Philip Jackman

Sapper Jackman’s B.C. history explored

Philip Jackman’s life as a Royal Engineer is part of a museum project.

  • Nov. 12, 2015 6:00 p.m.

Philip Jackman came to British Columbia from England in 1859. His great-grandsons John and Keith want to ensure the Royal Engineer’s life and times are captured not just for Langley residents, but for all of B.C.

The brothers have made a financial contribution to get the project started through the Langley Centennial Museum. Additional funding is required to get the task past the initial research phase, expected to run until July, led by Jasmine Moore the museum’s arts and heritage curator.

“He’s my great-grandfather,” said John Jackman of Philip. “He was sent over by Queen Victoria as a Royal Engineer to establish B.C.”

Known as as Sapper, Royal Engineers like Philip were elite soldiers with advanced educations who also served as developers of new regions. They built roads and bridges and established the capital in New Westminster while maintaining peace and defending the homelands of settlers. Philip was among 171 other Sappers who came to B.C. during the gold rush period. Research into Philip’s Columbia Detachment of the Royal Engineers will also make up part of the project.

“He was the last remaining Royal Engineer who remained in Canada,” John said, explaining that many of the Sappers went back to England after their duties were completed and the detachment was disbanded.

Philip stayed put.

“He lived to 96 years old,” noted John, a native and still resident of Langley.

Far from a career soldier, Philip took on a great number of roles in his new home. He was a surveyor with CP Rail, a farmer, a merchant in Aldergrove, and Reeve (mayor) of the Township of Langley.

“He was the first fisheries officer in B.C. and the first policeman in the Royal City [New Westminster],” added John.

Documents and photographs have been collected from the family and John is excited to see the form they will take in the future.

“Hopefully in a book form or something like that,” he said. “It’s a really big project.”

John’s desire is to have the information shared through secondary and post-secondary schools as well as libraries, and other resource centres where people can learn about the contributions of his great-grandfather, appreciate the history and understand how that work helped establish the province.

“We’re just in preliminary stages,” John added.

With enough information gathered, the museum will organize an exhibit for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017 with the possibility of a book or other publication in tandem. Those who have documents, photos or data related to Philip Jackman or the Columbia Detachment of the Royal Engineers, or wish to make a donation towards the project, can contact Moore at 604-532-3536 or


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