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Provost Duties During Occupation After WWII


Photo of WP (Bill) Stoker About June 1945 I met in Amsterdam with a Major(RCMP) who I think was the PM for 1st Cdn Div. We had a nice chat as a result of common ground ( both from Vancouver Island- he from Cobble Hill and me from Duncan) A few days later I joined the I Div Provost Detachment in Hilversum. Without any training whatsoever I was immediately assigned to foot patrol and other miscellaneous duties. Presumably as part of a planned consolidation the detachment moved to Nimegen and was housed in two fine residences not far from the famed bridge. The Coy HQ was located in a school building just off the main road leading to the bridge I think the CO's name was Bell. While in Nimegen we frequently responded to hassles between our soldiers and Dutch youth who, understandably, were jealous of the Canadians popularity with the girls. Our response was simple;.....dash in, extract the Canuck and leave! On other occasions we were deployed in the general area setting up check points to verify authorized vehicles and seize those so-called "liberated" ones. The British Pioneer Corps was extensively employed repairing the Nimegen Bridge approach road ...and that was something that I could not fathom; because of all the young Netherlanders who could have been so employed. When off duty I spent some happy time tooling around the Nimegen back-streets on a Norton m/c (perhaps also liberated)which was available. Of some amusement to me was the time on traffic point duty when, waving through transports carrying repatriating Seaforths, I learned from their jeers that I was now a "meat-head"

On transfer to No 11 Provost Coy I assembled, with others,on the parade square in the Apeldoorn Barracks. The RSM (I think he may have been Woods or Holland) enquired "which of you can ride?". Being a graduate of the Carriboo, Soda Creek, Cattle Ranch I proudly declared "I can!" Bingo! Traffic Section and Harley-Davidson here I come! But: seriously there was much to be done, The Canadians in Holland were killing and injuring themselves on the tree-lined roads etc, The section operated speed traps daily; often moving to a different location in the afternoon, and filling nearby fields with a vast array of the apprehended who were held, usually, for about two hours while reports were written up and vehicles stripped of unauthorized accoutrements. In reality it was pretty mickey-mouse as the "trap" was a dropped gauntlet and a clock-watch timer with an m/c back-up to catch those who refused to stop. No doubt the efforts were instrumental in reducing road casualties. I think the Corps PM was a Col Ball and the OC Traffic Section was Capt Van Horne of NB.

Now in the UK and recovered from my m/c injury I was sent to the C Pro C Depot in Aldershot where the main activity seemed to be extensive parade square drill ( probably because the Corps had acquired a British Army RSM by the name of Finney) and very picky kit and barrack inspections. I do not recall any training related to military police duties.

Next stop was No 6 Provost Coy, London. Initially I was at the St John's Wood location and duties comprised mostly evening foot patrols at London centres frequented by our troops. I had a disagreement with my patrol partner at the Piccadilly Circus Underground Station about his treatment of a Cdn soldier. On return to St John's Wood that night we settled the issue and the next day with a broken hand I was, wisely, transferred to the Store Street Barracks near Tottenham Road and closer to Central London,

The Store Street HQ seemed to be responsible for Military Police operations generally centered on Trafalgar Square, the site of Canada House ( then the UK HQ of the Cdn Army) and the nearby "Beaver Club". I did guard duty at Canada House and foot patrols of adjacent areas. When patrolling the famous Strand with my enormous partner it was always a marvel to observe how the oncoming pedestrians gave way to this imposing fellow,sadly, whose name I cannot recall but remember him as a very gentle guy. Other activities included visits to former Cdn billets to recover abandoned weapons etc, a journey to Portsmouth and a trip on a secure cog train to Dartmoor Prison to take a soldier back into custody for return to Canada. On another occasion I was sent, alone, to attend Court near Liverpool to take charge and return to London an attempted stowaway soldier. Trips for similar purposes were made to Nottingham and Swansea. Another interesting assignment was to our hospitality booth at Trafalgar Square where I enjoyed providing visit advice and free theatre tickets to our servicemen

About March 1946 I was at the Port of Southampton providing security for the ships repatriating our veterans, It was a plum assignment which I blew when I refused the former RSM of 11 Pro Coy permission to disembark for an evening on the town ( I was not aware that my Sgt had made such an arrangement!) So...next day I am back in London! Bonanza!....yes; 6 Coy HQ, scraping the bottom of the barrel had no choice but to send me, with three others, off to an urgent assignment in Paris, France. Gad, what luck!

Yes, I spent April to late August 1946 on the Left Bank of the Seine at the Hotel Du quay Voltaire ( directly across from the Louvre Art Museum)( also.... Yuk! most days I swam in the Seine). A Brit MP coy occupied the lower floors and we, Canucks, had the upper fifth with all the best views. Our mission, after taking into custody, William Wilding of Montreal, a deserter accused of war gang profiteering and manslaughter, etc., was to escort him to various locations in France to obtain a summary of evidence from witnesses and also to recover Allied property (eg. a Humber, Brit Army staff- car at Biarritz, France) The subsequent courts martial sentenced him to seven years imprisonment. In September we took Wilding back to the UK and Headly Detention Barracks and then', after some brief leave in London, we took him to Halifax and handed him over the ship's side to a Provost launch for transfer to the McNabb's Island Military Prison. A week later I was in my home province BC and contemplating the future! Little did I know that five years later I would, again, be a provost.

Just a great adventure!

W.P (Bill) Stoker