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The 

ANZAC Provost Corps 

served in Egypt, Palestine, France, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

1916-1918

<< Shoulder title c 1918

PROVOST STAFF were first raised in 1912-1913, to trace defaulter's, from compulsory national service in the Militia (CMF). On the outbreak of war they were replaced by the Military Mounted Police. 

The meaning of 'Provost'

 Matt Walsh - Australian MP Association

The appointment of Provost Marshal or the Provost, as it was originally known, can be traced back to the 12th Century. In those days there was of course no parliament, and the King ruled through a Royal Court or Curia Regis as it was known. One of the most important officials of the Curia Regis was the Earl Marshal, whose appointment continues to this day. (He is responsible for ceremonial on all great state occasions, coronations, state funerals etc).

The Earl Marshals right hand man was the Provost, (derived from the ancient French Provost meaning 'Perfect'). In those days the Provost like the Earl Marshal, had to be a man of known loyalty to the Sovereign and hence his appointment was a royal prerogative.

Whilst the Provost Marshals appointment dates back to the Norman and Anglican Kings, as a military title is one of the oldest in British history. The earliest record appears in the "Curia Regis", a document produced in 1318, in which provision is made for two offices, the Earl Marshal, and that of Provost Marshal. The Provost Marshal was, by the same document, granted permission for certain retainers, to be known as the Provost Marshal's Assistants, paid from the Privy purse.

The only rival in antiquity to the Provost's appointment is that of Chaplain General, and history does not disclose which is the older.

An incomplete list of decorations and awards made to men serving as Military Police in WW1

Imperial Awards

Foreign Awards

Distinguished Service Order, 3 French Medal of Honour - Gold, 1
Order of the British Empire, 1 French Medaille Militaire, 1
Member of the British Empire, 5 French Croix de Guerre, 2
Military Cross, 1 Serbian Medal for Bravery & Military Virtue-Gold 1
Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1 Romanian Order of Michael the Brave-1st Class,1
Military Medal, 26
Meritorious Service Medal, 27 Details provided by Geoff Barr, RACMP Historian
Mentioned in Despatches, 52

Click to enlarge

A.P.M. A.I.F. in Egypt. I desire to bring to your notice the excellent services rendered by No 4341 Sergt. H.J.Barr, during his attachment to the 4th L.H. Brigade as N.C.O. i/c Brigade Police.  I particularly wish to mention his service during the operations 29th April - 6th May at Jisraed Damieh.  It was necessary on the 1st May, when the enemy counter-attacked, to make use of every available rifle for fire power, and every mounted man available for keeping up communications.  At a critical period Sergt, Barr was one of a party which was collected and sent to a position to prevent the enemy approaching our left flank.  Several times during the action he was called upon to carry messages through heavy fire, which he did with all possible speed and coolness, reporting compliance to Brigade Headquarters.  His Routine work throughout was carried out in a very capable manner. He was always keen and smart and without a doubt was a good example to the personnel under him.  Sgd. W. Grant, Brigadier-General.
Shoulder title for Battle Dress jacket for the Corps after September 1948

and a later (1974) version

This story is an exact retype of an original article published in the 1980s from Australian Military Police Magazine by Major J.V. Hoban.

Introduction

An ANZAC Provost Unit was raised in Egypt in March 1916 primarily of volunteers from the Australian Light Horse Brigades, some of whom had fought dismounted at Gallipoli. The unit was to support the ANZAC Mounted Division under the command of Major General H.G. Chauvel CB, CMG.

Organisation

On 13 June 1916, the ANZAC Provost Unit was authorised to form a Corps (AMO 268). The main body of the ANZAC Provost Corps, 30 Officers and 690 other ranks, departed for service in England and France on 3 August 1916 leaving behind what was to be the Egyptian Section of the Corps.

This Section was commanded in turn by Major J. Williams, 3 Infantry Brigade, Captain A.F. Jordan and finally by Major Bisdee, VC, of the 12th Light Horse Regiment. Major Bisdee was promoted Lt Col. And had the dual appointment of CO and APM Australian Expeditionary Force (AIF) in Egypt.

This slightly different version was supplied by Geoff Barr, RACMP, Historian.

Head-quarters,
Ismarlia,
9-3-1916

CIRCULAR MEMORANDUM No. 29
Subject :- Organisation - Military Police Corps.
1 - The military police of the A.I.F. will hereafter form a Corps ... Instructions have been issued to Hd.Qrs., A.I.F., Cairo regarding the establishment ...Men selected to serve with the above sections will be transferred to the Military Police Corps.
C.B.White
Brigadier General
D.A. & Q.M.G.
Australian and New Zealand Forces.

