- 1939-46

"The military police 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 that 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 the traffic and ensuring its rapid passage."
"General Sir Myles Dempsey KCB, KBE, DSO, MC"

Between the Wars the Corps dropped dramatically, but with the outset of World War Two it again rose to many thousands. The well defined tasks of the military police - maintenance of discipline, prevention and detection of crime, and traffic control - were employed to the full in all theatres, commencing with Expeditionary Force, to France, Italy, North Africa, the Far East and finally Germany itself. The provost were at Monte Cassino and Dunkirk; El Alamein and Malta; they dropped at Arnhem and they were the first on the beaches.
  Until 1940 all criminal offences committed by British soldiers were investigated by civilian police. During January 1940 a Special Investigation Branch of the CMP was established.
As the war progressed the CMP divided into three distinct parts
  • Provost Wing. The famous "Red Caps".
  • Traffic Control Wing. CMP(TC) personnel were organised into armed companies each responsible for a specific area. Although they belonged to the Corps of Military Police they carried out all instructions issued by Movement Control.
  • Vulnerable Points Wing. It was the task of the "Blue Caps" to provide guards for installations and buildings that were seen as vulnerable points, such as ammunition and petrol dumps, docks, locks, bridges and power stations. They were organised into sections each with 7 privates under command of a lance corporal. They were armed with SMG's and batons, and used guard dogs during nights. Their primary duty was anti-sabotage.

Each wing wore differing insignia and dress items in order to make them distinctive from the normal fighting "Tommy".


Uniforms and Insignia of the CMP

CMP NCO 1940 France ATS Provost NCO 1942 London CMP NCO 1942 London
CMP NCO 1943 Italy CMP NCO 1944 NW Europe CMP NCO 1944 NW Europe
CMP Cap badge Cap Badge
Warrant Officers and NCO's of the Corps of Military Police wore the cap badge illustrated at left. Initially made in gilding metal, the badge was also made in plastic during the war when metal resources became scarce. The badge was characterised by the use of the Royal Cypher of the reigning monarch.
Provost Marshal Provost Marshal
Officers employed at the War Office in London wore horizontally divided red and black brassards with the Royal Crest in gilding metal worn on the red part. Just before June 1937, the Provost Marshal began use of such a brassard with the red letter "A".
Provost Marshal staff officer brassard

Assistant Provost Marshal

Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal

Provost Marshal staff officers
Officers at Command Headquarters wore red, black and red brassards. Provost Marshals wore red lettering "PM".

On 1 June 1940, the decision was made that all officers of the Provost Service would wear identifying brassards. Officers who held provost appointments such as Assistant Provost Marshal (APM) and Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal (DAPM) continued to wear brassards similar to that of Provost Marshal's of Command headquarters.
Pre-1940 CMP Brassard

1940 CMP Brassard

Military Police
Regimental officers attached to units of the Corps of Military Police wore brassards that were identical to those worn by other ranks. When performing military police duties these brassards were worn on the upper right arm. This brassard was initially dark blue with red lettering, but this changed to black with red lettering during 1940. This brassard was worn on the right upper arm by every member of the CMP on service in the United Kingdom and on foreign service.
Garrison Military Police Garrison Military Police
Blue-black brassards with red lettering "GMP" were worn by members of the Garrison MIlitary when on service in the United Kingdom and on foreign service. When performing military police duties these brassards were worn on the upper right arm.
CMP Slip-on shoulder title  Slip-on shoulder titles
Before 1939 the use of metal shoulder titles on the uniforms of other ranks was probably the most common manner of indicating the corps, regiment or formation of the wearer. In this way the Corps of Military Police used the letters "CMP"on Service Dress and Khaki Drill, but not on tunics.
When battle-dress was introduced in 1938 there was no intention that these metal shoulder titles were to be used. Instead slip-on titles with black letters on khaki cloth were to be worn not only on battle-dress but also on the Khaki Drill jacket and the Khaki Drill Once again CMP members used the letters "CMP" but not on tunics.
In September 1941, various regiments and corps serving at home stations were ordered to stop the use of these slip-on titles. The CMP were affected by ACI 1681 (6 Sep 1941) when distinguishing strips were introduced and the use of shoulderr titles was stopped. However barely a month later ACI 2091 (25 Oct 1941) authorised the retention of slip-on titles on battle-dress by the CMP (Provost Wing).
CMP arm-of-service strip Arm-of-service Distinguishing Marks
In order to make officers more distinguishable from other ranks when battle-dress was worn and to clearly indicate the various arms of serviceit was decided to adopt the following procedure for units other than the Household Cavalry and the Foot Guards (ACI 1118 dated 18 Sep 1940).
  • On the battle-dress blouse shoulder straps officers were to wear a coloured backing to their embroidered rank badges of rank worn.
  • All ranks were to wear a 2" x 1/4" coloured material strip on each battle-dress blouse sleeve immediately below any corps or divisional sign worn. Personnel who wore battle-dress were also to wear these strips on their greatcoats. For the CMP and the MPSC this strip was red.
CMP Regimental designations  ACI 2587 of 1941 dated 27 December 1941 amended these instructions. The arm-of-service strips continued to be worn on each sleeve of the battle-dress blouse. Warrant Officers, NCOs and men of the CMP (Provost Wing) continued to wear the authorised shoulder titles on their Battle-Dress blouse, Service Dress or khaki Drill Jacket or Tropical shirt shoulder straps, except when ordered to remove them for security reasons during active operations by the local military authority . These titles were not worn on the greatcoat.

