Sir James Howden MacBrien

August 1, 1931 - March 5, 1938

MacBrien was born at Myrtle, Ontario on June 30, 1878. In 1896 he joined the 34th Ontario Regiment and on April 7,1900 he joined the North-West Mounted Police and served until February 1901 when he took a free discharge to join the South African Constabulary. Upon returning to Canada in 1906, he joined the Royal Canadian Dragoons and in 1910 was appointed Adjutant of his own regiment.

MacBrien served in France during the First World War with the 1st Canadian contingent and was wounded at the battle of Ypres in 1915 and during the assault on the Drocourt-Queant line in 1918. In 1916 he was promoted to Brigadier-General in command of the 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade at 38 years of age, one of the youngest to hold this rank. As Chief of General Staff of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada from 1919 to 1920, he was a key figure in the creation of the Department of National Defence and in 1923 he was appointed the first Chief of Defence Staff. He retired in 1927 to pursue his interest in aviation and became a founder of the Canadian Aviation League. He flew solo on several trips across the country and can be considered one of Canada's true builders of air travel in Canada. On August 1, 1931 he was recalled by Prime Minister R.B. Bennett to serve as Commissioner of the RCMP.

During his term as commissioner, MacBrien almost doubled the strength of the Force; assumed provincial policing duties in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; established a Marine Division with presence on the east and west coasts as well as the Great Lakes, an aviation section which he envisaged as a great benefit to police operations, a Police Service Dog Section for search and rescue operations, the Force's first Crime Detection Laboratory a testimony to his belief in a scientific force, and a museum in Regina for RCMP; introduced the Long Service Medal; created qualifying courses for promotion; and in 1937 created a Reserve Force of 300 men in Ottawa, Regina, Fredericton and Vancouver to be trained and ready for service in the event of an emergency.

MacBrien died on March 5, 1938 while still in office and was buried with full military honours in Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa. He had had an extensive and outstanding career as an exemplary officer and policeman, decorated with a Distinguished Service Order in 1915, and awarded the Companion of St. Michael and St George in 1918, and both the Chevalier of the L'gion d'Honneur and the Companion of Bath in 1919. In addition, he had become a Companion of Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in 1934 and was knighted a year later by King George V.

McBrien wears the full dress uniform of a General.

Regimental details


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