Tribute to Teddy Bryan – Reg. #2152

Photograph of Willoughby Charles Bryan as a member of the NWMP (Source of photo - Vancouver Division - RCMP Veterans' Association)




The life and times of Teddy Bryan is what Victorian adventure stories were written about and what young boys growing up in Europe dreamed of becoming.






Willoughby Charles Bryan was born in 1867 at Rockenford county Devon England.  His parents were Adam and Jane Bryan. In school and in later life, he introduced himself as Teddy Bryan.

Teddy Bryan was a typical young boy growing up in England reading the stories of the amazing ‘wild west’ adventures in the America  In 1883 and at the age of 18, Teddy convinced his parents that he was heading to Canada to take up farming with his older cousin.  It was Teddy’s original intention of homesteading with his cousin at Souris, Manitoba.  However, farming was backbreaking work and Teddy longed for a change of scenery.

Photograph of a locomotive #7 of the Manitoba and North Western Railway (Source of photo – Library Archives of Canada)

He next secured a railway labour position with the Manitoba and North Western Railway which offered continual changes in scenery and some adventure.  The railway labour work was hardwork and widened the shoulders, chest and back of this young Teddy Bryan.

After working a year with the railway, he travelled by rail to see the Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show when it came to Brandon Manitoba.  Teddy was mesmerized by the historic figure, horsemanship demonstrations and the cow-punchers performing in front of large crowds.  When the show left Brandon so did Teddy Bryan.

Photograph of a Buffalo Bills Wild West Shop poster

In the Bill Cody Show, Teddy was outfitted as one of the cow-punchers and stayed with the show for the next year thrilling crowds in the United States.  While in the show, he became a proficient rider and a firearms marksman.

Throughout the Easter and Southern States the show travelled, until north of the Rio Grande sickness of the leader and bad weather caused a halt which lasted some time.  By this time young Bryan was a good rider, able to use guns of all kinds, and a fine figure of a man.

South of the border the great Mexican leader Dias, was badly in need of adventurous spirits, and soon Bryan, with several companions, wore the nondescript uniform of the Mexican army.  Learning much, albeit living precariously, the next few months saw him with other caballeros on long marches and short rations.  Came a surprise attack, and the Rebel leader took many captives, among them young Bryan.  While in a prison camp of the Rebel Forces, he heard the ominous order that with other prisoners, daybreak would find him facing the firing squad.  The coming of dawn in the past had but meant the beginning of another day in which to carry out the great adventure, to live and enjoy life to the full, so that the vision of what would happen on the next cold gray dawn was not inviting.  That the lessons learned in the mock shows at the wild west circus were not entirely in vain, was evidenced that night.  By a carefully contrived plan they overpowered their guards, and escaped across the border to American soil.

Then came a year in the Texas Rangers, those hard-riding, fast-shooting, ex-cowpunchers who brought some semblance of order to the Lone Store State, and whose blazing guns wrote a thrilling chapter in the development of the south-west.”[1]

Photograph of a Texas Ranger chest badge.

“He was such a conspicuous figure for bravery, daring and discipline in the southwest that he was prevailed upon to become a member of the Texas Rangers, probably the nearest police organization to the North West Mounted Police ever achieved by any other country. Those were the days when lawless killers were being challenged daily on the plains of Texas and the Rangers were in action with fearless characters who would ‘shoot it out any time, any place with any many”[2]

In 1887, Teddy Bryan returned to England for a short visit with his family and updated them on his adventures. 


While in a western American town and on route back to England in 1887, Teddy Bryan  met two members of the Northwest Mounted Police (NWMP) who convinced Teddy that the NWMP would welcome his enlistment.

1887 - Photograph of NWMP “Depot” Division barracks. – “A” Block is under  construction on the left.  (Source of photo – RCMP Historical Collections  Unit:“Depot” Division).

In 1888, Teddy returned to Canada where he caught the train to Regina and submitted his application for the NWMP.  His application was accepted immediately on May 29, 1888 and was assigned the regimental number 2152.

After demonstrating his horsemanship and weapons expertise, “his superiors found that he did not require the usual training[3] and was transferred to Fort Macleod.

