The Royal Navy has always in one way or another had the need to main order and discipline. At sea, the Captain was the king's representative, his rule was kept by the First Lieutenant who was assisted by a person known as the Ship's Marshals, who was supported by a number of Ship's Corporals
Ship's Marshals were abolished and the Master At Arms (M.A.A.) rate was introduced in about 1699, thereby spinning a thread of gold that has continued through the centuries, right up to the present day.

On punishment day, at six bells in the forenoon watch, the order was given, "All hands to witness punishment"
The master at arms presented the offender to the Captain who questioned him about the offence and then delivered a verdict. The officer of the offender's division was asked if he had anything to say in mitigation. If this did not satisfy the Captain, he ordered the man's punishment. Other than the actual act of flogging the M.A.A. was responsible for ensuring that any punishment awarded was carried out.

MAA Lion

The M.A.A. was also accountable to the Lieutenant at Arms for the duties of the Ship's Corporals, the supervision of sentries,
the guard and training the ship's company in the use of small arms.

Another duty that the M.A.A performed was at around 9pm to patrol the ship to check that all lanterns and fires were out and that no men were intoxicated. Probably an early form of evening rounds.


The duties of the Ship's Police were promulgated in the 1879 edition of the Queen's Regulations for the Royal Navy but differed little Early Ships Policefrom those laid down a century earlier.  In 1879, to indicate his special position the service

Early Regulators





MAA in Numbers One Dress


The M.A.A. was permitted to wear a frock coat and carry a sword. To be distinguishable from the officers' dress, the coat was to have 4 buttons instead of 5 and the sword was to be plain with a black hilt.




The introduction of the divisional system in 1918 brought about a strong feeling in the Fleet that there would be no requirement for the Ship's Police Branch.  This feeling was so strong that branch numbers dwindled.  Potential candidates, believing the branch to be moribund, were not forthcoming and the situation became critical.  Admiralty Fleet Grand FleetOrder 3689 of 21 November 1918 called for the Commanders-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet and Home Ports to ascertain the opinions of their senior Captains on the advisability of continuing the Ship's Police as a branch of the Service.

Seventy-one Flag Officers and senior captains reported their opinions; cleanliness below decks, administration and discipline were the HMS Canadamain subjects for argument.  The majority view, 59 out of the 71, was that disciplinary and administrative duties required both training and experience.  Petty Officers untrained and employed for short periods would cause the ship to be in a constant state of turmoil.  Most Captains stressed the need for an experienced M.A.A. who understood the complex of a constantly changing ship's company, very unlike the comparatively rigid Army regimental system.  The Captain of HMS CANADA wrote on 4 December 1918:

"Speaking from a seagoing ship's point of view during this war, the Ship's Police have shown their great value in accustoming the Hostility Only Ratings to naval discipline and life".

Admiral OliverRear Admiral H F OLIVER, the Rear Admiral Commanding the First Battle Cruiser Squadron, wrote on 28 November 1918:

"The experienced long service Ship's Police understand the complex system which controls the diverse ratings which are a ship's company and I think we owe them a great deal for the contentment and good discipline prevailing during this war.  The Ship's Police deal with the Commander and Captain and nothing serious can happen regards the men without the Commander being aware of it".

A number of senior officers recommended renaming the Ship's Police the Regulating Branch to more clearly reflect its duties on board, which were not seen to be opposed in any way to the new divisional system.

Senior Officers argued that the presence of the Ship's Police undermined the authority of the Petty Officers. They stated that it inculcated the belief that discipline was not of their concern, that administration was a simple routine matter that could be undertaken by anyone and the disciplinary or legal knowledge could be very quickly learned.  These officers recommended abolition of the Ship's Police Branch.  Admiral BEATTY , the Commander-in-Chief Grand Fleet, submitted to the Admiralty on 15 January 1919:

"Though the principle of Ship's Police duties being carried out by Petty Officers is advocated, it is not considered, under the present changing conditions that the time has yet arrived to abolish the Ship's Police as a branch of the Service.  In any case should the change be made, it would have to be carried out very gradually".

The survey resulted in the issue of Admiralty Fleet Order 2290 dated 2 July 1919 which abolished the Ship's Police branch and introduced the Regulating Branch, which was to consist of Masters at Arms and Regulating Petty Officers.

In September 1944, the the Admiralty again concluded that the organisation for the maintenance of discipline on shore in the main naval port areas was unsatisfactory Colonel D H C Shepherd Royal Marines, previously the Naval Provost Marshal Malta, carried out a study into the requirement for a Naval Provost organisation. He reported that the system of landing ships' patrols in major naval base areas was unsatisfactory because the Petty Officers and Leading Ratings in charge, however well briefed, lacked the knowledge and experience to deal with incidents and, being unable to render a llucid written report, avoided taking action wherever possible the men detailed for patrol disliked the duty intensely believing it to be a form of punishment.

