The sword of Gideon – He who struck down the evil doers
HISTORY OF THE SACMP
After World War 2 the SA Army was quickly run down to a small land force. All that was kept was an armoured division for the possible use with Allied forces in the Middle East. Many Permanent Force members were forced to resign or accept reductions in rank. 1948 saw the introduction of compulsory registration and a ballot system for posting recruits to the remaining Active Citizen Force (ACF) units came into effect.
This run-down resulted in the SACMP almost becoming non-existent.Specific mention was still made of Military Police detachments in the 1957 Defence Act, together with the positions of Chief and Assistant Disciplinary Officers. This title replaced those of Provost Marshal and Assistant Provost Marshal provided for in the 1935 Defence Act. Hand-made versions of ADO armbands exist and it can therefore be assumed that these were worn by officers appointed as Assistant Disciplinary Officers.
Detachments were situated throughout the then Union, for example, at Wynberg, Durban, Potchefstroom and Voortrekkerhoogte. 14 Field Provost Unit, one of these units, moved around from Voortrekkerhoogte to Piet Retief, Barberton and then to Potchefstroom. There were no military police officers, and officers from other corps were appointed as ADO's of Command Provost Detachments with SACMP NCO's and WO's in charge of the actual policing functions.
During the period from 1946 until 1962 Permanent Force members of the SACMP underwent courses with members of other corps at the Permanent Force Training Centre (now Army College) and then went to the SA Police College for advanced training. The scales of justice badge was replaced during 1958 when the existing SACMP cap badge came into use.
An Active Citizen Force Unit, Regiment Voortrekkerhoogte (RVH) was established on 22 April 1960. RVH was an extremely busy ACF unit. It had self-accounting status and its members were managed and administered directly by its own Regimental Headquarters. The RHQ later moved to Dequaria at DHQ, and later came to rest at Hut 142, Hendrik Potgieter Rd, Voortrekkerhoogte. It was here that RVH came into its own functioning with a Regimental Headquarters and four companies. The companies were a Divisional Company, a Communication Zone Company, an Unconventional Company and a Reserve Company. Each company was divided into platoons and sections.
The replacement of the ballot system by nine months full time National Service led to the establishment of Service School (now Personnel Services School) in 1962. The School had three training wings under its command, namely an Administrative Services Corps (ASC) wing, a Medical Services wing and a Provost wing. At this time the SACMP fell under the control of the Director ASC.
Courses were presented for both officers and other ranks of the Permanent Force, Citizen Force, Commando's and ballotees.
Believed formed during 1965 a Full Time Force (FTF) training element, namely 4 Provost Company, was formed at Services School and became responsible for the training of all National Service Military Police. Distinguished by orange and black shoulder titles, "4 PRO KOMP" on the right shoulder and "4 PRO COY" on the left shoulder of the standard "bunny jacket". The company had its headquarters in Artillery Row, and then in Services School. On completion of their training in 4 Provost Company the recruits were posted to Regiment Voortrekkerhoogte.
4 Provost Company moved from Service School to Military Base Wonderboom during 1968. This became the permanent base of the company until it was dis-established during 1976. The Provost Wing continued to function under the colours of Services School. In 1972 the first retreat parade held by the military police since the end of the war was held by 4 Provost Company
1 SA Corps was established during August 1974 and comprised two divisions, namely 7 Infantry Division and 8 Armoured Division.
The Administrative Services Corps was disestablished in 1975 and during August 1975 Regiment Voortrekkerhoogte was also officially disbanded. Since it had been a self-accounting unit for 15 years, it was a large-scale exercise to trace all the outstanding items of equipment and account for them. After much sweat (the QM conveniently resigned), the OC was still able to close the books without a single outstanding item. After this 1 SA Corps was joined. Two of the four companies from RVH were attached to the two divisions of 1 SA Corps, ie 7 Infantry Division and 8 Armoured Division, and became 7 and 8 Provost Companies respectively. The remaining two companies were to be known as 11 and 12 Pro Companies. At the same time a provost element departed for the SWA operational area for duties.
At the beginning of 1976 the Provost Wing of the Services School was dis-established, and the Provost Wing staff moved to Military Base Wonderboom where together with 4 Provost Company it was used to form a new unit, the Provost Training Centre, on 4 October 1976. Cloth shoulder patches were worn on the "bunny jackets", but these were later changed to metal and enamel flashes when the 1976 Pattern Service Dress was taken into use. When 4 Provost Company moved to Military Base Wonderboom during 1968, they shared the base with various other units. For a period Military Base Wonderboom had its own commander, but during 1977 the OC of the Provost Training Centre was also appointed as OC Military Base Wonderboom. The Provost Training Centre was also the accounting unit for the State Presidents Guard.
During 1976 the SACMP once again became an purely SA Army corps when the SA Air Force Police and SA Navy Police were established during that year. The titles of Assistant Disciplinary Officer and Provost Detachment fell into disuse on 18 September 1976 and were replaced with the newer titles of OC Provost Unit and Provost Unit. An example is the detachment at Natal Command which became a full unit on 15 March 1977. The last CDO's were appointed during the early 1970's and were all military police officers.
At this time the armband worn by NCO members of the SACMP was similar to that worn by the Royal Military Police.
