The Australian Military Police

1945 - 1960s

Researched and written by Antony Buckingham, Australian MP History Website

The period 1945 to 1960, was a very mixed time for both the Corps and the Australian Army. With the end of the war in 1945 and demobilisation of all war time personnel, the Corps was reduced from a war time peak in June 1945 of 84 Officers and 3,130 ORs to a very modest peace time manning of a MP Platoon in each state of Australia.

The first effect on the Corps, as with all Corps of the Australian Army at this time, was the formation of the "Interim Army". The Interim Army was created to cope with the immediate surrender and post war requirements concerning:

·         Providing troops to occupy enemy held areas

·         Guarding Japanese military POW waiting trial or repatriation to Japan

·         Recovery and transporting of much needed expensive and specialised war equipment to Australia

·         Demobilisation of Australian forces.  

The interim Army was also created out of necessity to deal with the multitude of enlistment criteria left over from WW2 and to allow the Army time to raise, equip and man, permanent full time military forces for the defence of Australia and protecting Australia’s national interests. The Australian Government wanted to create an Australian Regular Army (ARA); the first time in the history of Australia that military forces comprising all Corps and Services of the Australian Army would be maintained in peacetime ready for war. The Interim Army commenced about 1947 and ceased in 1950, when the ARA came into being. From this date, all members of the Corps would be signed on as members of the ARA and agree to serve anytime, anywhere, as directed by the Australian Government, although restrictions on overseas service would still apply. Troops would still have to volunteer to go overseas and could not be deployed against their approval.

 

A further major change to the Army at this time concerned all Officers serving in the new ARA where it was a Defence Act requirement that its’ officers were to be graduates of the Royal Military College Duntroon (RMC Duntroon). As most Officers at this time had been commissioned under different systems during war and prior to the war, RMC training cadres were set up around Australia. Considering that most, if not all Officers of the Australian Army at this time were combat veterans or experienced from the recent war (WW2) it was a strange situation for an Officer to be told that he had to attend Officer training to keep his commission. The RMC cadres were operated in all large Military areas around Australia and provided a few weeks of "instruction" to satisfy the Defence Act and new Regular Army requirements. Upon completion, all Officers were now lawful members of the new Australian Regular Army and ready for a career as Regular Army Officers. This was a big difference from the past and established formal and professional requirements for all future officers in the Australian Army.

 

1946 - 1948

 

1946 would prove a landmark year for the Australian Army and the Corps as both went through major transition from wartime to a peacetime environment.   This meant major administrative and disciplinary changes to the Australian Army that had a major impact on military law.   The operation of wartime military law and the offences and punishments related to such, were vastly different to that of peacetime.

 

Whilst this part of the RACMP story focuses on the post war peace-time RACMP history, it is important to note that the Corps supported War Crimes trials in New Guinea and New Britain that included the execution of the death sentence on some sixty Japanese military personnel.   To date very little information concerning Provost involvement has been uncovered; however, it is important to recognise

Australian MP involvement and in some cases were probably the executioners or directly associated with the executions of convicted Japanese military personnel   

 

The wartime Provost organisation was disbanding and the Corps was reduced to three Provost units inside Australia to be known as the Eastern Command Provost Platoon for NSW, Southern Command Provost Platoon for Victoria and Northern Command Provost Platoon for Queensland.   The change was slow and not fully achieved until 1948 due to manning and administrative problems regarding the raising and commanding of the new units.

 

As the "Interim Army" was being raised during this period and Australia reassessed its' Military requirements, decisions were slowly being made.   One solution was to have restricted establishments in all Corps and units, whereby each unit could only man a portion of its' designated positions until future decisions about the strength and roles of the ARA were decided.   Whilst the Army could see the benefit of a Regular Army the Australian Government could not.   Considering the post war attitude in the world at that time, including Australia, that the war had finished, the Allies had won and soldiering was no longer required, it is part of the multitude of reasons why a fully manned and functioning Regular Army took so long to eventuate.

 

A telegram sent from Army HQ in Melbourne to HQ Eastern Command dated 01 August 1947 stated the maximum permissible strength in accordance with the Interim Army Establishments strength for the Corps would be five Officers and 105 OR including three Officers and 50 OR SIB Maritime Group.

 

The effects of this were felt on 15 August 1947 when Eastern Command Provost Company replied in a minute to Eastern Command HQ providing a detailed break down of ranks and trades within the unit as follows:

 

Detail

Total

Officers

Captain (OC)

1

Lieutenant (2IC)

1

Other Ranks

WO1 (RSM)

1

SSGT (CQMS)

1

SGT (TPT NCO)

1

SGT (Orderley Room)

1

SGT (Sections)

6

CPL (Provost Duties)

33

CPL (Orderly Room)

1

CPL (Storeman)

1

Privates (Batman)

1

Privates (Drivers)

7

Privates (General Duties)

1

Privates (Officer & SGTs Mess)

1

Attached Personnel

RAEME CPL (Mechanic)

1

Catering Corps CPL (Cook)

2

 

At the same time, the Corps provided a Detention Barracks and two Provost Platoons (23 & 24 Independent Provost Platoons) for service in Japan as part of the BCOF force although theses troops were mostly “war time” volunteers still serving at the end of the war in 1945.   Many would “sign on” from the Islands and forward areas throughout the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) and within two years many would become the first Regular Army Provost Corps soldiers. 

 

The first post war Corps candidates for new Officer training commenced at the Number 21 OCTU course and a few weeks later were recommended for first appointment to commissioned rank.   During the same period, authority was granted for the issue of 21 wireless transmitters for use in Provost vehicles and were allocated to Queensland, NSW and Victoria L of C areas on a scale of seven transmitters each area.   Considering that many of the civil police throughout Australia at this time did not have wireless transmitters (2 way radios) in their police vehicles, the Corps was at the forefront of this new technology of employing 2 way radio for policing purposes.

 

Another significant occurrence at this time, was the order for the suspension of tracking and finding of illegal absentees from the war time Army that were still unaccounted for as of January 01 1946 and stated:

 

Instruction received to effect that action be taken to immediately discharge those members of the AMF declared illegal absentees prior to 1 Jan 46 and also that members who absented themselves without leave prior to that date, and who have not yet surrendered or been apprehended, to be investigated by the “responsible unit” to enable declaration of illegal absence to be made, and subsequent discharge in absentia to be affected.  Authority AHQ 43338 of 27 May 46.   AHQ 43339 of 27 May 46 authorises that no further action be taken to apprehend members who absented themselves without leave prior to 1 Jan 46, and who have not yet surrendered or been apprehended.  This instruction also authorises the cancellation of all warrants and descriptive reports issued in respect of those members.

 

As the war had ended and the AIF was being formally disbanded, there seemed little point in trying to apprehend and prosecute illegal absentees, although there were many who, stated that "those who shirked their responsibilities should be punished" regardless.

 

The Provost Marshal’s diaries of the period show on June 01 1947, the PM left on a visit to Eastern and Northern Commands to discuss reduction of Provost strengths and disbandment of Northern Command Detention Barracks returning on 10 Jun 47.   Four days later on Jun 14 1947, the location of the PM Directorate changed from No.1 Area, Albert Park Barracks Melbourne to G Block, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne with a reduced strength on 20 June 1947 reported as 2 Officers and 1 OR (AWAS).

 

State of the Corps - 1948

The following minute, written by the then Provost Marshal in 1948, gives a good account of the Corps and its' activities at that time:

 

STRENGTH OF PROVOST MARSHAL AND REGIMENTAL POLICE

D F S

 

Ref 96-8-330 dated 20 Feb 48 Relating to the above.

 

2.                  The duties on which Provost personnel are now employed are similar to those carried out during the years 1939/1945 e.g. the maintenance of discipline of troops on leave in the bigger centres of Eastern and Southern Commands, tracing of AWLs, escorts to units, Court Martials, and Detention Barracks, staffing Guardrooms, Investigations, etc.

 

3.                  The main duties carried out by Provost personnel in Northern, Eastern and Southern Commands were:-

 

(1)               NORTHERN COMMAND.

 

Maintain Provost Guardrooms for soldiers serving detention for periods up to 14 days, for soldiers arrested and awaiting trial; holding SUS prior to escorting same to Eastern Comd DB, etc,

 

Escorts -         1 to Innisfail, 1 Cairns, 2 Ingleburn, NSW, 2 Holsworthy, 1 Sydney, 1 Greta, were carried out in Jan.  Intrastate and Interstate escorts often involve an absence of a week at a time for personnel on this duty.

 

Investigations - 11 cases carried out in co-operation with the civil police.  Army property valued pounds – 190 was recovered and pounds – 40 in fines was inflicted upon soldiers by the Civil Court.

 

(2)               EASTERN COMMAND.

 

Provost duties in Sydney, Newcastle-Maitland area, maintain a Provost Guardroom for soldiers arrested.  For periods Jul/Dec 47:-

 

Number reported AWL                                         647

Apprehended or located                                       442

Total arrests                                                       1275

Total escorts                                                         309

SUS escorted                                                        833

Provost personnel used                                        494

Investigations for same period                             134

Value of property,recovered  pounds -  1241

 

Duties with BCOF drafts etc.

 

SOUTHERN COMMAND.

 

Provost duties in Melbourne, Albury and Bandian.  Maintain a Provost Guardroom for SUA pending Court Martial etc.

 

Escorts SUA and SUS to Holsworthy DB., NSW.

 

Investigations (Nov 47/Feb 48)                                               103

Investigations Arrests                                                                36

Value of property recovered  pounds – 888

 

4.                  The above Provost personnel are maintained on a 24 hours basis.  Pro in Northern Command are rationed and quartered by RR and GDD but in Eastern and Southern Commands Pro are maintained as units.

 

5.                  The strengths shown are still necessary but the proposed Provost strengths as from 1 July 48 are at present under discussion.

 

6.                  Regimental Police are raised by HQ Military Districts and have no association with the Provost Corps.  It is pointed out that RP have power only over soldiers of their own unit, whereas members of the Provost Corps have power of arrest over all soldiers.

 

As we can see, the Corps busy and hectic activities then, were just as busy and varied as they are today.   However, the lessons of the past would be forgotten again as the Government hastily reduced the numbers in each Corps to seriously reduced peace time manning levels instead of maintaining credible forces for the training and professional development of the Army in peace time.   The Australian Army and in turn MP would suffer manning and equipment shortages and lack of vision and will for many years to come.   Despite involvement in all post war conflicts during the period, MP would suffer stagnation in Australia.

 

A New Corps and Corps Badge

Another major event to happen to the Corps and the Australian Army was the Army's decision to institute the British Regimental system of command and control and unit formations along with Corps badges and embellishments.   As such, all Corps of the Australian Army that fought during WW2 were granted the title 'Royal' in recognition of the service provided by the Australian Army Corps to the King and British Empire during WW2.  

 

During September 1948, the Corps title was changed from the Australian Army Provost Corps to the Royal Australian Army Provost Corps (RAA Pro).   The change was promulgated in Australian Army Orders issued from Army HQ on 31st December 1948 (Document/File number: 260/1/2990).   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"

 

A new Corps badge was approved for wear by all qualified Corps personnel.   Prior to 1949, members of the Corps did not have a Corps badge to represent the Corps.   The "Rising Sun" badge was worn on all forms of official headdress along with the MP armband and white webbing that is synonymous with the MP from WW2 through to today.

 

During the period 1947 to 1949, the Australian Army investigated the replacement of uniforms and embellishments for the Post War Army, which resulted in 1950, the adoption of the battle dress uniform similar in style to the uniform worn by the British Army during WW2.   To complement this uniform, it was decided to adopt embellishments and badges similar to those worn on the British uniform which were embroidered shoulder titles and Corps or unit badges.

 

On 15 July 1948, the Master General of Ordnance (MGO), in his memo B10159 (61/9/621) of 15 July 1948, called for recommendations to be forwarded for the design of the Corps badge and embroidered shoulder titles.   In response to this, the Provost Marshal - Army, on 26 July 1948, forwarded to the MGO through the Adjutant-General, a letter making his recommendations and included a drawing of the badge.   There is no known copy of the original drawing.   It is not known who designed the Corps badge or why the badge included the crossed Roman broad swords inside the laurel wreath surmounted by the Kings Crown.   The new Corps badge consisted of crossed roman broad swords surrounded by a laurel wreath, surmounted by the Crown of St Edward.   Uniquely Australian in design, the badge has been worn proudly by all Australian Military Police to this day.

 

The first official drawing of the badge was issued in late 1949 in MGO Specifications Aust/991, which showed the badge as drawn in July 1949 by A.Ward.   The specifications called for two sizes, large and small, this allowed the badge to be worn on the hat/cap and beret, and worn as collar badges on the Officer's service dress.   The fastening device varied from the normal fastening devices consisted of two sharpened tongues on the top and bottom rear of the badge.   It is not known if any of these badges were manufactured as the examples available today feature a different fastening device which consists of two shanks and a brass spring pin, this fastening device is consistent with all other badges of the period.

 

The next documented change to the specifications of the badge occurred with the issue of a revised MGO specification, Aust/991, on the 2 Oct 1955.   The changes included a change of crown style to that of the St Edward's Crown as a result of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second in 1954.   This specification sheet also shows the standardised fastening device of two shanks and a brass spring pin.

 

Shoulder Titles, lanyard, rank and MP brassard

It was also during this period, that the Australian Army and the Corps would adopt embroidered shoulder titles in Corps colours along with coloured lanyards to represent the Corps.  