12th May 1916, 21 Officers and 589 other ranks, selected from all units of the A.I.F., were marched into barracks Abbassia.  Thus began one month of intensive training in all aspects of military police duties and soldiering.  Those men who failed to meet the rigid requirement of the new Corps, were marched out, and returned to their units. 

From inception it had been decided that only A class men would be accepted into the new Corps.  Also to eliminate the perception amongst other units in the A.I.F., that men joining the new Corps were doing so to evade Active Service.  Those men who had not seen
service in the face of the enemy were transferred to the Desert Mounted Corps, on completion of their training.  Commanded by, Major General H.G. Chauvel CB, CMG., they remained with the Desert Corps, until they had seen service in the face of the enemy, and
were capable of taking their place with the ANZAC Provost Corps (APC).  After the initial intake, all new recruits must have seen service in the face of the enemy. By 1917, the requirements for entry into the APC were the strictest of any unit in the A.I.F.

The organisation of the Egyptian Section, as at 3 August 1916 was as follows:

 

Mounted Section (Heliopolis)

Officers

Men

Squadron HQ

2

7

A Troop

1

46

B Troop

1

28

C Troop

1

30

D Troop

-

24

Infantry Section (Cairo)

2

115

Total

7

250

The composition of the unit varied with the operational requirements of the AIF so that, by 1 June 1918, the organisation was:

 

Officers

Men

HQ (Heliopolis)

1

4

Cairo Detachment

1

66

Canal Zone Detachment

1

80

Palestine L of C

1

30

Desert Mounted Corps

2

30

ANZAC Mounted Division

1

30

Australian Mounted Division

7

266

Selection for Service

Service in the Corps was voluntary, subject to a probationary period and of limited tenure. The transient nature is illustrated when, on 26 August 1916, 52 OR from A Squadron marched out from Cairo to Moascar for absorption into their own units, and were struck off the strength of the ANZAC Provost Corps.

On 9 September 1916, consent was given by Major General Chauvel for a formation of a troop of Military Police Mounted Section to be attached to the ANZAC Mounted Division for regimental duties. The intention was to rotate all members of the Mounted Section through this troop to remove any stigma men of the AIF had for men serving in the front line.

In July 1917 Major General Chauvel, in writing to HQ AIF in London, on his staff's decision to grant temporary rank said 'The ANZAC Provost Corps in Egypt has to provide for policing of 4 towns, a large training centre, a long L of C, and an advanced forward Army HQ in a thickly populated enemy country as well as Divisions and Brigades in the field. (18000 AIF and a considerably greater number of Imperial Troops). 50% of the unit are allowed temporary NCO rank for the following reasons:

  • They have to practically carry the duties of an NCO,

  • They have considerably more work to perform that the ordinary troopers, and

  • It was very difficult, originally, to get volunteers'.

The standard of officers and men appeared to be refined as time went by. AIF in Egypt Order Number 11 on 5 September 1917 stated 'No further appointment to the ANZAC Provost Corps, except for men who have served in a fighting unit in operations against the enemy, will be made'.

The appointment of Lt James Rogers, VC, (wounded at Gallipoli) to the ANZAC Provost Corps is a striking example of this policy.

  • Lieutenant Rogers VC, whilst appointed adjutant to the newly formed ANZAC Provost Corps, was still recuperating from wounds he received whilst serving on Gallipoli. He did not see service with the ANZAC Provost Corps, he was returned to Australia in June 1916. Invalided to Aust per "Itonus" ex Suez. Shell Shock, (12 Months Change); 31-12-1916, Discharged, Medically  Unfit Geoff Barr RACMP Historian 19 March 2003
  • Webmasters note. Lieutenant James Rogers VC won his award as a Sergeant, near Thaba 'Nchu, Orange Free State, during the Boer War on 15 June 1901. At that time he was a member of the South African Constabulary.

The AAG, AIF Egypt, in a letter 133/196 of 28 January 1918, the GOCs of ANZAC Mounted Division, Australian Mounted Division and the Imperial Camel Brigade wrote 

  • 'The GOC requests that you impress upon CO's the necessity, in the interests of the AIF, of keeping this unit (ANZAC Provost Corps) a corps d'elite. It should be regarded as an honour and a reward for good service to be selected for it'.

Dress

The ANZAC Provost Corps was authorised, on 23 February 1917, to wear a navy blue hat and cap band and metal shoulder titles. This was changed some four months later to a red hat and cap band. Armlets were authorised for use on the right arm. {The correct dress was a blue hat band and later replaced by a red hat band. No blue or red hats were ever worn by ANZAC Provost Corps.} 

  • Editors note. The band referred to is sometimes called (incorrectly) the puggaree.

