An extensive and outstanding career as an exemplary officer and policeman - SIR JAMES HOWDEN MacBRIEN


Section 63, Lot 1


James Howden MacBrien was born in Port Perry on June 30, 1878. In 1896 he joined the 34th Ontario Regiment, then went on to serve with the North West Mounted Police starting in 1900.

A little less than a year later, MacBrien left the NWMP to join the South African Constabulary.

The South African Constabulary (SAC) was a paramilitary force set up in 1900 under British Army control to police areas captured from the two independent Boer republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State during the Second South African War. Its first Inspector-General was Major-General Robert Baden-Powell, later the founder of the worldwide Scout Movement. After hostilities ended in 1902, the two countries became British colonies and the force was disbanded in 1908.

South African Constabulary Uniform
South African Constabulary Uniform

He returned to Canada in 1906 and joined the Royal Canadian Dragoons. By 1910, he was made Adjutant of a regiment. During the First World War, MacBrien served in France with the 1st Canadian contingent. He was wounded at the battle of Ypres in 1915 and again in 1918, at the assault on the Drocourt-Quéant line. In 1916, MacBrien was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and given the command of the 12 th Infantry Brigade.

The First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force was raised in August 1914, shortly after the outbreak of The Great War, concentrated at Valcartier Camp in Quebec, and set off for England in the largest trans-Atlantic convoy to date two months later. Training and reorganization commenced upon arrival in the United Kingdom in October 1914, and it was not until 26 January 1915 that the division was officially organized, under the command of Lieutenant-General Edwin Alderson, a British Army officer.

Several units under command of the First Contingent were excluded from the divisional organization, including the 17th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 18th Battalion, and several companies of Newfoundland soldiers (later formed into the Newfoundland Regiment and assigned to the British 29th Division). The division consisted originally of a cavalry squadron, cyclist company, four infantry brigades, three artillery brigades (equivalent in terms of numbers to the regiments used in the Second World War and after) armed with 18-pounders, and divisional engineers, with supporting troops of the Canadian Army Service Corps and Canadian Army Medical Corps.

Canadian Infantry Division Patch
1st Canadian Infantry Division Patch


He was only 38 years old at the time, and remains one of the youngest to hold that rank. In 1919 he was promoted to major general and made Chief of the General Staff of the Canadian Overseas Military Forces, where he remained until 1920. MacBrien was a key figure in the creation of the Department of National Defence, and in 1920, he was appointed the Chief of the General Staff of the Department, a role he held until his retirement in 1927.

In 1931, MacBrien was appointed Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. During his term, 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 - The Marine Service was created in 1932 by combining the RCMP's various boat detachments into a single organization and consolidating it with the National Revenue Preventive Service.
  • an aviation section, - The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Air Services was established in April 1937 in Moncton, New Brunswick with four twin-engine bi-planes and eight regular member pilots.
  • a Police Service Dog Section, - Canadians started using police dogs occasionally in 1908. However, they used privately owned dogs until 1935 when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) saw the value of police dogs and created the first team in 1937. By the 1950s, the RCMP had German Shepherds, Schnauzers, and Doberman Pinschers in service.
  • the first Crime Detection Laboratory, - The RCMP opened its first forensic lab in Regina, Sask., in 1937 under the direction of Dr. Maurice Powers. Small and ill-equipped by today's standards, that initial lab was used to analyze ballistics, fingerprints, blood, semen, hair, fibre, fingernail clippings, photographs and other documents.
  • a museum in Regina for the RCMP, - The first museum on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the RCMP Centennial Museum, was opened to the public in 1933. Situated at RCMP Academy, Depot Division in Regina, Saskatchewan, the Centennial Museum was later closed to the public in October 2006. The RCMP Heritage Centre was established in order to replace the Centennial Museum, with its collections relocated to the Heritage Centre following its completion. Construction for the RCMP Heritage Centre began in 2005. The facility was officially opened to the public on 23 May 2007.
  • a introduced the Long Service Medal, - The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Long Service Medal was established by royal warrant on 6 March 1934 by King George V. It is the oldest continually awarded honour within the Canadian honours system, and the first created specifically for Canadian service within Canada.
RCMP Long Service Medal
RCMP Long Service Medal
  • and created a Reserve Force of members to be trained and ready in case of an emergency.

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 Légion d'honneur and the Companion of Bath in 1919.

Sir MacBrien

In addition, he became a Companion of Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in 1934 and was knighted a year later by King George V. MacBrien died on March 5, 1938, while still in office as the Commissioner of the RCMP, and was buried with full military honours.

MACBrianGreat canadian plaque for MacBrien