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Cold War Provost - Photographic Evidence from the Archives

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The following photographs were obtained from several sources, including the newly-relocated RMP Museum at Southwick Park, near Cosham in Hampshire. The RMP Museum was forced to move due to the closure of its' previous location adjacent to the Guard Room at the RMPs' previous Regimental home of Roussillon Barracks in Chichester, when that depot was closed and relocated to Worthy Down on the 10th September 2005. As a result, much - read a hell of a lot - of their archives were stil in boxes following the move and official re-opening of the Museum, but on my arrival, Colonel J H Baber MBE, the Regimental Secretary, and his staff, Charmaine (the Col's secretary), Rhonna, Richard, and Jenni, were more than happy to assist the search, and over the course of four hours there, the following photographs were obtained through a careful study of all copies of the RMP Journal published between the first quarter of 1980 and the first quarter of 1990, a ten-year period.

Please note that the four hours spent at the RMP Museum included one smoke break, two coffees, a stop at the Regimental shop to buy the obligatory goodies, finding and identifying the correct photos, getting to grips with their optical scanner to scan and thus digitise the photos, then transfer the resulting imagery by floppy disk to a machine with external web access so as to webmail the eight photographs to me so as to incorporate them into this website (deeeeeep breath!)... And I still have to go back and search/peruse the truly massive scrap-books from the Corps that I ran out of time to look over (Richard, your shop's likely to get raided by me again - get yer tin hat on!)

So, without further ado, here are the photos, which are all © 1980-2009, RHQ RMP Museum, and reproduced here with their kind permission.

rmpj-1980-4th-qtr-pp-26, Photo © 1980-2009, RHQ RMP Museum
Exercise Spearpoint, BAOR, 1980. Note camouflaged Traffic Post in left background behind the three (yes, three!!) RMP personnel, and the Tactical Sign (TACSIGN) on the right of frame.

rmpj-1980-4th-qtr-pp-30, Photo © 1980-2009, RHQ RMP Museum
Exercise Spearpoint, BAOR, 1980, again, from a different angle this time. Note the following:
The camouflaged Traffic Post behind the RMP personnel - note that spreader poles appear not to have been used to break up the outline - instead, suitable branches appear to have been - ahem - borrowed from trees to do the job;
that the NCO on the right only carries a pistol, not an SMG (rare, but not unheard of on exercises - Major Freind is on the left, and unarmed!), with the lanyard from the butt of the pistol appearing to be tied off on his webbing belt, rather than the opposite shoulder, as is SOP when performing Police Duties whilst armed with a pistol. Finally, note the TACSIGNS, which in this case were stencil painted, rather than being made with self-adhesive lettering.

rmpj-1983-2nd-qtr-pp-22, Photo © 1980-2009, RHQ RMP Museum
One year after the Falklands war... Uniform check: Note the Brigade flashes on the DPM jackets, in this case the Berlin Brigade. The SNCO in front of the Rt Hon Michael Heseltine (then Defence Minister) is a CSM - his rank badge is, as normal for those of the Warrant Officer ranks, sewn to the lower right arm., not his RMP brassard.

rmpj-1983-3nd-qtr-pp-26, Photo © 1980-2009, RHQ RMP Museum
Another uniform check... this time from the ACE Mobile Force on exercise "Hardfall 83". Look at the hats - the front peak is folded back, revealing the MP flash normally found on the Brassard on the right arm.

rmpj-1984-1st-qtr-pp-44, Photo © 1980-2009, RHQ RMP Museum
To Northern Ireland now, and Operation Banner. While these NCOs have just returned from an exercise, note the weapons - not the normal 9mmP SMGs, but instead, 7.62mmN Self-Loading Rifles.

rmpj-1984-4th-qtr-pp-25, Photo © 1980-2009, RHQ RMP Museum
Somewhere a darn sight warmer now: Hong Kong. Note again the use of SLRs, this time in a CFT (Combat Fitness Test), the CFT normally makes use of ones' personal Issue weapon, i.e. the weapon you would use on duty, thus indicating their regular usage by Company personnel.

