Two photographs have striking similarities. The men are uniformed and look seriously, almost in admonishment, at the camera. Five hold swagger sticks and most of the men sport moustaches. If not for the captions on the photographs the sleeve brassards at the bottom left-hand jacket sleeve cuff would indicate what they all shared in common – they were members of the military police.
They were not formal members of the Provost Corps, or its Canadian equivalent, but had been tasked with the responsibilities of military good order and conduct at a battalion level, in this case the 18th Battalion, CEF, stationed and training at London, Ontario during October 1914 to April 1915.
Though the quality of each photograph is not optimal, it can be derived that these men were, most of them, older than the average recruit at enlistment. But this was the defining reason for their assignment to this role. They averaged 32.5-years in age. It was not their average height (5’ 7”) or weight (159 lbs.) that defined their role. Their trade or calling seemed to have not determining influence as just over half (55%) were skilled or semi-skilled in peacetime. And, finally, it was not their place of birth that determined this (83% United Kingdom born)[i].
What probably did define their suitability for this role was their prior military service. All these men served with military units before their enlistment. The average years of service was 8.2 years and only one soldier was soldier[ii] served in only a militia unit, and probably as a drummer, as every other soldier served with line units during their prior military service.
Of the eleven men identified in the photographs, 75% survived the war. Of those that did not, two were killed in action (Privates Thomas William Dobson, reg. no. 53669 and Arthur Jefferies, reg. no. 54129). The second oldest member of the military police, Private Alfred Charles Aldersley, reg. no. 53077 dying from complications related to cancer of the bladder.
From the news paper clippings and articles of that time, the London Free Press and Advocate related some significant events that would have involved these men:
- One soldier absconded with $2,000.00 est. of cash,
- One soldier was married in a Battalion ceremony. He and his wife left for the United States with their gift money, never to return,
- Another soldier deserted under mysterious circumstances.
It appears that once the Battalion moved into West Sandling on its arrival in England for the next stage of training this role was no longer required and was taken over by the Assistant Provost Marshall, 2nd Division. There the Battalion had its share of run-ins with the law, recording the highest incident of soldiers absent without out leave in its Brigade realizing 38 men AWL out of a total of 58 cases as reported on July 18, 1915.
These men were tapped for a duty of responsibility for their experience from their military service. They look stalwart and firm and helped the 18th Battalion maintain good order and conduct during its service in London during its nascent experience as a military unit brought together by the exigencies of war.
The Data: Some tables representing the background to this article.
Country of Birth and Trade
|Clarke||Albert Edward||53091||England||Hosiery Hand|
|DobsonThomas Williams||Thomas Williams||53669||England||Farm Labourer|
|83% from UK||55% Skilled/Semi-Skilled|
Military Unit and Total Years of Military Service
|Aldersley||Alfred Charles||Rifle Brigade||16||38.25|
|Clarke||Albert Edward||Leicestershire Regiment||7||38.75|
|Dobson||Thomas Williams||Royal Horse Artillery||12||34|
|Evans||George||38th Dufferin Rifles||6||20.5|
|Hare||David||Royal Irish Rifles, 7th Regiment||12.1||38.1|
|Hodgson||James||West Yorkshire Regiment||8.25||29.25|
|Jefferies||Arthur||12th Yorkshire, 36th Regiment||3||25.75|
|Robins||Alfred||8th Company, Garrison Artillery||8||35.2|
|Windle||Arthur||Royal Rifles of Canada||2||39.25|
[i] The two Canadian born members where from Brantford, Ontario. Brantford was not normally a town from which recruits for the 18th Battalion came from. These were Private George Evans, reg. no. 54122, and Private Arthur Windle, reg. no. 53295. They enlisted at London and Windsor, Ontario respectively.
[ii] Private George Evans, reg. no. 54122 enlisted at the age of 20 with 6-years of prior military service with the 38th Dufferin Rifles.
[iii] Note that height is measured in inches.