 

The Royal Australian Army Provost Corps was allocated embroidered shoulder titles of black writing on a red background.   Approved in 1948, for wear at the top of the sleeves on both arms, in most orders of dress, including greatcoats.   There were 2 types approved - the first being in 1948 until 1960 with a border around the writing, and second being in 1962 until 1974 without a border around the writing.

 

A red coloured lanyard was also approved for wear.   It was not uniquely Provost, as other Corps of the Australian Army wore the red lanyard as well.   This would be the case until the 1990s when the Corps would get its own unique coloured lanyard.

 

By the late 1940s, the Corps in line with Australian Army dress regulations would change from rank stripes worn on the right arm only to rank stripes worn on both arms.   This would coincide with the MP armband being moved from the left arm which had been worn this way prior because of the right arm rank requirement at this time to the MP armband being moved and worn on the right arm in line with the new uniform requirements.   The MP armband and now brassard has been worn on the right arm/shoulder ever since. 

 

In 1948 the reintroduction of the Citizen Military Forces (CMF) or what we would now call the Army Reserve occurred.   As a result, MP would gain much needed employment and duties that contributed significantly to the continued existence of the Corps in the post war period.   One of the more pleasant and exciting aspects of service in the Corps at this time was the Army’s recruiting and public relations activities with military tattoo’s and displays being staged around the country.   MP was much sought after during the period especially the daring and dashing MP motor cycle riders who often performed dangerous and spectacular riding combinations involving multiple MPs standing/lying and sitting on a single venerable old Harley Davidson motorcycles.   The displays thrilled the crowd and was a much sought after duty by the MP’s who gained much positive PR for the Corps and the Army during the period.  

   

The 1950s

 

Affiliation with the RMP

 

During the early 1950s, the Australian Army was seeking Corps affiliations with the British Army and other armies based upon mutual respect and shared experiences from the last war.   When offered affiliation with the Royal Military Police, the Corps proudly accepted.   The following telegram was sent on behalf of all Corps members to the RMP.  

 

ARMY MELBOURNE

AUSTARM LONDON

Please pass following to Provost Marshal War Office from Provost Marshal AMF

(.) QUOTE (.) Provost Marshal and all Ranks Royal Australian Army Provost Corps sincerely thank the Colonel Commandant and all Ranks Royal Military Police for message of Goodwill (.) We are deeply honored by the honor conferred on us by her majesty.

{Unknown Signature}

Col.

D.P.S

4 Jan 54

 

Recruitment from Britain and other Commonwealth countries

 

As Australia was restructuring its' war time forces to coincide with new post war challenges in the Asia Pacific region, new strategy's were required to man the forces.   As there were many men who had served in the previous war now returning to civil life from all over the British Empire and the lack of population in Australia that could and would be available for recruiting into the Australian Army, a decision was taken to recruit from British Commonwealth countries.

 

Advertisements were placed in local newspapers and veterans organisations, offering men of the British Empire the opportunity of service in Australia with the Australian Army as well as the other two Services.   Many men would apply and be accepted into the Australian Army with many deciding to stay forever in Australia and provided valuable and efficient service in times of war and peace to the Corps through the 1950s, 60s and well into the 1970s.

 

Many members of the Royal Australian Army Provost Corps were recruited in this way and brought with them valuable experience gained from the RMP or other Commonwealth Services.   Many of those men would go onto to serve in the senior ranks of the Corps, many at WO or Officer level.   Their contribution to the Corps and the Australian Army is often forgotten or very much understated, although it must be said, that they were serving soldiers like any other and drew their pay the same as the next man.

 

Recruiting for the Corps in the 1950s

 

Recruiting for the Corps during the 1950s was on a voluntary basis as has been the case throughout most of the Corps history.   However, documents obtained from the National Archives covering the Corps recruiting system during the mid to late 1950s, show that volunteers for the Provost Corps were based on an allocation system and not a true voluntary system as believed.

 

It was revealed that each Corps in the Australian Army could only allow a certain number of volunteers from each Corps to be accepted for transfer to the Provost Corps.   Each year, a quota figure would be released by each of the Australian Army Corps with only that number of personnel being released regardless of quality, service history and suitability to join the Corps.   This decision was based on the requirement to keep other Corps manned at a suitable level and the Corps personnel wastage rate figure of 36 personnel a year.

 

Towards the end of the 1950s and for the betterment of the Corps, applications for service in the Provost Corps became voluntary again without any quota restrictions.   This decision could only improve the quality of Provost personnel that would soon wear the badge and armband of the Australian MP.

 

The early years of the 1950s when recruiting was truly voluntary recruiting requirements for entry to the Corps, were prescribed as and remained so throughout the allocation period till the late 1950s:

 

To be eligible for enlistment in or allocation to the RAA PRO, an applicant must -

a.      volunteer to perform provost duties;

b.      have (at any time) served for at least 12 months on full-time duty in His Majesty's Forces;

c.       be a minimum height of 5ft 9 in. ;

d.      be physically proportioned in accordance with his height;

e.       have a deportment and temperament suitable for provost NCO duties;

f.        be acceptable to the Provost Mashal or his appointed representative; and

g.      be otherwise eligible in accordance with Parts 1 or 2 of this instruction, as appropriate.

 

Corps doctrine

 

The following information provides an opportunity to see and understand the "doctrine" of the Corps during this period and how Provost were to be employed.   This doctrine would guide the Corps for many years to come and influence the future directions of the Corps:

 

Provost

Book: Pam - Administration in the Field

Vol 1, Administration Within The Division, 1951

1951 (Reprint 1953 Incorporating Aust Amendments)

 

Duties

(1) The main duties of the Provost Company of a Division are:

a.      The supervision and enforcement of disciplinary regulations at all times.

b.      Traffic control.

c.       Handling of refugees.

 

Organisation, Command and Affiliation

(2) Each type of Division contains one Company of the Corps of Royal Military Police commanded by a Major.   This Company is mobile and self contained; it consists of a HQ and eight Sections.

 

(3) Centalised control is desirable but it will be normal for one Section (or sub section) to be affiliated (each) to main and rear Divisional HQ and to Brigades.   Company HQ will normally be located at rear Divisional HQ.

 

(4) Every effort should be made to retain one Section of the Company in reserve against emergency.

 

Staff responsibility

(5) Although Provost is an "A" service, because "A" branch deals with disciplinary and personnel matters, both "G" and "Q" have much to do with Provost in matters such as guarding prisoners of war and traffic control.

 

The Assistant Provost Marshal

(6) Provost is represented at Divisional HQ by the Assistant Provost Marshal (APM) a Major.   The APM deals direct with respective branches of the Staff regarding Provost matters and supervises the work of the Provost Company to whom he gives his orders as from the Staff.

 

(7) The APM must ensure that the best use is made of the limited Provost personnel available and must allot them in sufficient numbers to cope with such tasks as may be required.

 

(8) The APM will normally be located at Main Divisional HQ.   His duties, however, especially during static periods, are such that it may be more convenient for him to move his office to rear HQ.

 

Employment

(9) Provost must be used for specific tasks.   Sections may be allotted to Brigades, but a reserve must be kept in hand.   In the latter stages of movement in battle, demands on Provost always rise steeply.

 

(10) Especially in an armoured Division, Provost Sections may well operate under the APM for large scale moves, separate Sections being allotted to routes.   For tactical moves, allotment to Brigades, etc, will be normal.

 

(11) Under static conditions Sections will normally be located at the HQ to which they are affiliated.

 

Discipline

Provost responsibility for discipline includes protection against, and detection of crime.   In this connection the difference between the Provost Company and the personnel of any field security section which may be attached to the Division is that the latter act more in an advisory capacity, supervising and enforcing security regulations and investigating security offences while Provost are more executive.

 

The aim, however, of all Provost personnel must be to prevent crime rather than to arrest delinquents.   The troops should instinctively look to Provost for help and guidance and not regard them as heralds of trouble.

 

Disciplinary regulations will, however, almost invariably be broken from time to time by certain troops, and Provost personnel must then act quickly and effectively.   This strict enforcement of regulations is of special importance when troops are located in or near a twin when their good deportment is vital - especially among foreigners.

 

Further doctrine from the period stated:

 

Organisation & Command Provost Corps 1950s

Page 11 of Manual of the Royal Australian Army Provost Corps 1952

 

  1. The supervision of the Provost Service is a duty of the Adjutant-General Branch of the staff.
  2. The head of the service at Army HQ is the Provost Marshal.
  3. Assistant Provost Marshals (APMs) are attached to the HQ of Armies, Corps, Commands, Forces and certain L of C Areas.
  4. Deputy Assistant Provost Marshals (DAPMs) are attached to the HQ of Divisions, certain L of C Areas, and as assistants to APMs.
  5. Provost Captains are attached to APMs at Armies, certain L of C Areas and sub-areas.
  6. Provost units are raised on a Section basis. On higher Establishments:

A HQ and 2 Sections form an Independent Provost Platoons.

A HQ and 8 Sections form a Divisional Provost Company.

A HQ and 10 Sections form an Army or Corps Provost Company.

A HQ and 6 to 10 Sections form a Command or L of C Provost Company.

In addition Special Investigation Sections and Provost Maritime Sections are raised as required.

 

7. The Military Prisons and Detention Barracks Service is a part of the Royal Australian Army Provost Corps. The duties of members employed therein are laid down in Australian Military (Places of Detention) Regulations and Standing Orders, 1944.

 

It is with this information and doctrine that the Corps would form the Provost Company's that would serve the Corps and the Australian Army well into the 1970s.

 

Military Police training during the 1950s

After WW2 and during the 1950s, training of Provost personnel were undertaken by individual Provost units located throughout Australia.   However, there was an attempt to provide a central training establishment during the 1950s with Royal Park in Victoria being used for Corps training and Promotion courses.   Many of the future Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCO) of the Corps during the 50s and 60s would be a product of Royal Park.

 

The Royal Park training consisted of “Subject Lessons” of parade drill, weapons, specific Corps training in MP duties and military law (non-corps).   Apart from the specific MP training lessons the bulk of the course including military law was Army standard and taught to all soldiers attending promotion courses during the period.   At this time promotion courses were run by the Provost Corps for Corps members and not provided from a central training unit, as is the case today.

 

MP training during this period also prospered as a result of the updated "doctrine" printed and titled 'Manual of the Royal Australian Army Provost Corps 1952' and issued to all new and current serving members of the Corps in pocket size.   The previous Corps manual had been printed and distributed in 1943 and was found indispensable by the WW2 MP and through to the 1950s.   The MP of the 1950s would be on patrol with his MP notebook and the 1952 Manual, which in some MP units was compulsory to carry.  

 

The standards expected of an MP during the period is detailed in the manual:

 

Conduct of Provost Personnel

Page 9 of the Manual of the Royal Australian Army Provost Corps 1952

 

  1. Much power and responsibility is vested in the members of the Provost Corps, and a high standard in the performance of their duties is expected of them.
  2. The exercise of firmness, tact and discretion is required in the discharge of these duties.
  3. In the performance of their every-day duties, members of the Provost Corps will constantly endeavour:

a.      To cultivate a cheerful and courteous manner and to keep his temper at all times.

b.      To be alert, vigilant and helpful.

c.       To prevent crime, rather than await it and secure conviction.

d.      To carry out orders firmly and unhesitatingly.

e.       To cultivate and develop powers of observation.

f.        To constantly bear in mind that before they can check others for even minor irregularities, they must set an example in their own persons of dress, sobriety, integrity and conduct.

g.      To remember that the aim of the Provost Corps is to render service, be being a preventative rather than a repressive force, whether the matter being dealt with is traffic control, control of inhabitants in a forward area, or control of soldiers outside their unit areas.

h.      To carry out arrests with the minimum use of force, and undue publicity.

i.        To address all persons with courtesy, as illustrated by the following:

 

When necessary to address an Officer, Provost personnel will salute and begin the conversation with "sir" or "madam".

After completing the conversation, they again salute and say "Thankyou, Sir (Madam)".

 

In directing a driver of a vehicle to dim or put out lights, call out in a tone of voice no louder than necessary for him to hear: "Dim (or put out) your lights, please".

 

When addressing civilians, they give consideration to their age and sex. It is always proper to address a civilian with "Madam" or "Sir".

 

4. The manner in which Provost Personnel approach and address an individual will determine to a large extent the response they will receive. A courteous and friendly attitude, coupled with a firm decisive approach, will tend to create not only respect for the Provost, but a similar friendly and co-operative attitude on the part of the individual addressed. Provost personnel usually can accommodate their objectives of maintaining order by appealing to intelligence and inherent good qualities of individuals.

 

The Manual of the Royal Australian Army Provost Corps 1952 would influence Corps training for many years to come and provide a common source of information and standards well into the 1960s.

 

The Command Provost Companies

 

On 12 December 1950 approval was given for Eastern Command Provost Platoon, Southern Command Provost Platoon and Northern Command Provost Platoon to be re-organised as the Eastern, Southern and Northern Command Provost Companies.   This approval was due to the increased responsibilities and duties that the Corps would be expected to perform in the future expansion of the Regular Army including a large National Service policing obligation.   This was a significant event in the Corps history and the first time that fully manned Provost Company's would be maintained in peacetime.

 

Keith Glyde’s book Distinguishing Colour Patches of the AMF 1915 – 1951 records, the lineage of our first peacetime Provost units via the colour patches issued during the period and provides a unique opportunity to gauge the direct history behind these important units:  

 
Southern Command Provost Company

·         Formed in Victoria on 10.6.1940 as 1st Aust. Corps Provost Company

·         To the Middle East on 18.9.1940.  Served Palestine and Greece,

·         Returned to Australia on 10.3.1942, to Queensland.   Elements to New Guinea on 10.8.1942 and 26.10.1942. 