Apart from the distinguishing hat band, shoulder titles and armlets, it would appear that military police wore the dress and colour patches of their parent units, many of which were Light Horse Regiments. It is fitting, therefore, that the current Corps colours (red over black) and vehicle unit signs are identical to those of the 7th Light Horse Regiment.

MP Badges 1914 -1916

Reference: Keith Glyde, Author of Badges & Colour Patches of AMF 1915 - 1951

From 1914 to 1916 the Australian Military Police wore MP titles on the front of the slouch hat. There were two variations, one by Stokes of Melbourne which was a very "fine" product, and another more "chunky" type letters made by Thomas Brown & Sons of Queensland in October 1915. 

The original authority is 'Orders for Australian Imperial Force' published in 1914 and 1915 and progressively amended throughout the war.

AIF Order No. 10, Para 44 of 5 September 1914 does not mention the title but refers to Corps letters and numerals and the position they were to be worn on Officers collars. Other ranks wore them on the epaulette immediately above the Australia title.

Their use was cancelled in Australia by MO673 of 1915 of 9 November 1915 which amended 'Orders for AIF' and in Egypt by AIF Order 118 of 25 March 1916. 'Orders for AIF' in 1915 does not mention an MP armband.

<< Photographic evidence from the period casts some doubt that these orders were always followed.

 

Duties

  • The scope and nature of the duties of members of the Corps has varied little from formation in 1916 to the present. 

    • Rear area duties included town patrols, VIP, hospital and PoW escorts and detention barrack duties. 

    • Field duties included route reconnaissance, water discipline, field security (spies, saboteurs, guarding of stores etc), PoW escorts and discipline.

The MP of the ANZAC Mounted Division were divided into five detachments of ten men, under the command of a SGT, and were allocated to Divisional HQ, and to each of the four Brigades, and were under overall command of the Divisional APM.

  • The Brigade detachments were responsible for:

    • Regulation of traffic and watering horses and camels,

    • Management of discipline in the Brigade area,

    • Keeping constant watch for suspicious looking natives and doing their utmost to prevent espionage by acting on the principle 'that it is better to arrest a number of innocent men on suspicion that all allow one genuine enemy agent to escape'.

    • Taking charge of all PW as soon as possible after capture and escorting them to DIV HQ.

MP at DIV HQ performed the same duties but were also responsible for searching and rationing and water for all PW and listing all their belongings. The work of compiling nominal rolls of PW by rank, name, unit and nationality was undertaken by the APM and his staff, which also included an interpreter.

Military Force of BEERSHEBA

Perhaps the most famous action in this theatre of operations was the charge of the Light Horse at Beersheba. The ANZAC Provost Corps Field Troop played their part in this famous action.

'On 30 October 1917, at 0900 hours, the MP patrol on the watering area was reduced to one man. The rest were on roads and the regulation of traffic. At 1800 hours, the ANZAC Mounted Division now completely assembled, moved out and travelled all night in the direction of Beersheba. They arrived in Kashim Zanna shortly after daylight and there went into action which culminated in the fall of Beersheba the same evening. During the battle, the MP were employed in conducting parties to water and directing stragglers. At 1530 a party of PW was received at DIV HQ with a convoy of captured bullock wagons. These were checked and searched and handed over to the APM Desert Mounted Corps . DIV HQ came under shellfire and it was found necessary to hurry through the check and move the convoy back under cover as quickly as possible. At dusk, hostile aircraft attacked the 1st Light Horse Transport Column which was drawn up in close formation near the PW and was ready to move off. Casualties were very heavy and the APM and DIV MP were employed for some hours in assisting the wounded men and destroying wounded horses.'

The number of PW increased as the Australians advanced through Palestine. The APM of the ANZAC Mounted Division reported on the 21st September 1918, "word was received from Divisional HQ to establish a PW compound at X17C. On the road we met a convoy of 7000 prisoners. The town of Jenin is in a fearful state, arms, equipment and transport were everywhere. Bedouins looting"

A week later, 2Lt Sanders and three MP went back five miles to Judeide and established a PW compound. 10,000 prisoners marched in making a Divisional total of 15,000

Summary

From its beginnings in Egypt in March 1916, the ANZAC Provost Corps distinguished itself in various theatres during WW1. Of the 42 members killed, 13 died in Egypt. Four Military Medals (MM) were awarded and one was Mentioned In Dispatches (MID) twice.