rmpj-1984-4th-qtr-pp-26, Photo © 1980-2009, RHQ RMP Museum
"Exercise Lionheart '84", BAOR. The RAF Policeman (I believe from the Tactical Provost Wing, RAF Police, who conduct mainly Provost Operations-like duties, instead of General Policing duties) on the right of frame is using putees; the two RMP personnel are not. Note also the rather large TACSIGN in the left background (it appears to be almost twice the size of the issue large TACSIGN) - this appears to have been made not by stencil painting, but by use of self-adhesive lettering, as the text is bright, clear, and shows no sign of the usual broken letters you get from the use of stencils.

rmpj-1989-1st-qtr-pp-27, Photo © 1980-2009, RHQ RMP Museum
And finally, from the RMP Journal Photograhic Competition of 1989, to show roughly when the L85/L86 series of weapons were introduced (oddly in this case, with a SUSAT optical sight instead of the more normal Iron Sights), a winning photo from the then WO2 Jenkinson, 114 Pro Coy RMP. Note the high-visibility tabbard worn underneath his '58 pattern webbing.

Private Collection photographic evidence...

A few private collection photographs now, from former RMP members who have been gracious enough to alow reproduction of their photographs on this website. For these permissions, we are very grateful.

Photo © 1969-2009, Ron McAdam
From Ron McAdam; a typical scene from the RMP in BAOR in the 1960s of the Army's "Hurry up And Wait" syndrome, this time whilst in the midst of the "Fit For Role" inspection, as they chat about something or other by their Bricks' series 1 Land Rover.

Note that they are all wearing the relatively new (and short-lived) Olive Green Combat Clothing that replaced Battle Dress, and have the then-new scarlet "Armlet, RMP", that replaced the older black "Armlet MP".

The "Fit For Role" inspection continues on tho this very day, and is a neccessary inspection of troops, not just RMP, and is conducted to ensure that all troops have the right kit neccessary to deploy on operations, including, where necessary, the right paperwork and documentation.

On a slightly tongue-in-cheek note, a "Brick" was a team of 4 personel, and was the smallest formally recognised fighting formation in the British Army (so named as it was the foundation of platoon tactics). Bricks were later renamed as "Fire Teams", to prevent the Americans (so the rumour goes) from becoming confused with certain single-function outhouses!

Photo © 1969-2009, Ron McAdam
Another photo from Ron McAdam, of Cpl Idris Davies, who we thanks for
taking the time to contact us and to correct us on the caption above!

Note Cpl Davies SD Cap; you can just about see that the scarlet cap cover has several pressed creases radiating in a form of sunburst from the centre base of the cap badge to the brim, radiating outwards, a practice first seen towards the end of the Second World War, and continued right up to the abolition of the RMP SD Cap in 1974.

Clothing-wise, you can very clearly see the 1960s pattern combat dress with gaiters, short, the left arm rank badges (left arm ranks stopped with the introduction of the 68-pattern DPM camouflaged clothing), and formation badge.

There is also, on the front of the Series 1 land Rover, a motorcyclists' helmet and webbing belt, presumably belongiong to a motorcyclist from his section. it is also noticable that this land Rover is painted in a gloss finish; we'd welcome anyone with information on this contacting us to shed light on when this practice was active.

Photo ©, 1979-2009, Chris Toft
Cpl (later Sgt) Chris Toft during his annual "Fit For Role" inspection, BAOR, 1979. Note the many and varies bits of paperwork Cpl Toft is showing the un-named RCT Major; these include his Army Identification card, his Royal Military Police Warrant Card, his F/MT/600 Drivers permit, handover/committal forms (AF A 6009), various restricted documents that he was required to carry whilst on duty, and his Service Police Notebook (MOD F145B). Also note the armband. RMP were not issued brazzards until 1984 or so; previous to this, as shown in this photo, the normal black-on-red MP armband was used, even in the field. Also note the Field cap with its' sewn-on MP flash.