Taking action against a messmate was abhorrent to them, and their dress and bearing left much to be desired.The Shepherd report recommended the introduction of a Leading Patrolman rating to become the junior member of the Regulation Branch and borne primarily for provost duties, and the creation of a Provost organisation to operate within the major naval port areas. The report

concluded, It is impossible to lay too much stress on the imperative need to ensure that this proposal is launched on a firm footing and with the correct attitude and ideals from the very outset
Admiralty Fleet Order 6681/44 of 21 December 1944 implemented the proposals of the Shepherd report.

As a result of the Shepherd report Regulating Branch training which hitherto had been carried out in the barracks of the main ports was centralised. In 1945, a RN Regulating School was established at Beechwood Camp in Devon to train all regulating ratings and to maintain branch records.

In 1946, the school moved to Fort Wallington near Portsmouth, Fort Wallington

then in 1947 to HMS CICERO in Essex,

Then in 1948 to HMS EXCELLENT Whale Island oldwhere it remained until November 2005.  Initially, the role of the Leading Patrolman was to augment patrols on shore and assist in regulating duties as necessary. In 1968 Leading Patrolmen were renamed Leading Regulators. The use of the word Police in connection with the Regulating Branch found little appeal or favour amongst senior officers.




Jimmy GreenThis is a photograph of Regulating Petty Officer Richard Hadley Green (known as Jimmy) who joined the RN in 1937 at HMS Ganges as a Boy Seaman 2nd Class. In 1943 he survived the sinking of HMS Hurricane. In 1945 Jimmy joined HMS Drake for transfer to the Regulating Branch, and carried out his training at Beechwood Camp. In April 1945 he was rated Acting Leading Patrolman, and joined HMS Pembroke in Chatham. He was drafted to HMS Golden Hind the RN Barracks Sydney NSW Australia and HMS Tamar in Hong Kong. In September 1946 Jimmy joined HMS Victory for Fort Wallington and then on to HMS Circeo, it is thought it was probably for his RPO's course. He was subsequently rated up in June 1948. Jimmy continued to serve on a number of ships and establishments until he joined HMS Victory for discharge in January 1961. From these records it could be construed that Jimmy was one of the first candidates to pass through the school at Beechwood Camp, and subsequently the other early training Establishments

The association thanks his son Paul Green for this information which has helped to put a bit of a personal touch to our Branch history. Sadly Jimmy Crossed the Bar in April 2008.


The photo above has been sent in by Mike Harris the son of PO K Harris who is sitting in the front row far right. The course must have been one of the first to pass through Fort Wallington, the building walls in the back of the photo resemble those of the Forts on Portsdown Hill. A further coincidence is that in the rear row second from the left you will see the only Regulator on the RPO(Q) Course is Leading Patrolman Richard Green who's photo and small bio you will have read above.

During the 1980's it was considered that the School that was located on the foreshore on the north end of Whale Island had served its purpose and the management of HMS Excellent considered that it would be to the Regulating Branch to have a new home on the Island.

Whale Island 2000Captain Mansergh the then Captain authorised that De Jersey building on the southern end of the Island should be the new home of the School the building having been vacated by the Armourers School.
So with tape measures and graph paper a young SD candidate called Jim Cunningham set about designing the internal spaces of the building to provide a teaching and meeting area for the students and staff, with the result of an excellent environment for learning and management of the school was provided.
At the opening Captain Mansergh commented that he considered that the branch will be well served by the move from the old foreshore, war time buildings, that many of us started our career in the Branch, and he considered that we should consider Whale Island to be the home of the Branch.

Another Re-organisation occurred in 2005 when the MOD decided that there should be a tri service Police Training Establishment, this was to be housed at Southwick Park north of Portsmouth and be named the Defence School of Guarding and Policing.

Initially, the role of the Leading Patrolman was to augment patrols on shore and assist in regulating duties as necessary. In 1968 Leading Patrolmen were renamed Leading Regulators. The use of the word Police in connection with the Regulating Branch found little appeal or favour amongst senior officers at that time Leading Patrolmen

The rank of Leading Regulator was chosen to reflect their role of being the junior members of the Regulating Branch and their increasing employment in wider regulating type duties, ashore and afloat. However the wind of change never ceased. Painting of LRegs




New LReg

Pre-1968 Regulating Branch ratings were employed on cruisers and above only.
However, the abolition of the Coxswains Branch meant that Regulators would be drafted to Destroyers, Frigates and below which was a major change in the employment of members of the Regulating Branch.

There were many Coxswains who attended training at the Regulating School and made a home within the branch and became fully integrated in all aspects of their new branch.

