The Lost Patrol - Fort McPherson Cemetery

In late 1910 Francis Joseph Fitzgerald was selected for the contingent to be sent to George V’s coronation. To get him out of the north in time, it was decided that he would head the annual patrol that winter from Fort McPherson to Dawson, a distance of some 470 miles (750 km). Given the competitive spirit within the police, Fitzgerald undoubtedly saw this trip as an opportunity to break the time record set by an earlier patrol. He therefore decided to lighten the load on his sleds by reducing food and equipment, confident that the quantities normally taken would not be needed.

On 21 Dec. 1910 Fitzgerald left Fort McPherson with three other constables. From the outset, the patrol was slowed by heavy snow and temperatures as low as −62°. They were unable to find the route across the Richardson Mountains. Nine days were wasted searching for it. With supplies dwindling, Fitzgerald reluctantly had to admit defeat and return to Fort McPherson. The patrol now faced a desperate struggle. As food ran out, they began eating their dogs. In the last entry in his diary, on 5 February, Fitzgerald recorded that five were left and the men were so weak they could travel only a short distance. Within a few days all four died, three from starvation and exposure, including Fitzgerald, and one by suicide. Their emaciated bodies were found in March a few miles from the safety of Fort McPherson, where they were buried.

On Fitzgerald's body was his will, scratched on paper with a piece of charcoal; it read: "All money in dispatch bag and bank, clothes, etc., I leave to my dearly beloved mother, Mrs. John Fitzgerald, Halifax. God bless all."
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