The shootout at False Creek Flats

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On February 26, 1947 Vancouver Police officers Charles Boyes and Oliver Ledingham were murdered in a shootout at False Creek Flats. The officers are remembered in an exhibit at the Vancouver Police Museum that opens March 1, and their stories are part of Blood, Sweat, and Fear.

During the 1940s, many of Vancouver’s young men aged between 13 and 18 were recruited into “hoodlum gangs.” The youth were good at steering clear of police, members were rarely identified, and their crimes became increasingly serious. Police believed that an organized crime ring was recruiting these boys and using them to rob military depots and armouries and then use the stolen guns to rob banks around the Lower Mainland.

False Creek Flats and the Great Northern Railway Round House in 1956. CVA 447 250

On February 26, 1947 three teenagers planned to rob the Royal Bank at Renfrew and First. A 17-year-old boy named William (Fats) Robertson, was upset with his friends for leaving him out of the robbery and tipped off police. Just as the boys were putting on their stocking masks, police rolled up and got into a car chase. It ended with the boys bailing out of the car and trying to lose police in the railyards of False Creek flats.

A gun fight ensured in which officers Ledingham and Boyes were killed, and another officer Percy Hoare, was shot in the leg and shoulder. Badly injured, but still able to shoot, Hoare killed Doug Carter, an 18-year-old with a wife and baby, another hit Harry Medos in the leg.

Oliver Ledingham and Charles Boyes. Courtesy Vancouver Police Museum

The shootings put Chief Walter Mulligan in a difficult position. Just two days before he had told a Vancouver Sun reporter that the “gloves were off” in a war against city crime. And, as the same newspaper reported, in the next 48 hours Vancouver experienced seven burglaries, two hold ups, two attempted robberies and 19 thefts.

Harry Medos, 18, was executed, while 17-year-old William Henderson received five years for possession of a firearm.

Fats Robertson,  who was not invited along on the robbery that day, went on to a spectacular life of crime and a career on the Vancouver Stock Exchange. He was a co-owner of the Wigwam Inn on Indian Arm in the early 1960s and turned it into an illegal gambling operation, printed counterfeit money, and ran a brothel. Eventually he was jailed for trying to bribe an RCMP officer.

More than 100,000 people attended the funeral for Boyes and Ledingham. VPL 42982

Ledingham, 40, who was known in his Kitsilano neighbourhood for his crops of gladioli and tulips, left behind a wife and 13-year-old son. Boyes, 38, who was a wizard with tools and often fixed the toys of the kids in his Point Grey neighbourhood, left behind a wife and six-year-old daughter.

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.

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  1. My hubby is a current VPD member and I appreciate you sharing this story. Thankfully there have not been large numbers of slain officers in VPD. Of those that are deceased due to job, I know the Vancouver Police Benevolent Assn still take cookies and flowers to the mothers, wives and loved ones who lost their son, husband or dad. They do this in every year on the anniversary.

  2. A sombre trip down a tragic lane of Vancouver history. One hopes authorities found, convicted and locked away those post-war Fagins who tapped teens to steal firearms for future crimes.

    My head snapped to attention seeing William “Fats” Robertson get a mention. He directly or indirectly remained a news maker involved in murky goings on even past his 1960s heyday outlined by Eve.

    I remember hearing his name drip off lips of talk-show hosts in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. The late Gary Bannerman had a unique way of slowly pronouncing the three-name moniker as if it was a pejorative.

    Sounds like Fats, in addition to being miffed, was perhaps honing his abilities to be a police informer. Snitch skills may have furthered his subsequent questionable activities.

    Whatever became of Fats? Was he, indeed, portly or obese? Or did the nickname not jive with the physical appearance. After all, the legendary Little Richard Penniman is a towering 6-feet-plus in height as he frenetically sings and bashes the piano ivories.

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