By Major B F White, MBE
Assistant Provost Marshal, HQ Vienna Garrison
There are many examples of military co-operation in the world today. Such co-operation generally possesses a common doctrine, is bound by treaty, and in most cases seeks to standardize in order to achieve efficiency with one unique exception. Although this exception functions for the world to see, there is no treaty that acknowledges its existence. It has uniformity except that of purpose. Probably the most remarkable thing about it that whereas three of its four members are Western Powers, the fourth is - Soviet Russia. The background of this organization is Vienna, jointly occupied by French, British, United States and Russians, and situated like a crowded little island well within the Russian zone of occupation. In both of these respects it is similar to Berlin, but there the similarity ends, for today in Vienna conditions are comparatively normal, and there also, now in its seven years of service and more closely knit than ever, works the subject of this article - THE INTERNATIONAL PATROL.
“A Rose by Any Other Name…”
Perhaps wisely, its original title has been allowed to lapse. It started life as the “Vienna Inter-Allied Military Police Patrol,” which besides being a large mouthful is quite a strain on the interpretation of the word “Allied.” Other than in the working of this patrol where else in the world could soldiers of the Atlantic Pact and the Cominform be truly described as “ Allied”?
Official Photographs, U.S Army.
Just off the famous Ringstrasse in the centre of Vienna is the Palace of Justice, one wing of which is used as headquarters of Vienna Inter-Allied Command, This building is both well placed and aptly named to be the station for such a patrol.
“Introducing Dan, Marcel, Ivan and Tommy…”
About 12.45 pm daily a group of soldiers assemble there whose uniforms, arms and equipment have only one thing in common: a brassard depicting four national flags and the words “International Patrol” in English, French and Russian. They greet one another with handshakes, chaffing and laughter, showing that humour, too, is international. They smoke Chesterfields, Players, Gauloises and long, cardboard-tipped Russian cigarettes the aromas mingling under the trees which line the forecourt.
“Hello, there,” greets Pte. Boone from Ohio. His well-cut uniform, shining leather equipment, and silk neck-cloth give him a Beau Brummel air belied by a low-slung, serviceable looking pistol and plated handcuffs. He looks a picture of health and contentment, and so he should, for his pay and service conditions are generous, almost luxurious, by European standards. He is the driver and radio operator of the patrol vehicle and, if he is a Regular soldier, probably has his private car for off-duty moments.
“Bonjour,” responds Sergt. Marcel Blondeau, of Paris. He is the sage of the patrol, senior both in age and police service. All of the French MP’s of the Patrol are regular Gendarmerie with the rank of sergeant whilst performing their tour of military service. He wears a smart dark-blue kepi with silver piping, his cap-badge is a grenade, the insignia of the Gendarmerie. His equipment is simple, serviceable, and shows evidence of United States origin. Sergt. Blondeau’s philosophical outlook and cheerful disposition are a valuable contribution to the Patrol: his enigmatic smile when conversations veer round to the “fair sex” aroused the usual conjectures.
As the Palace of Justice is within sight of the Central Russian Kommandantura, the warmth of Pte. Ivan Ivanov’s greeting will be in inverse ratio to the visibility. Not many Russian soldiers get the chance of serving in such a flesh-pot as Vienna, and Pte. Ivanov well knows that undue cordiality with us capitalistic soldiers (NCO’s under pay restriction please note) may result in a change of station that cannot fail to be other than for the worse. Short, sallow, he wears a loose-fitting olive-khaki blouse gathered at the waist by a leather belt, wide, generously cut breeches of the same material, and soft leather top boots. During winter he will wear, in addition, a long greatcoat, reaching almost to his ankles, and
Discard an unattractive service cap for a grey fur hat with ear flaps, the effect being both smart and practical. Pte Ivanov and many of his comrades are Asiatics, a fact often forgotten, and they no not readily share our Western sense of humour. Consequently a friendly quip may cause him to feel that he has lost “face,” and the jest reported in all seriousness as an “insulting remark.” During the early years of the Patrol, the Russian member had little compunction about threatening with a cocked and loaded pistol any of the other members with whom he did not agree on procedure. Now he uses more judicial methods of settling such point, but is still unpredictable.
L/Cpl Atkins, of 105 Provost Company, is already known to you. He is by no means an “old sweat.” in fact, measured by time and not by experience, he is quite a young policeman. Fortunately, he is adaptable and quick to learn, for he has had to absorb a complicated detail of arrest procedure peculiar to Vienna. In this strange meeting-place between East and West, with its incidents magnified by the attention focused upon them, this young lance-corporal emerges creditably by virtue of his tact, fairness and an innate respect for law and order. His early days as a member of the Patrol are not as fearsome as one might expect as all patrolmen carry an identical copy of International Patrol Orders numbered and in three languages for easy reference between each other. In any event the esprit de corps of the Patrol is strong, and advice and help are his for the asking.
In line abreast on the gravel, five cars of the 13.00 to 1900 hrs. Patrol face the Palace of Justice. These are C and R cars (command and reconnaissance) and like the radio equipment, POL, and many other material benefits of the Patrol, they are supplied by the United States Army. From each car flutter four colourful flags; a long whip like aerial projects at a rakish angle from a well-sprung socket on the runboard.
“The Daily Round …”
Upon arrival of the Inspecting Officer, a duty performed by a Provost Officer of each nation in daily rotation, the American Despatch Sergeant goes into action shouting “OK, boys, let’s go! Shades of the barrack square! Don’t wince Drill Sergeant. We know that it is not as per drill manual, but it has the desired effect. The twenty military policemen line up in front of their respective cars, one of each nation to a car. It used to be “four in a Jeep” hence the film of that name, but now there is more room and one does not have to ride back to headquarters with a prisoner on one’s lap. Satisfying himself that all car crews are present, the Despatch Sergeant reports, “Ready for inspection, sir,” to the officer, who, if he is French or Russian, probably does not know more than those few words of English. The officer squeals, burps, groans or grunts, according to his particular army’s tradition and the understanding patrol spring smartly to attention.
