The RMP in the Cold War- an overview and a little history...
The Royal Military Police (RMP) is the branch of the British
Army responsible for the policing of service personnel and
providing a military police presence on service property,
operations and exercises. Originally formed from the Military
Mounted Police and the Military Foot Police in the latter
part of the Great War (WW1), the Corps of Military Police
was granted it's Royal prefix on 28th November 1946 by King
George the Fifth, in recognition of its' outstanding work
and support of the Army, becoming the Corps of Royal Military
Police (RCMP already having been taken up by the Canadian
Mounties many many years before!).
Its members are generally known as Redcaps because they wear
scarlet-topped peaked caps or scarlet berets. In the period
1980-1989, the RMP stable belt was also scarlet. The RMP motto
is Exemplo Ducemus, Latin for "By example, we lead",
and the Regimental March of the RMP is the "The Watchtower"
or "Die Wacht Turm" originally an 18th century German
Army marching tune.
One of the nicknames for the RMP is the "Monkey Hangers"
(in modern times shortened to "Monkey"). While the
exact origins of the nickname are not known, one possible
origin comes from the time of the Napoleonic Wars, when a
merchant ship docked at Hartlepool; on board the ship was
a small monkey dressed in a sailor's costume. The local people
who saw the monkey were convinced that it was a French spy
and demanded its demise. The local Provost Marshal hanged
the monkey to avoid a riot taking place.
A second story arose with the formation of the MFP (Military
Foot Police) in 1885 for service in Egypt, where the local
traders and beggars often had monkeys on their shoulder; each
wore a small pillbox hat similar in style and colour to that
worn by MFP NCOs.
Whatever its origins, the nickname has stuck for the RMP
(whose members may choose to wear a monkey tie pin), the citizens
of Hartlepool and the wider British Army.
A gentle hint, however: It is not wise to call
an MP a "Monkey" (especialy to his or her face),
as it is considered an insult by many, not just RMP personnel
- it's most likely, in fact, to get the speaker reported under
section 69 of the Army Act - "Conduct prejudicial to
good order and discipline"!
The present-day RMP's principal duties are "To provide
the Provost Support that the Army requires meeting operational
demands and legal obligations". To fulfil this role their
- To provide Operation Policing Support;
- To prevent crime;
- To uphold the Law within the Military Community and assist
with the maintenance of Military Discipline;
- To provide an Assistance, Advice and Information Service
to the Military Community and public.
During the Cold War (which perforce included the period 1960-1989,
which we cover in Cold War
Provost) the approach of the RMP, like other members
of NATO, to military policing was to provide Military Police
support to National Forces by:
- Traffic Control
- Military Policing in general
- Maintaining Law & Order
The operational, or conflict, role of the RMP is not just
to provide support in rear areas. RMP detachments are often
in the vanguard of any advance by British military formations.
For example, during Operation Granby (the first Gulf War),
RMP personnel followed Royal Engineers combat units from the
form up points to mark out safe routes through minefields.
Indeed, one SNCO won the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)
for his actions in that regard!
As soon as the first combat troops begin to advance, the
RMP guides and marshals other combat and support units toward
the front of the advance. As the forward units advance, the
RMP sets up traffic posts so they are able to maintain major
Other wartime roles for the RMP are:
- Prisoner handling
- Maintenance of law and discipline
- Investigating crime
- War crime investigations
The Cold War in Europe and the RMP
Cold War Provost primarily represents the European
(BAOR) and mainland UK theatres of Operations; as a result,
we will not be delving into the Middle Eastern operations
and conflicts that headlined the Cold War, such as Seuz, Kenya,
Instead, we will concentrate on how the RMP conducted themselves,
and assisted the Armed Forces in BAOR, West Germany, and the
UK and (to a very much lesser extent for us) Northern Ireland.
BAOR and West Berlin
Europe, following the cessation of hostilities of the Second
World War, was, frankly, a mess of the first order. Chaos
tended to rein, and sorting order out of this chaos was the
unenviable task of the Allied powers, whose main tool in this
was their provost branches. For Great Britain, this was the
then CMP (later in 1946 re-created as the RMP).
add to the problems the RMP faced in it's policing and Provost
roles, in 1946, the Robertson-Mallinin agreement introduced
Military Missions into the post-war Control Zones of Germany.
The Soviet Union maintained missions (SOXMIS) in the U.S.,
French and British zones. In the British sector the Soviet
Mission was based in BŁnde near Herford. British Forces maintained
a mission (BRIXMIS) in the Soviet Zone (East Germany).
The RMP had the task of policing the Soviet mission in BŁnde,
and this was tasked to 19 (Support) Platoon RMP, who became
known as "white mice". This unit's job was to wait outside
the Soviet mission until a SOXMIS vehicle appeared and then
In restricted areas, Soviet vehicles were not permitted to
leave the autobahns (not even in parking areas) unless accompanied
by U.S., British or French military police.
The agreements remained in force until 2 October 1990, when
all three missions were deactivated on the eve of Germany's
general however, the RMP Role in BAOR wasn't that much different
to the RMP's UK-based units: Providing the peacetime Army
with Operation Policing Support, and to prevent crime. Its'
Provost Operations role came to the fore during the many exercises
that were held in Germany, most notably the massive and unrepeated
Lionheart '84 exercise, that involved just about every Allied
Serviceman in Germany, bar none!
West Berlin, within 2 Regiment RMP, 247 Provost Company RMP
was responsible for manning the British Sector checkpoints
and Border Patrols. As part of 2 Regiment, an armed unit of
German nationals, 248 German Security Unit, was maintained;
its commander was a German national in the rank of Major and
an RSM from a British infantry regiment acted as liaison officer.
This was disbanded in 1994, when the British Garrison in Berlin
was closed. A third company within the 2 Regiment was 246
Provost Company in Helmstedt.
Falklands Conflict: Operation Corporate
After the Argentine forces surrendered, 5 Infantry Brigade
Provost Unit RMP remained on the islands, sworn in as Special
Constables until the Falkland Islands Police Force were able
to become operational again. After the re-capture of South
Georgia (Operation Paraquat), the Argentine commander Lieutenant-Commander
Alfredo Astiz was taken to the UK and questioned by the RMP
and Sussex Police at the Keep, Roussillon Barracks, Chichester
about the murder of Swedish and French nationals several years
before. As there was, at the time, no jurisdiction for extradition
to Sweden or France, he was repatriated to Argentina by the
International Committee of the Red Cross.
Northern Ireland: Operation Banner
A sore topic with many - not just those who live and lived
there, Operation Banner was the operational name for the British
Forces' anti-insurgency/anti-terrorism campaign in Northern
Ireland between 1969 and 2007. At the height of the "troubles"
(the period 1970 - the mid 1980s) RMP were actively involved,
and RMP personnel could expect 12-month "Emergency Tours"
in the province at any time past age 18, once training was
completed at Roussillon Barracks in Chichester. During this,
the longest continuous deployment in the British Army's history,
lasting some thirty-eight years, 4 RMP personnel lost their
lives, and several others were seriously injured.
The information on this page
came in no small part from Wikipedia,
and thus may be used without restriction, provided that the
original source (Wikipedia) is credited.