Estabrooks, Frederick W. - Canadian Provost Corps

Frederick Walter Estabrooks, Canadian Provost Corps (C Pro C)

Frederick Walter Estabrooks (the author's uncle), served with the C Pro C in Europe during the Second World War.

Frederick Walter Estabrooks

Frederick W. Estabrooks joined the Canadian Army at the age of 16 in Woodstock, New Brunswick late in 1942 and then did basic training in Fredericton before being posted to  Sydney, Cape Breton, where he served with a Coastal Defence unit manning searchlights.  He was sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia for course in mechanics.  In May 1943 he sailed to England on the Queen Mary along with 20,000 other Canadian troops and landed at Southampton.


In England, Frederick joined No. 11 Provost Company of the Canadian Provost Corps (C Pro C) serving with the Military Police until the end of the war.  No. 11 Provost Company was part of the 1st Canadian Army HQ.  Frederick would have worn a red and blue diamond patch over his C Pro C shoulder flash.

Fred Estabrooks, C Pro C in England.  He is in the second row, fourth from the left.

During his training in England in 1943 as a C Pro C Policeman, Frederick met some very interesting people.  On one occasion he spoke with 16-year old Princess Elizabeth while her father the King was inspecting Canadian troops.  This photo is of HRH Princess Elizabeth about two years later when she was serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, April 1945.  Her Majesty still drives her own vehicle on Sundays.  (British Government Photo TR2832)

Frederick saw and spoke with Winston Churchill while patrolling routes for convoys through the Reichswald Forest in Germany.  This is a photo of Winston Churchill and American Generals on a balcony watching Allied vehicles crossing the Rhine River into Germany, 25 Mar 1945.  (Sgt Morris, No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, IWM Photo)

Frederick spoke with General Harry Crerar, Commander of the Canadian Army, at a rest stop on one of the routes where Fred was directing traffic.  He was also in a group of Canadian troops addressed by General Bernard Montgomery in England and again later in Antwerp.  This is a photo of Canadian Lieutenant-General Guy Granville Simonds, British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, and Canadian General Henry Crerar at Allied Headquarters, Feb 1945 about the time Fred would have seen them.  (IWM Photo).

He saw General McNaughton and General Eisenhower about the same time.  This photo of General Eisenhower was taken in France late in 1944.  (Eisenhower Library Photo)

Frederick's personal side-arm was a Browning 9-mm semi-automatic pistol.  This one is on display in the New Brunswick Military History Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.  (Author Photo)  

Harley-Davidson Type WLC 1942 motorcycle, ca 1943.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3613098).  At this time he was still serving with No. 11 Provost Company attached to 1st Canadian Army Headquarters.  He rode a Harley Davidson 40/41 low clearance motorcycle which he felt was too low.

Fred described using a number of different military motorcycles during his service as a policeman and dispatch rider during the war, and this led the author to investigate what they were.  A number of useful photos of Canadian military motorcycles in service during the Second World War can be found on the Library and Archives Canada website, and a few of them are included here.

Canadian military motorcycles have been in use with various elements of the Canadian Forces since at least 1908.  For specific and detailed information on the subject of the Canadian use of military motorcycles, the author highly recommends the 2010 book put together by author Clive M. Law.  He has compiled an impressive history on the subject with the title "Military Motorcycles in Canada", Service Publications, Box 33071, Ottawa, Ontario.  Clive recently passed away, but his son is keeping his stories alive, through his website at

Harley-Davidson Type WLC motorcycle, Canadian War Museum.  (Author Photos)

Matchless G3L 1942 motorcycle.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3613093).  Frederick later he rode Matchless motorcycles.

Norton 16H motorcycle, Canadian War Museum.  (Author Photos)

Triumph motorcycle, 532176, on display in the New Brunswick Military History Museum, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.  (Author Photos)

Triumph TRW motorcycle, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.  (Author Photo)

Canadian Provost Corps (C Pro C)

Data current to 14 Feb 2018.

Canadian Provost Corps Logo.

The Canadian Provost Corps (C Pro C) in the Second World War

According to an article written by LCol (Retired) James D. Lumsden, on the outbreak of war in Sep 1939, the Commissioner of the RCMP made a recommendation to the Minister of Justice that authority be granted to form a Provost Company from RCMP volunteers.  Approval was granted for the formation of No. 1 Provost Company (RCMP).  This Company would later provide Military Police support to 1 Canadian Infantry Division.