 

Australian Provost Corps 1917

By Major J.M. Symington, PM 2MD - MP Newsletter January 1976

Retyped by CPL A.T. Buckingham in October 2001 from original article and MP Newsletter. Courtesy of RACMP Museum, Holsworthy.

 

This article was put together by Major J.M. Symington, Provost Marshal 2 MD in 1976 from an interview with a retired member of the Corps, Lt Col. R.V. McMillan, MBE. Lt Col. McMillan had two elder brothers who served in the Australian Provost Corps after being wounded at Gallipoli in 1915.

 

Prior to the year 1917, each Division and Formation of the Australian Imperial Force, selected and were responsible for their own Military Police. These positions were filled voluntarily, but no special qualifications such as service, height, good conduct or education were required.

However, early in1917, the Australian Provost Corps (APC) was raised in the United Kingdom, with its HQ at Tidsworth, Hampshire. At that time the main theatre of hostilities was France, and so it was there and in the UK that the maximum number of diggers were based. The first OC was Colonel 'Bull' Williams, with Major Fisher as 2IC. Other officers posted to the Corps at that time were Cooper, Harper, Levy and McMicken.

The selection of Other Ranks proceeded apace, and was most thorough. Each applicant was required to have the following qualifications:

  • Be of good physique and appearance
  • Be medically Class A
  • Be of a minimum height of 5 foot 9 inches
  • Have had at least six months front line service with a combatant unit
  • Be able to ride a horse
  • Have a clean military conduct record.

The dress prescribed for the Corps, was a service dress jacket, similar to other troops, but of slightly better material and fitting, riding breeches, leggings, spurs and a hat khaki fur felt, with a blue hat band.

With the passing of time, it was most noticeable that, after the formation of the new Corps, that relationships between the APC and other soldiers showed marked improvement, dur to the new attitude adopted by the Corps of sympathy and understanding.

Members of the APC were often called upon to perform duties in forward areas, where quite a number were killed or wounded in action. Some also performed deeds of heroism, which did not go unnoticed by the diggers. One such incident, recalled by Col. McMillan, took place during the Third Battle of Ypres which lasted for some weeks. All of the Australian Divisions in France were engaged in this battle. At one notorious place known as 'Hell Fire Corner', on the Main Supply Route, traffic forward and to the rear, being very heavy, was controlled by the APC. The area was under continuous heavy shelling and, whereas others in transit could make a hasty dash through, the MP pointsman had to remain. In one day alone, five members of the APC were killed, or wounded, at that particular spot.

As anyone would understand, to replace a casualty and stand in the same location, takes real courage, a quality much admired by the digger who has seen action.

copy of RO supplied by Geoff Barr, RACMP historian

Brief History of Corps Name

3 April 1916

AIF Police Corps formed in Middle East during WW1.

February 1917

Name change to ANZAC Provost Corps.

1 January 1918

Name change to Australian Provost Corps.

The Australian Provost Corps was disbanded in 1920 along with the AIF in 1921. The Corps was not maintained as an "active" Corps of the Australian Army during the post war period of 1920 to 1938.

1911 to 1938

The Provost Staff and Provost Marshal.

During the post WW1 years the Australian Provost Corp (APC) was to be "considered" a Corps of the Australian Army.

The policing role of the Army was maintained by a Provost Marshal (PM) and a handful of Assistant Provost Marshals (APM) on the HQ of each Military District or Area and had garrison troops known as Regimental Police (RP) to carry out the policing duties.

Also during the period 1911 to 1928 the Military Police of the Permanent Force were termed the "Provost Staff" and it was their job to maintain and administer the compulsory Universal Training Scheme (UTS).

The Defence Act ( The Australian Military Forces - The Defence Act 1903-12 Regulations & Instructions for Universal Training dated 1914, Part 5 - Citizen Forces) stated the following:

Provost Staff - Para 192 (v)

The Provost Staff will be administered by the Adjutant Generals branch of the staff in Districts, and for the purposes of discipline, will be considered to be a "corps".

 

1938

Australian Army Provost Corps (AAPC).

The Corps was "resurrected" in 1938 on the call out of the Army for WW2. The Corps was widely employed during WW2 and provided essential battlefield support.

The following extracts of the Defence Act 1903-41 states:

Division 12A Australian Army Provost Corp

Para 1066a. Constitution of Corps in time of war

In time of war there shall be an Australian Army Provost Corp which shall constitute a corps of the Permanent Forces and shall consist of officers and soldiers appointed to or enlisted in that Corps, or transferred to, or seconded for duty with, that Corps from other portions of the Military Forces.

