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The history of military policing in Great Britain dates back to the middle ages. The post of Provost Marshal has existed since William of Cassingham was appointed by Henry III on 28 May 1241 (the original title was Sergeant of the Peace).

During the Peninsula War from 1809–14, Duke of Wellington asked for a Provost Marshal to be appointed to hang looters; by the end of the Peninsular War the Provost Marshal controlled 24 Assistant Provost Marshals. Members of this Staff Corps of Cavalry were identified by a red scarf tied around the right shoulder; whilst some consider this to have been the origin of the famous 'Red Cap' of the Royal Military Police and its forebears, it was more likely a precursor of the 'MP' armband (and now the Tactical Recognition Flash), which identifies the modern Military Policeman or Policewoman.

Although disbanded in 1814 at the end of the Peninsular War, the Duke of Wellington re-formed the Staff Corps of Cavalry to police the occupying British Army in France following Napoleon's defeat at the battle of Waterloo. Later, in the Crimean War, a Mounted Staff Corps of almost 100 troopers from the Police Constabulary of Ireland, with some recruited from the Metropolitan Police, was established to prevent the theft of supplies, and to maintain discipline in camps. This 'Corps' was disbanded with the cessation of hostilities.

The Provost Marshal has always had men detached to assist him, an arrangement formalised by the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular War; but only since 1877 has there actually existed a regular corps of military police. In that year, the Military Mounted Police (MMP) was formed, followed by the Military Foot Police (MFP) in 1885. The Military Mounted Police first engaged in combat in 1882 at the Battle of Tel el-Kebir.[1] Although technically two independent corps, the two effectively functioned as a single organisation. In 1926 they were fully amalgamated to form the Corps of Military Police (CMP). In recognition of their service in the Second World War, they became the Corps of Royal Military Police (RMP) on 28 November 1946 under Army Order 167.

On 6 April 1992 the RMP lost its status as an independent corps, and together with the Military Provost Staff Corps, became the Provost Branch of the Adjutant General's Corps. It was, however, permitted to retain the name "Royal Military Police", together with its cap badge and other distinctive insignia including the red cap.

On 5 March 1995, the Mounted Troop was disbanded after 118 years of service to the crown and the colours.[2]

Significant dates[edit | edit source]

1511 First Provost Marshal of whom a personal record is known

1813-14 Staff Corps of Cavalry raised by Wellington for Peninsular War

1815-18 Staff Corps of Cavalry reformed for Waterloo Campaign

1854-55 Mounted Staff Corps formed for service in the Crimea

1855 Military Mounted Police (MMP) formed to police the new military cantonment at Aldershot

1877 MMP established as a Permanent Corps

1882 Military Foot Police (MFP) formed for campaign service in Egypt

1885 MFP established as a Permanent Corps

1918 Royal Air Force Police and Royal Air Force Police Special Investigations Branch formed

1926 Corps of Military Police (CMP) formed with amalgamation of MMP and MFP

1937 Field Security Police (FSP) Wing formed

1940 Army Special Investigation Branch formed - FSP joins new Intelligence Corps

1946 Royal Prefix granted to CMP

1953 First RMP Direct Entry Officers accepted

1977 HM The Queen becomes Colonel in Chief

1992 Formation of Adjutant Generals Corps of which RMP forms a part of the Provost Branch

First World War[edit | edit source]

In 1914 the Corps of Military Mounted Police and the Corps of Military Foot Police had a total establishment of nearly 5000 men. When the British Expeditionary Force was sent to France in that year, each division had one Assistant Provost Marshal in the rank of Major and several NCOs. The Provost Marshal was a Colonel until 1915, and a Brigadier-General thenceforward.

During the retreat from Mons the MPs were busy dealing with soldiers who, through exhaustion or the general confusion of battle, had either lost or became detached from their units. By operating stragglers posts, the MPs were able to return soldiers to their units. These posts were also well placed to pick out deserters and those Absent With Out Leave (AWOL).