·         Returned to Australia in March/April 1943, to Victoria on 15.11.1943, located Port Melbourne Cricket Ground. 

·         To Rosemund St, Maribyrnong, in Feb 1945, absorbed 10th Aust. L. of C. Provost Company in April 1946. 

·         Redesignated 3rd Military District Provost Company in February 1948 at Royal Park, Victoria 

·         Redesignated 3rd Military District Provost Platoon on 1.7.1948,

·         Southern Command Provost Platoon on 1.1.1950. 

·         Expanded as Southern Command Provost Company on 1.12.1950,

 

Eastern Command Provost Company

·         Raised in N.S.W. prior to July 1940 as Provost Corps, Eastern Command. 

·         Subsequently redesignated as Eastern Command Provost Coy. 

·         Redesignated 2nd Aust. L of C Provost Company in June 1942 but had probably also formed the nucleus of 2nd Aust. Corps Provost Company earlier. 

·         Had been reformed prior to 17.8.1947 and was redesignated on 1.7.1948 as Eastern Command Provost Platoon. 

·         Expanded to form Eastern Command Provost Company by 20.12.1954.

 

Northern Command Provost Company

·         Formed in Queensland in early 1940,

·         Disbanded about March/May 1942, personnel to form 5th Aust. Division Provost Company and 1st Aust. L of C Provost Company. 

·         Reformed as Northern Command Provost Company about 1.9.1955.

 

Western Command Provost Company

·         Raised in Western Australia about 8.2.1941, mobilised on full-time duty on 1.10.1941, formed the nucleus of 5th District L. of C. Provost Company about January 1942, remainder forms 3rd Aust. Corps Provost Company in July 1942. 

·         Reformed postwar as Western Command Provost Company.

 

Tasmania Command Provost Company

·         Raised in Hobart by May 1952 on a restricted establishment of nine A.R.A. all ranks.  Disbanded by August 1960 (possibly as early as 1956).

 

Central Command Provost Company

·         Raised in Adelaide about 3.11.1952.

 

During the mid 1950s, the Corps paraded as a unit for the first time at Victoria Barracks Sydney, in what was a spectacular parade with all the Provosts attired in the old "Blues" Ceremonial uniform with gold stripes (real gold bullion in some cases) and embellishments.   For many in the Corps, this was the first and last time that a majority of the Corps would be in the same place at the same time and a rare chance for Corps members to mix.   The parade was well received by the military community and family and friends of the Corps with much good publicity gained.

 

The 1950s would see the Corps gain a new ECN and improved pay as it was argued at the highest levels that the right "type" of person would be attracted and retained by the Corps, if pay levels were similar to those of civilian organisations at the time.   Considering that unemployment was at an all time low in the civil community and wages and conditions were favourable in the wider community, it was essential that Army pay rates be comparable.   As MPs were performing similar duties and in many cases, a greater work-load than civil police, it was justified that the Corps gain a pay rise and a new ECN.    

 

Prior to July 1956, the Provost NCO ECN was 684.   After this date, an order from the Director Military Training, authorising the change of ECN 684 to ECN 685 Provost NCO was approved although subject to qualification by examination in Subjects "A", "B" and "C" for first promotion and qualify for a Driver's licence for the vehicles issued to his unit.

 

All Provosts (MP) would now be classified as Provost NCO ECN 685 and would remain as such for many years to come.

 

Life in the Provost Companies

 

Life, in the Command Provost Companies was busy with many varied and general policing duties to perform.   Brian McMaugh, who joined the Corps in 1956, tells the following story of how he joined the Corps and what life was like for a young MP CPL:

 

I was serving at RTB Kapooka at the time. A terrible posting like Kapooka, can develop a state of mind where your Unit becomes an island, and in time you are apprehensive about moving to “unfamiliar” new territory.   I saw that this syndrome had affected many of the Staff at 1 RTB, and I worried, that I too, may become a zombie.   Many of the Staff were "piss-pots" and most had strange personalities  -  I had been there almost 2 years at that time.

 

I often encountered Command Standing Orders and a piece by the DAPM Eastern Command, which called for volunteers to join the Military Police.  I can’t remember the (then) requirements, other that a height restriction to at least 5’ 9” was mandatory.  I had to wrestle with my conscience before applying, because in 1955 they were still singing in the soldiers’ clubs:

“Provo Bastards, Provo Bastards,

Provo Bastards at the gate,

Checking passes,

Kicking arses,

Provo bastards at the gate!”

 

When you’re old, and good for nothing,

And a God damned f-----g wreck,

May you slip back through your arse-hole,

And break you’re f-----g neck!”

 

And additionally, a song dating back to WW1, but with changed wording that went:

 

“A soldier came down on his 14 days leave,

when a Provost walked up and said ‘Pardon me please”

“There’s mud on your boots, and there’s blood on your sleeve,

I’m sorry I’ve canceled, you’re 14 days leave!”

 

The soldier looked up with a murderous glare,

He said “I’ve come back from the place over there –

Where whiz-bangs are flying, and comforts are few,

And good men are dying,

For Bastards like you!”

 

“Oh have you a Mother – you flat-footed cur?

Oh have you a Father who ever laid her?

Are you one of the boys who would join in a laugh?

Or a dirty great bastard from Headquarters staff!”

 

I decided to grab the nettle firmly and was to suffer quite a deal of scorn from those who had isolated themselves with 1 RTB.   I applied for a transfer to the Military Police, the year was 1956.

 

An instruction finally arrived for me to report to Eastern Command Provost Company at South Head, NSW, for parade to the DAPM for assessment of suitability to undergo a 28 day probation period.   The trip to Sydney was made difficult, in that I and a crony were ordered to drive to Randwick, NSW, the venerable old 1942 blitz-buggy (truck) that had housed the projector for the open air theater (standing on blocks) perhaps since WW2.   We had barely limped out of Wagga, when an 8” blue centipede, wriggled out from under the seat and made us abandon ship!   Some miles on, further down the road, the gunners hatch above my passenger seat, fell out on top of my head and almost knocked me unconscious.   An electrics failure at Marulan, NSW, gave us an excuse to book into a hotel for the night.  My dreams of an unlimited hot shower disintegrated when I found out, one had to chop a packing case up to light a chip-heater first.  A shock evolved to find the toilet was a “pan” system with a cut-down sugar bag full of torn newspaper in lieu of a roll of conventional paper, and the bed must be shared, but a procedure safe enough in that era before the word “gay” meant something other than “happy”.   When we finally lumbered and smoked into Randwick, we had a major break-down that necessitated running the powerless truck backwards into a power pole to stop it, whilst I set off on foot to locate a recovery unit, a nearby CMF Unit was my savior.   Towed into the destination Unit an unfortunate LCpl Duty NCO signed a receipt for the vehicle without unlocking the back, lucky for us as the big projector had broken loose and shuddered itself to death en route.

 

As we were now a day late for my DAPM appointment, arrangements were made for me to report to South Head on a Saturday afternoon, to parade before Major Gray the DAPM.   It was a "Redex Trial" to find my way by trams and buses out to South Head where I finally arrived.   On arrival, I was invited into the Military Police Corporals’ Mess, to wait pending my interview and encouraged to “have a few beers” there, I have ever suspected that this was a ploy to see if I could/could not handle a few beers before being paraded.   I was paraded and managed to “handle it” and thus accepted for attendance at a 28 day probationary period.  My blitz-buggy companion named  Jack Pamment, was similarly accepted.

 

The DAPM at that time, was Major Mick Gray, who was well known throughout the Army.  He was an ex Rat of Tobruk and had obviously served with the British Army in India in a Cavalry unit.  He truly encouraged an active Mess life and was something of a modern day Buccaneer.  He at one time earned the nick-name amongst his peers as “Major Shine” and this was caused by the fact that an inspection by the Provost Marshal was pending and hardly a single Military Police vehicle was roadworthy.  Undaunted, he had the men push all the vehicles into revue order, but in an area not suitable for a “drive-past,” and then had the troops really go to town with the polish and tyre black and metal polish, so that he finally presented an immaculate parade of men and transport to the Colonel, irrespective of the fact that only a couple of vehicles were working.

 

I soon marched into Eastern Command Provost Company to undergo my probation.  The Unit was currently preparing for the Annual Army Tattoo held at the Sydney Showground.  The MP contribution was about 30 Military Policemen on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, dressed in ‘blues” jodhpurs, leggings, jackets and with medals, who performed some classic precision riding such as twin circles crossing through each other.   Other motorcycle displays were provided by Signals, such as riding over ramps, 14 men on one machine etc.  Each day the motorcycle team would depart for training runs under the 2i/c (Capt Nicholson) and it was an awesome sight, that of 30+ Harley-Davidsons, traveling in pairs and roaring as only a Harley-Davidson does.   On return each afternoon, the motorcyclists would do a circuit of the Camp and have to negotiate a hairpin right bend (still abreast!) with some of the inside file having their tyres, right on the edge of an unfenced steep bank during this performance, and I was happy not to be selected as a “reserve” because I had motorcycle experience.

 

A veteran Military Policeman once told me, that the requirements of a good Provost were; “to know when to act, but also when to turn a blind eye” but this excellent advice was undermined by the official edict “it is not up to you Corporals to be the judge  - the soldier’s OC will judge the merits of the case, it is your duty to report all irregularities”

 

Actual patrols under command of a Sergeant were usually conducted from a ‘troop carrying vehicle” 1 ton, a big utility with a canopy and wooden seats facing each other – this meant that the men in the back were between prisoners and freedom.  A customised ‘cage’ by Dodge was received around this period, which had seating for two outside the “cage” at the rear but proved to be top-heavy and was not stable at speed.  The DAPM/OC at this time had a “FJ” Holden staff car.

 

Annually, we qualified at weaponry at the Long Bay rifle range where we fired the .303 Lee Enfield rifle, the Owen machine carbine and the .380 Smith and Wesson revolver.  We did not fire the Bren gun as this was not a Unit weapon.  One of the pistol practices was really outdated  -  it was meant to simulate firing at a target whilst mounted and to this end the firing party walked one-behind-the-other in a big circle and when in front of respective targets, we fired whilst still walking.  Skill at Arms badges were worn with enthusiasm; cloth crossed rifles with copper letters R = rifle, P + pistol and C = carbine.  Some even carefully polished these letter symbols and some even had polished brass eyelets in their boots. Spit-polished boots were encouraged and webbing was whitened with either leather lacquer/thinners or with white plastic water-based paint.

 

Each Military Policeman was issued with white traffic-sleeves. These were for use on traffic control and were white calico ‘sleeves’ that looped under the epaulettes and made hand signals more obvious to traffic.   Also issued was an official Military Police Notebook and after probation, a Military Police ID Card.

 

A less desirable issue was the dreadfully outdated Manual of Military Police, which had to be studied.  It was designed apparently for WW2 conditions.  It was phrased in such difficult wording that some pieces must be learned parrot fashion…take this gem from Use of Firearms (justification)……

 

‘To prevent the commission of a particularly

violent or atrocious crime when the intention

to commit such a crime is clearly manifest and

there are no other means available to prevent

the commission of such crime.’

 

The Powers of Arrest were similarly learned parrot fashion. Great emphasis was placed on “equivalent ranks in Services” and the make-up of Armies, Divisions and Brigades.

 

The Company was housed in a vast old weatherboard complex of great age and had once been the Headquarters of an Artillery unit.  The whole area was honeycombed with underground tunnels of some age, which linked abandoned masonry gun sites.  A huge muzzle loading cannon still stood facing the harbour with the unusual feature that it had a rifled bore. There were stone defensive walls along the foreshore broad enough to walk along and with steel shuttered musket embrasures along its whole length.  Many gun sites of WW2 were still visible.  The Unit even had its own private wharf below the unit.  Sleeping accommodation was a two storied building down a steep hill and this steep pinch with narrow steps had to be traversed going to/from meals or the mess  -  quite a few soldiers had falls at night when trying to go down the hill whilst intoxicated.  The sleeping accommodation had a million-dollar-view of Sydney Harbour, but Alas! The front rooms with such a view were jealously occupied by Sergeants and senior Corporals whereas we “probationers” and junior Corporals must occupy the back rooms that had a view of the rock face!  The Corporals and Sergeants had their respective Messes in the HQ building.

 

The RSM occupied a married quarter right beside the Company HQ, and he had a nubile daughter, who had a habit of sitting on the stone stairs in front of the married quarter and sitting right where we young MPs could see right up to her panties, as we topped the stairs.   I feel that this teenage vixen did this on purpose to excite we randy young fellows!!!!   BUT who in their right mind is going to tamper with the daughter of the RSM?!

 

We also worked out of Victoria Barracks in Sydney when on patrol.   There was a guard compound right inside Victoria Barracks that was a real curiosity.   There were two stories of cells and apparently there was another level of cells under the floor, but these were sealed off because of water.   The Guard Compound must have been a hectic place through two World Wars with a venerable journal under the counter giving such old units as “Camel Corps".   A tall brick wall formed an exercise yard and this was topped with a thick layer of mortar into which large jagged pieces of broken bottles had been inserted.