Part 3 - The Defence Force

Division 1 - Constitution of the Defence Force

Para 30. Defence Force

The Defence Force shall consist of the Naval, Military and Air Forces of the Commonwealth, and shall be divided into two branches called the Permanent Forces and Citizen Forces.

Para 31(2). Permanent Forces

Except in time of war, no Permanent Military Forces shall be raised or organised or maintained except for Administrative and Instructional Staffs, including Staff Corps, Survey, Army Service, Medical, Veterinary, and Ordnance Corps, Artillery, Fortress Engineers, and Submarine Mining Engineers.

Division 12. - Provost Staff

Para 1065. Part of PMF

The Provost Staff shall be maintained as part of the Permanent Forces.

Division 6 Provost-Marshals

Para 384. Appointment of provost-marshals and assistant provost-marshals

Provost-marshals and assistant provost-marshals may be appointed by

  1. the Military Board; or
  2. a formation, &c, commander, if authorised by the Military Board; or
  3. a general officer in command of a body of the Military Forces out of the Commonwealth or on war service in the Commonwealth.

 

September 1948

Name change to Royal Australian Army Provost Corps (RAA PRO)

The Corps was maintained in the post WW2 Army and in 1948 the Provost Corps had the title "Royal" added before "Australian Army Provost Corps" to become "Royal Australian Army Provost Corps".

This was granted by The King in recognition of the service provided by the Provost Corps during World War 2. This was promulgated in Australian Army Orders from Army HQ on 31st December 1948 (Document/File number: 260/1/2990). This entitled the Corps to have the Kings crown on the top of their Corps badge.

It is interesting to note that this change was not amended in the Defence Act until 1st March 1957. (See below for extracts from the Australian Military Forces - Amendments to The Defence Act 1903-41 dated 1st March 1957)

AMR & O 385 and 386 (R.235 & R.236)

Is amended by omitting the words "Australian Army Provost Corps" (wherever occurring) and inserting in their stead the words "Royal Australian Army Provost Corps"

The Corps was active in all major conflicts involving the Australian Army from 1945 to 1974.

 

4 September 1974

Name change to Royal Australian Corps of Military Police (RACMP)

4th September 1974, Her Majesty the Queen granted the prefix "Royal" to the new Corps title.

Military Board Minute No. 66/74 approved the change in Corps title from "Royal Australian Army Provost Corps" to that of "Royal Australian Corps of Military Police".

Also the following info from Corps Magazines of the day:

RAA PRO Corps News Letter - October 1974

Message From The Provost Martial

Action is being taken to change the Corps title. We are unable to give a progress report at this stage because of protocol restrictions. As disclosed in the last newsletter, the new name proposed is "The Royal Australian Corps of Military Police (RACMP).

There was much debate over the name change and many were suggested. Suggestions were:

CAMP - Corps of Australian Military Police

RAMP - Royal Australian Military Police

The Corps Director decided that the above titles/names and others were unacceptable, had similar letters to another Armies MP or Countries Police and adopted The Royal Australian Corps of Military Police (RACMP).

The Military Police Newsletter - January 1975

Message From The Provost Martial

The most significant event affecting the Corps in 1974 was, undoubtedly, our change in name. As the newsletter cover indicates, it is now officially recognised and so, as a matter of factual record, the procedural sequence leading to the announcement can be disclosed.

The notion to change the Corps title was put to the Senior MP Officers Planning Conference in December 1973. It was among a number of proposals concerning the Corps which were staffed at Army Office in the period January to March. In April, the proposals were considered by the Army Development Committee and in May, the Military Board approved a submission by the Chief of Personnel and Colonel Commandant to change the Corps title to 'The Australian Corps of Military Police'.

At this point it is appropriate to explain the prefix 'Royal' is an honour granted only by the Monarch and is not an automatic procedure. In our case, His Majesty King George VI originally bestowed the prefix 'Royal' on the Australian Army Provost Corp in 1948. However, the honour is not transferable and so could not be adopted by the Corps under its new name. Separate initiative action was, therefore, necessary.

The Minister for Defence then wrote to the Prime Minister in July, asking him to approach the Governor-General with a request that he seek the approval of Her Majesty the Queen, to grant the prefix 'Royal' to the Corps under its new title. The reply from the Prime Minister was received in late September, stating that he had been informed by the Governor-General that, pursuant to the Prime Minister's fullest endorsement and recommendation of the proposal, the Queen had given her approval for the Corps to be granted the distinction of the prefix 'Royal'.

The Corps was given a new title to reflect changes in the modern employment and use of Military Police in the Australian Army and is still known as RACMP today.

 

 

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