28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Provost Unit

Malaya, Borneo & Singapore

Compiled by Reg Smith and information from Geoff Brien, both Ex RMP who served in unit.

 

Brigade – Introductory Outline

The S.E.A.T.O. alliance was formed as the result of a conference in Geneva in1954. Countries signing up to the alliance were the United States of America, France, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Pakistan and the Philippines. The objective was the protection of Laos, Viet Nam and Cambodia following the annihilation of the French forces at Dien Bien Phu.

One such formation – formed on 16 September 1955 - was a combination of forces from Australia, New Zealand and Britain. This unit was of brigade strength, air portable and named the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Group. . The Brigade operational role was the 'Immediate Reaction Force' for SEATO. It was a matter of political and military expedience for the brigade to be based in mainland Malaya. Apart from the purpose for which it was formed, the brigade also offered training and stability within Malaya itself following the communist insurrection after the last war. Political constraints, especially after Malaya gained its independence, prevented the brigade from moving DIRECTLY to Cambodia, Laos or Viet Nam should the need arise. Tactically, then, in order to move to such countries, the brigade was obliged to decamp to Singapore for a period of at least (my memory slips here) hours before moving on.

Initially, the brigade was deployed to various sites throughout Northern Malaya – Penang, Ipoh, Taiping and such like. Such deployment made for a logistical nightmare. Following Malaya’s Independence, plans were put in to effect to construct a self-contained cantonment at Bukit Terendak, Malacca. This cantonment would house the complete brigade with its infantry battalions and support units, military hospital, airstrip, married quarters areas and shopping precinct. The cantonment was of substantial size and covered several square miles with its south western border being the Straits of Malacca

By August 1962 the Brigade had completed its move to Bukit Terendak. This brought all units of the Brigade together and under one roof. Various field exercises were undertaken, possibly the largest being in 1963 when the brigade was deployed to Ubon in Thailand close to the Laotian border. Brigade HQ was established at the Thai/US air-base.

As events in Viet Nam deteriorated so was the brigade placed more and more on ‘standby’ alert. Field equipment was always packed and ‘ready to go’.

On 31 October 1971 the Brigade then ceased to exist. However, its demise was painless and involved a mere change of name and location. On 1 November 1971 the Brigade became 28 ANZUK Infantry Brigade and was located on the northern side of Singapore Island. The Provost Unit was to become the ANZUK Provost Unit. There it remained until it was disbanded on 31 January 1974.

28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Provost Unit

Bukit Terendak was located some 15 km or so from Malacca town itself. The nearest railway station was that of Tampin about 30 km from Malacca. The Provost HQ had its own compound located behind brigade HQ. Unit living accommodation for the single and unaccompanied NCOs was located within 150 yards of the unit and totally separate from any other. Messing was also separate with complaints from the British members of the unit that Australians got paid extra for eating British rations. This was because Australian Army meat rations were more than the British Army entitlement at that time. There was a separate social club for the junior ranks while the senior ranks Messed in with Brigade HQ personnel.

Static police duties were combined. Because of the distance involved, it was impractical to police the town directly from Bukit Terendak. To overcome this, the top two floors of a hotel were converted in to a temporary satellite operations centre. This was manned twenty-four hours a day and on a forty-eight hour rotation. The facility had it's own catering and civilian cook.

The provost unit was also responsible for setting up and running the Garrison Military Police Section. It operated within the cantonment. Staffing for GMP were drawn from Units within the Brigade and consisted of Australian, British and New Zealand other ranks. The GMP was under the direct command of a provost sergeant and a corporal.

The Company had it's own Minor Investigation Section. There was also a Section of Special Investigation Branch (SIB) RMP that was located within the provost compound but not under command of the Provost Unit.

Unit (integrated) makeup was:

OC - Major RAA Pro

2IC - Capt. RAA Pro

CSM - WO2 RMP

CQMS - SSGT RMP

Q CPL - RAA Pro

CCLK - RMP

Section Sgt. (1 each) - RAA Pro, RMP, RNZ Pro

CPL MP - Various RAA Pro, RMP, RNZ Pro

Vehicle Fitter – Cpl., REME

The OC 'Mick Gray' introduced the use of scarlet lanyards for unit personnel. It was approved by PM FARELF and to my knowledge the only Commonwealth Provost Unit to have such an item.

