At the outset of the First World War, the Canadian Army consisted of a tiny "Permanent Force" or Regular Army and a large Non-Permanent Militia. There was no organized Corps or Regiment of Military Police in the Army, a few units had a Regimental Police or Provost section consisting of a dozen or so men under the command of a Provost Sergeant. Camps and Garrisons had locally appointed personnel functioning as Military Police, however discipline was primarily a Regimental concern, through the normal chain of command.
Soldiers temporarily assigned to Military Police duties were expected to be locally recruited, often from gentlemen of large physical stature, who might or might not have civil police experiance. Camp Police are mentioned briefly in various Militia publications prior to 1914. Major General William Otter's The Guide: A Manual for the Canadian Militia describes very briefly, the duties and identification of military police. Generally, the duties of Camp Police were to maintain order, regulate civilian tradesmen, provide escorts for defaulters and enforce sanitary regulations.
In September, 1914, a small detachment of Military Police accompanied the First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to England. Captain E.S. Clifford D.S.O. was appointed as Assistant Provost Marshal for the First Contingent. A section of Military Police consisting of a Warrant Officer and 9 Privates was with Divisional Headquarters. 1st Infantry Brigade Headquarters had a section of 4 Military Mounted Police. Upon arrival in England, the detachment underwent training with the British Military Police. Canadian Military Police appear to have adopted British methods, organisation and equipments. Unfortunately, detailed records of this period were lost due to a fire in 1917.
The Canadian Military Police Corps (CMPC) was authorised on the 15th of September, 1917 by Militia General Orders 93 & 94. The initial establishment was set at 30 Officers and 820 Warrant Officers and NCOs. Only trained soldiers were to be selected and they were required to serve a one month probationary period before being transferred. Applicants were required to have exemplary service records, most having served with existing Military Police units. The CMPC School was formed at Rockcliffe near Ottawa in June, 1918. The first commanding officer of the school was Major Baron Osborne. The basic course was of three weeks duration, upon successful completion of the course Privates were promoted to Lance Corporal.
The following is an excerpt from the Report of the Minister, Overseas Military Forces of Canada, 1918:
"The selection of personnel for Provost Service is a matter of great importance, even more so than in the case of policemen in civil life. The Military Police must be tactful, intelligent, and determined."
Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) Routine Order No. 486 on the 25th of April, 1918 authorised the CMPC as a unit of the C.E.F. Two detachments, Nos. 8 and 9, served with the C.E.F. overseas, the remaining 11 detachments were posted to their respective Military Districts in Canada. Colonel Gilbert Godson-Godson, DSO DCM, below left, was appointed as the first Provost Marshal of the Canadian Military Police Corps.
Military Police Detachments
No.1 Detachment..........London, Ont.
No.2 Detachment..........Toronto, Ont
No.4 Detachment..........Montreal, Que.
No.5 Detachment..........Quebec, Que.
No.6 Detachment..........Halifax, N.S.
No.11 Detachment.........Victoria, B.C.
No.12 Detachment.........Regina, Sask.
No.13 Detachment.........Calgary, Alta.
On the 31st of May, 1918, Privy Council Order 754 transferred the Officers and men of the Dominion Police (primarily responsible for the security of government buildings in Ottawa) to the Department of Militia & Defence. The Dominion Police became the Civil Branch of the Canadian Military Police Corps.
The CMPC in Canada played a major role in enforcing the Conscription Act and apprehending deserters and draft evaders. Military Police were permitted to wear civilian clothes in order to carry out their duties.
By 1918, the CMPC had a strength of 3,356 all ranks, distributed as follows:
CMPC Canada - 1853
CMPC Civil Branch - 969
CMPC Overseas (C.E.F) - 484
CMPC New York City - 50
The CMPC assigned to the Canadian Expeditionary Force were established at the Canadian Corps headquarters, in the Adjutant General's Branch. The CMPC were under the command of the Deputy Assistant Adjutant General (D.A.A.G.). Assistant Provost Marshals (A.P.M.) were appointed at Corps and Division levels.
The Canadian Military Police Corps was disbanded on the 1st of December,1920.The Dominion Police returned to civil duties and were absorbed by the Royal North West Mounted Police in 1920. This amalgamation resulted in the formation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
During the First World War the primary duty of the CMPC in towns and camps was maintaining order and discipline. Very few of the original Military Police in the field had police experiance, and early training was minimal. One of the most vital roles of the Military Police, traffic control, was not fully appreciated by the Canadian army until later in the war. Other duties included the guarding of VIPs, vulnerable points and setting up straggler collection points.