Frederick James Redhouse
Served with Colchester Borough Constabulary and died on Apr 25, 1917.
Having volunteered for Military service Alfred Mann, Walter Perry and Frederick John Redhouse found themselves members of the Military Police Corps. It may be helpful to provide some background of The Military Police in The Great War.
In August 1914, when the British Army was mobilized, the total strength of the Military Mounted Police (MMP) and the Military Foot Police (MFP) was 764, comprising 3 officers, 508 other ranks (Regular) and 253 other ranks (Reserves - who had been recalled to the colours).
It soon became obvious that many more military policemen were going to be needed. Within months the war had developed into an entrenched deadlock in Belgium and France, with other theatres of war established as nations joined the fight, or as German overseas possessions were fought for. Britain was forced to massively expand the army and, in the atmosphere of crisis that prevailed, military police recruiting procedures were drastically revised. Probation became a thing of the past. A number of old soldiers were enlisted directly from civilian life, as were civil policemen, and units of infantry and cavalry were transferred en bloc.
At first each divisional establishment included an Assistant Provost Marshall (APM) (usually a captain) and 25 NCOs of the MMP. Corps headquarters had a small detachment of MFP men. As far as provost duties were concerned, no instructions existed as to what these might be, and they had to be defined and acted on as they became apparent. In France these mainly included the manning of 'stragglers' posts', traffic control, dealing with crime committed by British soldiers, the control of civilians within the battle area, handling prisoners of war and patrolling rear areas and ports. Of these, perhaps the operation of 'stragglers' posts' has become the least understood, giving rise to the legend of the Redcap, pistol in hand, forcing shell-shocked Tommies forward to certain death. The facts paint an entirely different picture.
'Stragglers' posts' or battle-stops, as they were sometimes called, were collecting points behind the front lines where prisoners of war were taken over from the infantry, runners and message-carriers were checked and directed, walking wounded from the Regimental Aid Posts were directed to casualty clearing stations for evacuation and 'stragglers' were dealt with. This last-named duty involved halting soldiers who were obviously neither casualties, signallers or runners, re-arming and equipping them if necessary and sending them forward to rejoin their units, individually or in groups. With so few MMP or MFP men available this type of work was mostly done by 'trench police' or 'battle police', men from a division's cavalry squadron or cyclist company, regimental police or corps cavalry, who also directed traffic in communication trenches. All worked under the direction of the divisional APM. Later in the war a typical division in the line employed over 250 officers and men on provost duties within its area. They manned four 'straggler posts', provided a military police presence at the casualty collection post, operated various road traffic control posts and a number of mobile traffic patrols.
Military Police were familiar figures at Mons, the Marne, Ypres and the Somme. In war-ridden France, British Military Police, that is the Corps of Military Police (CMP), were used for the first time to control refugees and stragglers. The Battle of the Aisne was the first time that a traffic circuit was used, whilst the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in 1915 was the first time that traffic posts were used. The importance of traffic control in the battle area was evident from the start of the war, but a planned approach to the problem of traffic did not emerge for some time. At first divisional provost troops attended to the needs of their own formation, but this attitude frequently led to delays. Improvements were made, but not in time to prevent a serious traffic control problem at the battle of Loos in September 1915.
After the start of the battle two divisions, the 21st and the 24th, were called forward from reserve to exploit a breach in the enemy's line. Their approach march has been described by one commentator as like trying 'to push the Lord Mayor's procession through the streets of London without clearing the route or holding up the traffic'. The infantry of the two divisions arrived at the battle late and exhausted and their attack failed. In the wake of the disaster the problems of traffic control were properly tackled and corrected.
Absenteeism and desertion became an increasing problem as the war progressed. It was the duty of military policemen to apprehend deserters and hold them for trial by court martial. Much has been written about the British soldiers of the Great War who suffered death by firing squad for the crimes of cowardice or desertion. More than 3,000 sentences of death were passed by British courts martial between 1914 and 1920, of which 346 were carried out.
Two hundred and sixty-six were for desertion,
Thirty-seven for murder,
eighteen for cowardice,
seven for quitting post,
six for striking a superior officer,
five for disobedience.
three for mutiny,
two for sleeping whilst a sentry and
two for casting away arms.
A number of those shot were under suspended sentences of death and had re-offended. Against these figures should be balanced those of over 700,000 officers and men of the British forces who were killed in action. Assistant Provost Marshals and their men had the grim duty of supervising the executions of men sentenced to death. They themselves were not required to furnish the firing squads. Any serious offenders, if not sentenced to death, rapidly found their way to Field Punishment Centres or Military Prisons.
During The Great War, 'Redcap' or 'Cherrynob' became the terms applied by British soldiers to any military policemen owing to the red cap cover which had been taken into use before the war to distinguish an MP on duty, when the blue uniform then worn resembled that of a civilian policeman.
The practice of wearing red cap covers continued in the khaki service dress, but was only worn by men of the MMP and MFP. Not all the men attached for provost duties were as efficient as the regular Redcaps and their behaviour at times fell short of the standard of the corps. However, discipline in the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France and in the armies at home and in other theatres was properly maintained throughout the war.
The British suffered no serious breakdown of discipline like that in the French Army in 1917 and this was due in no small measure to the efforts of provost forces.