The OC - Major "Mick" Gray – was a firm believer in ‘preparedness’. It was his belief that if his personnel were going to be involved in active service then they should not only be fit, but also undertake as much ‘bush’ training as possible. To that end, he encouraged ‘Adventure Training’ and attachments to infantry units in the field. Further, military police Territorial units from the UK were periodically attached to the 28 Brigade Provost in order to gain ‘bush’ experience.

Geoff Brien, who was a corporal with the RMP in 1963, reports: "In October 1964 a force of Indonesians landed near the border of Malacca. The Brigade was committed to counter this invasion. Due to other commitments the Infantry Battalions were unavailable and the Support Units together with 102 Field Battery RAA and us moved to the Coast and contained the invaders within a tight cordon. The Brigade Commander ordered the 'Gunners' to flush out the Indonesians and within 30 hours or so killed six and the remainder taken prisoner. The Provosts came into their own whilst handling and caring for the Prisoners. This was the only action during my time by the Brigade on the mainland during the 'Confrontation'. There after the Brigade was given the additional responsibility of watching and guarding the West Coast of Malaya".

Personnel wore the uniforms issued by their respective countries. All wore the same brigade patch. This was a Crown surmounting the wording "Commonwealth" and mounted on to a rectangular patch. The top half of the patch being pale blue and the bottom half being a darker shade of blue.

In the static environment Australians wore the obligatory "Slouch Hat" and jungle greens uniform - shorts in the day and trousers at night. Duty dress comprised white 1937 web belts, red lanyard and ‘MP’ armbands. Initially, this was red lettering on a black background but colours were later reversed. The "Scarlet' beret of the RMP and RACMP did not exist at this time. RMP wore the SD Cap and when on duty put the red "slip on" cover over it. Those not on duty but where in general work within the unit lines just wore shorts and socks rolled down over the boots. Bare Buff as we called it.

Vehicles used were the short and long wheel-based Landrovers with ¼ ton trailers when in the field. All carried 'Military Police' signs front and back including a blue light on all vehicles.

Weapons allocated were initially the .38 Smith & Wessen pistol and later changed to the Browning 9mm automatic. Also the 9mm ‘Sterling’ SMG and hand grenades were available. Each Platoon was allocated a .303" Bren Gun and later, the modified .762mm LMG. Support personnel carried the .762mm SLR rifle.

Some names that served with the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Provost Unit are:

Australian:

Major ‘Mick’ Gray.

Major ‘Bob’ Bell RAA Pro,

Captain ‘Ken’ Peterson RAA Pro

SGT John Collins RAA Pro

SGT Joe Schultz RAA

SGT Ron Woodrow

CPL Busby RAA Pro

CPL John Lean RAA Pro

CPL 'Bluey' Thompson RAA Pro

CPL 'Snowy' Taylor RAA Pro

Cpl Ron Halse RAA Pro

CPL Tony Ranyard RAA Pro

CPL Jim Barnes RAA Pro

CPL John Jamieson RAA Pro

CPL Fred "Give us a smoke" Berkeley RAA

CPL John Sullivan RAA Pro.

New Zealand

SGT Anderson RNZ Pro

CPL Peter Kareko RNZ Pro

CPL 'Kiwi' Kingston RNZ Pro

CPL Jimmie Tekoha

British

WO II Brian Gator RMP

WOII Dempster RMP

WOII Ferguson RMP

SGT ‘Jock’ Mackie RMP

SGT John Drury RMP

CPL 'Taff' Evans RMP,

CPL Ken Harrison RMP,

CPL Fred Elrod RMP,

CPL Geoff Brien RMP

CPL Reg Smith RMP

CPL Ron Leadbetter RMP

In February 1965, HRH Prince Phillip visited the Brigade. It's first Royal Visitor. Naturally the Provost Unit was heavily involved with security and escort duties.