The First World War was the conflict where traffic control became an important function. This was identified particularly after the Battle of Loos, when there was a lot of confusion involving two British divisions. As well as traffic control, the BEF provost units dealt with the maintenance of law and order (i.e. the detection of crime and the arrest of offenders), custody of prisoners of war until handed over to detention facilities, surveillance, control and protection of civilians.

The work undertaken by MPs was not all carried out behind the lines, and sometimes they came under heavy fire. During this conflict, the Military Police suffered 375 casualties. Sixty-five received the Distinguished Conduct Medal and 260 received the Military Medal.

Second World War[edit | edit source]

File:RMP Sholder badges.gif

(from left to right) WWII Vulnerable Points shoulder badge as worn by Blue Caps, WWII Traffic Control shoulder badge as worn by White Caps, CMP armband as worn during WWII, present-day RMP Flash.

At the beginning of the Second World War, the CMP had several branches:

  • Special Investigation Branch (SIB); Red Caps, who were responsible for general policing;
  • Blue Caps (Vulnerable Points), responsible for security of static locations and establishments;
  • White Caps (Traffic Control); and
  • Field Security Wing (Green Caps), which was separated from the CMP in 1940 to form the Intelligence Corps, and who wore the CMP cap badge, but without the scroll.

By the end of the war the Red Caps had replaced the Blue and White Caps. The RMP provided support to the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France and these units were also involved in Operation Dynamo.

Operation Overlord[edit | edit source]

On 6 June 1944, the Allies launched Operation Overlord, the invasion of the European mainland. CMP units taking part included:

  • 101st Provost Company, CMP (On 18 July 1944 this company landed, under enemy attack, at Courseilles-Sur-Mer)
  • 150th Provost Company, CMP

"The Battle of Normandy and subsequent battles would never have been won but for the work and co-operation of the Provost on the traffic routes." (Field Marshal Montgomery, 1945)[citation needed]

Operation Market Garden[edit | edit source]

In 1944, the Allies launched Operation Market Garden, the airborne assault to capture bridges over the Lower Rhine in the Netherlands. The 1st (Airborne) Divisional Provost Company, CMP captured the police station in Arnhem, but then suffered heavy losses when the II SS Panzer Corps counterattacked.

Operation Varsity[edit | edit source]

On 24 March 1945, the British 6th Airborne Division successfully launched Operation Varsity at Wesel, Western Germany. This airborne operation was part of the bigger Operation Plunder, the crossing of the Rhine.

CMP units taking part in Operation Varsity were:

  • 6th (Airborne) Divisional Provost Company, CMP
  • HQ, 245th Provost Company, CMP

CMP units taking part in Operation Plunder included:

CMP units also served with British units of the 14th Army in the Burma campaign 1944-1945 (e.g. 2nd Division)

At war's end, General Sir Miles Dempsey paid the following tribute: "The Military Policeman became such a well known figure on every road to the battlefield that his presence became taken for granted. Few soldiers as they hurried over a bridge which was a regular target for the enemy, gave much thought to the man whose duty it was to stand there for hours on end, directing the traffic and ensuring its rapid passage".[citation needed]

Cold War[edit | edit source]

In 1946 King George VI granted the 'Royal' prefix to the Corps of Royal Military Police (RMP) in recognition of its outstanding wartime record. (CRMP was chosen to avoid confusion with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or RCMP)

In 1946, the Robertson-Malinin agreement introduced Military Missions into the post-war Control Zones of Germany. The Soviet Union maintained missions (SOXMIS) in the U.S., French and British zones. In the British sector the Soviet Mission was based in Bünde near Herford. British Forces maintained a mission (BRIXMIS) in the Soviet Zone (East Germany).

The RMP had the task of policing the Soviet mission in Bünde, and this was tasked to 19 (Support) Platoon RMP, who became known as "white mice". This unit's job was to wait outside the Soviet mission until a SOXMIS vehicle appeared and then follow it.