As additional Canadian Army units were mobilized and moved to England, each was accompanied by its own Provost Company.  Additional Provosts were established with senior formations including the Canadian Military Headquarters (CMHQ) based in London, HQ No. 1 and HQ No. 2 of the Canadian Corps, and at Reinforcement Units.  In addition to the Provost companies, a Detention Barracks, a training depot and special investigation sections were also established.  In Canada, 18 Provost Companies were located in each of the Military Districts and Commands.  A-32, the Canadian Provost Corps (C Pro C) Training Center was also established.

On 15 June 1940, Privy Council Order 67/3030 authorized the Canadian Provost Corps as the primary organization responsible for the development of all personnel assigned to police duties as their primary role in the war.  As the C Pro C developed, their duties grew to include the following:

  1. Movement plans, including those in forward and rear units and in lines of communication areas;
  2. Provision of advice on the capacity and adequacy of routes; the degree and type of traffic control required; and resources required and whether available resources were adequate.
  3. Supervision and enforcement of discipline outside unit lines;
  4. Operation of the formation Prisoner of War (PW) cage;
  5. Movement of PW to PW camps in Canada;
  6. Control of refugee movement;
  7. Collection, control and disposal of stragglers;
  8. Operation of Detention Barracks; and
  9. Liaison with other civilian and MPs.

These duties were performed in Canada, the UK, Italy, Sicily, Northwest Europe and Asia.  The demand for MP support at home and abroad led to the expansion of the C Pro C to a strength of 6,120 personnel in 1945.

The C Pro C sent a detachment of 8 men (1 Sergeant, 1 Corporal and six Lance Corporals) with the Canadian Army Contingent (which included the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada), to Hong Kong in December 1941.  These soldier fought until taken prisoner, three died while incarcerated as PW.

On 18 Aug 1942, 41 members of the C Pro C participated in Operation Jubilee, the Dieppe Raid.  They were tasked to provide control on the beach and to secure PW.  Only 22 of them returned to the UK, and of the 19, Lt Peter Oliver was killed in action (KIA) and 19 became PW.  25 were wounded (WIA).

The C Pro C played a significant role in the invasions of Sicily and Italy, ensuring road movement over extremely difficult terrain.  The end of the Italian campaign culminated in Operation Goldflake which saw the transfer of all Canadians in Italy to Northwest Europe in Feb and March 1945.

On 6 June 1944, six sections of No. 4 Provost Company landed in Normandy, followed on 29 June by No. 13 Provost Company, and many others in the following days.  The C Pro C provided tremendous support in the battles across Northwest Europe leading the final unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945.

123 C Pro C members died in the Service of Canada during the Second World War.  In 1946, the strength of the C Pro C was reduced to 117.

The Code Word for the C Pro C is "Watchdog".

The Canadian Provost Corps in Normandy and NW Europe, 1944-1945.

Members of the Canadian Provost Corps guarding the first German prisoners to be captured by Canadian soldiers in the Normandy beachhead, France, 6 June 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3191650)

Frederick went ashore at Juno Beach on 11 June, the 5th day of the landings at Normandy, with two C Pro C sections, 26 motorcycles, and two jeeps on a landing barge.

C Pro C members of No. 2 Provost Company on Norton 16H  motorcycles, Fleury-sur-Orne, France, 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3231487).

Lance-Corporal Don Fife of No.2 Provost Company, Canadian Provost Corps, on a motorcycle en route to Falaise. Fresney-le-Puceau, France, 12 August 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3231574)

Frederick was at Rouen, France with No. 4 Provost Company riding Norton and Triumph motorcycles.

While Frederick was directing traffic in the battles North of Caen in France, he lost his motorcycle to shell fire.  He was then attached to the No. 3 Provost Company with the 3rd Canadian Division, which wore a red diamond patch on their uniforms.

Lieutenant G. Murray Williams, HQ Company, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, riding a Matchless G3L, 350cc OHV, 1943 contract motorcycle, during the advance from Lembeck through Coesfeld, Germany, 30 March 1945.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3588776)

C Pro C on a motorcycle, Zwischennahn, Germany, 1 May 1945.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4169283)

No. 4 Provost Coy, Bretteville-le-Rabet, France, 23 June 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3396103)

Corporal M.W. Musgrove and Sergeant E.O. Hanna, both of the Canadian Provost Corps, in the ruins of Falaise, France, 17 Aug 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3227266)

Lance-Corporal H.G. Roseborough of No. 8 Provost Company, Canadian Provost Corps, painting signs.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3396317)

Lance-Corporal R.B. Wrightman of the Canadian Provost Corps, reading a sign which warns, "Don't Fraternize - Onyx Route Starts Here", Calcar, Germany, 26 February 1945.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3209592)