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In his first few years in the Force, Teddy had some adjustments to make to comply with the regimentation of the NWMP.  As such, he was disciplined twice in Service Court:

    • September 14, 1889 – Absent from duty and found drunk – sentenced to 14 days confined to barracks; and
    • March 18, 1892 – Absent from quarters – sentenced to 14 days confined to barracks.[4]

In 1889, Teddy married his first wife – Mary Nelson of Fort Macleod and his son was born on September 5, 1892.

1890 - Photograph of NWMP Constable  Teddy Bryan at Fort Macleod (Source of photo Vancouver Division – Veterans’ Association).

While in the NWMP, he remained stationed at Fort Macleod until his retirement in June 27, 1908 and achieved the rank of Sergeant Major.

His original retirement date had been sent for May 23, 1908 but it was extended for 30 days so that Teddy Bryan could pursue a fugitive to Helena Montana and bring the cattle thief back to be sentenced in Canada.  As expected by the Force, Teddy returned with the subject in custody.

Upon retiring and completing 20 years service in the NWMP, Teddy Bryan received a pension from the Canadian government in the amount of $251.30 a year and in 1925 this pension was increased to $511.00.  In addition, he received his NWMP Discharge Certificate.

 Photograph of the NWMP Discharge Certificate for Sergeant Major Teddy Bryne (Source of photo - Library Archives of Canada).


After retiring from the Force, Teddy Bryan obtained a position as the District Clerk for the provincial court in Fort Macleod and served in this capacity for the next six years.


With the outbreak of World War I, Teddy applied for overseas duty but was rejected because of his age (47) and his recurring arm injury.  The injury was a result of years of breaking horses and left Teddy with “a badly bruised shoulder had left his arm almost paralyzed, and while his talents as a soldier were recognized and badly needed, Active Service effort was impossible.”[5]

Photograph of the 191st Battalion cap badge

Despite this rejection, he set out to raise and organize the 191st South Albertan Battalion in 1915 and 1916 from the men in the town and surrounding areas of Macleod Alberta. His son Willoughby Charles Bryan (junior) was included in the new regiment as a Lieutenant and had previously served in the 23rd Alberta Rangers and the 31st Alberta Battalion.

In March 1917, the 191st Battalion sailed to England and were absorbed by the 21st Reserve Battalion. The 191st Battalion had one officer commanding: Lieutenant-Colonel Willoughby Charles Bryan.

With Teddy Bryan not having the medical profile to serve overseas, he was transferred to Petawawa Ontario where he served as one of the training facility’s commanders for 4 months.


On November 11, 1916, the federal government advised the provincial government of Alberta that the RNWMP were being withdrawn from the provincial policing contract and was being re-diverted to federal policing and to counter potential German espionage treats against the Canadian railway.

Photograph of an Alberta Provincial Police cap badge.

With this announcement, the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were given until January 1, 1917 to establish their own provincial police departments.  Despite this deadline, the province of Alberta was given a three month extension of the withdrawal of 312 RNWMP members.

From November 1916 to April 1917, the Alberta government quickly established provincial legislation to establish this new police force.  The uniform for this new police force was similar to that of the Calgary and Edmonton City Police Departments which was based on the London Metropolitan Police navy blue pants, jacket and bobby helmet.  A three person police board was established to review and approve promotions, transfers, discharges and expenditures.  However, this board was replaced in 1919 and full command of the police force was left to the Commissioner of the Alberta Provincial Police (APP).

With the establishment of this new police force, the police board waived any marriage restrictions.  As such, many ex-RNWMP and currently serving RNWMP members were attracted to and applied for the APP.  For the RNWMP at the time, members sometimes had to wait up to 17 years of service prior to receiving approval to marry. Throughout the history of the APP, the strength of the Force has consisted of 60% to 80% of ex-RNMWP/RCMP members.

In 1917, Philip Primrose (one of the original APP Board members) invited Teddy Bryan to apply for this new police force.  Without much hesitation, Teddy applied and was appointed the rank of Inspector.

The formation of this new police force had to overcome poor leadership, poor morale and establish credibility as a new police force under the constant comparison with the RNWMP.

