|Colonel Leonard Hanson Nicholson, OC, MBE, GC St J, LLD|
Former Honorary Colonel Commandant For
Canadian Provost Corps
Written specifically for the Canadian Army Journal by
Headquarters, Canadian Provost Corps, Ottawa
On April 11th, Army Headquarters announced
the appointment of the first Honorary Colonel Commandant of the
Canadian Provost Corps. He is Colonel L. H. Nicholson, MBE of 737
Lonsdale road, Ottawa, a former Provost Marshal of the Canadian
Army and a former Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted
Police. The Corps is particularly fortunate in the appointment of
its new Commandant since he not only served with the Corps during
the Second World War but has been in police service throughout
A biography of Colonel Nicholson is the history of a man who gas devoted his life to the service of his country and his countrymen. He was born at Mount Middleton, Kings County, New Brunswick in 1904. At the age of 19 he began his career as a policeman by joining the RCMP as a constable. Leaving the force at the end of his three-year term of engagement, he headed for Australia with the intention of entering the West Australia State police. He was stopped at Vancouver, however, and called back to New Brunswick by the serious illness of a sister.
He worked in the bush and on the family farm for a year and then, in 1928, enlisted in the newly-organized New Brunswick Provincial Police as a constable. He had risen to the rank of inspector before he resigned in 1930 to enter service with the Nova Scotia Police on its formation. In 1932 this force was absorbed by the RCMP when it assumed the responsibility of policing the province of Nova Scotia. Along with other members of the Nova Scotia police, Colonel Nicholson was appointed to the RCMP. He was given the rank of inspector and was appointed officer in charge of investigation, an appointment he held until 1937 when he was transferred to Saskatchewan to fill the same appointment.
On the outbreak of war Colonel, then Superintendent Nicholson, volunteered for service with No. 1 Provost Company (RCMP), then being mobilized as a unit of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, but was not accepted. As it became clear that application for special leave to serve in the Armed Forces could not be granted, he resigned from the RCMP in 1941 and joined the Canadian Active Service Force.
He was commissioned as a reinforcement officer in the Saskatoon Light Infantry but never served with this Unit, as immediately after he had graduated from the Officer Cadet Training Unit he was posted as Deputy Army Provost Marshal, 5th Canadian Armoured Division. In January 1943 he was appointed Army Provost Marshal, 2nd Canadian Corps.
In 1943 he transferred to the Canadian Provost Corps, and in September of that year he became Assistant Provost Marshal of 1st Canadian Corps, serving throughout the Italian Campaign and during the move to North-West Europe with that Formation. It was while he held these three appointments that he became so well known to members of the Canadian Provost Corps; it was then too, that he met so many of its members who were to serve with him both in the Army and in the RCMP in later years.
In September 1945, Col Nicholson, having returned to Canada, was appointed Provost Marshal and stationed at Ottawa. he held this post only until April 1946 but his tour proved to be, for many, the most eventful months in the short history of the Canadian Provost Corps. It was during this time that he set about the task of organizing the first peacetime service for the Corps
Never before in Canadian history had the Corps maintained an establishment except during wartime. This was the task Colonel Nicholson undertook. Not only did he devise the organization, establishments and roles for the new units of the Corps but he also selected the personnel who were top fill the posts available. His background of police and army service was of great help to him, but so, also, was his intimate knowledge of the individual men who made up the Corps. This was made possible by the keen interest he took in the duties and welfare of those who were fortunate enough to serve under him. For his wartime service he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire and was mentioned in despatches.
His work with the army finished, Colonel Nicholson retired and returned to the RCMP with the rank of superintendent. He attended the Canadian Police College and soon after was promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner. He served for five years as Director of Criminal Investigation in Ottawa and in May 1951 he was appointed Commissioner of the RCMP,. an appointment which he held until his resignation from that force in April 1959.
Although he has served as a policeman throughout his career, except for a brief tour as an infantry officer, Colonel Nicholson interests and hobbies have carried him far afield. he is a Knight of Grace of the Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem and is Deputy Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts of Canada. He received the honorary degree of Doctorate of Law from the University of New Brunswick in May 1955. He is a keen marksman, a member of the Council and Executive of the Dominion of Canada Rifle Team at Bisley, England.
Colonel Nicholson has been a member of the Council of the North-west Territories for some nine years and has travelled extensively throughout the North in order to acquaint himself with the problems and conditions of that region. In early spring of 1954 he accompanied a police party on a dog team patrol from Coppermine to Bathurst Inlet and Cambridge Bay, a distance of 470 miles.
His interest in photography is well known and he has kept a photographic record of the people he has met and the places he has seen during his travels.
While Commissioner of the RCMP he became internationally known through his association with Interpol (the international criminal police organization), and since his resignation from the RCMP he has served with the United Nations in the cause of justice and human welfare as a member and Chairman of the Middle East Narcotic Survey Mission.
He has recently been appointed Chief Commissioner of the St. John Ambulance Brigade, and is President of the Board of Directors of the Ottawa Winter Fair.
Colonel Nicholson married Mary Copeland of Moncton in 1930 and they have two daughters, Mary Anne, a TV script assistant in Ottawa, and Marjorie, a nurse at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal.
The members of the Canadian Provost Corps are honoured indeed to have as their first Honorary Colonel Commandant a distinguished Canadian who has served his country with such unselfish and continuing devotion.
Web Master's Note:
This article was originally printed in theFall edition of the Canadian Army journal- 1958. Credit is givento Major (retired) Gilles Nault, an air force policeman and an honorary member of the Canadian Provost Corps Association for his research which led to it recently being uncovered and submitted for publication on the Canadian Provost Corps Web Site.
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