 

When performing night patrols, the patrol was required to sleep in the Guard Compound in the cells and over the many years, the primitive ventilating shafts had become clogged with dust, so that there was no fresh air and one woke up with a terrible hangover.   I have since been told, that this ‘hangover’ may have also been wrought by the early practice of mixing arsenic with wall paint to deter insects and perhaps this “paris green” dust was sifting down as powder.   One of the Corporals who worked all the time at the Guard Compound was a huge uncouth and ugly brute, who struck terror into the hearts of both prisoners and we young soldiers  -  his nickname was “Flash” and perhaps he had at one time been a “Jerusalem Screw”?   Folk lore had it, that Flash used to patrol Kure harbour during BCOF Japan days looking for illegal divers salvaging wrecks on the bottom, and should he find one, would ruthlessly cut the air hose.   Anyway, when Flash snarled at we youths, we would really jump-to-it.

 

In 1956 the Military Police provided security at the “old” Parliament House at Canberra during the SEATO Conference and for this I was now issued with my ‘blues’ ceremonial uniform, a brass buttoned coat, trousers with a broad red seam down the legs, a peaked cap with a red band and white shirts with detachable collars and fore and aft collar studs. Boots (not the calf length GPs that came out in the late 60’s but the old ankle height boots) were normally worn and also issued with white gloves.  We were quartered in a big marquee tent in RMC and there was unbelievable animosity from the Staff of RMC and also the flunky attendants at Parliament House. Both factions tried to outdo each other in non-cooperation.  The Catering staff were particularly ‘anti’ and I am positive we were deliberately short-rationed  - some of us were driven by hunger to dress in our blues and attend both meal sittings.  One rainy night, some staff from RMC sneakily loosened all the tent pegs in the hopes the MPs would be smothered under collapsing canvas but the tent only partly collapsed over us.  A rewarding incident was when Roden Cutler VC, came in his limousine and thanked us graciously, for a job-well-done, then had his driver open the boot and out came two cartons of (large) bottles of beer.  We sat on our kit bags in the midst of RMC and drank our bottles under the scowling eyes of the RMC Staff!. (perhaps Roden Cutler was Minister for the Army?)

 

Another former member of the Corps, Charles Ross Segrott, who joined the Corps at Eastern Command Provost Company in 1955, relates his story of joining the Corps and life as an MP CPL of the 1950s:

 

I enlisted in ‘K’ Force and served in Korea during 1953-54 with 2 Bn and 3 Bn where I was an Infantry rifleman, two star machine gunner (Vickers).   My desire for change to join the MP was prompted by an incident in Korea.  It was winter, a mate and I, found out that the Canadians, about 3-4 kilometres away, had a supply of Hudsons Bay Rum, so we slipped away from our unit, found the Canadians and got somewhat inebriated.

 

On our way back to our lines, we made several attempts to get a lift, but with negative results.  It was then that yours truly, got a brilliant idea – there was a minefield adjacent to the road, which had been taped and signed.  The bloody drivers’ wouldn’t stop for two diggers on the road, so I went in and got a length of the tape and together we strung it across the road as a jeep appeared in the distance.

 

On reaching us, the jeep stopped, whereupon, we were confronted by the DAPM UN Forces (Aust) namely: CAPT ‘Blackjack Stevens’.  You guessed it, my mate and I got a lift, straight to the Military Police Compound.  Whilst there, I enquired about a transfer to the Provost Corps (I was not only drunk, but cheeky in those days – we had nothing to lose).  To cut a long story short, CAPT Stevens gave us a blast, but saw the humorous side of the situation and had us transported back to our lines, with no charges laid against us.

 

Once back in Australia, I lodged four applications through my Battalion Headquarters for a transfer to the Provost Corps, with negative results.   On completion of a stint of weekend guard duty at Ingleburn, I had the Monday off, so booted and spurred, I took the bull by the horns and traveled into Sydney.  I reported to Eastern Command Provost Company HQ, situated in a small building in Moorepark Road opposite the Victoria Barracks rear gate.  It was there, that I spoke to the RSM, WO1 Norm Groth, who after hearing my story, paraded me before the then DAPM, MAJ Mick Gray.  On being informed by me that although I had submitted four applications for transfer I had not been informed as to the result, he requested WO1 Groth to check with the orderly room Sergeant, SGT Frank Armer, as to whether my applications had been received – with negative results.

 

I was then interviewed, weighed and measured (height) after which MAJ Gray said to me, ‘Don’t worry, I will take care of the matter and I will make your Commanding Officer jump the proverbial six feet in the air’ or words to that effect.  I was then dismissed and returned to my unit.

 

About a week later, I saw a Military Police vehicle enter Unit lines and proceed to the HQ Admin Block.  A short time later the Battalion RSM called me, told me to pack my gear and leave with the MP’s.  I arrived at the Provost HQ late afternoon and after handing in my MOB3s was allocated quarters and issued with bedding etc.

 

Next day my initiation began, general fatigue duties during the day followed by desk duties that night, this included (besides answering the phone) the cleaning of the Admin Offices and the mopping of floors and stair well.  That first night I was the butt of good-natured jokes.  The NCO-in-charge of the cells, CPL ‘Flash’ Emery subjected me to hoax calls allegedly reporting disturbances and fights involving service personnel.  Closing the calls with humorous remarks and laughter from the duty personnel.

 

In those days the new member was required to undergo a twenty eight day probationary period after which you were told you were not suitable or that you were acceptable and given the option of returning to your unit or becoming part of the Provost Unit.

 

After about three weeks of general duties around the Unit and desk duties I was rostered for my first patrol.  My orders were, ‘Keep your ears and eyes open and your mouth shut.’

 

Patrols in those days consisted of one Sergeant and three Corporals.  In 1955-56, the Military Police patrol used to park the wagon on the main course of the Sydney Central Railway Station, outside the RTO’s office.  My training had begun, through observation, listening and assisting the other members of the patrol, I learned my duties, this was supplemented by reading the Provost Manual/Handbook.

 

The posted strength of the Eastern Command Provost Company during this period was about 86 all ranks including three Officers.

 

Other observations from the period are worthy of note.   Major Dick Gorman who was an OC of Eastern Command Provost Company during the 1950s relates the following:

 

MP Officer training for Provost Corps Officers at this time did not exist and training was provided "on the job" from more experienced Officers in the Corps.   The Corps was very small during this time with about 12 or 13 Officers and no more than about 400 MPs in the whole Provost Corps.   Religious divisions existed in the Army at this time (the Catholics verses the Freemasons) and many "clique" groups existed in the Corps among all ranks although it was never obvious or official policy. The unit had MP detachments located at Moorebank, Singleton and Kapooka and covered the whole area of NSW except for field exercises.

 

One of the most interesting events during my time as OC was when the unit provided official escort to the Governor General (GG).   The escort consisted of five MPs smartly dressed in "Blues" Ceremonial with "jodpers" riding Harley Davidson motorcycles as they escorted the Governor General's limousine from Admiralty House in Sydney to Government House or the airport.    We got on very well as the GG was a former British Indian soldier from WW2 and as I had served in similar units during my time with the British Army in WW2; we had something in common.   The GG was very pleased and impressed by the high standard and turn out of the MP escort and was proud and pleased that we were doing the job.   The unit provided the escort for about six times before it was returned to the civil police especially as they were very envious and jealous that we could do the job.   In the end, we lost the escort and a great opportunity for the Corps to be seen, positively, in the public and Army eye. 

 

It was also during this period that Mick Grey introduced formal mess dress for Provost Corps Officers and SNCOs.   This was a major achievement and very much welcomed by all Corps members and afforded the Provosts the same recognition and status as other Corps in the Army at this time.   It was during this period that a Corps ball was held at Moore Park (now Sydney Football stadium) where the NSW Police Commissioner attended and a good time was had by all.   The ball was a great success and provided great publicity for the Corps including an impromptu visit by some of the cast of the musical 'South Pacific' which was a very popular musical of the day and they sang a few songs.   I'm not sure which one got more publicity, the Corps ball or the visit by the South Pacific cast, however, it was a great evening and an enjoyable and memorable occasion.

 

Drunkenness by soldiers in a public place whilst on leave was a major problem during this period and the patrol was constantly dealing with the problem.   Drug offences were unheard of and all soldiers required a leave pass when outside of the military area.   More serious offences and enquiries were dealt with by members of the SIB who were co-located with the Company as well.

 

Citizen Military Forces (CMF) Provost

 

As part of the post WW2 reconstruction, Australia’s military was bolstered by the introduction of the Citizen Military Forces (CMF) or what we now call Army Reserve.   Based upon part-time service with an obligation of one night a week for three hours, one weekend per month and two weeks full time every year, service in the CMF was actively sought.   Initially, many men with previous war service keenly joined the CMF often volunteering to serve in units with a direct lineage to previous WW1/WW2 units.

 

The Provost’s commitment to the CMF comprised the 2nd Division Provost Coy in NSW and the 3rd Division Provost Company in Victoria which comprised a small contingent of Regular Provost personnel to train and administer the large numbers of CMF Provosts.   Training for all Provost CMF personnel was to consist of the following instruction:

 

AMF - Military Board Instructions

Special Training Instructions for the CMF for 1948-1949

Australian Army Provost Corps

Reference: MBI dated 16 April 1948, Australian War Memorial, 2001

 

Introduction

The manual "Instruction for Training" has been revised and the 1948 edition should be distributed in 1948.   Pending receipt of this manual, the following points will receive special attention in connection with the training of CMF.

 

Object of Training

The ultimate object is to train the soldier to a high standard as possible, so that he is ready at short notice for active service.   This object will probably take considerable time to achieve and, in the first instance, GOCs Commands and District Commands will necessarily have to aim for much more limited objects, which will depend largely upon the experience of the Officers and Other Ranks personnel enlisting in the CMF.

 

Training Policy

Training will be based on the requirements of a force operating against a first class power in normal terrain, jungle, mountain, desert and amphibious warfare will be required.

 

Australian Army Provost Corps

Owing to the responsibility vested in each member of the Provost Corps, it is important that the right type of recruit be obtained and that his training be carried out by competent and enthusiastic instructors with previous experience.

 

Members of Provost units will be tested as regards their individual training before taking their places in the ranks as trained soldiers.

 

During individual training, personnel will be encouraged to develop the powers of observation and to exercise firmness, tact, and discretion in the discharge of their duties.

 

Home Training

During Home Training, Provost personnel will be trained in the following:

Drill

Weapon Training

First Aid

Map Reading

Motor Cycle riding and maintenance

Provost Administration Duties

Traffic Control

 

Week-end Bivouacs

Week-end bivouacs should be held as frequently as funds permit.   Initially, bivouacs will be used for the firing of range practices; subsequently, Provost units should attend bivouacs with other units in order to practice Provost Duties in the field.

 

Junior Leaders

Every effort will be made to ensure that all Junior Officers and SNCOs qualify at a 10 day course of instruction prior to attendance at the Annual Camp.

 

Physical and Recreational Training

Physical and Recreational Training, including unarmed combat, will be made a prominent feature of training, and competitive sports and rifle shooting matches will be arranged where possible.

 

Camp Training

During Camp training, personnel will be trained in all Provost Field Duties, with special attention to:

Traffic controls

Convoy duties

Road reconnaissance

Route marking

 

Training at night will include movement with and without lights, night route marking and traffic control.

In addition to unit traffic control exercises, Provost personnel will be given every opportunity to engage in the executive duties of traffic control when other arms and services are engaged in tactical exercises in the field.

 

(CGS; 323/1/1802)

 

According to Keith Glyde’s research the CMF Provost units evolved as follows:

 

2nd Aust. Division Provost Company to 2nd Division Provost Company

·          Raised in N.S.W. on 17.11.1940.   

·         To WA in July/August 1942. 

·         Redesignated 2nd Aust. Division Provost Company (A.I.F.) on 25.6.1943.  Elements to Queensland by rail between 5th and 20th January 1944, and 10th April 1944.  Some personnel to 16th Aust. Independent Brigade Group Provost Platoon in March 1944.  Detachment served on Morotai, unit disbanded in December 1945. 

·         Re-raised as a C.M.F. unit in N.S.W. in 1948 as 2nd Division Provost Company.

 

3rd Aust. Division Provost Company to 3rd Division Provost Company

·         Raised in Victoria in late 1941. 

·         To Queensland in late 1942,

·         To New Guinea late 1942 and early 1943. 

·         Redesignated 3rd Aust. Division Provost Company (A.I.F.) on 26.5.1943.  Detachments served in Queensland and Dutch New Guinea. 

·         R.T.A. and disbanded in January 1946. 

·         Re-raised as a C.M.F. unit at Camberwell, Victoria, in 1948 as 3rd Division Provost Company

 

There was a further organisation titled the 1st Armoured Brigade Provost Platoon, CMF, raised during this time at North Carlton, Victoria in 1952 that served until 1960 when the unit was disbanded and the personnel transferred to Southern Command Provost Company and 1st L of C Provost Company.

 

The CMF Provost units served well during the 1950s and 1960s with many civil policemen enlisting in those units.   The standard of training was acceptable and the employability of the units was high with much needed support provided to CMF camps and National Service training periods.

 

National Service (NS)

 

In September 1950, the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, announced that the government would re-implement a National Service (NS) scheme.   This decision was derived from a fear of communism, particularly the regional threat of China and the global threat of the Soviet Union and also the Australian Army's large commitments overseas with BCOF Japan, Korea, Malaya and New Guinea, requiring a manpower base greater than was available for voluntary recruiting.   On 6 of August 1951, the scheme commenced.   Under the NS scheme, each conscript underwent 98 days of continuous training in national service training battalions in the first year, followed by 14 days' camp and 12 days' home training with the CMF for the next three years.   This provided a total of 176 days of training.   Upon the completion of this obligation, the soldier passed into the reserves for an additional five year's training, to a CMF unit.   The Army determined the particular CMF unit through a combination of the trainee's preference, unit requirement, and regional convenience.   In addition to joining the reserves upon completion of his training, a national serviceman could continue to practise with the CMF, transferring to the national service voluntary training list.   However, if he preferred, he could join the national service inactive list, and thereby incur no further training obligation.   In addition to conscription, soldiers could still join the CMF by voluntary enlistment.