In restricted areas, Soviet vehicles were not permitted to leave the autobahns (not even in parking areas) unless accompanied by U.S., British or French military police.

The agreements remained in force until 2 October 1990, when all three missions were deactivated on the eve of Germany's reunification.

In Berlin, within 2 Regiment RMP, 247 Provost Company RMP was responsible for manning the British Sector checkpoints and Border Patrols. As part of 2 Regiment, an armed unit of German nationals, 248 German Security Unit, was maintained; its commander was a German national in the rank of Major and an RSM from a British infantry regiment acted as liaison officer. This was disbanded in 1994, when the British Garrison in Berlin was closed. A third company within the 2 Regiment was 246 Provost Company in Helmstedt.

Korean War[edit | edit source]

The Korean War was fought between 1950 and 1953. As part of British and Commonwealth Forces the RMP deployed:

  • 27 Brigade Provost Section RMP
  • 28 Brigade Provost Section RMP

The Corps had one fatality during this conflict:

  • Sergeant D. R. Kinnear

Malayan Emergency and the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation[edit | edit source]

The Malayan Emergency lasted from 1948 to 1960. The UK committed British forces (including the RMP) to combat communist guerilla forces. The Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation lasted from 1962 to 1966.

Between 1948 and 1956, thirteen members of the RMP lost their lives in this conflict. Britain still maintains military forces in Brunei, including an RMP unit.

The Suez Canal Zone Emergency and Suez Crisis[edit | edit source]

Between 1951 and 1955, British forces stationed in the Suez canal zone were engaged in operations against terrorists. The RMP lost eight members during this emergency. The RMP were also involved in Operation Musketeer, the Suez Crisis in 1956.

Cyprus Emergency[edit | edit source]

On 1 April 1955 a terrorist campaign was started by the Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston (EOKA) in Cyprus. It lasted until 1959.

Units of the RMP involved which were involved during the emergency were:

  • 1st Guards Brigade HQ RMP. Waynes Keep, Nicosia
  • 1 Independent Infantry Division Provost Company (Detachment) RMP. HQ Nicosia
  • 3 Infantry Division Provost Company RMP. Famagusta
  • No 6 Army Guard Unit RMP. Lakatamia, Larnaca, Dhekelia
  • 227 GHQ Provost Company RMP. Nicosia, with detachments at Famagusta, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos, Kyrenia
  • 51 Brigade Independent Provost Company RMP
  • Cyprus District Provost Company

The following RMP casualties are buried at the Waynes Keep Cemetery, which is located in the United Nations Buffer Zone in Cyprus.

  • Lance-Corporal W. R. Bell, 227 GHQ Provost Company RMP
  • Lance-Corporal W. N. Cameron, 51 Independent Infantry Brigade Provost Company RMP
  • Lance-Corporal R. J. Downing, 3 Infantry Division Provost Company RMP
  • Lance-Corporal R. B. Leitch, 227 Provost Company RMP
  • Lance-Corporal D. W. Perry, HQ 3 Brigade RMP
  • Lance-Corporal A. R. Shaw, 3 Independent Infantry Division Provost Company RMP
  • Lance-Corporal G. A. Todd
  • Lance-Corporal B. F. Turvey
  • Lance-Corporal B. D. Welsh

In 1955, Major Greenaway, who was the Officer Commanding 1 Division Provost Company (Detachment), was paralysed after being shot in the back; he was repatriated to the UK.

United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus[edit | edit source]

The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was established in 1964 to prevent a recurrence of fighting between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions. After the 1974 Greek coup-d'etat and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the UN Security Council extended and expanded the mission to prevent that Cyprus dispute turning into war. RMP have served with the Force Military Police Unit(FMPU), from the outset.

The FMPU is 1 of only 2 multi-national sub units within UNFICYP, the other being the Mobile Force Reserve. The FMPU is commanded by a RMP major who is both OC FMPU and Provost Marshal. 7 other members of the RMP form the spine of the 25 strong unit. Other contributing nationalities are Argentina, Hungary and Slovakia. The British contribution to FMPU is now the longest enduring operational commitment for RMP.

