Fallen heroes of the police department

"In the few seconds that he was airborne, Cst. Doyle was seen to attempt to protect himself…"

In the few seconds that he was airborne, Cst. Doyle was seen “to attempt to protect himself prior to hitting his head on the pavement”.

Five officers have died in the line of duty in the 159-year history of the Victoria Police Department.

Two were gunned down, one of them accidentally by a fellow constable, and three died, over a span of 39 years, in motor cycle accidents.

Such are some of the fascinating facts one finds when researching on the internet; in this case the VPD website’s section on Fallen Heroes.

It should go without saying that motorcyclists face greater danger of serious injuries in any mishap involving a heavier motor vehicle such as a car.

So it proved in the afternoon of Nov. 10, 1920 when, while on duty as a ‘Motor Constable’ at the CPR docks in the Inner Harbour, Cst. Robert Forster’s bike was struck by a vehicle. He suffered internal injuries and was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he underwent surgery and, next day, seemed to improve.

But not for long; he died that evening in the company of his brother and fellow VPD constable, George Forster. Born in Ireland, Robert joined the VPD in 1911 but left the force to serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Corps during the First World War. He rejoined the police department a year before his death. He was 33 years old, unmarried and, it would appear, well liked as his funeral procession was almost three-quarters of a mile long.

Seven years later, it was the turn of Cst. Albert Ernest Wells. He was proceeding west along Hillside Avenue in the early a.m. of Saturday, Dec. 19, 1927. Just short of the Hillside and Quadra Street intersection, he spoke to a pedestrian then turned left onto Quadra, headed south towards town.

Here’s where it gets curious. This was 1927, remember; in all probability, there would have been little motor traffic at 12:30 in the morning, even on a Saturday morning. And, logically, any vehicles on the road would have been using their headlights.

But, to quote the record, “Unseen by [Cst.] Wells, an automobile was proceeding along Quadra Street at a high rate of speed. Spotting the speeding vehicle at the last moment, [he] unsuccessfully attempted to avoid the collision. The sedan struck the sidecar of [Cst.] Wells who was thrown off his motorcycle. Seriously injured and unconscious, he was taken to the drug store at Quadra and Hillside while he waited to be transported to Jubilee Hospital. [Cst.] Wells died two days later.”

Although he fled the scene, the motorist was arrested and charged. A member of the VPD for just under three years, the Birmingham-born Albert Wells, 30, left a wife and two young children.

Thirty-two years passed before the VPD lost its third motorcycle patrolman. Cst. Earle Michael Doyle, 28, was headed north in the outside lane on Douglas Street, with a car abreast of him in the inside lane. As both car and bike approached the 3100 block, both north and south bound centre lanes were barred by vehicles allowing a vehicle from each lane to turn left.

The southbound driver, going east to access an Esso station, failed to notice the oncoming motorcycle and, in the resulting collision, Cst. Doyle was thrown from his bike. He was wearing a newly-issued police motorcycle helmet but the force of the impact knocked it free.

In the few seconds that he was airborne, Doyle was seen “to attempt to protect himself prior to hitting his head on the pavement”. It was to no avail and he died in St. Joseph’s Hospital 20 hours later of multiple injuries, including a fractured skull. A member of the VPD for a year and a half, the Moose Jaw, Sask. native left a wife and three children.

Three young policemen on motorcycles killed in the line of duty, remembered online.

www.twpaterson.com

Cowichan Valley Citizen

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