ACI 905 of 12 June 1943, combined all the changes previously introduced. In order to indicate the regiment or corps to which personnel belonged and at the same time to foster `esprit de corps', all ranks below that of Colonel serving at home were to wear a regimental designation at the top of both sleeves of the Battle-Dress blouse or, for other ranks only, on Service Dress jackets when applicable to the scale of clothing. This meant that the CMP now wore:

  • Shoulder titles with black letters "CMP" printed onto a red background
  • Red arm-of-service strips
  • Red backings for officers rank insignia
RedcapCloth Cap Covers. The red cap was probably the most distinctive feature of the CMP during World War Two. This feature was produced by means of removable cloth covers that were worn as follows over the standard Service Dress caps when members of the CMP were on duty:
  • Provost Wing - red.
  • Vulnerable Points Wing - oxford blue.

For a while CMP personnel serving with field formations did not wear the red cap, but had to wear a field service cap when they did not wear steel helmets. This instruction was revised in 1943 in terms of ACI 1641 of 1943.

CMP Helmet bandsSteel Helmet Bands. So that members of the CMP were still easily recognisable when personnel wore steel helmets it was decided during November 1940 that their helmets were to bear the regimental badge of white letters "MP" on a square blue background and a bright red band around the helmet. The square blue regimental badge was placed in the centre front of the helmet. By April 1944 helmets bands for CMP personnel had been authorised (ACI 494 dated 5 April 1944) and expanded to the following:
  • Provost Wing - red band.
  • Vulnerable Points Wing - oxford blue.
  • Traffic Control Wing - white.

These bands were also painted onto the standard pulp motorcycle crash helmets worn by the CMP.

TC Arm badge

VP arm badge

Distinctive Arm Badges
In addition to the white and oxford blue bands painted around the steel helmets of the TC and VP Wings of the CMP, these personnel were also identified by 1 1/2in square cloth badges worn just below the shoulder seam on each sleeve of the Service Dress jacket, the Battle-Dress blouse, the Khaki Drill jacket and the Greatcoat. After June 1943 the badges were worn below the corps designation and above the arm-of-service strip. For TC Wing personnel, the badge had red lettering "TC" whilst for VP Wing personnel the letters were "VP".
Traffic Control Traffic Control armlet
In 1943 an exercise, named "SPARTAN", was held in England between British and Canadian forces. The purpose of the exercise was to identify possible operational and administrative problems during the occupation of a foreign port. A result of this exercise was a decision that military police involved with the control of traffic should wear an armlet to increase their authority. This armlet was worn on the upper right arm by personnel from the CMP (TC) branch when utilised on traffic control duties.

"The Battle of Normandy and subsequent battles
would never have been won but for the work and co-operation of the Provost on the traffic routes.
Field Marshall B.L. Montgomery, 1945.

Insignia of other British WW2 police organisations
Military Provost Staff Corps

MPSC Cap badge - George VI cypher
Military Provost Staff Corps
All officers and other ranks of the Military Provost Staff Corps wore black brassards with red lettering "MPSC". These personnel were not part of the Corps of Military Police but were however still controlled by the War Office Provost Marshal. During the war they manned Military Prisons, Detention Barracks and Field Punishment Institutions of the British Armed Forces.

Members of the MPSC also wore the cap badge illustrated at left. Like that of the CMP, it was distinguished by the use of the Royal Cypher, (G VI R).
Royal Air Force Police Royal Air Force Police
Other ranks of the Royal Air Force Police (RAFP) black & red brassards with red lettering "RAFP".
Pre-1940 Regimental Police

1940 Regimental Police

Regimental Police.
Personnel from units who were utilised as Regimental Police wore dark blue brassards with red lettering "RP". The background of this brassard was changed to black during 1940. Some units placed their cap badge between the letters whilst some even had the letters cast in brass.

The brassard was originally worn on the left upper arm, but in 1941 this moved over to the right upper arm. During 1943 in order to confusion with the MP brassards worn by the CMP, the position of the RP brassard was moved to the right cuff regardless of whether traffic control sleeves were being worn. This change in position was authorised by an Army Council Instruction (ACI 836) dated 29 May 1943.
Field Security Police Field Security Police
All officers and other ranks of the Field Security Police wore green brassards with black lettering "FSP". These personnel were not part of the Corps of Military Police