Keith Billington will be in Quesnel signing copies of his book The Last Patrol at Caryall Books Monday, Nov. 25.
In 1970 Billington, along with ten other men, embarked on the nearly 800 km trip by dog team from Ford MacPherson to Dawson City.
This was a commemorative journey of the famous ‘last patrol’ in 1910 when a crew of Royal Northwest Mounted Police attempted the same trip, but with a much more tragic outcome.
It was a quiet December morning when Inspector Fitzgerald and his crew left for McPherson, Northwest Territories, on a dog team patrol to Dawson City, Yukon. Their departure was without fanfare and after a brief handshake and a salute, the men pulled out of the village and onto the frozen Peel River. During the gruelling 764-km journey, after running out of supplies and experiencing brutally cold weather, they faced starvation and eventually froze to death. These four officers of the RNMP would be remembered as the Last Patrol.
Sixty years later, Billington, an outpost nurse working in Fort McPherson and his recruited team organized a re-enactment of the historic trip.
On Feb. 15, 1970, television crews and dignitaries from different agencies all descended on Fort McPherson to document the start of Billington’s Last Patrol. Some wished them well and some were convinced this expedition might also end in disaster.
Billington weaves together these two stories, revealing the details behind both the men who lost their lives and the men who risked their lives to commemorate the sacrifice made by Fitzgerald and his team. This gripping story illustrates the commitment and determination of the men of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police and is a tribute to the legacy of the Gwich’in people, who lived and continue to live and survive in this beautiful but inhospitable land.