By the end of the war the strength of the forces under the control of the Provost Marshal of the BEF had grown to almost 15,000 all ranks, while it has been reckoned that over 25,000 men served in a provost role during the war. Some 375 lost their lives and the corps won 477 decorations including 13 DSO's (Distinguished Service Order). Their achievements had a particular cost. The pre-war soldiers' respect for the Redcap had plummeted by 1918 to an all-time low, particularly within the ranks of 'the poor bloody infantry', who saw the military policemen as the instrument of a brutal regime which had sent them onto the line again and again and had savagely punished their weaker comrades. The constant Redcap presence, in the line and out, particularly that of a minority of over-zealous or bullying MPs, exacerbated the ill-feeling.
This was a great pity, for the legend of the brutal Redcap devalued the achievements of British Provost forces, who had risen to the challenges of the war.
Although there was a lot of hatred towards the Military Police they did carry out an invaluable service and Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig, the Commander-in-chief of the BEF, held the Corps in very high regard:
'In the battle zone, where frequently they had to do duty in exposed positions under heavy fire and suffered severe casualties, the military police solved an important part of the problem of traffic control. In back areas the vigilance and zeal have largely contributed to the good relations maintained between our troops and the civilian population
The following articles printed during the First World War give further feeling for the role and responsibility of the Military Policeman.
Mounted Police At The Front. (an article published in The Police Chronicle 22 09 1916.)
The war has made changes of a very drastic character in a number of things. It is, in fact, the greatest revolution the world has ever seen, and its effects are wonderfully far-reaching.
The police force has taken a prominent part in the great world struggle, both at home and abroad. A splendid work has been done, and is being done, by the Military Mounted Police, of whose work too much cannot perhaps be known by their comrades here at home. Mounted police at home are more or less an ornamental body of men.
The Military Mounted Police at the Front are entirely for use, their duties are stern and strenuous, indeed.
In the first place, the Mounted Policeman must know every unit in his garrison or corps, where it is to be found, also its offices and officers. He must also know the towns, villages and roads in the area, see that the rights of the road are observed so that there will be no delay in the transport of troops, guns, ammunition, or supplies to the firing line, where delay would cause disastrous results.
In addition, the Military Mounted Policeman must know what roads are under enemy observation and shellfire, and regulate traffic accordingly, and see that the orders of the area commander, with respect to such roads are carried out night and day.
Go along any of the roads leading to the firing line and you will see the Military Policeman directing traffic at corners, or patrolling the road. He must also keep clear roads for guns, ammunition and supplies going up and empty vehicles coming down, look out for and collect stragglers, and see that walking wounded get to the nearest dressing station or hospital, and that ambulances are given the best opportunity for removing the wounded.
When all these things are taken into consideration, and especially having regard to the difficulties and dangers that surround the work of the Mounted Police, especially at night, when there are thousands of troops, guns, and vehicles of every description coming and going, guns booming and shells bursting in all directions, it will readily be seen that the Police at the Front are gallantly doing their duty, and living up to the best traditions of the Force.
Military Police. (Teesdale Mercury 1915)
Military Policemen are required to preserve order and to enforce discipline among soldiers. The words 'order' and 'discipline' in themselves are vague, but when some of a soldier's 'offences' are cited, the necessity for these military policemen will be more apparent. Here are a few offences; The wearing of slacks without a Doctors permission to leave off puttees; the wearing of civilian boots without medical instructions, the wearing of braid or colours, when the wearing of such braid or colours has been forbidden; the wearing of anything 'civilian' if the necessary army clothing has been provided; slovenly appearance, such as an unfastened overcoat; hands in pockets; creating disturbance; overstaying leave. For having to enforce these seemingly trifling regulations, the MP does not, as a rule, enjoy a very good name among soldiers. As in every walk of life, there are those who use authority to a wrong and mean advantage. No doubt many people have noticed 'FMP', 'GMP' or 'MMP' on the cuff bands of various soldiers. These generally wear a red covered cap, and are the Army Military Policemen. 'FMP' means 'Foot' Military Police. 'GMP' means 'Garrison' Military Police. 'MMP' is for 'Mounted' Military Police. The FMP and MMP therefore are self-explanatory, the Garrison Military Police are used in 'garrison' towns.
Police Constable Frederick John Redhouse
Frederick John Redhouse was born in Tollesbury, Essex. He served as a Police Constable with Colchester Borough Police and lived with his wife at Salisbury Avenue, Colchester. In April 1915, he volunteered for Military Service and enlisted as Serjeant P/1129 with the Military Mounted Police of the Military Police Corps.
Details of his Military Service are not known but in April 1917, he was serving with the 17th Division on the Western Front north of Arras. On April 25 he was engaged regulating traffic under shellfire when he was struck by a piece of shrapnel and died as a result of the wound he received. He is buried in grave XV. J. 10 Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, Pas de Calais, France. This is a large cemetery which contains 7,655 Commonwealth First World War graves.
On May 16, 1917, the Chief Constable of Colchester Borough Police reported the death of Constable Redhouse to the Watch Committee, the minutes of that meeting record:
'that the Mayor convey to Mrs Redhouse an expression of this Committee's deep sympathy with her in the loss which she has sustained through the death in action of her husband
At the meeting of the Watch Committee on November 21, 1917, it was resolved that the allowance granted to Mrs Redhouse should continue for a period of 26 weeks from the date when notice of her husband's death was received by the Committee.
On December 24, 1917, Frederick Redhouse was mentioned in dispatches for his action in regulating traffic whilst under shellfire.
The new troops follow after, and tread the land we won,
To them 'tis so much hillside re-wrested from the Hun;
We only walk with reverence this sullen mile of mud;
The shell holes hold our history, and half of them our blood.
Lieutenant A P Herbert
(Royal Naval Division)