Memorable Manitobans: Huntley Douglas Brodie Ketchen (1872-1959)
Soldier, MLA (1933-1936), MLA (1937-1940), MLA (1941-1945).
Born at Sholapore, India on 22 May 1872, son of Major James Ketchen and Mrs J. Lumsden Ritchie, he was educated at Wellington College and Royal Military College, Sandhurst. In 1890, he commenced a military career as Second Lieutenant in the British Imperial Army, serving until 1893 when he came to Canada.
He came to Winnipeg in January 1894 and served in the North-West Mounted Police until 1900. He served as a Lieutenant in the Boer War, then as Brigadier-General of the Sixth Canadian Infantry from 1915 to 1917. After a military fiasco at St. Eloi (Flanders) in 1915, there was pressure to relieve Ketchen of command but he was saved by political maneuvering and the absence of a good replacement. He remained in command of the 6th Brigade until April 1918. After the war, he was promoted to Major General and appointed commanding officer of the military district in which Winnipeg was located, serving from 1919 until 1929, when he retired.
Ketchen was in charge of the military during the Winnipeg General Strike. As district commander, he followed orders from Ottawa and in general restrained his troops from confrontations with the civilian population. He also favoured use of the War Measures Act to deal with post-war problems of the cost of living by appointing a prices board to investigate complaints and with power to prosecute. He met daily with local officials about the strike and was one of the chief advisers to government. He opposed bail for the arrested strike leaders in 1919 on the grounds that the militia would be unhappy with such an action.
Elected as a Conservative candidate for Winnipeg in the 1932 provincial general election, he was re-elected in 1936 and 1941. He was not a candidate in the 1945 election.
On 21 November 1895, he married Margaret Elizabeth Robinson (1877-1943) of Regina, Saskatchewan, with whom he had three sons: Alastair Huntly Gordon Brodie Ketchen (1908-1970), Ian Caithness Lumsdon Brodie Ketchen (1910-1988), and Sotheby Horatio Brodie “Sub” Ketchen (1912-1984). He was a member of the Masons.
He died at the Misericordia Hospital on 28 July 1959 and was buried in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery.
Birth registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.
Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.
“Under the Golden Boy, Manitoba’s M.L.A.s,” Winnipeg Tribune, 18 March 1943. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B9, page 128]
“Veteran military man, General Ketchen dies,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 July 1959, page 8.
Obituary [Alastair Huntly Gordon Brodie Ketchen], Winnipeg Free Press, 6 January 1970, page 21.
Obituary [Sotheby Horatio Brodie Ketchen], Winnipeg Free Press, 9 March 1984, page 41.
Obituary [Ian Caithness Lumsdon Brodie Ketchen], Winnipeg Free Press, 22 October 1988, page 46.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
The Embattled General: Sir Richard Turner and the First World War by William F. Stewart, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2015, pages 104-108.
Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
We thank Bill Stewart for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 26 November 2020