Two Corporals of the 2nd Provost Company, Canadian Provost Corps, exchanging notes on the hood of their jeep in the Reichswald, Germany, 20 March 1945.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3206421)

Lieutenant-General G.G. Simonds, General Officer Commanding 2 Canadian Corps, talking with Sergeant R.M. Kingswell, No.13 Provost Company, Canadian Provost Corps, Oldenburg, Germany, 2 June 1945.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3563585

Cpl Ralph Wooden, Canadian Provost Corps talking with Polish refugees, St. Quentin, France, 16 August 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3396219)

Lance-Corporal Peter Chimilar, Canadian Provost Corps, placing a warning sign on the roadside, Hautmesnil, France, 14 August 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3396210)

Lance-Corporal Bill Baggott sleeping on his motorcycle, Falaise, France, 14 August 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3225761)

Personnel of No. 2 Provost Company, Canadian Provost Corps, on their motorcycles, Falaise, France, 13 Aug 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3225470)

Lance-Corporal P.L. Simpson of No.2 Provost Company, Canadian Provost Corps, in front of a poster which reads "I Guess Maybe Victory Bonds Are A Better Buy Than Cognac After All", at 2nd Candian Infantry Division Headquarters, Netherlands, 13 October 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3524455)

Canadian armour and infantry observing the aerial bombing of German positions from a forming up point (FUP) in preparation for continued heavy fighting through Normandy on the Caen-Falaise Road, France, 8 Aug 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4164905)

Frederick was in the vicinity of the unfortunate Allied bombing of the Polish Armoured forces serving under the Canadian Corps when they suffered tremendous casualties.  He counted more than 200 ambulances on one of the roads he was traffic controlling, and on at least one occasion had to use his pistol to order an officer’s staff car off the road to make way for the ambulances.  His supervisor, Sergeant-Major Ray Chambers took note and approved.

German Second World War 8.8-cm FlaK 37 AA Gun captured near near Bayeux, France, 26 Aug 1944, being examined by Canadian soldiers.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3396244).

On 14 November 1944 a shell hit close enough to Frederick to destroy his motorcycle and blow him up over the cab of an oncoming truck near Nijmegen in the Netherlands.  He bounced off the hood of the cab on the truck and landed in a water-filled ditch on the other side.  The German 8.8-cm shell fragments took a chunk out of his right arm and pieces went through the calf of his left leg, leaving his legs black and blue for months.  He was sent to the Casualty Clearing Post at Cenocky sur Mer, and then to the  6th Brigade General Hospital in Antwerp for five weeks to convalesce about the time of the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 through to March 1945.


Following his recovery he was sent to No. 4 Provost Company with the 3rd Division in Antwerp, which wore a light blue rectangle patch on their shoulders, and then to No. 13 Provost Company with II Corps, with the dark blue diamond patch.  He was on traffic control duty and served as the Company Dispatch Driver in a Willys Jeep, moving up to Apeldoorn in the Netherlands and then across the border into Germany.  He passed through Goch and on to Bad Zwishenheim over the next three to four weeks, where he was serving when the war ended on 8 May 1945.  He then volunteered for duty in the Pacific War with Japan.

Lance-Corporal Bill Cooksey, Canadian Provost Corps, directing traffic near Nijmegen, Netherlands, 9 January 1945.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3529233)

Lance-Corporals J. Lang and P.C. Ajas of No.1 Provost Company, Canadian Provost Corps guarding German Biber mini-submarines, Ijmuiden, Netherlands, 25 May 1945.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3211661)

Frederick returned to Canada at the end of July 1945 on the Isle de France at the age of 20.  The war ended before he was to be deployed west.  He was in Montreal for 30 days leave then went back to Saint John and then on to Fredericton where he was discharged on 21 November 1945.  He was on train patrol from Fredericton to Newcastle for the winter of 1945-46, and was married to Joyce Taylor from Woodstock in 1946.  He worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway before moving to Guelph, Ontario, where he met up with his former Sergeant-Major, Ray Chambers who he had served with in No. 4 Provost Company.  Ray put in a good word for him with the Chief Inspector in Guelph and Frederick was hired on with the Guelph Police Force a week later.  He served with the Guelph Police Force for 30 years from September 1949 until his retirement as a Staff Sergeant in June 1979.  He and his wife Joyce travelled in a trailer coach for four years before settling near a lake in Bobcaygeon, Ontario in 1983.  Their two children Gary and Linda and their families live in Ontario.

Staff Sergeant Frederick W. Estabrooks with the author and Cindy Estabrooks, Guelph, Ontario, Aug 1971.

Staff Sergeant Frederick W. Estabrooks, City of Guelph Police Force passed away on 24 Feb 2015.

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