R.F. (Frank) Riddell

This photo is from the C&E Museum archives
Date and location are unknown.

Frank Riddell enjoyed a long and illustrious career with the NWT&Y RS, which included being drafted into the RCMP posse that hunted down Albert Johnson. For an account of that event go to Nash Neary's story the "Mad Trapper of Rat River"

This photo of Major Frank Riddle is from the Dick Watts collection
and was taken during Exercise Moccasin.
For more information go to Ex. Moccasin Page.



The following are excerpts from First in the Field, by JP (Jim) Croal, an account of his experience in setting up the first Defence Research Board establishment in the Canadian Arctic.  (for the full article go to JP_Croal page.

The original scientific work at Churchill was mainly concentrated on permafrost, problems of Arctic clothing and equipment, fuels and lubricants, nutrition and other medical problems and, in the summer, entomology. In order to venture further afield that first winter I attached myself to the field parties of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. In charge of these early trials was an old "Muskox" companion, Major Frank Riddell. We were often away hundreds of miles out on the barren lands for 20 days at a stretch. The opportunity to study local environmental conditions in this manner was most valuable and soon I knew every fish hole and caribou migration trail for hundreds of miles around Churchill. I considered that "Uncle" Frank Riddell was one of the most accomplished travelers the Arctic has ever seen. RCEME facilities for repair work were very limited at the Army camp during the early days and so the Signal Corps had nighttime use of the railway roundhouse in the town. It was not unusual to have Frank and a crew of five or more men arrive at our house for a feed of caribou steaks at midnight. These early days at Churchill made very close ties among scientists and military personnel which are maintained today.

We were the first to use Bombardiers in this part of the north and our two machines were kept constantly on the go. One of the machines I kept permanently loaded with several week's provisions and camping gear and could take off at a moment's notice.  We made good use of the winter trail which Major Frank Riddell and his Signal Corps trials unit broke through to South Knife Lake, a distance of approximately 150 miles. Along the trail we studied river and lake ice formation, permafrost, clothing and equipment, rations and at times carried scientists who were interested in studying the effects of cold and isolation on the soldiers in Major Riddell's team who had camps at various intervals along the trail. These were most comfortable camps, well sheltered in the scrub timber of the barrens.

Apart from the vehicles of Major Riddell's team, the DRB Bombardier was the only vehicle which made the full trip into South Knife Lake and back. Many experimental American and Canadian test vehicles tried to make the trip but due to mechanical failures and other difficulties none succeeded. Great improvements were made to the Canadian manufactured Bombardier as a result of DRB suggestions during these early trials and today we are using this vehicle throughout the entire Arctic.