The provincial Attorney General moved quickly to remove poor managers and eliminated in-fighting.  As such, promotions were quick for individuals who demonstrated good management and leadership.  One such person to benefit from the opportunities for promotion was Teddy Bryan.  After a few years as an Inspector, he was promoted to Superintendent and in 1922 was promoted to Commissioner of the APP.  Prior to being appointed to the position of Commissioner, the RCMP Veterans group in Calgary openly petitioned Alberta politicians and included support in newspaper stories for Teddy Bryan to become the next Commissioner.

Photograph of Commissioner Teddy Bryan - Alberta Provincial Police (1922 - 1932).

 As the Commissioner, Teddy had two priorities:

    • constantly arguing for appropriate funding from the Alberta government; and
    • continually working at building the public confidence in the APP under the constant comparison with the RNWMP/RCMP.

As noted by many members of the APP, Teddy was a natural leader and made every effort to gain the confidence and trust of the Alberta citizens.  As such, he was very fair and conscious of what the public thought about the APP.

During his time as the Commissioner, the biggest challenges he faced were:

    • enforcing the Liquor Prohibition (1916 to 1924);
    • combating organized crime groups distributing liquor in Alberta;
    • combating labour unrest in the coal mining communities in Alberta;
    • combating high crime rates amongst the new immigrants from Eastern Europe;
    • staying within the budgets levels set by the provincial government; and
    • maintaining high morale during the Depression years (1929 – 1932).

Despite these challenges, Teddy Bryan devoted 100% of his efforts to make the APP one of the best police forces in Canada.  For example, he sent his officers to the London Metropolitan Police to learn and adopt the latest investigational techniques.  Other progressive action that he supported and approved are listed below:

    • In 1922 – approving the replacement of the London Metropolitan Uniform with one that was quite similar to the RCMP which was well received by the ex-RNWMP/RCMP members in the APP;
    • Insisting on criminology courses for all police members to increase the success rate in court but was rejected by the provincial government;
    • Suggesting that dedicated crown counsel lawyers be used to prosecute the more complex criminal investigations;
    • 1919 – 1920 implemented the use of police dogs to track both individuals and search out for contraband liquor but were phased out in 1920. 

NOTE: the first reference of the RCMP using police dogs was in 1939 and were used by ex-Alberta Provincial Police members taken over by the RCMP;

    • 1920 implementing the first Identification Bureau which implemented the photographing and fingerprinting of serious offenders;
    • 1928 implementing the first police patrol aircraft in Alberta which was used for patrols and emergency rescues;
    • 1923 implementing high speed Indian motorcycles in 1923 and were equipped with sidecars and machine guns (capable of firing 240 rounds per minute);
    • 1928 establishing a Criminal Investigation Branch to investigate serious offences and monitor the activities of Communists and union agitators.  In addition the CIB ran undercover operators in the various mining communities; and
    • 1931 arranged for the purchasing and installation of a new wireless radio communication system and being the 2nd police department in Canada to have such a system.  The British Columbia Provincial Police installed the first system.

Photograph of an Alberta Provincial Police detachment sign (Source of photo - RCMP Historical Collections Unit - "Depot" Division)

Clearly, Commissioner Bryan had some influence in the design and acceptance of the Alberta Provincial Police wallet badge.  As you can see from the illustration below, there is some striking similarities to the Texas Ranger badge which Teddy Bryan wore as a Texas Ranger:

Photograph of the Alberta Provincial Police and the Texas Rangers.

During the 1923 strike at the Cardiff mines near Edmonton, “an attempt was made on Commissioner’s life on the night of January 6, 1923, as he toured the mine site by auto.  The attempt was likely in response to the Commissioner’s decision to use tear gas and mounted policemen armed with batons to restore order and to put a stop to the destruction of private property.”[6]

In 1925, “Commissioner Bryan advised a group of miners from the Red Deer Valley Miners Union, including the well-known union activists, Messrs Jenkins, Hall, and Metcalfe, that ‘as long as no force or violence was attempted, they would be allowed to walk along the road in the vicinity of the mines but that law and order would be maintained if it took a thousand men to do it.”[7]

In 1928, the federal government had successfully negotiated for the RCMP to take over the provincial policing from the Saskatchewan Provincial Police.  When the federal government approached the province of Alberta for a similar takeover proposal– the provincial government rejected the offer and the Alberta Premier outlined that  the citizens were pleased and confident with the service being provided by the APP.

