Sergeants Mess, NWMP Headquarters, Regina, 1890
During the first decade of the NWMP, a confusing set of rank titles were used, including sub-constable, acting constable and constable, but in 1880 the ranks were simplified into a system that would remain in place for decades to come.
All men joined as constables. Through hard work and good conduct, they could move up through the non-commissioned ranks, from corporal to sergeant to staff sergeant. The rank of sergeant major was first created at the divisional level in the 1870s. The sergeant major's role was to ensure that men received sufficient training and drill, and that discipline was maintained.
With the opening of Depot (the NWMP's training establishment) in 1885, a regimental sergeant major (RSM) was appointed to ensure that new recruits were trained to a standard and that they were instilled with the traditions and practices of the Mounted Police. Robert Belcher, one of the "originals" was the first RSM at Depot.
Compensation and Benefits
Members were relatively well paid for the time. In his first year, a Constable received 50 cents per day; in subsequent years, his pay remained at 50 cents per day, but he could earn an additional 5 cents with "good conduct." Good conduct pay increased each year to a maximum of 20 cents. In other words, a Constable in his fifth year, with good conduct, earned 70 cents per day. Non-commissioned officers, sergeants and corporals earned from 85 cents to $1.00 a day, and staff sergeants earned from $1.00 to $1.50.
These were respectable wages for the time. Other benefits included free rations and kit, accommodation in barracks and regular opportunities to earn extra pay. Artisans, such as blacksmiths, tailors, carpenters, and other skilled labourers -- all regular members of the Mounted Police -- received additional pay depending on experience and the nature of their work.
NWMP Hospital at Lethbridge, Alberta, "K" Division, 1893
Members were given leave as well. Medical care was a significant benefit. Medical and hospital personnel -- again, all regular members of the NWMP -- were generally well-educated and competent practitioners.
In 1886, legislation was introduced to grant pensions to those who had served for a minimum of 25 years. John Martin, a native of Prince Edward Island, was the first to qualify and retired in 1899 on a pension of 90 cents a day.
Those wounded while on duty or injured in the course of their work were let go from the force (invalided out) with disability pensions. Seymour Farquharson, also a native of P.E.I., accidentally shot himself and lost an arm as a result. He was invalided out in 1900 and collected a pension for the next 64 years.