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History of the MPS

Discipline and Diet of Soldiers

In the spring of 1895, a committee was formed under Lord Monkswell to 'consider the regulations affecting the discipline and diet of soldiers confined in military prisons and to report whether any changes were desirable'. The man who had been in the background of that Committee and must have had considerable influence on it, was Lt Col Michael Clare Garsia.

Before the formation of the Committee, Garrison troops were were used to Provost Military Prisons and exercises such as 'shot drill', the shifting of a pyramid of heavy shot from one place to another, was widely practiced.

The Monkswell Committee

At the time of the Monkswell Committee, Garsia had been acting as Inspector General of Military Prisons but he only took over the post officially in 1898. By this time some of the reforms from the Report were taking effect. Garsia wanted more and in his first report he recommended that all future military prisoners report in uniform, carrying their kit. Maintenance of this was to be part of their military training.

The Governors would be expected to take military parades and inspect their charge as soldiers. In his next report he points out the difficulty he had in recruiting warders capable of carrying out instruction within the new system. He therefore recommended that the staff should be made up of NCOs who are possessed of the military spirit and thoroughly efficient as instructors. He then laid down the qualities and qualifications he would require for this new Corps of men, which he would call the Military Prison Staff Corps.

Military Prison Staff Corps

In 1901 the MPSC was officially formed and they slowly started taking over the staffing of military prisons all over the world. The old civilian warders were not happy, though some did enlist in the Army to join this new Corps. Some felt everything was becoming too easy and slipshod, but Governors began asking for the new NCOs as they were engendering a new spirit amongst the prisoners.

Such was the success of the new system that in 1906 there were other changes. The Corps was renamed the Military Provost Staff Corps and some of the prisons were renamed Detention Barracks. The men were given Detention Barrack (DB) numbers and were no longer called prisoners, but Soldiers under Sentence. It meant that they no longer had the stigma of prison attached to them.

The Last Military Prison

The last Military Prison, Shepton Mallett, was opened in 1939 and closed down in 1966. The MPSC remained in operation until the formation of the Adjutant General's Corps (AGC) in 1992, when it was integrated within the Provost arm of the AGC and is now known as the Military Provost Staff.

Lt Col Garsia died at his home in Brompton in April 1903 aged 65. He had been awarded his CB two years before, but his greatest reward must have been the knowledge that he had changed completely the military penal system and taken it away from Victorian thinking.

 

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