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Royal Military Police

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A Brief History of the Royal Military Police

The office of Provost Marshal is the oldest in the British Army. William of Cassingham, who was appointed as a military Sergeant of the Peace by King Henry III on 28 May 1241, is the first named military policeman. He and his under provosts were ancestors of the Royal Military Police.

The first Provost Marshal of whom there is any personal record was Sir Henry Guyldford. Sir Henry was a favourite of King Henry VIII who was the first monarch to lay down specific duties for his Provost Marshal, which bear a resemblance to the duties of a present-day provost officer. An efficient Provost Service was part of the recognised organisation of the Standing Army at its inception in 1660.

In 1877 the Military Mounted Police (MMP) were established for service at home and abroad, and in 1882 the Military Foot Police (MFP) were raised for service in Egypt. They did not, however, become a permanent corps for service at home until 1885. Originally, the MMP and the MFP were two distinct organisations, each with its own promotion rosters, but essentially all part of one organisation.

The Battle of Neuve Chapelle in 1915 was the first occasion when Military Police units worked together carrying out traffic and straggler control amongst many other tasks. Their essential role in modern warfare has since never been questioned. Military Policemen in the Great War were familiar figures at Mons, the Marne,Ypres and the Somme. Some 375 lost their lives and the Corps won 477 decorations including 13 DSOs. The MMP and MFP were amalgamated to become the Corps of Military Police (CMP) in 1926.

In the Second World War CMP were deployed to all theatres, in France, Italy,North Africa, the Far East and, finally, Germany itself. RMP were at Monte Cassino and Dunkirk, Alamein and Malta; they parachuted at Arnhem and they were among the first on the beaches of Normandy.

The Military Police earned a reputation for bravery and devotion to duty during the Wars as reflected in The Roll of Honour, which contains 912 names. 229 operational awards were won including 7 MCs, 6 DCMs, 61 MMs and 776 Mentions in Dispatches. Military Police carried out immensely difficult and valuable work, establishing the tradition of being 'first in, last out' on the battlefields.

General Sir Myles Dempsey KCB, KBE, DSO, MC, paid the following tribute: "The military policeman became so well known a figure on every road to the battlefield that his presence became taken for granted. Few soldiers as they hurried over a bridge, which was a regular target for the enemy, gave much thought to the man whose duty it was to be there for hours on end, directing traffic and ensuring its rapid passage".

In 1946, in recognition of its outstanding war record, HM King George VI granted the 'Royal' prefix to the Royal Military Police (RMP).

Since WW2 the RMP has been active in every operational theatre. Since 1969 RMP has made a valuable contribution in Northern Ireland where they have been working in close co-operation with the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Their role there involved them in rather more of an infantry role than previously and numerous members have been awarded gallantry medals and commendations. In more recent years they have served in Rhodesia, The Falkland Islands, the Gulf - where a DCM was awarded to a S/Sgt platoon commander for outstanding bravery during Operation Granby, and latterly in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia under both UN and NATO command.

Provost's vital role and function for the modern day army, is "To provide the Provost Support that the Army requires meeting operational demands and legal obligations". To fulfil this role their functions are:

  1. To provide Operation Support;
  2. To prevent crime;
  3. To Enforce the Law within the Military Community and Assist with the Maintenance of Military Discipline:
  4. To provide an Assistance, Advice and Information Service to the Military Community and public.

RMP Officers and NCOs currently serve in either General Police Duties (GPD), Special Investigations (SIB), Close Protection (CP) or Para Provost units.

Despite all the hard work and effort put in by the RMP the average soldier still hates them and refers to them as "monkeys" at every opportunity.

I found from personal experience that if ever the SIB talk to you, you should only say "no comment, I want a lawyer". Alternatively, a simple "Thank you for noticing me" will suffice.

Still it's better than being in the Chunkies.

Corps quick march: Hey hey, we're the Monkees

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