Here lies a grave mystery unexplained

Sgt. Jeff Swann of the Ucluelet RCMP recently caught wind of a gravestone mystery uncovered by retired RCMP officer J.J. Healy.

On the website www.rcmpgraves.com, Healy shared a story about a visit to Ucluelet where he came across an RCMP officer’s gravesite with the wrong regimental number attached.

“We frequently stayed overnight at unique B and B’s along the Island’s West Coast-our hosts were extremely cordial and kind and the BC weather was spectacular. Mysteries were far, far away from my mind-any dismay dreams of such affairs had been left parked back east. Or, at least that’s what I had intended,” Healy wrote.

“However, one day just as I was about to feel relaxed on the Island, a new mystery lunged at me and nearly choked me. While driving, I found the grave site of NWMP member Cpl. Bernard Emil ‘Bernie’ Lasswitz in a small cemetery which I spotted not far off the main highway near Ucluelet, BC.”

Healy delved into research and discovered the Regimental Number 90 displayed on Lasswitz’s grave marker was incorrect.

“According to historical records held by Kamloops Vet Jack White, Lasswitz was given Reg. #1626,” Healy wrote. “Cpl. Lasswitz died at Port Alberni, BC on January 14, 1938. His afterlife mix-up of Regimental Numbers has left researchers baffled.” Every police officer in Canada receives a regimental number and this number is attached to that officer throughout their entire career.

“The first police officer with the Northwest Mounted Police back in 1873 was given number 1,” Swann said.

The Northwest Mounted Police became the Royal Northwest Mounted Police before becoming the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that we know today.

Swann said he still remembers the day he received his regimental number: 45,430.

“When police officers get assigned that number it’s a pretty special day and it always has been,” he said. “It’s a legacy and a history; there’s 45,429 police officers that have gone through training before me so we build on that legacy and build on that history.”

He noted RCMP officers can compare numbers to determine how many officers trained between them and noted Const. Chris Squire’s regimental number is 59,793.

“About 14,000 police officers have trained between Chris and I; well the training has changed, the technology has changed, when I came out there were no cell phones and no computers in the car,” he said. “Now these officers that are coming out are better trained, they’ve got the newest and the greatest and the latest and they teach us when they get here.”

Swann said all officers can cite their regimental number by heart so the gravestone typo is puzzling. “To get it confused or mistaken is kind of an interesting story,” he said. “It wouldn’t come from the police officer because that’s a number engrained in our memory so it has come from somewhere; how did they get that number misplaced?” reporter@westerlynews.ca