In August 1914, Raymond Brutinel, a French immigrant who had come to Alberta in 1905 and made a fortune in mining and other commercial ventures, was a millionaire living in Montreal. As a French army reserve officer, he had kept informed of developments in military sciences and was convinced that machine guns would be of great importance in the coming war. Indeed, he planned to rejoin the French army with a large shipment of Colt machine guns that he had purchased.
When Clifford Sifton, a former federal cabinet minister, heard of this scheme, he convinced Brutinel to implement his plan with the Canadian army preparing its first overseas contingent. Sam Hughes and the government accepted the proposal. Thanks to Brutinel's frantic efforts, 8 armoured cars (vehicles specially constructed in the United States to his specifications) and some 20 Colt machine guns were delivered to the Canadian army.
On 9 September 1914, the brigade included 2 batteries, 9 officers 115 men, 8 armoured cars, 8 trucks, 4 automobiles, 17 motorcycles, 16 bicycles and 20 machine guns. The brigade, since it possessed its own transport and mechanics, was logistically self-sufficient. It was the first totally mechanized military unit in the British Empire. Better even than the tank units that were created later in the war, it is the true precursor of the mechanized armoured units that became the norm by the Second World War. In many ways, it was one of the earliest armoured units, combining mobility, protection, and communications with firepower and can lay claim to being the first armoured unit in the Commonwealth. Although many British and Canadian commanders were reluctant to see the value of this mechanized unit, its mobility and firepower were, on several occasions, put to good use in securing gaps in the line.
In 1914, most European infantry battalions had four machine guns whereas British units were equipped with only two. Canadian battalions generally went overseas with four, and, in many cases, the additional guns were purchased with locally raised funds. Canada's machine gun organization expanded quickly and continued to grow until the last days of the war. In 1916, Brutinel's brigade was renamed the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade. This occurred when the original brigade of two batteries absorbed three other armoured car machine gun batteries. (Philanthropists had also raised these batteries.) The new brigade became the centre of excellence of machine gunnery in the Canadian Corps.
Soon after arriving in England, the brigade, having discovered that Brutinel was a superb instructor as well as a great organizer, was teaching battalion machine gunners in machine gunnery. Under Brutinels' supervision, the Canadian Corps eventually formed machine gun companies at both the divisional and brigade level. Brutinel, originally in charge only of the machine guns of the 1st Division, gradually was given control over all machine gun organizations. Indeed, by 1918, he had been promoted to Brigadier and held the position of Commander Canadian Machine Gun Corps. Machine gun organizations at all levels of the Canadian Corps were continually expanded and upgraded until the last days of the war. Brutinel developed new techniques for shooting machine gun barrage targets by predicting machine gun indirect fire in exactly the same manner as artillery: plotting elevation and azimuth using ammunition firing tables and indirect fire.