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December 20, 2004
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v2.1 Reference

Red Serge and Polar Bear Pants

The Biography of Harry Stallworthy, RCMP

Harry Stallworthy spent 20 years in the Canadian North with the RCMP. While stationed at Bache Peninsula, Stallworthy led one of the longest arctic sledge patrols in the history of the Force, searching for traces of German geologist Dr. Hans Krüger. In 1934 he set off with the Oxford University Ellesmere Land Expedition. He was present at the historic meeting of Roosevelt and Churchill in Quebec in 1944 and in the late 1950s was in charge of security for the eastern half of the DEW Line. From policing and prospecting in the Yukon to coordinating aerial surveillance patrols against rum-runners in the Gaspé, the story of Stallworthy's life was rarely uneventful. It captures the excitement, adventure, and mystery of the North.

About the Author

William Barr is professor emeritus of Geography, University of Saskatchewan, and a research associate with the Arctic Institute of North America. He lives in Calgary, Alberta.


"Meanwhile, Barr deserves praise of his own. Red Serge and Polar Bear Pants, exhaustively researched and well-written, is a worthy match for the man he writes about, and for the complex issues that arose when cultures met, collided and melded." Erling Friis-Baastad, The Yukon News

"[T]he real pleasure of Red Serge and Polar Bear Pants remains in the stories, which take readers along on a series of epic journeys, fascinating side trips and a lifetime devoted to adventure." Ken Tingley, The Edmonton Journal

"This book is one of the finest we have seen about life and hardship in the Arctic. A wealth of letters and reminiscences provide a vivid account of Mounted Police life. There was little crime but Stallworthy was kept busy providing food and shelter for himself. On patrols, igloos made excellent overnight camps, and dog sleighs the mode of transportation. But Stallworthy doesn't complain; in fact, he thrives on the northern life. This is a book worth reading." Alberta History Journal, Spring 2005

"This remarkable young Englishman led one of the longest polar sledge patrols in RCMP history accompanying Ernest Shackleton. His 20 years in the North assisted in firming up Canada's claim to sovereignty in the Arctic. A good adventure tale and an important historical report." Ron MacIsaac, Island NEWS (Victoria, BC)

"In [Red Serge and Polar Bear Pants], William Barr details the life and career of Harry Stallworthy, former RCMP officer and noted High Arctic traveller. While the book covers all periods of Stallworthy's life, its title and text emphasize his tenure in the High Arctic. That is entirely fitting, as it was in the Arctic that Stallworthy and a few other Mounties reinforced Canada's presence in its most remote region, while helping the Force capture the imaginations of Canadians in the period between the two World Wars..Barr's book is well documented, drawing in particular on Stallworthy's surviving papers. Some of the book's most engaging passages are extended excerpts from these papers, including a six-page excerpt from the Mountie's unpublished essay on a sledge journey he carried out from Chesterfield Inlet with the Inuk Naujaa, which gives the reader a feel for the character of RCMP service in the Arctic and its intercultural relations..The book is well illustrated with photographs from Stallworthy's collection..[T]he book is a worthy contribution to the scholarly literature on the exploration of Canada's High Arctic, and it will also be of interest to general readers." Lyle Dick, Arctic Journal, December 2005

"Stallworthy was a gifted raconteur who could hold listeners in rapt attention to stories of his life and travels, as so well related in this fine biography by Professor Barr. Stallworthy was a great mounted policeman, remembered in the legends of the north as one of the most undaunted travelers the land had known. " Geoffrey Hattersly-Smith, Polar Record.

"Barr's vivid account succeeds in elevating Stallworthy to his rightful place alongside more famous Canadian adventurers such as Sam Steele and F.J, Fitzgerald. Handsomely designed, with numerous photographs and helpful maps, Red Serge and Polar Bear Pants is a chronicle of an individual life, not a history of the Arctic sovereignty disputes or of the northern police force..Barr's biography shines especially in passages about Stallworthy's epic sledge patrols: the bitter cold, scarce provisions, and makeshift shelters, as well as the elemental pleasures of an unexpected feast and easy conversation with Inughuit companions after a successful hunt." Michael R. Anderson, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Winter 2005/2006.

"Stallworthy is an engaging subject both symbolically and personally. In the early twentieth century the federal government depended on RCMP constables in the Northern Service to exemplify Canadian sovereignty in far-flung regions. Stallworthy occupied Bache Peninsula, on Ellesmere Island's eastern coast, at a crucial time in Canadian-Norwegian territorial negotiations..Aside from Ellesmere, Stallworthy enjoyed postings at Dawson, Moncton, Ottawa, Stony Rapids, Fort Smith, and Thorold, among other places. His varied experiences are representative of the challenges that RCMP officers faced in adapting themselves to different regions, and illustrate the widely diverse nation these men served. The book achieves most in emphasizing Stallworthy's complex personality. Barr's access to Stallworthy's correspondence with his brother, Bill, and the diaries of his wife, Hilda, bestows a very human character upon a man who could have been portrayed as superhuman..Stallworthy, for representing the tension and milieu of his times, and for achieving several noteworthy fears, should ascend to the pantheon of exceptional northern travelers. William Barr has given him an able foothold." C.M. Sawchuk, The Canadian Historical Review, vol. 87, no. 1, March 2006

"Harry Stallworthy was a larger-than-life colonial character whose love was the Canadian Arctic..Although he led a colourful life, and he policed in southern Canada as well, it was the Arctic that he embraced. This enduring embrace was not for the policing duties he performed but for the adventure,.[Barr's] book brings the Mountie's career to life through vivid detail. The opening of the book, in particular, with its description of Stallworthy falling down an ice crevasse is riveting." Steve Hewitt, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Fall 2006

"Through their words, we see a now-vanished life in the Canadian Arctic and subarctic, and obtain occasional glimpses into the personal lives of the men and women who lived at isolated posts. Stallworthy's life was fascinating." Kerry Abel, Canadian Book Review Annual, 2006.

9780888644336 : red-serge-and-polar-bear-pants-barr
Paperback / softback
400 Pages
$38.99 USD

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