenix 17 August 2017; Coughlin, The Dangerous Sky, 172-4]

Noteworthy Saskie soldiers

Remembered in the annals of Saskatchewan history

Our soldiers sometimes distinguished themselves abroad, others when they returned

Brian Dickson of Yorkton, a captain in the Royal Canadian Artillery in World War II, took part in the Battle of Normandy and the Falaise Gap. At home, he was a noted lawyer. On April 18, 1984 he became the 15th Chief Justice of Canada.  

For valour in the Italian campaigns during World War II, David Greyeyes was awarded the Order of Canada and the Saskatchewan Order of Merit.

George Lawrence Price of Moose Jaw was the last soldier killed at Mons, two minutes before the Armistice was declared November 11, 1918.

General Andrew McNaughton of Moosomin has been called “Canada’s most prominent soldier in the 20th century.” He led Canada’s First Division, which included Saskatoon Light Infantry and Princess Patricia Light Infantry. He received numerous awards for his service.

And no Birds Sang book cover
And No Birds Sang was Farley Mowat’s memoir
of his war years.

Farley Mowat, who lived in Saskatoon during the 1930s, served in Italy in World War II, later writing his book And No Birds Sang about his war experiences.

George Porteous was a well-known survivor of the Hong Kong POW camp. He was named a member of the Order of the British Empire for “giving strength” to fellow soldiers imprisoned in Hong Kong. Back home in Saskatchewan, he was lieutenant-governor 1976 to 1978, dying in office before completing his term.

George Tory has been called our province’s “most decorated” Indigenous veteran for his service in World War II and the Korean War.  He served as “medic and supply officer,” and advocate for his people.

Clifford Walker of Regina reached the military rank of Brigadier General. He has also been a high school and university teacher, a businessman, an advocate for First Nations people, a supporter of veterans, CEO and chairman in the Corps of Commissionaires, and a mentor for Indigenous youth.

[Walker: Protocol Office, Sask. Government; Greyeyes: StarPhoenix 31 March 2017; Porteous: StarPhoenix 7 Feb 1978]

Riding the waves

Notable prairie sailors on the high seas

In World War II, Saskatchewan contributed more than 6,500 men and almost 600 women to the Royal Canadian Navy or the RVNVR (volunteer reserves). Most Saskie sailors served on vessels escorting supply ships from Canada to Europe. Not all prairie mariners joined the navy though.

Prairie mariner
Captain Elijah Andrews once sailed the seven seas, before coming to live in Saskatoon. Photo LH 1077, taken between 1900 and 1905, by Ralph Dill, courtesy of
Local History Room Saskatoon Public Library

Elisha Shelton Andrews commanded Saskatoon’s Home Guards during the 1885 rebellion, crewed on the Northcote, and ferried troops across the river. A New Brunswick native, he had attended naval academy in Belfast, Ireland, and is said to have been a sea captain in the British Navy.

Author Max Braithwaite, born in Nokomis, joined the Canadian Navy but he didn’t get to sail the high seas in World War II. He probably had to be content with Lake Ontario, when he served with the Royal Canadian Volunteer Services in Toronto during World War II, but he gained enough nautical know-how to write The Commodore’s Barge is Alongside.

Navy dietician Margaret Brooke, born in Ardath, was aboard a ferry that was torpedoed and sunk by a Nazi sub off the Newfoundland coast in World War II. Clinging to a lifeboat, she tried to save the life of a colleague, who died in the frigid waters. After the war Brooke earned a PhD from the U of S.  A Navy ship was named for her in 2018.

Les Roberts of Saskatoon was a wireless operator with the Canadian Navy during the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II. Interviewed in 1995, he recalled he had been on board the corvette HMCS Saskatoon involved in “wolf packs” attacking German U-Boats that destroyed some 250,000 tones of goods beig shipped to Europe on Allied ships that winter.

On the maiden voyage of the corvette HMCS Saskatoon, veteran signalman Ronald S. Vokins of Lashburn was aboard to check its signalling equipment. He had joined the British Navy in 1902, served in World War I, including the Battle of Jutland, and was on a mysterious “Q-boat” that targeted enemy subs. In 1939 he joined the Canadian Navy to help patrol the Atlantic.

Robert (Bob) Yanow of Saskatoon, graduated from the U of S in 1956, then served on RCN destroyers and frigates on both coasts. Rising to the rank of Rear Admiral, he concluded his career in 1987 as RCN commander in the Pacific.

[Balfour: StarPhoenix 16 May 1955; Brooke: CBC 9 Oct 2018, internet; Roberts: SP 3 May 1995. Saskatoon Free Press, 5 April 1998]. Vokins: SP 11 October 1941; Andrews: StarPhoenix news clippings; ms. by Alan Morton]

“They shall not grow old”

Saskatchewan’s war dead

Casualty figures are complex due to the chaos of war, organizational changes, trickiness of defining inclusion, and because many people switched services. These figures are mostly from the Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial.

Nine members of the NWMP died in the North-West Rebellion.

The names of 4797 Saskie armed service people who perished in wars are emblazoned on the memorial at the Legislative grounds in Regina.

World War I claimed 6452 lives.

World War II took 5015 Saskie lives.

In all wars there have been 8,774 army casualties from Saskatchewan, plus 103 in the British army, and 25 in the U.S. army – not counting the USAAF, 10.

In all wars, the toll among naval personnel from Saskatchewan was 190 deaths.

There were eight Saskie casualties in the U.S. navy, and five in the British navy.

In all wars, 2192 Saskie RCAF personnel died, plus more than 180 in other air forces and flying services.

Three Saskies died in the French or Indian armies.

Ten civilians perished while taking part in operations such as air crew during WWII.

 [–service; Bill Barry, They Shall Not Grow Old, 11-16]

The big picture: All wars

Afghanistan: 18

South African (Boer): 13

Korean War: 39

Peacetime: 115

World War I: 6452

World War II: 5015

[Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial website]