 

As a result of the large NS population, the MPs were very busy policing the military areas and leave centres located around Australia.   NS would keep the Corps alive and well employed during the 1950s and provide a pool of well trained personnel especially in policing and general duties.   The usual requirements of AWOL tracing and apprehension, drunken soldiers on leave and investigation of compassionate and serious incidents involving NS soldiers was keeping the Corps busy.

 

As well as being policed by the Military Police, National Servicemen could also serve in its' ranks.   Often, Policemen of the State Police forces required by law to do their National Service would be allocated to the Provosts (Military Police) and serve their time in uniform as an MP.   Sometimes this would be the choice of the soldier other times by the Army.   Barry Hocking, a NSW Police constable in 1953 was called up for National Service and relates the following story about his time as a NS MP:

 

I was called up in June 1953.   Having passed the medical, I was accepted into the Australian Army and sent to 12 National Service Training Battalion located at Holsworthy, Sydney, NSW, where I completed three months of recruit training.   Once I finished recruit training, I was allocated Artillery.   Because I was a Constable in the NSW Police, I requested an immediate transfer to the Provost Corps which was subsequently granted and I was posted to the 2nd Division Provost Company then located at Victoria Barracks, Sydney.

 

I chose the Provost Corps because I was segregated from my peers as being a policemen and most of the guys serving in the 2nd Division Provost Company were policemen anyway.   In those days you were a police officer or one of the others.  

 

I was required to attend one night per week, one weekend training bivouac each month and a two week continuous camp each year, always held at Singleton Army Camp.   There were no training courses conducted to learn how to be an MP, but on parade nights and weekend bivouacs the Regular Army Sergeant Major would give talks and discussions about the duties and responsibilities of a Military Policeman.   I found those interesting and not too much different from being a civil police officer.   I never had any conflict of interest between the two and recognised the differences between each style of policing.

 

The two week camps I found to be the best.   We would move to Singleton Army Camp where all the other NS units would be training.   We would be responsible for policing the area and other NS just like us.   We would carry out town patrols, convoy escorts and VIP escorts.   On occasions, we would man a traffic control point and control and direct one way traffic with radio communications between each end of the track.

 

Our vehicles consisted of WW2 jeeps and 1942 solo Harley Davidson motorcycles.   They did not appear to be used between camps and each year when we got them we would have to devote a day or so to maintenance and polishing before we could use them.   Our uniform was the same as the Regular Army MP with the white webbing and MP armband.

 

By 1956 my NS obligation was finished.   I liked being in the Provosts and enjoyed my time in the Army.   At that time no employer could stop a NS attending parades.   I was led to believe by the police service that it was an offence to have a second job, this being regarded as such.   I reluctantly took my discharge.   Years later I was to learn that the police could not stop me from continuing on as a volunteer with the CMF and that it was actually written into the NS legislation.   Had I known that at the time I would have stayed on in the CMF with the Provosts.

 

Ross Segrott relates his experience during the period and mentions a topic that many older soldiers would understand and know well, “rough justice”, as explained by Ross:

 

In the 50s and 60s it was a different ball game to what you have now.  The type of soldier was very different, we had National Service (three months) in force which involved young men from all walks of life, from coal miners to uni students, the majority of whom were agro at the Army and the world in general.  You young fellows of the new Corps have been told that we were ‘Bash Artists’ and a few equally unflattering names.  I personally make no excuse for any of my actions during my time in the Provost Corps.  In those days we were told that if you get a smack in the mouth or a broken nose, that was part of your job and you did not complain.  So the well worn phrase, ‘Using the minimum amount of force necessary to affect the arrest.’ Was often used by us.  I remember quite well measuring my length across the bonnet of a patrol vehicle after I let my guard down whilst affecting an arrest on orders of our Patrol SGT.

 

To try to help you understand the system which prevailed in those days: in the battalion, if you fouled up you quite often got the option of going around the back of the ablution block with the NCO concerned or taking an A4.   We had a Company Sergeant Major in 2 Bn in Korea who was renowned for his penchant of offering you the option, quite a few took him up on his offer, but no one, to my knowledge, managed to better him.

 

When it came to barrack room thefts (stealing from your mates), the Unit Commander used to hold a parade and tell us the following-

 

‘If you catch the bastard who is stealing from his mates, he is the lowest form of life and you can do what you want with him, as long as he is still breathing when he is dumped outside my office!’

 

Quite often when caught the culprit was made to run the gauntlet before being handed over to the RSM.  I know what you are thinking, brutal, barbaric practice, but I can assure you, it was very effective in stopping thefts.   So, you can see we dealt with an entirely different type of soldier.

 

By the end of the 1950s, National Service had been abolished and the Army was downsizing to a more manageable level reflecting the Australian Army's commitments at that time.   The late 1950s and 1960s would be a time of major reform, strategic thinking and new units and Brigade structures.   The Corps would be transformed into new units with deployment capability far beyond that of the past.

 

The 1st Infantry Brigade Provost Platoon

 

As the Australian Army struggled to form a "field" deployable Army, the first attempt at providing a Brigade Group, ready for "short warning deployment" anywhere as needed by the Australian Government was attempted.   The 1st Infantry Brigade Group was born.

 

The Brigade Group was to be mobile, hard hitting and air portable to the greatest possible degree.   This concept was in line with the American and British trends of the time.   Predominantly based at Holsworthy, NSW, the Brigade Group would provide an opportunity to raise field deployable Military Police.

 

Members of the Command Provost Companies were hearing "rumours" about the formation of a deployable Brigade and word was out, that names would be posted to the Provost Platoon, soon.   As very few soldiers could afford to buy a motor car in 1957, a posting to Holsworthy was considered "painful" as public transport in those days were very limited.   By 1957, along with other units of the Brigade, The 1st (Independent) Infantry Brigade Group Provost Platoon was born at Holsworthy, NSW. 

 

The main body of the Provost Platoon marched into Gallipoli Lines, Holsworthy Barracks, Holsworthy, NSW, on 31 August 1957.   The unit would comprise 1 Officer and 40 ORs, including a Cook and a RAEME Mechanic.

 

Vehicles for the Platoon were WW2 jeeps (left hand drives), 1 x Studebaker 6 x 6 truck, 1 x 15 cwt truck with cage and an Holden FJ utility, which was the OC's staff car.   There were also numerous Harley-Davidson motorcycles with the old "hand change-foot clutch" and unsprung frame that would cause many future bad backs.   Later, the Jeeps would be replaced by British "Austin Champ" utility vehicles, however, due to expensive maintenance, poor performance in hot climates and high maintenance required by the drivers, the "Champs" were considered vastly unsuitable.   The vehicles had to be maintained in the field by RAEME mechanics and not drivers and proved cumbersome and unpopular and were eventually replaced with the short wheel based, Series 1 & 2, Land Rover 88 inch 4 wheel drive vehicles.   Unit weapons were .38 calibre Smith and Weston pistols, Owen Sub Machine guns (SMG) and the ubiquitous .303 SMLE rifles along with the "Bren" machine guns.

 

Uniforms at the time were the new "greens" jungle green combat uniform.   As stocks for this new uniform was very low, members of the unit were required to hand in two sets of the then issued "khaki drill" or KDs and have them dyed "jungle green".   The "greens" proved very popular and practical and set the men of the Platoon and the Brigade apart from the rest of the Army at this time even to the point of a "them and us" attitude among the MPs of the Brigade and the Command Provost Companies.   

 

To mark the new formation of the Brigade Group, the Group marched through the streets of Sydney with the Provosts allocated "pride of place" at the head of the parade in an arrowhead formation of MPs on Harley-Davidson motorbikes.   This was no mean feat, considering the riders had to "ride the foot clutch" and constantly use the handbrake to maintain the motorbikes at marching speed.   Brian McMaugh, a former member of the Platoon and riding one of the Harley's that day recalls:

 

My handbrake cable snapped at the top end of Martin Place and I had to exert every riding skill not to stall the Harley.

 

It was also during this time that the unit mounted the Cenotaph guard at Martin Place, Sydney, NSW, with members employing the .303 rifle, which was still the mainstay weapon of the Australian Army at that time although soon to be replaced by the 7.62mm SLR.

 

The first Brigade exercise was held in February 1958 at Holsworthy and Kangaroo Valley, NSW, with the Provost Platoon taking part, conducting the usual convoy escorts, traffic control and signing.  The second Brigade exercise, conducted in the Mackay area of Queensland in 1959, was Exercise GRAND SLAM.   This was the first major Brigade exercise conducted in Australia since the Second World War and gave the Provosts a chance to train for war, along with all other Brigade units.

 

The Provost involvement was the standard MP tasks of convoy escort, signing, etc, with about 1000 miles of road to cover for the exercise over its' three month period.   The Provost Platoon was issued brand new Harley Davidson motorcycles for the exercise with the Provosts required to "police" convoy discipline over as many as 120 vehicles at about 50 yard intervals.   Considering the size of the convoys and the distances involved, it showed the expertise and skill of the Provosts in supporting large moves over vast distances.   Each day, two Provosts in an Austin Champ with trailer attached, would race ahead of the convoys with the advance party and sign post the way for the convoys to follow, until they would reach the destination, usually a show ground where the brigade would camp for the night.

 

Brian McMaugh, a CPL in the Platoon relates some stories about GRAND SLAM:

 

One of the things to arise when getting ready for this exercise was observed when the heavy CENTURION tanks had to be moved by road from Puckapunyal to Holsworthy. This was accomplished by loading each tank onto a low-loader and using a second prime mover as a “pusher”.   All road bridges have a load classification shown on them, usually a numbered sign.  En route from Puckapunyal to Holsworthy and on a main Highway, it was found that many of the bridges were NOT suitable for the weight of Centurion + Low Loader.  This meant that they must be unloaded and a route found through fences and over creeks to gain the highway beyond the bridge.  The "cockies" loved us for the compensation received!

 

An MP on a motorcycle usually accompanied each tank vehicle.   An actual Army Unit existed for such moves and was titled 158 Tank Transportation Unit.   These men were a bunch of ruffians who worked hard and drank hard  -  at halts along the road to Mackay, they were prone to leap up on the bar table when a wet canteen was opened and sing to the tune of “John Brown’s Body”………

 

“1 Armoured Regiment’s a great big shower of shit!

1 Armoured Regiment’s a great big shower of shit!

1 Armoured Regiment’s a great big shower of shit!

And they’d be f----d without 158!”

 

A favorite trick with the drivers of the low-loaders, when going downhill, was to see how close they could put the huge bumper bar of the low-loader to the mudguard of the Provost’s motorcycle……..it was terrifying indeed to glance at your rear vision mirror and find the whole mirror suddenly filled with nothing but white bumper bar of immense proportions!!!!!

 

GRAND SLAM would prove the Brigade's deployment possibilities and usefulness, but due to the Governments' inaction on manning levels and recruiting restrictions, the Brigade was forced to disband by the end of 1960 as a major "rethink" of the size and shape of the Australian Regular Army would occur.

 

By 1960, the 1st Infantry Brigade Group and the Provost Platoon had been disbanded and the men transferred to the Eastern Command Provost Company, South Head, NSW.   Of a short lived duration, the Brigade suffered as a result of poor planning and lack of Government "will" in the pursuit of recruiting and maintaining Australia's first Regular Army Brigade Group.   Whilst the Provost's were fully manned and equipped, many other unit's in the Brigade were not including the Infantry which was missing a whole Battalion.   After many briefings and meetings with the Government and the Chief of the General Staff (CGS) now called Chief Army (CA), it was finally agreed that the current Brigade concept was not working and new ideas were needed to recreate a deployable Regular Army Brigade Group.

 

1st Pentropic Division Provost Platoon

 

At this time, the Americans were reorganising their post WW2 Army ready to engage in South East Asia operations.   As this area has traditionally been of interest to Australia, the Australian Army and Government agreed the time was right to move away from the British system of military organisation and soldiering that had served Australia so well since the formation of the Australian Army in 1901.   Australia would hang its' hopes on the Pentropic Division experiment.

 

The Pentropic Division was to be the "new Army" and modeled along the new US Army "Pentomic" Battalion idea of the Infantry Commander having at his disposal the elements and resources with which to fight the battle rather than a Brigade or Divisional structure.   Theoretically, the "Pentropic" system was supposed to increase the fighting power of the Brigade/Division, but in reality did little more than confuse and create an enormous headache for the commander to control.

 

But, the Pentropic idea did much to propel the Australian Army into the modern 1960s, providing an opportunity for the Australian Army to re-equip and modernise with new vehicles, weapons, uniforms and communications equipment.  

 

The 1st Pentropic Division Provost Platoon was barely equipped and manned during this period and lasted about 18 months before the Pentropic experiment was ceased and replaced by the traditional Battalion/Divisional structures that had worked so well in the past.

 

1st Division Provost Company and the 1960s

 

With the return of the Divisional structure within the Australian Army, the 1st Division Provost Company (1 Div Pro) was raised from the men and resources of the Pentropic Platoon.   1 Div Pro would be required to support the Australian Regular Army 1st Division in both field and barracks operations and excercises including any overseas deployments.  

