“I have a gauze bag over my head, and a short pipe puffing to try and keep the ‘squitors off’. Washing is a perfect torture, they settle en masse upon you perfectly covering every portion of the body exposed. None of us have had any sleep for the last two nights and we can scarcely eat, exposing the face is such a painful operation. One’s hands are literally covered with them when writing and even when wearing kid gloves, they bite through the needle holes in the seams.”

     Worse, Wilson noted two of the mules had been blinded and six horses rendered unfit for work, their hides "one mass of sores."

     If the mosquitoes were maddening, other hazards of the job could be deadly.  Building the wagon roads needed to link the capital to the goldfields of the interior was an especially risky undertaking.  Three sappers drowned in the Harrison River when their boat capsized.  Sapper James Duffy froze to death west of Lillooet on the route still known as the Duffy Lake Road.  In all fifteen of the men died during the Detachment’s five years of service.

     Other popular ways to court disaster included rockslides and tree-falling mishaps.  A sapper working in the Fraser Canyon north of Yale survived an avalanche but lost part of his hand.  Captain Grant reported a tree had fallen on a tent occupied by seven of his men, and that "2 or 3 of the men had been seriously injured getting their legs and arms broken."  Another sapper crushed by a falling tree east of Hope had a unique problem – the pious soldier complained no one would read the Bible to him, his fellow soldiers being addicted to "trashing novels" instead.

     Near Williams Lake, Corporal Woodcock took it into his head to leave his loaded revolver in a bag full of spare clothes.  Not surprisingly, it went off and shot an unfortunate packer through the thigh.  His sergeant commented that same summer on the need to bury dead labourers quickly, as they soon began to smell in the heat of the Cariboo summer.



For corrections, please contact the Webmaster