Kenya, 1952–1960[edit | edit source]

During this period the British Army was conducting operations during the Mau Mau Uprising. An RMP unit was based in Nairobi.

Aden[edit | edit source]

The following RMP units were involved in the Aden Emergency (1964–1967):

  • 24 Brigade Provost Unit RMP (Falaise Barracks, Little Aden)
  • Port Security Force RMP (based at HMS Sheba until 1967)
  • Joint Services Police (Army Navy and Airforce) based at HQ P&SS Steamer Point until 1967

Northern Ireland: Operation Banner[edit | edit source]

During the troubles which started in 1969, four members of the RMP have lost their lives.

In 1977, in her Silver Jubilee Year, Her Majesty the Queen became Colonel-in-Chief of the Corp of the Royal Military Police.

Falklands Conflict: Operation Corporate[edit | edit source]

160 Provost Company RMP, located in Aldershot sent a detachment with the task force for the Falklands conflict. Fortunately all returned home safe and sound.

After the Argentine forces surrendered, 5 Infantry Brigade Provost Unit RMP remained on the islands, sworn in as Special Constables until the Falkland Islands Police Force were able to become operational again. After the re-capture of South Georgia (Operation Paraquat), the Argentine commander Lieutenant-Commander Alfredo Astiz was taken to the UK and questioned by the RMP and Sussex Police at the Keep, Roussillon Barracks, Chichester about the murder of Swedish and French nationals several years before. As there was no jurisdiction for extradition to Sweden or France, he was repatriated to Argentina by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Post Cold War[edit | edit source]

Middle East: Operation Granby[edit | edit source]

In 1991, British forces as part of US-led coalition forces invaded Kuwait and Southern Iraq as part of Operation Desert Storm. The British name for this operation was Operation Granby.

RMP units involved were:

  • 203 Provost Company RMP - 7th and 4th Armoured Brigades (1 (British) Armoured Division). This unit was a composite of various RMP units in United Kingdom Land Forces and British Forces Germany
  • 174 Provost Company RMP - Force Maintenance Area, One section attached to 203 Pro.

The RMP suffered one fatality:

  • Staff Sergeant David Tite

Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit | edit source]

During 1994 the British Army deployed units to Bosnia as part of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), which was later superseded by IFOR and then SFOR. These included:

  • 111 Provost Company Coy RMP - Force Military Police Unit (FMPU) support. The company was based in Vitez, Gornji Vakuf, Kiseljak, Maglaj and Split
  • Elements of 24 Airmobile Brigade Provost Unit (156 Provost Company, based in Colchester, England) provided the British Force Military Police Unit (FMPU) for UNPROFOR (UK Operation Grapple 5) between Oct 1994 and April 1995 based as above and then re-deployed as the Brigade Provost Unit when 24 Airmobile brigade deployed to Ploce in May/Jun 1995.
  • 115 Provost Company RMP (based in Osnabruck, Germany) provided the British Force Military Police Unit (FMPU) for UNPROFOR (UK Operation Grapple 7) between August and December 1995 and then reverted to its unit designation of 4th (UK) Armoured Brigade Provost Unit RMP as part of IFOR until April 1996.

RMP personnel have also been involved in the European Union Force (EUFOR), which took over in 2004.

Kosovo (Operation AGRICOLA)[edit | edit source]

On 12 June 1999, the UK sent 19,000 troops into Kosovo as part of KFOR. Lead units of the 5 Airborne Brigade, which included the Royal Engineers and RMP, had to deal with booby traps in road tunnels before the Force could advance into Kosovo and seize the Kačanik defile.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Regiments That Served With The 7th Armoured Division, Military Mounted Police and Military Foot Police "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". Archived from the original on 2012-08-03. http://archive.is/eOrD. [dead link]
  2. "Royal Mounted Military Police". Rmpmounted.com. 1970-06-08. http://www.rmpmounted.com. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 

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