 

The 1st Division Provost Company was now merged with a CMF Provost unit at Moore Park, Sydney, NSW, and both units were known as the 1st Division Provost Company.   The unit comprised the CMF 1st Lines of Communications Provost Company and the Regular Army Provosts, formerly of the 1st Brigade Provost Platoon and Command Provost Company's forming the 1st Division Provost Company.

 

The RMP Journal 1961 carries a story about the new unit and states:

 

In July, 1 Division will come into being, a pen-tropic division with five battle groups, each centred on a large infantry battalion about 1300 strong.  1 Division Provost Company will be formed from the present C.M.F. (Citizen Military Forces) Unit, 2 Divisional Provost Company and our own A.R.A. Unit.  There will be the usual Headquarters with a Regular captain, R.S.M., R.Q.M.S., and Corporal Clerk, the remainder of the Headquarters being C.M.F.  Eight sections – six C.M.F. and two A.R.A. including one attached to each battle group with three left for divisional work. There will no longer be any Brigade Headquarters, but a special Task Force Headquarters will be formed when two battle groups work together.

 

The new establishment is based on the American system of ‘fives’; it will be most interesting to see how all the combined A.R.A. and C.M.F. Headquarters and units work.  C.M.F. soldiers in this country normally parade one night a week, a weekend every month with a fortnight’s annual camp.

 

However, due to manning restrictions and the usual "indecision" by the Government on manning and financial resources, the 1st Division Provost Company was reduced to a name only and two Provost Sections were raised instead.   1 Section was located with HQ at Moore Park Barracks Sydney and 2 Section located with Northern Command Provost Company, Queensland.   Both Sections were "loaned back" to the Northern and Southern Command Provost Companies.

 

The loaned back system was very strange indeed.   Whilst both Sections were part of the 1st Division Provost Company for command and administrative purposes only, they were loaned back to Eastern and Northern Command respectively for day to day employment and tasking.   The Sections carried out normal MP duties within the Command Provost Company's and would form into Sections to support Divisional Units on Field Exercises in NSW or Queensland.

 

It was also during this period of the late 1950s and early 1960s, that the Australian Army would replace its' antiquated equipment and would rearm and reissue with new equipment.   The introduction of the British 7.62mm L1A1 Self Loading Rifle (SLR) would replace the mainstay weapon of the Australian Army since WW1, the Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE) .303 rifle.   The famous and reliable "Bren" machine gun would be replaced with the heavier barreled L2A1 Automaic Rifle (AR), a variant of the British SLR rifle family.   The trusty old Smith and Weston .38 revolver was replaced by the new Browning 9mm automatic pistol, the first batch of those pistols containing Chinese markings inscribed on the body, having been a shipment destined for Nationalist China but bought cheap by the Australian Army.

 

Other equipment purchased during this time were British built short wheel base (SWB) Landrovers Series 2 to replace the expensive and costly to maintain Austin Champs, 24 hour ration packs, small pump petrol stoves, the  MAE WEST” water bags that hung around the shoulders for ease of carrying water, large canvas “swimming pool” water reservoirs that were easily and quickly deployable and plastic jerrycans for water storage/carriage.   There were also four brand new 510 radio sets on an issue of two per Section, which greatly assisted traffic control and accidents.   The Harley-Davidson motorcycle of WW2 fame would still be used by the unit during this period.

 

New webbing and uniforms would complete the transition from the old Army to the new Army with the Provosts enjoying the new range of equipment and uniforms.  It was also during this time that the unit and Provost Corps would once again carry out the very public and proud duty of mounting the guard at the Cenotaph, Martin Place, Sydney, NSW, this time carrying the newly introduced 7.62mm SLR rifle.

 

The following paragraphs highlight the work of the 1st Division Provost Company during the 1960s as recorded in the Royal Military Police Journal of the early 1960s which was the Corps magazine also, the RAA PRO being allocated space in the magazine along with other Commonwealth MP of the time:

 

1960

Northern Command which covers the whole of Queensland, some Northern parts of New South Wales, Papua and New Guinea has an area of approximately 670,500 square miles.  We believe this would be roughly the same size as England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France combined.

 

Our Provost element consists of Northern Command Provost Company, plus a loaned back section from 1 Divisional Provost Company under command.

 

The Provost camp is situated at Indooroopilly right on the banks of the Brisbane River and about four miles from the centre of Brisbane.  The G.O.C. Northern Command also has his residence in the camp and keeps a fatherly eye on us all.

 

Duties up here are many and varied, and with exercises as far north as Townsville to be catered for, there is plenty of travel for all.  The divisional Section which has only been raised a few weeks will be fully committed, we feel sure.

 

Members recently arrived from the now disbanded 1 Infantry Brigade Provost Platoon in Sydney, including Sgt, Joe Schatz, Cpls, Taber, D’Arcy, Bird our good cook, Bob Kimber and of course the ex-brigade mascot “Freckles.”

 

1961

As this article is being written, a battle is raging in New South Wales, about 130 miles North West of Sydney in the general Port Stephens/Singleton and all points west area.

 

1st and 3rd Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment with Centurion tanks of 1 Armoured Regiment up from Puckapunyal, Victoria, are the main friendly elements.  The enemy is a composite guerilla type force composed of both Regular and C.M.F. soldiers including commandos.

 

There is a Logistic Support Force working from Port Stephens and the Provost contribution here is two Sections of 1 L of C Provost Company under CAPT J. Curtis up from Melbourne, also a detachment of 4 S.I.S.  Up forward with the Task Force are both regular sections of 1 Divisional Provost Company from Sydney and Brisbane under the command of Major H.L. Slater, M.B.E.  Personnel of these sections have just received their new battle equipment including ‘lilo’ type mattresses, lightweight webbing, blankets and mosquito nets.  It is hoped to include a photograph of a military police N.C.O. with this equipment in the next Journal

 

EXERCISE CARBINE

 

BY SGT J.A. COLLIN – ROYAL AUSTRALIAN PROVOST

 

 

Exercise ‘Carbine’ was conducted in the Harvey Bay/Bargara area about 285 mils north of Brisbane during August/September 1963.

 

As a preliminary, the R.A.N. carried out a sea exercise with simulated air and submarine attacks on a convoy proceeding up the coast, which included H.M.A.S. Sydney.

 

H.M.A.S. Sydney was originally purchased from the Royal Navy in the 1950s and from its flight deck flew Sea Gannets and Sea Furies, till eventually it was found that the cost to bring the ship up to the standard required for fast flying planes, would be probative.  It was then decided to convert the ship to a fast troop/vehicle transport, thus leaving her sister ship, the H.MA.S. Melbourne as the sole surviving R.A.N. aircraft carrier.  The main aims of Exercise ‘Carbine’ wee to test the capability of H.M.A.S. Sydney as a transport, the loading, unloading and port authority associated with it and the moving of stores from a beachhead over a L. of C. of 285 miles from Bargara to Brisbane.  A special L.S.F. Headquarters was to be formed and 1 Port Command would be responsible for the actual unloading operation.

 

Section 1 Division Provost Company (Northern Command) with myself in charge was given the traffic control/disciplinary task for the exercise.  The overall provost plan had been prepared by the D.A.P.M. Northern Command, Major R.K. Gorman, and now was the time to put theory into practise.

 

On 9th August, five of us left our Unit H.Q. at Indooroopilly and in three days signed the official army route-designated RED route-of the Pacific Highway from Brisbane to Bundaberg.  This town is in the centre of the major cane industry, prosperous, well laid out and about ten miles from our camp site at Bargara.  Provost transport consisted of two Land Rovers and trailers and one motorcycle.  En route and in Bundaberg, we effected close liaison with the civil police, which stood us in good stead as the exercise progressed.  In company with 22 Construction Squadron, R.A.E., a Regular unit specially flown over from Perth, we camped about 800 yards from Mon Repos beach.  We then set to and erected approximately 500 discs directional and signs tactical, left, right, and centre, two sign-writers, CPLs Sutton and Bouwhuis got through large quantities of paint and energy, and CPLs Catchpole, Kahl and myself then put up the results.

 

Our main party, consisting of CPLs Dover, Thompson, McKeen, May and Pickett arrived on 21st August to find things proceeding smoothly, and the camp site prepared for them – well almost!  We were then 10 in strength, with the addition of CPLs Woodrow and Dutton attached to a Staging Post at Nambour, about half way to Brisbane, to check signs and convoy movements which were on a ‘through running’ operation.  The remainder of the Section was left in Brisbane to help in loading H.M.A.S. Sydney at Newstead Wharf and to control the many troops arriving in for the exercise, including 140 R.N.Z.E., R.N.Z.A.C., R.N.Z.E.M.E. personnel, specially flown over from New Zealand.

 

In Bargara, our transport now consisted of three Landrovers with trailers, three motorcycles and a Dodge patrol vehicle fitted with two-way wireless and loaned from Northern Command Provost Company.  This wireless was on the civil police wavelength and proved invaluable for town patrols; it was also used for sign maintenance in the daytime.  As the exercise progressed, one of our many problems was replacing discs directional, which were removed by children in between visits by our maintenance parties.  We never did catch any of the little ‘angels’ in the act!

 

On 2nd September, all was ready for the arrival of H.M.A.S. Sydney.  The wind, weather and sea were perfect for unloading, and at approximately 0600 hrs, she dropped anchor one-and-a-half miles off shore, and out spilled he cargo of men, vehicles and stores into L.S.M.s and D.U.K.Ws.  The L.S.M.s unloaded direct on to a floating pontoon, a N.L.E. causeway which reached out from he shore about fifty yards.  The D.U.K.W.s of course drove out and up the beach, unloaded, then returned for more.  Our provost tasks consisted of manning an Information Post, also a Check Point, as the convoys left the exercise area on their run to Brisbane, and patrols b vehicle and motorcycle on all roads and trucks, to keep vehicles moving on the one-way routes.

 

Visitors were permitted to watch the whole unloading operation from a specially selected vantage point.  Townspeople from Bargara, Bundaberg and surrounding sugar cane farms trooped over complete with children, picnic baskets and pets.  The taxpayer was seeing for himself, just where all his money on defence was going!

 

Unloading was completed on 5th September, H.M.A.S. Sydney sailed, and the pressure eased slightly for everyone except Provost who now had their hands full with disciplinary patrols.  On the 6th a full parade was held through the streets of Bundaberg, led by our motorcycles and then the troops began to disperse to home stations, in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

 

Overall there were approximately 1,500 men (and thee girls-two nursing sisters and one W.R.A.A.C. staff officer) in the exercise area.  These included many C.M.F. troops, who were on their annual two week camp.  Discipline generally was very good and overall there were only three soldiers arrested on minor civil charges, and twelve soldiers reported by Provost for dress, vehicle offences, etc.

 

We finally made headquarters back at Indooroopilly on 15th September, collecting all signs we could find en route.  CPL McKenn was particularly sorry to leave as his fiancee is a Bundaberg girl (the big day, we hear, is on 28th December).  We wait to hear if CPL Catchpole also fell victim to a local lass.

 

The exercise was undoubtedly a success and I feel everyone including my Section is now better equipped to handle similar beach operations in the future.  One afterthought, we used reflective Scotch-lite on many of our signs and as headlights were permitted on Exercise ‘Carbine’ all drivers-both civil and military-expressed delight at how clear these signs showed up at night time.

 

A further look at MP activities during this time is provided from Brian McMaugh, a CPL MP during that time and served in the unit states:

 

On many exercised we MPs worked with an Armoured Reconnaissance Unit which used Ferret Scout Cars plus Saracens or Saladins (one of these had a gun mounted).  The relationship between Provost and Armoured was excellent as these "tankies" were very good with communications.

 

In the Brigade era we used to nail our route signs to any available tree or telegraph post but this led to complaints so we now must carry cumbersome star-pickets and wire our route signs to these.  The local farmers loved us for this and many miles of route signed star pickets would vanish at night along the Putty Road!.  No satisfactory lightweight pole was ever designed though a Reserve Officer named "Sheringham" came close with a tubular/pointed pole made by his Firm.

 

This period during the Corps history would provide valuable knowledge and training opportunities in what was then ground-breaking light deployable, field force combat troops never before seen in Australia except in times of war.   This training and knowledge would serve the Corps well, as future events would propel the Corps and the Army into regional conflicts and tensions.

 

Late 1950s early 1960s

 

By the late 1950s, the National Service and CMF organisations were coming to an end as interest and public support waned resulting in the closure of many units.   As a result the Corps disbanded the 2nd and 3rd Divison Provost Company’s and transferred the men to the Command Provost Companies who would now have CMF components.

 

However, one new organisation emerged titled the 1st Line of Communication Provost Company.

Formed on 1.7.1960 in Victoria from C.M.F. personnel of the 3rd Division Provost Company and 1st Armoured Brigade Provost Platoon, including Regular Army Provost personnel from Southern Command Provost Company as an integrated unit with the C.M.F. component relocated to Abbotsford in 1965. 

The unit was redesignated the 1st Commonwealth Zone Provost Company in 1967.

