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Dear All,

I can find no account of members of the Military Mounted Police being deployed to either Natal or Zululand during the war. Can anyone therefore answer the following: 1) What did the army do for provost support? (I presume regimental police were deployed with those units in the field and therefoe undertook discipline duties?) 2) The Natal Mounted Police were used as mounted infantry/local guides - did they have any juristiction over imperial troops (they being mere colonials, I doubt it, but again, can find nothing to say so).

25th November 2003John Young

One thing I do know is that Lieutenant Robert Abraham Brewster French-Brewster, of the 1st (The King's) Dragoon Guards was the Deputy Provost Marshal of the 2nd Division. He was present at the Battle of Ulundi with 24 other-ranks from the K.D.G.'s, I'm presuming, but may be those 24 other-ranks were his provost element.

Like yourself, I assume R.P.'s would have enforced any regimental discipline.

Now a question in return. When were the Military Mounted & Foot Police formed?

John Y.

25th November 2003Martin Everett
There were officers designated as Provost Marshals. May notes suggest that although the Metropolitan Police recruited ex-Cavalry NCOs for their Mounted Patrol in 1830s. This was extended to a strength of 150 covering garrison towns in the UK. In 1885 the Military Foot Police was formed and both branches amalgamated in 1926.

I think you may be assuming a 21st Century view where the role of police and military is clear. In 19th century the military would undertake tass would be considered a police role today.
25th November 2003Adrian Whiting

I have put a quick paragraph re the relevant legislation on the "flogging topic" list.

It is my understanding that whilst soldiers would be subject to local law, and theoretically triable by local judiciary, the legislation enabled a Court Martial to try civil offences as well as military ones. This would very much appear to have been the practice, and later trials, such as that of Lt Morant and others in the 1899-1902 SA War, are clear demonstrations of a General Court martial trying a capital offence in relation to the death of a civilian (since the Crown argued that the individual was not a combatant I believe).

Accordingly, the Natal Mounted Police could legally have exercised "police" powers in relation to Crown soldiers I believe, but in practice they did not - responsibility for discipline remained with the Army. As Martin said, the boundaries between military practice and police practice in present day terms was then very blurred. The NMP performed a more military enforcement role than an investigative one (not to suggest they did no investigation - more to put it in context).

26th November 2003AMB
John, Martin & Adrian,

Many thanks for your replies.
The Military Mounted Police (drawn from NCOs from cavalry units) was first raised in Aldershot in 1855, the Military Foot Police (drawn from Met policemen) was formed in 1882 for service in Egypt.
Martin, I take your point about the modern role of Provost Support to an operation being different to that in the 1870s. I would assume therefore that during the 1879 war discipline duties would be their primary tasking. The modern role of what is now the RMP, whilst incorporating discipline patrols (law enforcement & crime prevention), now extends to the further tasks of Battlefield Management (through movement control, etc), Force Protection & provision of Information. The specialist roles of Close Protection and the Special Investigation Branch are also modern additions.
The Second Boer, I think, was the first time that the 'modern' role of military police really developed.
As an aside, I understand that Gen Buller's orderly, during his campaign in Natal, was a member of the MMP.

3rd December 2003John Young

Looks like my assumption was correct after all.

Let Thomas Henry Makin recount his tale:
'...29th [May] Was busy all day forming the first column to be commanded by General Newdigate under the supervision of General Lord Chelmsford, and 20 men of my regiment were required to form the M.M.P. and bodyguard to Lord Chelmsford and I was the fortunate one to go from my troop, so under the command of Lieut. Brewster, we left the regiment and joined the column. ...'

Reproduced in Volume No.5 Issue No.2, 'The Journal of the Anglo-Zulu War Research Society' 1997.

John Y.
5th December 2003Keith Smith
Whoops, late again!

The following is taken from General Order No. 27, dated 7th January, 1879:

2. The following appointments will take effect in the Utrecht district, and with No. 4 Column, under command of Colonel Wood, C.B., V.C. viz: Captain H. Vaughan, Royal Artillery, to be Director of Transport, from 20th December, 1878, and to command the line of communications from Utrecht to Head-quarters of No. 4 Column. Lieut. R.L. Payne, 1-13th Foot, to be Sub-Director of Transport, from 17th January, 1879. Messrs. Hazelhurst, T. Swift, and Gunn, to be Conductors, from 1st January, 1879. Pensioner D. Brown, to be Farrier to the Transport Department, at 7s. per diem, and rations, from 1st January, 1879. Sergeant T. Early, 1-13th Foot, to be clerk to Sub-Director of Transport, from 9th January, 1879, at 1s. a day.
1 Sergeant at 8d., and 3 men at 4d., from the 2nd January, 1879, for duties at Utrecht.

Hope that helps a little.