Picture this: it is 0130hrs, on D + 6 in Shoalwater Bay. Your combat team is commencing your retrograde to the hard standing to indulge in a hard-earned brew. As the memories of Raspberry Creek start to fade, you are met with what you can only assume is the final test of your resilience and your unit’s morale – the military police (MP) traffic control point (TCP).

“What is your Traffic Control Number?” Fear, panic, and general discontent begin to grow in your mind as you realise that in your haste, you never tasked the Combat Team Headquarters Signals detachment to send through your road space request. Dejected, you begin to curse the crossed swords and all who wear them. This experience, though perhaps slightly theatrical, is a symptom of this piece’s focus – mobility and manoeuvre support (MMS) by MP.

Despite general consensus, MMS plays a far more critical role than forcing the lead platoon to halt during the refit-to-fight on major exercises. Battlefield circulation, command, and control is critical to the orderly, efficient, and effective establishment of mobility corridors. This article seeks to provide commanders and planners with an understanding of how MP can be effectively employed in this area to ensure that the lead trace steps off on the line of departure on the right bearing, at the right time, and receives its resupply in a timely and secure manner.

Case studies in MMS will be used as indicators for the methods and means by which MP contribute to battlefield coordination – specifically the management of Hell Fire Corner in Ypres during World War One and the Allied withdrawal during the Battle of Crete in World War Two. Planning figures, terminology, and data in this article are drawn from the standard operating procedures of the 1st Military Police Battalion.

Hell Fire Corner – Ypres, Belgium

Pre-registered, constantly observed and under routine heavy bombardment, Hell Fire Corner was known as one of the dangerous areas of the Western Front during WWI. Intersecting the arterial Menin Road, elements deploying into theatre all passed through the intersection which – due to its observation by German observation posts – was routinely targeted by heavy artillery and machine gun fire.

It was the provosts (a term for MPs with roots in the Napoleonic Wars) who held and coordinated the movement of troops and materiel through the treacherous salient. Coordinating priority of road space by phase of the battle, MP ensured that road space was available to surge troops in the lead up to major operations, pushed logistics convoys to distribution points during the refit phase to resupply the fighting elements, and opened the road for field ambulances to move the thousands of casualties back to field hospitals.

Without the prioritisation of road space, enabled principally by MP coordination and control, order would have given way to bedlam as elements moved in alignment with their own timetables.

The lesson for commanders and planners is that emplacement of MP TCPs at key junctions, release points, and as guides in treacherous terrain enables the expedient and efficient movement of assets down mobility corridors, with priority of road space determined in accordance with the main effort of the mission phases. Held broadly under the banner of route reconnaissance and control, MP MMS support is critical across the spectrum of operations in the maintenance of order and control of the battlespace.

This may manifest as priority of road space being afforded to manoeuvre elements during the departure from assembly areas to occupy forming-up points or, in the refit phase, the prioritisation of medical and recovery assets to backload casualties and recover and repair vehicles and other materiel. It may also manifest as the reconnoitring of bridges, examination of alternate routes to mitigate closures or route compromise, or the securing of defiles to relieve the burden of security from transiting elements. In engaging with MP planners, outline the required effect and grant requisite authority to the tasked element to control those routes.

In order to achieve such effect, MP’s require minimal support beyond fuel, rationing, and ammunition. However, to maximise the effect and in the interest of maintaining a combined arms mindset, the following assets can greatly enhance the efficiency of MP battlefield circulation command and control:

  1. Combat engineer reconnaissance teams for bridging and road grading.
  2. Heavy recovery assets to ensure rapid extraction of compromised vehicles on defiles.
  3. Unmanned aerial surveillance feed access to enable updates on the routes ahead during transit through TCPs.
  4. Geospatial analysts to assess viable alternate routes.

This list is not exhaustive. Any given asset which can enhance the security of a route, much like any other task, will enhance the MP’s directed effect. What is critical is empowerment to enforce priority of road space and inclusion of MP planners during all planning phases, to afford them the best opportunity to understand the commander’s intent and allocate priority accordingly.

The Battle of Crete

The Allied withdrawal during the Battle of Crete in WWII, is an exceptional example of MP pathfinding, route development and convoy control. As the German 5th Mountain Division and Fallschirmjager (paratroopers) seized airfields and forced Allied withdrawals, it was Australian and New Zealand provosts who reconnoitred the mountainous terrain for viable routes – often facing the brunt of enemy fire to facilitate the establishment of route markers.

Equipped as infantry due to the prioritisation of fighting elements, the MP moved forward of the main Allied force and established the route that the remaining 30,000 Allied soldiers would use to move south for evacuation. While the fall of Crete was a major reverse for the Allied war effort, the evacuation of 18,000 troops by the Royal Navy exemplifies the impact that control of secured routes and movement discipline have at the divisional level.

The lesson for commanders and planners from this case is that MP, when adequately equipped and armed, have the capacity to conduct detailed forward route reconnaissance and path find both primary and alternate routes to enable the maintenance of tempo and mobility. The above example – though in extremis – highlights that with enhanced survivability and security, MP are capable of entering into high threat environments to establish and control mobility corridors, which may then be used by manoeuvre elements to prosecute the close fight.

Once established, MP constitute an active information feed. This feed can and will inform on impediments on the planned route, determine feasibility of alternate routes, and inform of hostile movement of threat actors along the route. Combined with other surveillance and observation platforms, MP constitute an impactful, survivable, and critical control node for commanders across the spectrum of operations.

It is of note that in defensive operations, the criticality of movement control is a key area for MP involvement. The control of withdrawal routes, the establishment of secure reconsolidation points, and the control of the flow of traffic into main defensive positions are all tasks of which MP can undertake to relieve fighting elements. Incorporation of MP will provide further benefits in defensive or predominantly static operations which will be outlined in the next article in this series on security operations.


The above cases have highlighted two examples of MP contribution to mobility and manoeuvre planning and execution. These both constitute a high tempo, conventional warfare setting for the employment of MP MMS roles. Engagement of MP in stability operations in MMS may manifest as traffic control, vehicle search points, route clearance, and the opening and closing of mobility corridors to civilian or neutral traffic to enable friendly movement. A key consideration of all the above, however, is endurance and the operational viability period (OVP).

At the platoon level, MP can operate in perpetuity. Logistics support, provided by the hosting element, will enable the maintenance of a MP platoon in MMS tasks such as TCPs and convoy control for the entire course of a mission or operation. Such operations will typically be fire team to section sized, with the rest cycle being internally managed, and a platoon commander operating out of the combat team or battle group headquarters for liaison and ease of communication.

At the section level, MP endurance is typically limited to 24 hours before reinforcement or relief in place. As above, the operation of fire team size elements on route control tasks will enable stretches of up to 5km at a time to be controlled. Extension beyond this geographical horizon is subject to the fire team’s communications architecture and logistics support, but greater distances than this are likely to compromise the security of the forward fire team. As in all circumstances, multipliers such as priority of fire support, mutual support by forward screen or guard forces, or friendly positions who can mutually support and house forward elements will extend the OVP of the element on a case-by-case basis.


This article has sought to provide an introduction and outline of how MP can support the manoeuvre commander. Other aspects related to MMS, such as military straggler management and internally displaced person management, while relevant, will be addressed in the next article in this series – ‘MP Support to Security’.

Should you wish to read more on this topic, you can access LP 0.3.0 Employment of Military Police (it currently remains titled and labelled as LWD 0-1-3 Employment of Military Police) (DPN link only)