 

Ian Laurie or more commonly known to Corps members as ‘Wombat’ served in the unit between 1963 – 1965 as a young, new MP and offers the following unique insights into life during the period:

 

Following my probation, I was posted to Detachment 1 L of C Provost Company (1 L of C Pro Coy), loaned back to Southern Command Provost Company (S Comd Pro Coy).  The loan back concept may need some explanation.  S Comd Pro Coy was a static unit based in Melbourne, responsible for all Provost tasks within Southern Command and comprising the OC/Acting DAPM, 2i/c, RSM, Q, Admin and Tpt Sgts and about four or five Cpls.  It also embraced an SIB component of about four or five WOs and/or Snr NCOs and a Cpl or two.  1 L of C Pro Coy was a CMF unit, but included an ARA component of two complete Sections, which were deployed on all Field Force exercises.  To enable S Comd Pro Coy to operate effectively, it needed many more men that its establishment; conversely there was nothing for the L of C Sections to do between exercises.  Hence the ARA component was loaned back to S Comd for Admin and Command, R and Q and useful employment.  For the most part they were farmed out to S Comd Detachments at Puckapunyal, Bandiana and Balcombe with possibly a Section retained at Coy HQ.  When exercises required, 1 L of C ARA members participated using their own unit identity, their places at S Comd being taken by CMF members of 1 L of C Coy brought in on full time duty.

 

UNIFORM DUTIES AT COY HQ

 

Since the Unit was generally under strength, it was unusual to mount more than one patrol daily, with a night duty/stand-by patrol mounting at 1700 hrs.  Day duty entailed a mail run to and from Victoria Barracks and Albert Park Barracks, a show of the flag through the city, then perhaps random vehicle documentation checks or liaison visits to any of the several CMF Depots around Melbourne.  Night patrols generally involved a drive through the city shortly after 1800 hrs (6 o’clock closing prevailed in Victoria until 1966), a cruise around South Melbourne/St Kilda for a further hour or more, then stand-by duty back at Coy HQ.  If manpower permitted, motorcycle patrols were also mounted, pairs of Cpls and in daylight hours only.  Additional duties included ceremonial motorcycle escorts such as at funerals, graduation parades and so on, motorcycle displays at Tattoos, and static security duties at Army displays at the Royal Melbourne Show or the motor show.  Winter patrol dress was battle dress, black boots, white anklets web (short gaiters), white web belt, cross strap and brace attachment, black armband with red ‘MP’ and hat KFF.  Embellishments on the battle dress jacket were Corps lanyard (scarlet) and on both sleeves just below the shoulder, titles embroidered.  These were scarlet cloth arcs about 100mm wide by about 35mm deep on which was embroidered ROYAL AUSTRALIAN ARMY PROVOST CORPS.

 

Summer patrol dress was polyesters with black boots, no anklets web, but other webbing and armband and hat as above.  Shirt embellishments were lanyard and gilt metal ‘MP’ titles on the shirt epaulettes.  Motorcycle dress replaced trousers with khaki corduroy jodhpurs, black boots and black leather leggings.  Shirts/jackets were as above, and in addition white leather gauntlets and white helmets with scarlet MP and circumference stripe were worn.  Helmets were American, manufactured of Bakelite and leather, a great incentive not to fall on your head!  Khaki jodhpurs were worn with all forms of motorcycle dress in S Comd and 1 L of C.

 

UNIFORM DUTIES AT DETACHMENTS

 

Detachments were located at Puckapunyal, Balcombe and Bandiana and were more active than HQ.  In the Puckapunyal area at that time were 1 Armd Regt, 17 Const Sqn, Armoured School, RAASC School, 3 Camp Hosp and Pucka Area Command.  In addition various CMF units rotated through the Scrub Hill training area on weekend or annual camps and there was a large married quarter area.  Outside Pucka itself, there was a Mob Siding Det of RAAOC at Seymour, 4 CAD at Mangalore, a few miles north of Seymour, and to the East, A Squadron, the ARA component of 4/19 PWLH.  Thus the area provided a steady workload for a Det comprising a Sgt, perhaps six Cpls and at least one Sgt or better Investigator.  Balcombe Det was responsible for the Army Apprentices School located there, as well as OCS, Portsea and about 4 sq km of Commonwealth land at Langwarrin, an old training area run to scrub and commonly used as a dismantling site for stolen cars.  Usual strength was a Sgt, two or three Cpls and an Investigator.  Bandiana Det was manned by two Cpls and located within the large Ordnance Depot and RAEME Wksps area there.  Oversighting train arrivals/departures at the Albury station was an important part of the workload.  At that time, rail was the preferred means of troop transport and the change in rail gauges between NSW and Vic meant changing trains with about a half-hour stopover.  Provost presence prevented unruly behaviour.  The undisputed sheriff of Bandiana was Eric Curphey, a WW2 soldier, well loved and respected and a legend in the Corps.  An entire book could be written about him.

 

TRAINING

 

Military Police training commenced on the first day a probationer marched in and as noted earlier, was conducted by senior Cpls, some with ten or more years experience – promotion in the Corps was fairly slow.  It was mainly a case of monkey see, monkey do, but the monkeys were seeing some of the best there were.  The Tpt Sgt was a testing officer, so that probationers without licences were given intensive training and licenced in order to pull their weight.  Motorcycle licences were mandatory and training was undertaken on the suburban roads near the unit.  We also had use of the Victoria Police off-road circuit at Yarra Bend Park, about eight kilometres away.  Courses at the School were infrequent, often dependent on the number of potential students, so it was not unusual for a wait of six months or more to attend.  As aforementioned, members carried temporary rank early and received Cpls pay from that time, so they were only deprived of seniority until substantive rank was conferred.

 

TRANSPORT

 

Adequate at detachments, one vehicle at Bandiana, two at Balcombe and I think two patrol vehicles, one SIB and two motorcycles at Pucka.  At HQ I recall the OC’s FC Holden sedan, two patrol vehicles and an International one tonner for general use, two sedans and a ute in commercial colours for SIB use, all FB Holdens.  The patrol vehicles were a one ton International – AR series I think and a Fargo one ton van come station wagon.  Both were fitted with AWA two way radios on net with D24, Victoria Police HQ.  Pride of the fleet was about ten Harley Davidson WLA motorcycles which had been gloss painted, chromed and tizzied up for the ’56 Olympics, principally as escorts for HRH the Duke of Edinburgh for the official duties he performed concurrent to the games.  There were also three or four training Harleys. 

 

When on exercise, Det 1 L of C drew F 1A vehicles from 3 BOD, Sgt Kensington.  These comprised Landrovers and trailers and WLA Harleys.  These were drawn well in advance to check mechanical condition and fit Military Police plates as well as Unit Identification Signs and Formation Signs.  The UIS for S Comd Provost vehicles was an S over 828 in white on a black plate, for L of C, 1 over 801, also white on black.  Formation signs for S Comd comprised a white Southern Cross surmounted by a St Edwards crown on a blue shield on a very pale blue plate, essentially the centre piece of the Victorian coat of arms.  L of C had a black horse head, profiled and facing left on a white disc within a red plate.  This design later became the flag of 1 ALSG, Vietnam.

 

COMMUNICATIONS

 

The radios in the patrol vehicles at Coy HQ were of limited use, as there was no base station at HQ.  Thus, any calls for the patrol had to be phoned to D24, then after contact any extended conversation between patrol and HQ carried out via public telephone.  I don’t recall details of the vehicle comms at Detachments.

 

As previously stated the CMF was well represented in the unit.   A story from the Victorian Police magazine of the period titled ‘Police Life’, Major Eric Horne who at that time was OC of the Company and also a Senior Constable in the Victorian Police Vice Squad wrote a recruiting piece about the unit titled ‘Who’ll join the CMF’ which stated:

 

WHO’LL JOIN THE CMF?

 

 

Warrant Officer Tony  Fenton, of South Head N.S.W. checks the result of an experiment at the Detective Training School.  His supervisor is First Const. Jim Pattinson.

 

With another military policeman, SGT Peter Hartwick of Balcombe, Victoria, WO Fenton is on the 12 week special crime detection course.  Their studies include fingerprints, interview techniques and principles of law.

 

Military Police have been sending members to the Victoria Detective Training School for the past five years.  Their policy is to standardise techniques and improve training methods.

 

In his unit a young policeman can legitimately earn $5.27 a day, which jumps to $6.08 daily on promotion to Corporal, which should happen after 12 months.

 

In addition, if married he draws a further $1.80 daily while attending camps.

 

Several members of the Force are already in the unit and it is hoped to achieve a 50/50 membership of civilians and police.

 

The unit has about 40 Tuesday evening parades, 7.30 to 10.30 pm, a 14 day annual camp, and about eight weekend bivouacs.  To be classified efficient a CMF soldier MUST complete the annual camp and 19 days’ home training annually.  It includes completion of the small arms course, qualifying in the use of a number of weapons.

 

Within limits, soldiers are given a choice of courses they attend.  These include principles of investigation, map reading, traffic control and accident investigation.  Motor accident riding and plan drawing also came into it.

 

Major Horne, who had an ex-officio trip to Vietnam recently as an observer will be pleased to hear from any policeman interested.

 

Papua New Guinea (PNG)  

 

As the South East Asian and Pacific Islands region, balance of power were changing, the requirement to train and support our closest neighbors became a major concern to the Australian Army.   In 1951, the post-war Pacific Islands Regiment (PIR) was raised and staffed by Australian Officers and NCOs whose job it was to raise and train PIR forces.  

 

As such the Papua New Guinea Command was raised along with a Provost Detachment in line with Australian Army standards.   On 11 January 1965, the Papua New Guinea Command Provost Company was raised and administered by Officers and men of the Corps.

 

The Company HQ was in Port Moresby with a staff of a Major DAPM/OC, Lt 2 IC, WO2 CSM, SSGT Clerk, CQMS and two Provost Sergeants.   There were also Detachments at Lae and Wewak comprising a Provost WO2 and Provost Sergeant including SIB members.

 

The unit also comprised about 47 Pacific Islanders ranging in rank from CPL to WO2, who undertook the normal range of MP duties consistent with Corps doctrine at that time.

 

National Service (NS)

 

In response to the changing strategic position of South East Asia and the Pacific region during the 1960s the Australian Government increased the manning levels of the Australian Army.   In order to achieve an increased size and appropriate logistical and administrative support level, the Government reintroduced National Service in 1964; although on a "selective" basis unlike the previous National Service of the 1950s that incurred a compulsory obligation by all young men of Australia.

 

Those "selected" were required to fulfill a two-year, full-time obligation followed by a further three years in the Regular Army Reserve.   As the numbers of soldiers increased, so did the requirement for more Military Police to police a much larger and more diverse Army.

 

As National Service soldiers were to be integrated into all spheres of Army life, so too were National Servicemen to become Military Policemen.   As the Army tried to maintain a "balance" between Regular and NS soldiers, 1965 would see the first NS Military Policemen arrive in the Corps and continue to do so at a rate of 25 per quarter.  This was in stark contrast to the Corps recruiting policy of having to have served at least 12 months in the Army or longer and demonstrating a responsible and good conduct record.   This policy was changed however and Regular Army recruits could join the Corps straight from Kapooka in the same way that NS soldiers did.

 

One way of fulfilling the NS requirement to have NS Military Policemen was to allocate any NS soldier whose occupation at time of enlistment, was a civil policemen be allocated to the Provost Corps.   Many members of the various State police forces whose names were "selected" for NS, chose to honour that obligation and put their civil police careers on hold for two years and serve in the Australian Army.   Many of these men were allocated to the Corps with many, seeing active service during the Vietnam War.   At the end of their two-year NS obligation, many of these former civil policemen would return to civil life and resume their careers within the various State police forces.   Some would go on to attain the highest ranks of the civil police or provide much distinguished service to their civil police force.

 

At the end of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War, the NS requirement for Military Policemen ceased and recruiting for the Corps returned to the traditional method of accepting Regular Army volunteers with at least 12 months or more service.   The last NS MP basic course was conducted in December 1972 (43/72 JNCO Course) and so ended another chapter in the Corps history.

 

2nd Division Provost Company

 

On 21 April 1966, a new Provost Company was raised at Moore Park Barracks in Sydney with the title of 2nd Division (2 Div) Provost Company (RO ref Q27/38/66).   2 Div Provost Company would comprise mainly CMF MP with Regular Army MP in support and sharing the responsibilities of policing the large Army population traditionally centered in NSW.

 

New Motorbikes for the Corps

 

In 1967, the long serving Harley Davidson motorcycles would be replaced by British BSA B40 motorcycles, although, not without some controversy involved.

 

The British BSA B40 motor bike was selected by the Australian Army as the replacement general service (GS) motor cycle that would replace exiting bikes in use with RA Sigs, RAASC, RAAC and RAA Pro.   The bike was made to Australian Army specs and differed greatly to the civilian version, which would prove a costly and major logistical mistake.   Although intended for use by the Army for three years, as usual with all Australian Army equipment, this use was many years longer.

 

Initially, the BSA B40 was chosen because of its lightweight and cross-country performance, which suited the Army requirement of operating in South East Asia.   The need for a highway capable bike was not essential, as the Army was on continuous operations in South East Asia during this period.  

 

Various reports were submitted about the state of the bikes in service with the Corps with one report dated 1971 stating that Australian BSA distributors did not carry the majority of spare parts required to service the Australian Army.   It was further noted that in Northern Command, engines have not been available since January 1969 and pistons and piston rings had to be manufactured by RAEME.   There were many other problems as well, ranging from various cables continually braking, electrical faults, external parts of the bikes falling off and poor performance, at slow speed when conducting ceremonial escorts.   The same report identified that one particular Provost unit had their bikes in for repair on an average of 25 days per month with another unit having 16 of its 20 bikes in repair at RAEME workshops. 

 

Provost now to be called MP

 

On 09 December 1969 the designation Military Policeman would become official and all qualified Corps personnel were now to be known as Military Policeman (MP).   The previous title of Provost NCO that had been in use for most of the Corps history to this time was defunct and the Corps finally gained the "universal" recognition of being officially recognised and titled an MP.   For many in the Corps, this issue had been very contentious, especially when working with foreign MP or troops who naturally regarded MP as exactly that.   The term Provost was at the beginning of its end and would eventually fade to become part of Corps history.

