|The Origin Of Provost Marshals|
It is thought that the Anglo-French word Provost is derived through the old English Pafost, from the Latin Praefectus, which has always implied one in authority. It is believed that the Provost Marshal was first appointed by the King, probably during the thirteenth century as an assistant to the Earl Marshal of England, in order to relieve that officer of the disciplinary side of his military duties. The Provost Marshal's role included the enforcing of Royal Writs, summoning of Feudal Barons to honour their obligations of military service to the King and enforcing the King's peace in military assemblies and camps; plus, the enforcement of military discipline in the field.
There are many references made to the Provost Marshal in Henry VIII's Articles Of War of 1513 and the duties performed by the Provost Marshal and his Provost men or Tipstaves as they were called.
In 1557 a Provost Marshal was given a HQ War Establishment of 1 Chaplain, 2 Judges, 2 Goalers and 2 Hangmen, so it is not difficult to figure out what his duties consisted of and to say the least; he was not beloved. The Provost Marshal was allotted pay of I pound per day which in those days was an extremely high rate of pay.
Overseas the Provost Marshal was not forgotten. In the Colonial Empire there were semi-permanent and permanent Provost Marshals. The earliest known provision of a permanent Provost Marshal was for the Colony of Virginia in 1611; others that are recorded include: St. Helena 1687, Gibraltar 1724 and various appointments throughout India in the eighteenth century.
During the Napolenonic Wars and in particular, the Peninsular War, there was a notable importance placed on the role of the Provost Service and as a result it was expanded in size and allotted new tasks. Besides a Provost Marshal for each Army, there were many Assistant Provost Marshals recruited from the supporting arms and services and distributed throughout each Army.
The foregoing is an extract from an article prepared by the late Master Warrant Officer Donald Tresham for the March 1980 edition of the Canadian Provost Corps Association Newsletter, titled: The Origin Of The Canadian Provost Corps. This article can be viewed in it's entirety at the following link: Origin Of The Canadian Provost Corps.