The South Vancouver Island Rangers (SVIR) was formed originally in the spring of 1941, to support the BC Provincial Police with patrolling and protecting critical infrastructure in and around Greater Victoria, and with providing support for searching for missing persons. The group was made up largely of men who worked in the logging industry. These men who provided their services voluntarily, augmented the BC Provincial Police staffing which was depleted by military service requirements.
A few of the Original Crew. Pictured from left to right are:
Harold Ogden, Jack King, Doug Lyall, Eric Merry, Col McAllister and seated, Gordon Sword.
In early 1941, the Second World War was raging in Europe and in the Pacific and there was a fear that water supplies and power systems may be at risk of attack, especially near strategic coastal communities such as Victoria and Esquimalt. One of the principle duties of the SVIR was to provide regular patrols of the Goldstream watershed, the dams, the pipelines and associated water supply systems. At about the same time, the Canadian military became concerned that Japan may launch an invasion of Canada along the west coast of British Columbia and they set about developing a “home guard” armed force, to provide security and patrol of critical infrastructure. Within a year of its formation, the SVIR was absorbed by the Department of National Defense into the new military service known as the PCMR (Pacific Coast Militia Rangers). The PCMR mandate closely modeled the original SVIR mandate, but the protected area was much larger, and included all of coastal British Columbia and many parts of the interior of the Province. The PCMR grew to over 16,000 members under more than one hundred companies across the province, by the end of the war. The former SVIR became Company #1 of the newly formed PCMR, and provided security and patrol services for the area south of Shawnigan and Koksilah Rivers, through to Sombrio Point on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
Penticton PCMR 71st Co
At the end of the Second World War, the DND disbanded the PCMR service, sensing there was no longer a threat to coastal security. The members of the original SVIR group however were still called upon on occasion by local police, to help in searching for missing persons. In July 1947, sensing that there was a need for a more organized group to support the local police with Search and Rescue services, a group of former PCMR Company #1 and original SVIR members, incorporated a new Society known as SVIR Inc. (South Vancouver Island Rangers, Incorporated). Thus was formed the first incorporated Search and Rescue Society in British Columbia. A group of the new SVIR members, loaned the SVIR Inc. money to purchase 25 acres of farmland on Luxton Road in what is now Langford. The SVIR began construction of a new training grounds, meeting halls and shooting facilities on the property. The SVIR developed communications base stations, purchased an ambulance, kept a bloodhound pack, built a field kitchen and purchased mobile radios all in support of its principle purpose, Search and Rescue. One member would offer up his float plane as required, to assist with the transportation of the SVIR searchers to remote coastal areas. The group participated in a large number of searches over the life of its Search and Rescue program, both in Canada and in the United States. In addition to providing voluntary assistance to local Police, the SVIR group mandate expressed a commitment to preserve and protect the outdoors and outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing and to provide training in such activities to young people.
As the group evolved over the years, it took on additional projects in support of the greater good of the community. In 1954 the SVIR completed the first network of trails up to the top of Mt. Finlayson, and from 1954 to 1985 the SVIR maintained the trails so the public could enjoy the magnificent vistas from the top of Mt Finlayson and overlooking Saanich Inlet. Over time the clubs campgrounds and shooting facilities have gained in prominence and today the SVIR operates one of the best shotgun shooting facilities on Vancouver Island. The clubs campgrounds are used by a number of community groups including Cubs and Scouts, church groups, car clubs and women’s groups. The SVIR also continues to provide community support by funding a number of charitable causes, including the Western Community Food Bank, St Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army, Help Fill a Dream Foundation, Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society, Sidney Anglers Association, Sooke Region Museum, Canadian Cancer Society and others. The source of those funds is from the proceeds of trap and skeet shooting events, fishing derby, grounds rentals and other activities which are organized by the SVIR throughout the year. Each Christmas the SVIR members undertake a “toy drive” to support less fortunate community families.
S.V.I.R. Ambulance in May 24 Day Parade, 1950
Ranger Tom Garner and His Cessna aeroplane
The SVIR continues to thrive today on the original club grounds on Luxton Road. Our service to the community continues to be a cornerstone of our mandate, though volunteer Search and Rescue has been dropped. The club facilities are used by community groups throughout the year and our grounds are designated as an Emergency Centre within the Langford community Emergency Plan. Should a local or regional emergency occur, the grounds are available as a helicopter landing/staging area for forest fire response or other emergency situation. As well, the buildings are available as reception centres for displaced or evacuated residents. The club grounds, now standing at 33 acres, provide a valuable green space in Langford and are home to a variety of birds and animals. The SVIR remains committed to maintaining and preserving the large forested areas of our property.
The SVIR has an extensive history in the Western Communities of Greater Victoria. We maintain a small archive of artifacts, photographs and documents from the early days of SVIR and from the PCMR era as well. We are proud of our history and we remain dedicated to our original mandate of stewardship of the outdoors, preservation of outdoor activities and service to the community.