 

The 1st Corps Magazine

 

March 1969 would see the first ever edition of an Australian MP Corps magazine/journal, filling a much needed void in Corps relations.   Previously, the Corps had been allocated space in the RMP Journal where a basic "what's going on" could be written but did not leave much room for detail or Corps happenings.   The Corps magazine would progress, albeit slowly, and develop into a glossy information packed magazine that would rival the best in the ADF today.

 

New Headdress for the Corps

 

The 1960s would see an attempt by the Corps to gain approval to wear a new form of headdress that would easily identify and distinguish Military Police.   As MP at this time only had an armband and white webbing to identify MP, it was considered unsatisfactory that MPs could not be easily recognised from a distance or in large crowds.   The Corps attempted to address the problem.

 

Strong debate within the Corps existed about new headdress and many ideas were presented.   Some of those were:

a.            Helmet liners from the US combat helmets (battle bowlers) worn by all members of the Australian Army at that time in the field/combat environment.   The liners were painted in a similar fashion to the US MP helmets worn in Vietnam;

b.            A white topped, peak cap similar to an Officer's pattern peak cap with Corps badge on front; and

c.            Orange, Purple or other colour not in use by any other Corps for a beret.

 

There was a strong attempt by the MPs serving in Vietnam for the US style combat helmet liner, however, the idea was squashed after Corps members attempted to wear the headdress in Vietnam prior to official Corps and Army approval as well as Army command did not want Australian MPs to be mistaken for US MP.

 

The debate continued throughout the 1960s, however, due to the Australian Army's and the Corps heavy commitment to the Vietnam war, the topic of changing headdress was unimportant to Australian Army high command at this time and the issue was put on hold for a later date.  

 

State of the Corps by the late 1960s

 

By the late 1960s the Corps had developed and evolved into the following organisations:

 

Northern Command Provost Company

DAPM/OC is a Major with 2ic Captain. 

HQ located at Brisbane (Indooroopilly) with Detachments at Townsville (OC is Capt) and Engoggera (Brisbane).  Also provides Detachments for Field Force exercises in Shoalwater Bay, Rockhampton, Qld.  

Rockhampton has a unit comprising a Captain and 3 Sections of 1 Div Pro Coy, loaned back, and a WO2 and 3 Sgts loaned back from 4 SIS.  Total authorised strength, including detachments and loaned back personnel is 3 Officers and 95 OR.

 

Eastern Command Provost Company. 

DAPM/OC is Major with 2ic Captain.

Coy HQ is located at Watsons Bay, NSW with detachments at Casula (Liverpool Area) and Singleton. 

A small HQ element, including a Lt and 3 Sections of 1 Div Pro Coy are loaned back along with a Lt and 3 OR (WO1 and 2 Sgts) from 4 SIS.  Total authorised strength, including loaned back personnel is 4 Offrs and 88 OR.

 

Southern Command Provost Company. 

DAPM/OC is Major with 2ic Captain.

Coy HQ is located at Abbotsford, Melbourne and detachments at Bandiana, Puckapunyal, Watsonia and Balcombe.  A small HQ element and 3 Sections (less 4 Cpls) from 1 Comm Z Proy Coy are loaned back, as is a WO2 and 3 Sgts from 4 SIS.  Total authorised strength, including loaned back personnel is 3 Offrs and 83 OR.

 

Central Command Provost Unit. 

Located Keswick Barracks, Adelaide.  OC is Lt. 

4 Cpls from 1 Comm Z Pro Coy and 1 Sgt 4 SIS loaned back.  Total strength, including loaned back personnel is 1 Offr and 14 OR.

 

Western Command Provost Unit. 

Located in Perth.  OC is Lt. 

Total strength is 1 Offr and 9 OR.

 

Training Command Provost Detachment. 

Newly formed – consists of WO2, Sgt and Cpl – part of HQ T Comd establishment.

 

RAA Pro School. 

Located Holsworthy, NSW. 

Staff strength of 1 Offr (Capt) and 11 OR.  Currently staff are an increment to E Comd Pro Coy, however this is now under review at AHQ.  Responsible through DAPM E Comd, as Chief Instructor, to PM for training of all members of RAA Pro.

 

CMF Units. 

N, E and S Comd Pro Coys have CMF components. 

2 Div Pro Coy (Sydney), 1 Comm Z Pro Coy (Melbourne) and 2 Comm Z pro Coy (Adelaide) are the Field Force CMF Provost Units.

 

The Corps was also serving overseas with Corps members posted to Vietnam, Malaysia and New Guinea Provost units.

 

Doctrine of the 1960s

 

The following extracts from Army publications during the period record the doctrine of the Corps/Army in the use and employment of Provosts during the 1960s and is a significant snapshot of the Corps during this period:

 

Provost

Army Pam: The Division in Battle

Pamphlet No. 1, Organization & Tactics, 1965

 

Provost

Allocation: Each Division contains one HQ Provost Company and six Provost Sections

 

Role: To provide traffic control, to supervise and enforce discipline to outside units, to supervise, escort and evacuate prisoners of war and to control stragglers and refugees.

 

Organization: The Officer Commanding the Provost Company also performs the duties of Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal on Divisional HQ.   There is a separate establishment for a HQ and for a Section.

 

Characteristics: The Company can provide one Section for each Task Force, one at Divisional HQ, one at the Divisional airfield and one for handling POWs and refugees.

 

Organization

 

HQ Provost Coy

4 Officers & 21 ORs

2 x Motorcycles

2 x 3/4 Ton veh

1 x 2 1/2 Ton veh

3 x Light Machine Gun (LMG)

 

Provost Section x 6

17 OR

10 x Motorcycles

2 x 3/4 Ton veh

2 x LMG

 

Summary

Officers: 4

ORs: 123

All Ranks: 127

Motorcycles: 62

3/4 Ton Vehs: 14

2 1/2 Ton Vehs: 14

LMG: 15

 

Provost

Army Pam: Administration in the Field (Non-Divisional) 1966

 

Provost

The duties of the military Provost in the communication zone include:

 

a.       Executive action in connection with the sign posting of military routes and the control of military road traffic.

b.      Executive action in connection with civilian refugee control.

c.       Provision of special duties for airfield, port or other terminal work.

d.      Escort duties relating to the movement of classified equipment, awkward loads and important or key persons by road.

e.       The supervision and enforcement of discipline outside units, and the investigation, prevention, and detection of crime affecting military personnel or installations.

f.       Apprehension of absentees and deserters.

g.      Assistance in the collection and disposal of stragglers.

h.      Assistance in the evacuation of POWs.

i.        Patrolling and protecting of Army property.

j.        Assistance in disaster control.

k.      Provision and manning of corrective establishments.

 

A Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal is provided on HQ Communications Zone for advice and technical control of Provost units.   At other HQ the senior Provost member in the area will be required to perform these duties.   The types of Provost unit likely to be found in the Communications Zone are described in the following paragraphs.

 

Provost Company

This unit consists of a HQ and up to 8 Provost Sections.   Allocation is as required but normally not less than two Communications Zone.   Sections are fully mobile and can operate in a detached role.

 

Special Investigation Section

A small unit consisting of experienced and specially trained personnel for the investigation of serious and complicated offences.   Allocation is as required but normally at least one per Communication Zone.   This unit is not administratively self contained.

 

Military Corrective Establishment

The unit is designed to receive and hold up to 200 soldiers under sentence and is allotted as required.

 

MP training during the 1960s is well defined by the following document located at the MP Museum in Sydney, which stated what was taught and required to be achieved by trainees at the MP School during the 1960s and for sometime thereafter:

 

JUNIOR NCO QUALIFYING COURSE

 

ROYAL AUSTRALIAN ARMY PROVOST CORPS

 

The attached Block Syllabus is an example of a typical course run for new applicants for the Corps.  It is designed to train and qualify them for appointment as Corporal Military Policeman (the lowest rank in the Corps):

 

a.                                           Periods are of 40 minutes each.

 

b.                                          Subject ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’.  All courses and examinations to qualify soldier for promotion are broken up into three subjects.  Subject ‘A’ basically covers techniques of instruction, close order drill and weapon handling; Subject ‘B’ covers those subjects which are ‘special to Corps’ eg, trades; and Subject ‘C’ - unit administration.

 

c.                                           F1 - 9mm.  The F1 is the Submachine-gun F1 9mm an Australian designed weapon; 9mm is the Browning 9mm Parabellum automatic pistol.

 

d.                                          SLR.  This is the L1A1 7.62mm Self-Loading Rifle the standard military rifle used by most British Commonwealth countries.

 

e.                                           ALM.  Army Law Manual - a two volume book covering aspects of military law as applicable to the Australian Army.

 

f.                                           Judges’ Rules.  A guide laid down by the Judges of the Queen’s Bench for the guidance of police officers on interrogation and the taking of statements.

 

g.                                          AAF A51.  An Australian Army form used for reporting minor offences.

 

h.                                          Grid references - map co-ordinates.

 

i.                                            Pro.  Provost (Military Police).

 

j.                                            CommZ.  Communications Zone.

 

k.                                          DOB.  Daily Occurrence Book - used for recording all matters reported to or seen by the Unit Duty NCO.

 

l.                                            Equivalent ranks.  In the Australian Armed Forces, naval and air-force personnel wear badges and have rank titles which differ from each other and from Army ranks.  It is necessary to teach this for purposes of recognition, paying of compliments etc.

 

m.                                        CI.  Chief Instructor - the senior officer on the School staff.

 

n.                                          SSM.  School Sergeant Major - the senior soldier on the School staff.

 

o.                                          Q procedure.  Supplies indenting, accounting and distribution.

 

p.                                          MT.  Mechanical transport.

 

q.                                          Commonwealth property.  Public property.

 

Course Qualification

 

The procedure followed is how the class average mark is calculated.  10% is then deducted and this gives the pass mark.  On an average this works out to be between 66% and 70%.

 

Corps image

 

During the 1960s, it’s interesting to note how the Corps was perceived by the wider Army community during the period and expressed in this manner by the Australian Regular Army Commissioned Officers brochure - May 1960:

 

The Royal Australian Army Provost Corp

The Provost Corp renders service as a preventative rather than a repressive force, whether the matter being dealt with is traffic control, control of inhabitants in a forward area, or control of soldiers outside their unit areas.

 

Anti- Vietnam war protesters and consciences objectors

 

One of the negatives for the Corps during the 1960s and early 1970s was the bad press towards the Corps when Corps personnel were required to arrest National Service objectors during National Service call-ups and induction periods.   Images of Corps members arresting, dragging, carrying, young males into the induction centres on the evening news each night was to add to the Corps already (at least perceived image) negative image of the “Provo Bastard”.  

 

It was of little consequence that Corps members were carrying out lawful arrests as dictated by the National Service Act and the courts during the period.   Famous names like White and Townsend (TV fame) would haunt the Corps during the period especially time they spent in detention at MCE, which was very controversial and damaging to the Australian Army during the period.   Some time later, it was decreed by the Government of the day that future objectors would be sentenced to time in civil prisons and not military detention.   Through no fault of the Corps, it suffered greatly during the period as old prejudices and “wives tales” about Provost treatment during WW2 surfaced (most without substance) as the Army was forced by the civil courts to place civilians (consciences objectors) in detention despite many victims arguing they were not Defence members.  

 

Many Corps members during this period remember those times well with mixed feelings towards the objectors, protestors and the Government of the day.   

 

Final changes of the 60s

 

1969 would see further changes to the Corps with the introduction of Corps buttons for wear on Service Dress, the introduction of a Corps tie and Pay Group 10 for all qualified Corps members.   Pay Group 10 would recognise the knowledge, standards and responsibility that Corps members imparted on a daily basis.   The Corps School (RAA Pro School) moved from Eastern Command Provost Company at South Head, NSW to Gallipoli Lines, Holsworthy, NSW.   Former Corps member Ian Laurie (Wombat) recalls life at the School as an Instructor and offers a reason as to why it moved:

 

I was posted to RAA Pro School as an Instructor in Oct 68.   The School was then co-located with E Comd Pro Coy at South Head, Sydney, but with its orderly room, classrooms, parade ground and accommodation close to the Hornby Lighthouse on the head itself, about 750 metres from the Company, where students were rationed and enjoyed Mess privileges.  The first course on which I instructed had over 50 students, seriously over stretching our resources.  It was necessary to hold classes in the huge garage of a CMF unit located near the Macquarie Lighthouse, about three and a half kilometres away.  This precipitated the School moving to a location in the old Battalion lines at Holsworthy in Dec 68.  I continued as an Instructor there.   The students were predominantly National Servicemen, most of who were soon to spend half of their conscription time in Vietnam. 

 

By the late 1960s, the Army decided for reasons of economy to change the specifications of all badges from gilt brass to gold anodised aluminium.   In future, Corps badges would be manufactured in anodised aluminium, which required no polishing or cleaning a thought and action that many Sergeant Majors resented.   At the same time, the fastening device was changed from the standard two shanks to two titanium pins with clutch grips.   These changes were made in specification sheet Aust 5368 dated 9 April 1969.

 

The 1960s were a defining period in the history of the Australian Army.   The move from British orientation to an American relationship would see the Australian Army modernise and re-equip itself with the latest state of the art military combat equipment available in the world at that time.

 

Within a few short years, the changes and equipment upgrades would be put to the test as the Australian Army and the Corps would find itself at war again.