However in 1929, the Canadian Depression hit the province of Alberta quite hard.  As such, the policing budget was significantly cut and all APP members had their pay cut by $20.00. Despite these cuts, Commissioner Bryan was constantly finding innovative ways of using technology to provide the same level of service with less money expended.

As the affects of the Canadian Depression continued into 1930 and 1931, it became evident that the province of Alberta was in a cash crisis.  So in the latter part of 1931, the province of Alberta entered into negotiations for the RCMP to take over from the APP.  During these government negotiations, Commissioner Bryne continually argued in newspaper articles for the benefit of maintaining the APP.

In April 1931, George Henwood (Alberta’s Deputy Attorney General) nominated Commissioner Bryan for the King’s Police Medal.

In early 1932, the Alberta provincial government had decided to have the RCMP take over the provincial policing duties on April 1, 1932 and as such the APP would be disbanded.  Shortly before the RCMP took over, Teddy Bryan (age 65) resigned his position as the Commissioner of the APP and moved to Colwood British Columbia where he would spend the last years of his life.

Commissioner Bryne was described by Alfred Cuddy (previous Calgary Police Chief (1912 – 1919); previous APP Chief (1920 – 1922) and Assistant Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police)  as “still considers him (Bryan) one of the best organizers and one of the best police officers we have in Canada.”[8]


On April 6, 1936, Teddy Bryan received one of the new RCMP Long Service medals in recognition of his 20 years service in both the Northwest Mounted Police and the Royal Northwest Mounted Police.

On November 6, 1939, Commissioner S.T. Woods sent a letter to all retired RCMP members seeking volunteers for various services to support the war effort.  On September 5, 1942, Teddy Bryan was recommended by a local Member of Parliament to Commissioner S.T. Wood and outlined that Teddy was willing to volunteer his services. In the following month, a response was sent from the Commissioner’s office stating “In reply to your letter of September 5, you will appreciate that we have complete records of Colonel W.C. Bryan, but as he is now 74 years of age, we can hardly avail ourselves of his service.”[9]

Teddy spent the rest of his life living in Colwood British Columbia with his grandson Willoughby Charles Bryan living close by.  His grandson had also joined the APP in 1931 and was absorbed into the RCMP and assigned the regimental number 11682.

On January 21, 1947, Commissioner Bryan passed away and was buried at the Royal Oak Burial Park in Saanich British Columbia.  On May 31, 2008, his grandson also passed away and is buried close by his grandfather.

Photograph of the grave marker for Commissioner Teddy Bryan which is situated in the Royal Oak Burial Park in Saanich British Columbia (Source of photo - Sheldon Boles)

Photograph of the grave marker for Commissioner Teddy Bryan which is situated in the Royal Oak Burial Park in Saanich British Columbia (Source of photo – Sheldon Boles)


Photo - Sheldon Boles author of article block



[1]Teddy Bryan” – Scarlet & Gold magazine: 40th  Edition – page 60-61.

[2] Porter, G.C. reporter’s article of 1932 entitled “Chief Bryan, of Alberta Police, Colorful Figure of Western “Mountie” Era

[3]Teddy Bryan” – Scarlet & Gold magazine: 40th  Edition – page 61.

[4] NWMP Personnel file for Willoughby Charles Bryne (Reg. #2152).

[5] “Teddy Bryan” – Scarlet & Gold magazine: 40th Edition –  page 61

[6] Moir, Sean Innes – “The Alberta Provincial Police: 1917 to 1932” (University of Alberta Press – 1992) – page 113.

[7] Durkheim, E. – “The Division of Labour in Society” – The Free Press: New York 1984) – page 39.

[8] [8] Moir, Sean Innes – “The Alberta Provincial Police: 1917 to 1932” (University of Alberta Press – 1992) – page 159.

[9] NWMP Personal file on Willoughby Charles Bryan (Reg. #2152).