Australian Military Police in Vietnam
The first Australian Military Police to enter South Vietnam was a section of the 1st Division Provost Company (1 DIV PRO COY), arriving in Saigon, South Vietnam, on 12 May 1965. They were part of the Australian Force Vietnam HQ (AFV HQ), Saigon.
The Military Police in South Vietnam were all members of the Royal Australian Army Provost Corp (RAA PRO) and belonged to the only Australian Military Police unit in South Vietnam, known as the Australian Force Vietnam Provost Unit (AFV PRO).
The following is a summary of the AFV PRO organisation in South Vietnam:
The AFV PRO were in three locations that were the Australian presence in South Vietnam:
- Vung Tau,
- Nui Dat
Vung Tau was AFV PRO HQ for the Australian Military Police (Provosts) in South Vietnam.
Vung Tau also contained 2MCE (2nd Military Corrective Establishment) which was the “Army’s Jail”. Soldiers who committed offences against Australian Military Law were often sentenced to a period of “detention” at 2MCE. 2MCE was staffed by members of the Provosts Corps as well as selected CPLs from Arms Corps units like Infantry, Artillery and Armour to assist with running the facility.
Vung Tau comprised two Sections of MP with a WO2, 2 SGT and 10 CPL per section. There was also a detachment from the Royal New Zealand Military Police based with the Australian Provosts, sharing the tasks of policing the soldiers serving in South Vietnam.
Vung Tau was also the home to 1ALSG (1st Australian Logistic Support Group) which was the Australian Army logistic support base for all troops in South Vietnam.
Vung Tau also contained the Australian R&C Centre (Rest & Convalescence Centre) for Australian troops who were entitled to “short leave”. Vung Tau was a major area for the Provosts, especially having their HQ and the force R&C centre based there.
The MPs worked shift work whilst at Vung Tau and comprised a 0600 to 1800 hrs shift or 1800 to 0600 hrs shift. This was done for 27 days straight, then had one day off and changed to the opposite shift of night or day for another 27 days.
A typical day shift would be to commence the maintenance of the unit area at 0600 hrs then proceed on patrol of Vung Tau or patrol of highway to ‘checkpoint charlie’ and return or tasks as directed.
A typical night shift would begin at 1800 hrs. The MPs would commence patrolling Vung Tau until the curfew of Australian troops at 2200 hrs. Then they would round up any “curfew breakers” until 0200 and return them to 1ALSG, then commence patrol of town until 0600 hrs
Some of the tasks that the Provosts provided at Vung Tau were:
- Discipline Patrols
- Armed vehicle escorts to ‘Check Point Charlie’ halfway between Nui Dat and Vung Tau
- Escorts on US LCM (Landing Craft Mechanised) from Vung Tau to Saigon and return
- VIP escorts
- TAOR (Tactical Area of Responsibility) patrols. These patrols were made by the Military Police (Provosts) to check the perimeter and defences of the Provosts allocated area at Vung Tau. They were looking for breaches of security, possible enemy “booby-traps” or signs of enemy activity in their areas.
- Military policing support as required
Nui Dat was the area that 1ATF was based at. 1ATF (1st Australian Task Force) was the combat element of the Australian Army in South Vietnam and comprised a Brigade size force of Infantry, Artillery, Armour, Signals, Transport and other support units typical of a “fighting brigade”.
The Provosts had a detachment of Military Police based here with a WO2, 1 SGT and 10 CPL MP that belonged to the AFV PRO, and also the 1ATF PW (1st Australian Task Force Prisoner War) compound.
Some of the tasks that the Provosts provided at Nui Dat were:
- Armed convoy escort to ‘Check Point Charlie’ and ‘Horseshoe’
- Collection of VC (Viet Cong) prisoners captured after fierce fighting with Australian troops. The Provosts would often fly out to the “contact”, take control of the PW (Prisoner War) and return to Nui Dat for care and interrogation at the PW compound (unofficially referred to as “The Playboy Club”). The PW was interrogated by members of the AUST INT CORPS (Australian Intelligence Corp) and ARVN (Army Republic of Vietnam). The PW did not spend long at the 1ATF PW compound and was processed quickly through to other agencies both American and Australian for more thorough interrogation and intelligence gathering.
- Joint mobile patrols from Nui Dat to Bien Hoa. The patrol comprised an MP from AUST,USA, NZ and ARVN forces and was conducted in an armoured vehicle called a VT100. The patrol was to check that the road was safe and secure, provide escorts to any convoys or troops and refurbishment of road signs if required.
- On occasions some MPs were sent from Nui Dat for patrols with the Infantry or Armoured units to provide PW support.
- VIP escorts.
- TAOR (Tactical Area of Responsibility) patrols. These patrols were made by the Military Police (Provosts) to check the perimeter and defences of the Provosts allocated area at Nui Dat. They were looking for breaches of security, possible enemy “booby-traps” or signs of enemy activity in their areas.
- Military Policing support as required.
Saigon was the Capitol of South Vietnam and home to COMAFV (Commander Australian Force Vietnam). Saigon also contained the FWMAO (Free World Military Assistance Organisation), which housed the various countries HQ/liaison for operations in South Vietnam. The Provost Corp had a detachment of Provosts from AFV PRO based in Saigon throughout the conflict. The Provosts had an office in the FWMAO building and delivered Provost support to Australian troops when in Saigon. Some of the tasks that the Provosts provided in Saigon were:
- Discipline patrols
- VIP escorts
- Military Policing support as required.
A good report, however, the first Provost Unit that served in Vietnam
Departed on the HMAS Sydney on 27 May 1965 arriving in Vung Tau on
8th June 1965.
There were six members in the Provost Unit. Paired in two’s they took
armour carrying Landing Craft up the Saigon River to Saigon,
From there it was by road to Bien Hua.
It would take me some time to go through the rest of the start of the
RAA Provost in Vietnam.
I know what happened because I was one of the first in and later wrote
a book about our experiences there.
I would be happy to send you some page copies from the book as I only
have my own copy left.
If interested, please send me your home postal address and I shall send
you what I think you want to know.
Ex Sgt Raymond D Bate. BEM.
Well what a blast from the past, worked with all those guys in pic. 1965 – 66, from L – R Sgt Val Petersen NZ MP, Sgt Green 716 MP Battalion US , Cpl Eric Watkins Aust MP – no idea of name of the VIetnamese Police Inspector but we always had one right to time of commencement of our own independent Au patrols out of Saigon. The Dat wasn,t built then, very early days in 65.
Comment from Ray Bate as above, he and I are only ones still alive out of the first 6 sent with the 1RAR Group in 65.
Thanks for the Pic, Brings back some memories, best regards Hans Hurij Cpl 1ALSC