Capt. Michael T Bodnar, CO, Company “E,” 350th Infantry regiment, inspecting
The weapon of one of the members of the four-power military Police
Patrol before their daily patrol of the City of Vienna. (U.S Army photograph)
The standard of dress and turnout is invariably high, and apart from the Russian’ habit of projecting their gaze in the vicinity of the inspecting officer’s waistbelt, they reflect pride of race and unit. The officer then says the equivalent of “International Patrol take post” and the men salute and retire to their vehicles. The patrolling system is fairly simple - one car allotted to the sector of each nation and one car for the International Zone, which acts also as a reserve. There are four six-hour shifts mounting at 13.00, 19.00, 01.00 and 07.00 hrs. respectively. Only three cars are on duty for the 01.00 hrs. shift, when the French/United States and British/Russian Sectors are made joint patrols. The 07.00hrs shift consists of only one car which remains on standby. Midway through each patrol, a break is authorized for refreshments. By agreement, the car crews are fed under arrangements of the nations whose sector they are patrolling. Thus, at about 4 pm the crew to Car 13 will dismount for a meal in the United States Military Police Barracks, that of Car 14 will have a meal in the French Soldiers’ Club, Car 15 crew will eat at 105 Provost Company and the men of Car 16, allotted to the Russian Sector, will enter the portals of the Rathauskeller -one of Vienna’s leading restaurants.
This break, a British suggestion, was put into force not quite three years ago and has done a great deal towards improving the lot of the sometimes frozen, sometimes thirsty, often hungry patrolmen. The climate of Vienna is very changeable and often goes to extremes of heat and cold, and a six-hour patrol in an open car may entail much discomfort.
“The Common Task…”
To appreciate the workings of the International Patrol one must have some idea of the geography of Vienna. The city is composed of twenty-six bezirk, a bezirk being roughly of a parish. Bezirk I is the city centre, and the others are numbered in concentric circles around it. Joint occupation extends only to the bezirk numbering I to XXI, the remaining suburbs being part of the Russian-occupied zone. Access to this zone is strictly forbidden without a permit, difficult to obtain, approved by the Russian authorities. By agreement, the city is divided into sectors for each occupying power; the Bezirk I, which contains Parliament and many of the Ministries, is deemed “International,” and is policed by each power in monthly rotation.
No barriers exist between these sectors and freedom of access is the privilege of soldiers and civilians alike, irrespective of nationality, over the whole of the jointly occupied areas of the city. On duty one is restricted to one’s own sector, but this is liberally interpreted and only strictly enforced in the case of police work and military duties involving the carriage of arms. Thus one can visualize soldiers of the four Powers rubbing shoulders with each other all over the city, and also fairly high density of military vehicle traffic moving about unrestricted.
So far so good, but this valuable freedom has its attendant difficulties. Consider some of them.
Pte. Snooks, fresh from the United Kingdom, tries out the deceptively light Austrian wine somewhere in the United States Sector, drinking it as he would beer - with the inevitable consequences.
A Russian vehicle collides with a French vehicle in front of an Austrian witness in the British Sector.
Ahmed Ben Mohamed, a French Moroccan soldier, is found wandering in the Russian Sector at 3 am.
Dare we allow Pte. Snooks to undergo the united States test for drunkenness? Could Solomon with all his wisdom get enough statements to make an intelligent accident report without congesting traffic for miles around? As for poor Ahmed’s pass, the Russian MP doesn’t know which way up to read it!
It is obvious that such a chaotic medley of languages, military regulations and legal procedure needs a common denominator, and it was to meet this need that the International Patrol was created. Now, no matter what the nationality of the soldier, or in whose sector he finds himself in trouble, he will be taken in hand by his own MP, ensuring that the soldier gets not only suitable corrective action, but his rights and privileges. Of course the creation of the Patrol did not eliminate all these difficulties, but merely transferred to four MP’s in a patrol car the responsibilities of smoothing them out. Their common task is, therefore, to maintain the military discipline of the four occupying powers according to their respective standards.
“The Common Task … Fulfilment”
To Sergt. Marc Mestais, French Gendarmerie, and Pte. Boroskov, Russian Army, both mortally wounded apprehending an insane armed soldier; to L/Cpl Levy, RMP, who brought in their slayer alone; to L/Cpl (now Sergt>) Newsham, RMP, who took the cocked and loaded automatic from the hands of a fighting drunk; to the many un-named military policeman of this patrol who exercised constant tact, patience and forbearance, the world owes a debt of gratitude. They have successfully fulfilled a difficult mission. They have added a new tradition to the name Provost. But, above all, in doing these things despite language barriers and opposing political creeds, this Patrol, to the undying credit of its members, has given a ray of hope to a dark world.
Enamel Army Badge worn by all members of the
International Patrol Orders
(Extract from “Standing Orders” for the International Patrol)
This article first appeared in the RMP Journal Page 113 and is reproduced here by kind permission of the Regimental Secretary, RMP.
London Gazette 35282, page 5504, dated 23/9/41. General List 28/8/41. The undermentioned to be 2/Lt’s, CSM Bertram Frederick William White (202083) from CMP.
London Gazette 39685, page 5800, dated 4/11/52. Royal Army Service Corps, Short Service Commission, Capt B F W White (20283) is dismissed the service by sentence of a General Court Martial, 2/8/52.