Lt-Col George Arthur French



October 18, 1873 - July 21, 1876

George Arthur French was born on June 19, 1841 at Roscommon, Ireland and migrated to Canada in the 1860s. A Royal Artillery Officer, French established the Canadian Militia gunnery school in Kingston in 1871. He remained with the Royal Artillery until he was appointed the first permanent Commissioner of the North-West Mounted Police on October 18, 1873.

French built on his predecessor's efforts, recruiting, training, establishing high standards of discipline and morale and imbuing the Force with its military character. The great March West, from Fort Dufferin to the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, set out under his command in July 1874, successfully covering 2000 miles in just three months over territory that was largely unmapped. It was under French that the mounted police earned the reputation for justice, honesty and fairness.

Unfortunately a rift occurred between French and the federal government largely over the location of headquarters at Swan River. French felt the quarters provided were unfit and too isolated. Relations with the government over the management of the Force deteriorated until French felt he had no choice but to resign.

After his resignation he returned to a successful military career in the Royal Artillery. He served in England, India, Australia and South Africa, attained the rank of major general and received a knighthood. French died on July 7, 1921 in London, England at the age of 80.

French's uniform is that of British staff officer, red tunic with gold cord and collar lace. This photo was taken after 1880; the rank badges are worn on the shoulders instead of the collar. His gold laced pouchbelt is the one worn by Royal Artillery officers. His medal is the Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG)


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by Stephen Luscombe