Photo ©, 1979-2009, Chris Toft
Another two photos from Chris Toft's collection. The first photo shows an excellent study of a three-quarter-ton series 3 Land Rover, 20GN37, an FFR (Fitted For Radio) Land Rover in Military Police markings, taken while on an un-named exercise held around 1979 to 1980 or so. You can tell it's an FFR vehicle by the antenna mountings to the sides of the vehicle.

Note the low-visibility Military Police sign on the front (a twin of that sign wil be mounted to the loading gate at the back of the Land Rover), the uncaged blue lamp on the left of the land Rover, and the branches from local trees used to put up the camouflage netting, both located on the canvas room of the Land Rover, and tied down with bungee cords; also note the holdall stuffed between the Military Police sign and the radiator, containing hessian material and other accessories.

Note also that the "Military Police " Signs on the front and rear of the Land Rover have changed from the 1960s version of red on white to the current low-visibility red on black you see in the photo above (see Ron McAdams' first photo above).

The second photo is from the same exercise; you can more clearly see the use of the MP armband and field cap in the lower of the two photos. Also note the tactical signs that the NCO is preparing. He's using a small sponge and white paint with a stencil kit to paint the signage onto the bitumen signs.

The Traffic post is hidden, so Chris remembers, behind a German shop of some kind. Traffic Posts, unlike the more visible Provost Information Posts, could be somewhat covert, as they were not expected to be used to be points for enquiries from friendly forces, instead being used as satellite bases of operations. Camoufage was used extensively, and TPs were sited in places that could afford more overhead cover, or reduction in the signs of frequent road usage (thus helping to hide the location of the TP).

Photo ©, 1993-2009, Roger Stenning
Stoney Castle, 1993. Whilst outside the period we are re-enacting, this is a typical peacetime UKLF Provost Operation in the public eye - in this case, the entrance to the encampment site near Pirbright (which at the time was the home of the Brigade of Guards). Note the 9'x9' tent, tacsignage, and mix of uniforms: typical 84-pattern jacket, trousers OD, and an MP-marked high-visibilty jacket.

Photo ©, 1993-2009, Roger Stenning
Exercise "Log Leap", 1994. Again outside the period we are re-enacting, this photograph clearly shows the lengths at which MPs will cobble together something to make life easier when in the field - in this case, a make-shift radio and map desk, installed into the back of a ¾-ton Land Rover! The author is shown (good grief - I had hair then!) answering a radio call - if I recall correctly, one of my less-than-subtle colleagues grabbed up the camera and yelled "candid camera!" just as I pressed the pressel on the radio - oops! ANyhow, note the high-visibility tabbard - orange and silver, not yellow: This pattern of tabbard was still in service in 1997, when I left the Corps.

Photo ©, 1993-2009, Roger Stenning
The Re-Opening of the Duke Of Yorks Barracks, Chelsea in central London, 1995. While the date is five years outside the period that Cold War Provost is reenacting, the uniforms had not changed much. The Author is third from the right, wearing working dress; this was typical "Working Dress" for the 1980s period as well.

Photo ©, 1993-2009, Roger Stenning
Another photo from the Re-Opening of the Duke Of Yorks Barracks, this time posing in an "Amazing! I'm bigger than an MOD Copper!" way; note that the jacket is exactly the same as the other event photo above, but reversed to show the green side - this was, apparently, on the orders of HRH the DoY, who did not, it seemed, like to see so many yellow jackets!

A final word of thanks and another copyright reminder!

Again, my thanks to Colonel J H Baber MBE, Charmaine, Rhonna, Richard, and Jenni, at the RMP Museum for their help and assistance in allowing me to rummage through their archives!

For the record again: the above photographs are either:

  • © 1980-2009, RHQ RMP Museum,
  • © 1969-2009, Ron McAdam,
  • © 1979-2009, Chris Toft,
  • © 1993-2009, Roger Stenning,

And are allreproduced here with their kind permission. Reproduction, for any reason, in any format or form, without their written consent, is forbiddden by copyright law.

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