Over the period 1976 until 1977, military police from the ex-RVH companies were scheduled on a rotational basis for operational duties in Grootfontein (South West Africa), and were deployed in Rundu and other bases, as well as in Angola. Personnel were deployed for three months for the first time, but strong links were built. The genuine "enemy" were encountered for the first time and POW Cages were a new experience. Distances caused problems and exacted their toll. The MP's often had a rough time, but misuse was a problem. Portuguese and "assimilados" left Angola, and were assembled at Grootfontein and shipped into Walvis Bay. They, together with the "souvenirs" and illegal articles from troops from returning unit personnel, caused problems for the MP's - so much so that "booby-traps" were set for them. In retrospect, it was unforgetable experience that provided lessons never to be exchanged by those who were there. Apart from that, the post-war SACMP had their operational baptism of fire and learnt South-West Africa.
April 1977 was an historic month for the SACMP as the first female military policewomen since the end of the Second World War entered service. Three other women soon joined her. All of them did their basic training at George and then a four week course at the Provost Training Centre.
On 4 October 1977, the first birthday of the Provost Training Centre, a new shoulder flash was taken into use. The badge integrated the corps colours given before the war with a double edged sword of justice and a Gordian knot. These symbolised the defensive and offensive nature of the Military Police together with the decisive solving of problems and crime.
During 1978 and 1979, 1 SA Corps was disbanded and placed on the "Blueprint" rack for later use. The two Corps companies, that 11 and 12 Provost Companies, were once again orphans, whilst the two divisional companies had homes. 11 Pro Coy, moved to the Presas Building. Both companies underwent administration and secondary provost tasks.
Another milestone was reached during 1978 when the first SACMP officer to hold the appointment of Director Provost Services (previously known as Senior Disciplinary Officer) was appointed.
During June 1978 the headdress of the corps underwent a modification when the earlier Service Dress Army caps and their detachable red covers were replaced with a cap that had the red top as an integral part.
At the same time the earlier armlets were replaced by a pattern that fastened at the epaulette. A similar pattern had been worn at Grootfontein during 1976.
On 23rd October 1979, Military Base Wonderboom was closed and the Provost Training Centre was renamed as the Provost School. The School was organised into two training wings; Basic Training Wing and Advanced Training Wing.
During the eighties 11 Pro Coy was drawn into the newly established Eastern Transvaal Command, and 12 Pro Coy into Far North Command. They remained conventional provost companies as opposed to the CF elements of the Command Provost Units. Both companies had homes again.
Provost School remained at Wonderboom until towards September/October 1981 when the entire unit moved to Voortrekkerhoogte. The new lines were receiving Military Police for the second time in their history - they were originally occupied by the 1st Battery SAFdA during the late twenties and early thirties. The lines were also barely 500 metres from the lines of the wartime MPC.
The move resulted in the loss of the units mess facilities and of the more than adequate grounds in the vicinity of Wonderboom usable for training, but left the School in close proximity to the Detention Barracks and the Command Provost Unit. This allowed practical training to be undertaken in the actual work environment.
During 1981, the third SACMP officer became Director Provost Services. The Corps Symposium, held in late 1981, approved the use of a chilli red beret by members of the corps under certain conditions. They were as compulsory wear for all ranks up to and including captain when not performing a police function. It was decided that members of the corps would bear the costs themselves. Final approval from Chief of Staff Personnel was not forthcoming and the beret was relegated to limited use within Provost School lines only. This ruling required a frantic changing of headdress at the gates when instructors went in or out to the messes or on other purposes. The beret flash was originally bars of red, black and red.
To promote competition between the provost units, the Director instituted a trophy for the best Unit of the Year. To further improve the image of the Corps, a Sword of Office for the Director was also introduced during 1984. In October 1984, the first African Military Policeman received his 10 years Good Service Medal. SSgt Simon Makhunga, based at 21 Battalion Provost Sub-Unit, had not originally joined the army as a Military Policeman but soon changed over.
After a five year battle, approval for the corps beret was finally given by Chief of Staff Personnel on 1st January 1986. The beret flash was also changed to bars of red, yellow and black. The beret could forthwith be worn by all personnel (not only Provost School), provided that the wearer was not directly or physically involved in specific policing functions such as point duty, investigation, etc.
The School was deployed for the first time in a COIN role on 14th June 1986, when three companies moved into the Mamelodi East area of Pretoria for State of Emergency duties. Whilst in the area for four weeks, the companies were used as escorts for council vehicles, patrols, cordon and search operations and COMOPS with the local inhabitants. Approximately three weeks after returning from Mamelodi, another company was deployed on similar duties in Tembisa near Johannesburg.
During 1988 the Services School, the previous home of the Provost Wing and 4 Provost Company, closed. Personnel from Provost School were involved when the Services School colours were laid up for posterity.
After a short life of nine years, Provost School was awarded National and Unit Colours on 20 October 1988. These colours, were handed over during an impressive colours parade by the then Chief of the SADF General J.J. Geldenhuys. General Geldenhuys was accompanied by the Chief of the Army Lt Gen A.J. Liebenberg and the Officer Commanding Northern Transvaal Command Brig J.P.M. Moller (previously a military policeman from RVH).
Commemorative envelopes for SACMP for the fiftieth birthday of the corps were issued by Post Office. Copies of these envelopes were handed over by Col F.J. Thirion (D Pro) to the then Chief of Army Staff Logistics Maj Gen Deon Mortimer.
On 4 November 1988, a Provost Medal parade was held at DHQ in Potgieter Street, Pretoria. Various medals were awarded by Maj Gen P.J. Pienaar, SM together with Col F.J. Thirion. The Guard of Honour was provided by Pro School under the command of Maj S. Middleton and under control of Capt de Wet Geldenhuys and WO2 Genis.
Source: The Unofficial SACMP Page