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Regina, Sask: Even in their work-day browns they are a stirring sight marching towards us, men and women of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police led by a brass band. It is a daily event, this Sergeant Major's Parade, well attended by visitors who have come to learn about the force, established in 1873 to bring law and order to western Canada with just 150 men.

Our walk-about at the RCMP Training Centre (headquarters for the North West Mounted Police from 1881 to 1920) was conducted by a young woman who had recently completed basic training here, and would soon move to Quebec to study the field of drug-related crimes. These days, she told us, recruits tend to be university graduates with proficiency in both French and English. Women have been admitted since 1974.

First stop on our tour is a little chapel, constructed as a mess hall in 1883, later used as a canteen, and after damage by fire in 1895 rebuilt as a permanent chapel. Some of its stained glass windows are unique in that they relate to the force's history. Several were donated by an Englishwoman who had never been to Canada, but greatly admired our mounties.

Memorial plaques are everywhere, in the chapel and around the grounds. One is dedicated to the schooner St Roche, the RCMP's only floating detachment, and first ship to circumnavigate North America via the Panama Canal and the Northwest Passage. A Beechcraft aeroplane mounted in the grounds used to transport supplies to remote northern areas, and bring back prisoners for safe-keeping in the Regina guardhouse.

We are shown modern facilities: the administration building, residences, forensic and crime detection laboratories. Since physical fitness and stamina are essential to every mountie, the training centre has several gymnasiums. One contains an indoor pool

where they are taught to save themselves and others in the water. In another they learn karate, judo, ground defence techniques and prisoner handling. Much of a recruit's basic training though takes place in the Academic Building where law, human relations, drugs, weapons and use of computers are studied.

In a modern museum dedicated by Queen Elizabeth in 1973 we were left to peruse some 25,000 artifacts. Focussing largely on RCMP history, and its contribution to the west's colourful past, this is one of Canada's most important and interesting museums.

Early exhibits include canons dragged across the prairies in 1874 by members of what was then the North West Mounted Police. An officer's living room from 1890, and a 1914 police office have been reconstructed. Uniforms date to the very first, with its distinctive red coat, black boots, white trousers, long white gloves and pillbox hat. One display is devoted to Chief Sitting Bull who sought refuge in Canada after defeating George Armstrong Custer and a unit of the U.S. Seventh Cavalry at Little Big Horn. Another recalls the 1885 rebellion with several items belonging to Louis Riel. In 1942 a Nazi spy came ashore on Canada's coast. Tools of his trade are every schoolchild's delight: a transmitter, slide rule used in figuring coded messages, chemical tipped matches for secret writing, a knife, pistol and copy of Mary Poppins used as a code-book.

Tales of the far north tell about heroic men of the dog patrol, and famous fugitives such as the Mad Trapper of Rat River who wore his snowshoes backwards to foil pursuers. Indian robes are magnificent. Nineteenth-century notices amuse. Movie posters show Hollywood's version of the men in red serge.

IF YOU GO; In summer on most weekdays at 12.45 you can see the recruits at the Sergeant Major's Parade. Also Tuesday evenings at a Sunset Ceremony, after which visitors are invited to talk with and photograph participants in their full-dress red serge. For dates and times telephone (306) 780-5900 or contact Regina Tourism at