Canadian Military Police Corps: A quick overview

In the previous post, I highlighted my fascination with the Canadian Military Police Corps (CMPC). Based upon my initial research, many timelines for Canadian police entities converge with the creation of the CMPC in September, 1917. This research found some of the converging police units included: Dominion Police Force (1868-1920), North West Mounted Police (or Royal North West Mounted Police) (1873 – 1920) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) (1939 – Current), Canadian Provost Corps (1940 – 1968) and modern military police units, like the 3rd Military Police Regiment (Halifax).

Retired Sgt-Maj Don Tresham thoroughly researched the history of the Canadian Provost Corps, to include the CMPC (source #3). He identified that the first Provost Marshal was LtCol Gibson Godson, who became promoted to Col. He was wounded and a medical board found him unfit for front line service in 1915. By April 12, 1917, he appears to have been appointed “Provost Marshall”. Since the CMPC was created in September, I need to do more research on the role of the Provost Marshall between April and September, when the CMPC was authorized. Col Godson held the position until discharge in 1920, when the CMPC was also disbanded.

The CMPC was headed by Major Baron Osborne, who reported to Provost Marshall Col Godson. Maj Osborne was also the commandant of the CMPC school in Rockcliffe camp from June 1, 1918, which closed on March 11, 1919. Major Osborne was demobilized on July 31, 1919, which is nearly a year before the final CMPC units demobilized in 1920.

The CMPC was split into two types, civilian and military.  Some of the civilian police forces included the Dominion Police Force and the RNWMP. It is these civilian CMPC forces that become the world-famous RCMP.  Whereas military police units link themselves to the CMPC through the Provost Corps. I can’t wait to build out a timeline graphic.

The CMPC’s primary duty was ” to maintain discipline, enforce the Conscription Act, and apprehend deserters and draft evaders.” (Source #6) This is really important when considering the Military Service Act of 1917. Sir Robert Borden promised an army that basically couldn’t be fielded, as I currently understand it. Eventually, Borden had to turn to conscription, which was manifest in the Military Service Act of 1917. Most of the frontline discipline was handled in accordance with British rules. However, it would interesting to find out what happened in New York City!

As Ret. Sgt-Maj Tresham highlighted, there was a third section of the CMPC, the Special Guard. According to Tresham’s research, the CMPC Special Guard focused on escorting Chinese workers to west coast ports in order to ship them back to China. This alludes to some very interesting racial/ethnic tensions. Richard Holt paints a more even balanced picture of racial issues in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.). Sadly, Tresham’s history appears to be collaborated by Guoqi Xu in “Strangers on the Western Front”. It looks like there might be more research into the Canadian Transport Program and the CMPC Special Guard.

Clearly, there are a lot of interesting little nuggets to continue to research. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to fully validate and cross-reference the sources, especially since I used wikipedia links. Double checking the reference material will help me narrow research. Regardless, I’m hoping you’ve enjoyed this quick overview of the CMPC.

1. Canadian General Military Orders 93 & 94:
2. Dominion Police History:
3. Tresham’s history on Canadian Provost Corps:
4. North-West Police:
5. Canadian Provost Corps:
6. 3rd MP Regiment:
7. Col Godson, Gibson:
8. Major Osborne, Baron:
9. Conscription Crisis 1917:
10. Military Service Act 1917:
11. WWI courtsmarshall:
12. Strangers on the Western Front:

Additional Sources:
4. Richard Holt, Filling the Ranks :
5. Canada WWI Pardons: