Monthly Archives: March 2015

Rufus’s March 8 – first leave, taking on William Bowser, and Lady Steele survived crash on Vancouver’s Trimble St hill.

Rufus’s diary for 8 March 1917 read: “Left for Boulogne at 7.30 am with Colonel Murray.  Blizzard all the way and missed morning boat by 5 minutes. Lunch at Hotel Leonel.

leaveboat leaving Boulogne

A leave-boat sailing from Boulogne.

“Reached Victoria at 8 pm. Bee met me and we stayed at the Wilton Hotel.”

What a day that must have been! Driving 90 miles to Boulogne on primitive tires in a blizzard, crossing the Channel in a crowded ship that might be torpedoed at any time, enduring a crowded train ride to London – then, seeing Bee for the first time in 6 months, eating a normal meal and sleeping in a real bed! All in one day. It must have been a journey from hell to heaven.

And while in England on leave everything seemed so normal and civilised. Here he is with

I 9  First leave 1917, Rufus, Bee, Derek

Bee and Derek at the house where Bee was staying in Sidcup. But ten days passed quickly and then he had to commute back to the war, along with a boatload of miserable other fellows.

So who was this William Bowser that Rufus ‘took on’?


He’d been premier of BC for a year during the war, after McBride resigned. In 1922 he was the Conservative Leader of the Opposition. But in Rufus’s opinion, and that of like-minded Conservatives, he was doing a lousy job of opposing the Liberal Premier, John Oliver.

What did they do?

His diary for 8 March 1922 tells us: “Meeting of Young Conservatives at night. Decision taken not to ask Bowser to resign at once, but a committee appointed to go and discuss things with him.”

And how did Bowser receive their delegation?

He seems to have ignored them, as he did their later demand that he resign. They were naive even to imagine he would listen to them. Meanwhile, the Liberal premier John Oliver continued to brush off Bowser’s feeble opposition – much to Rufus’s fury – so Rufus got involved in another naive project, the formation of the Progressive Party.

I didn’t know he got involved in politics – wasn’t that a conflict of interests?

It certainly was, as he himself quickly realised. After attending the formation of the Progressives in Vernon, he stuck to reporting about politics – no more dabbling for him!

So, what was so exciting about Lady Steele’s car crash?

We only know what Rufus tells us, and what we might surmise. His diary for Sunday, 8 March 1924 reads, in part: “Dr Harwood, driving Lady Steele et al, had smash-up on Trimble Street hill.” Trimble St runs north from 16th Ave to Burrard Inlet between Locarno and Jericho parks. It has a very steep hill on it, even for today’s cars.

How bad was the crash – any injuries?

Annoyingly, Rufus doesn’t say. But if they were hurt at all, it was not badly – Dr Harwood came to attend to Derek two days later; and Lady Steele (Sam Steele’s widow) would live well into her nineties! They must have been coming downhill – nobody would ‘smash-up’ going uphill! – the brakes wouldn’t hold, so Harwood steered into a tree or fence. His car would have been similar to this one – Rufus’s 1920 Chevy:

16 M 13  Derek, Rufus in their 1920 Chevrolet, bought July 1921

Good grief! I wouldn’t fancy hitting something in that!

No, and especially not on Trimble St hill – it has one of the steepest grades in the city.