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Former Mountie recounts adventures in Arctic postings

A retired Mountie has published a book recounting the 3 1/2 years he spent stationed in the Arctic in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

Lyle Lambert was at Fort Macleod Library on Wednesday to talk about Mukluks, Boots and Skates: Memoirs of a Mountie.

“My northern service was pre-skidoo days,” said Lambert, who spent 25 years in the RCMP. “It was dog teams — that’s how we travelled.”

Lyle Lamberts map
Lyle Lambert points out on a map where he was posted in the Arctic.

Lambert writes about his youth growing up in Flin Flon, playing hockey, going to school and working at various jobs.

Lambert’s career path seemed set when he got a steady job in the Canadian National Railway express office in Flin Flon.

While working at the express office Lambert became friends with the RCMP members who would stop by for coffee while on night patrol.

They convinced Lambert to apply to join the RCMP . He was accepted and went into training, graduating in January 1957.

Lambert expected to be posted in Saskatchewan but to his surprise found himself reporting to E Division headquarters in Victoria, B.C. to find out his first post was in Nelson, B.C.

After four months Lambert was reassigned to Trail, B.C.

Hockey was a constant throughout Lambert’s life and while posted in Nelson he trained with the Maple Leafs senior team. He played briefly with the Smoke Eaters in Trail but job commitments saw him drop down to the intermediate team.

“Wherever I got transferred I got involved with the community through hockey,” said Lambert, who as a youth had aspirations of playing in the NHL like his idols Gordie Howe and Eddie Shore. “I was invariably involved in playing hockey with the local team. I was president of minor hockey in a couple of different communities.”

Lambert writes about some of his assignments while stationed in Nelson and Trail, including policing the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors.

After a couple of years in B.C. Lambert had a choice to make. His application for a posting in the Arctic was approved, but he was also encouraged to join the RCMP’s detective section.

Lyle Lambert mukluks
Lyle Lambert displays a pair of mukluks during his presentation Wednesday at the Fort Macleod Library.

Lambert had no hesitation accepting the transfer to Aklavic, North West Territories and the adventure and experiences it would bring.

“I grew up in Flin Flon,” Lambert said with a laugh. “I knew what winter was all about.”

Prior to heading north, Lambert underwent training at an Edmonton hospital where he was taught how to deliver a baby, the use of basic medicines and how to diagnose predictable health issues.

Lambert was first stationed in Aklavic, then Inuvik and later Herschel Island, Yukon. At Herschel Island, the only means of transport was walking, boat or dog team.

Lambert was later transferred 400 miles across the Beaufort Sea to Sachs Harbour, the most northerly RCMP detachment in the North West Territories.

Lambert eventually became skipper of the RCMP Jennings, a schooner used to transport personnel, supplies and equipment from post to post along the waterways of the Western Arctic.

Part of the duties of the RCMP in the Arctic was watching for foreign planes and submarines at the height of the Cold War.

Lambert continued his RCMP career with postings in Calgary, Drumheller, Brooks, Grimshaw, Edmonton and Lethbridge. He writes about some of his adventures in those places.

After retiring from the RCMP, Lambert went to work with the newly-formed Blood Tribe Police.

Mukluks, Boots and Skates: Memoirs of a Mountie began to take shape at the urging of Lambert’s friend Bryan (B.J.) Smith, a cowboy poet.

“I’m not really a writer,” Lambert said. “In my 25 years with the RCMP and two years with the Blood Tribe Police I wrote a lot of crime reports.”

Lambert travelled with Smith, who had also served with the RCMP, to cowboy poetry festivals in Canada and the U.S.

“We would reminisce about our careers. He started to urge me to write my stories about my service.”

Lambert began to make notes about his experiences and adventures but it wasn’t until COVID-19 hit that he started working on the book.

“Along came COVID and I decided it was time to take these notes and put them into a book. I had to stay home anyway so I started putting it all together.”

Mukluks, Books and Skates became a family effort, with one of the Lamberts’ sons creating the cover, and the other one providing computer expertise.

Lambert’s wife Betty happily took on the role of editor.

“I was a school teacher,” Betty said with a laugh. “I love correcting other people’s writing.”

Smith, who has published five books, provided advice about the process.

“I had a lot of support,” Lambert said.

Lambert donates all the proceeds from the sale of his book to three charities: War Amps of Alberta, the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, and Wilderness Ranch west of Claresholm.

“I don’t take a cent for myself,” said Lambert, who donated a copy of his book to Fort Macleod Library.

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