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"Civilian Control" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on British interaction with civilian authorities in the Middle East was published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 14, Dec. 17, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


No campaign is fought without entailing problems concerning the adoption of measures for the control of the civilian population. A recent report from a Middle East theater, outlines some of the issues involving British procedure and policy in this regard.

a. Control of Civilians

The key question is the control of civilian movement. The policy is to prevent civilians from hindering the efficiency of troops and at the same time to upset civilian life as little as possible (at least in the countries of Allies). Provost officers must bear in mind political as well as purely military considerations in friendly countries, and should use civil police officers as much as possible.

b. Refugees

It is the duty of the staff to see that adequate arrangements are made for the control of refugees. "G" Branch (General Staff Branch--roughly equivalent to U.S. G-2 and G-3) will indicate which roads must be kept free of civilian traffic and refugees. "A" (Adjutant General's Branch--roughly comparable to U.S. G-1)* will then ascertain from which direction the flow of civilians may be expected and will then issue instructions for their diversion to roads or trails not being used for military traffic. Usually it will be quite outside the capacity of the provost company to undertake this task, and units or sub-units, each working under its own commander must be specially detailed for the purpose.

c. Inhabitants of Friendly Countries

The keynote of all dealings with an allied population is that everything should be done through the responsible civil official. In warfare of movement, control of civilians is necessary but difficult to organize in the time available. The aim is to prevent information being given to the enemy, either unwittingly or by agents. For this purpose "G" (I.) [Intelligence] will impose certain restrictions on movement and telephone communications which will have to be enforced by the Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal with the Military Police, in conjunction with the civil police of the country, if still functioning. The DAPM must therefore be well forward, and provide himself with the necessary proclamations relating to restrictions in the use of telephones and roads, to be read out and posted in towns and villages. When operations have become stabilized, the principle is to interfere as little as possible with civil organization in the rear zones. In the forward zones, military control has to be more stringent, and restrictions on the normal life of civilians have to be imposed. Control in rear zones is usually exercised by "G" (I.) and Field Security Police; in the forward zones by the Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal and the Military Police. Evacuation of civilians from the forward zone would be the most satisfactory solution, but this is seldom practicable.

d. Inhabitants of Hostile Countries

Evacuation from the zone of operations is the safest and most satisfactory solution, but this is difficult to arrange. "A" must make the fullest use of the existing system of civil administration supplemented by special military regulations. Provost service and Field Security Police are responsible for enforcing such regulations. Disarmament of the civil population must be carried out. (Note: Field Security Police bear a relationship to the provost service similar to that of detectives to the civil police.)

e. Cooperation Between MP and Civilian Law-Enforcement Agencies

It has been the British principle so far in Middle East theaters to persuade civil police authorities to retain and maintain control over civil populations -- the Military Police confining their activities to the control of military personnel. The head of "A" Branch, accompanied by the Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal, interviews the local civil governor or Chief of Police, and having received a promise of full cooperation, ascertains the local laws. Provided the attitude of the civil population permits, particular local laws are brought to the notice of troops for observance. The central local police headquarters will generally become a "central clearing house" for complaints from both sides, and provided prompt action is taken against offenders, active cooperation will usually be secured. It will generally be necessary for a close watch to be kept by Intelligence agencies and Military Police agencies on the activities of the local police to see that they are cooperating fully; if they are not, it probably will be necessary to take over greater control, in which case it may be necessary to ask Army HQ to send additional men for police duties.

* See Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 11, p. 32 for reference to the British General Staff, Arms and Services.


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