This change found the Regulator at sea performing many tasks that were alien to them like ensuring a Minor War Vessel (Minesweepers) were fully victualled, especially those on Fishery Protection Duties, in the main these ships were manned by a Regulating Petty Officer.


MAA HMS AuroraMAA and LregFlight Deck Officer

In Destroyers, Frigates the Master At Arms found that life in these ships were to their liking and being an integral part of a ships company, underpinning the running of the ship as the Whole Ship Coordinator, many also found themselves flight deck officers, acting as helmsman for special sea duties of entering and leaving harbour, when replenishment at sea from a stores ship.

All of which gave those who served in these ship a tremendous job satisfaction


1984 saw the introduction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and finally in 1990 all Regulators were classed as Service Police. However the term Regulator remained in common use.

RM Barracks Deal


Security reviews after Provisional's bombing of the Royal Marines School of Music in Deal resulted in Regulators assimilating security responsibilities for establishments.

Between 1996 and 2000, the Regulating Branch curtailed recruiting. The L. Reg was removed from ships to be replaced by a Writer. For a short time the M.A.A. at sea operated as a singleton. We, as a Branch, were back in the exact same position that we had found ourselves in 1918, a dire situation. However there is a God!

A miracle took place and in a  early 1999, the report of the long awaited "Way Ahead Study" rejected the idea of recruiting to the Branch directly at Petty Officer level and recommended retaining the L. Regs. It also rejected some sideways recruiting into the rate of MAA in an attempt to solve the problem of providing enough Senior Regulators.

In the 2003 Naval Strategic Plan the TOPMAST Squad System was introduced into the Fleet. Those who were responsible for the way ahead for personnel of the engineering and subsurface sides of the navy there is no wonder that the M.A.A was being withdrawn from Destroyers and Frigates and the creation of the Executive Warrant Officer a position in submarines would have been known as Chief of the Boat. So the wheel has turned another circle and history repeating itself resulting in the demise of the M.A.A. at sea, being withdrawn from Destroyers and Frigates and replaced by an RPO.
A quote from the Strategic Plan - Appointment of EWOs in all major platforms as one of their achievements!!


A specialist side of the Regulating Branch - Drug Squads and SIB

The late 1960's brought major changes in the life styles of some of the younger members civilian population who embraced the hippy revolution which carried with it the culture of taking recreational drugs as a way of seeking enjoyment. This was not a practice the Senior Officers of the Naval wished to become prevalent within the navy. A firm line was the order of the day, with a zero tolerance attitude being employed. As with all big organisations this was a policy that was difficult to enforce and maintain.

The MOD(N) authorised the setting up within the Regulating Branch two specialist sections to attempt to install a responsible attitude amongst service personnel.
Within the Regulating School organisation a small team was put together to develop a Drugs Prevention and Management Lecture Team. They toured naval establishment and ships and carried out lectures with visual aids and a movie to ships companies and leadership classes. The film was quite descriptive and portrayed a young couple smoking cannabis and injecting substances into their legs, it was not a pretty site seeing the leg blow up like a balloon, and the resulting life style of these two people followed. To enable managers to recognise the smell of cannabis being burnt the team used a smoldering small samples within the lecture rooms. It was considered that the team did a worthwhile service in educating Naval personnel.

Lt.Cdr. Hopson HillLieutenant Commander Bob Hopson Hill the Naval Provost Marshal Portsmouth was charged with setting up the first RN Drugs Squad. A considerable step forward for the Navy as we did not like the other service police have a Special Investigations Squad. It is considered therefore that the navy did not put its head in the sand and pressed ahead unlike the other service and the first Drug Squad was born within the realms of the RN Provost HQ Portsmouth under Hopson Hills command.

This squad, was understandably amongst other members of the Regulating Branch seen as an elite group of people who seemed to think themselves above the grass routes of the branch, with their wide boy suits, and long hair. Not with standing this many a WO MAA, MAA and Regulating Staff Officer welcomed their expertise, knowledge to carryout specialist investigations which required facilities and equipment that they processed. They were able to develop a data base of information and had a close liaison with the local Constabularies specialist teams.

Drug Squad



A sound relationship was forthcoming with some members of the Squads being attached to the Portsmouth City Police Drug Squad and named 'South East Area Drugs Squad' Similar squads were set up in Devonport and Scotland



In the foreign stations the Provost Marshals of Singapore and Hong Kong normally nominated a member of their staff to act as Anti Vice patrols, they also worked closely with the Civilian Police in those cities ensuring that Jolly Jack behaved himself in the bars and houses of ill repute, or houses of pleasure

A camaraderie among the drug squads of the early years lasts today with close ties maintained through the Association, the Web site and Forum.

Peter David and Drug Dog Peter David with his specialist dog Monty

RN SIS photographed in HMS Nelson with the figure head of the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert in the back ground

Times move on and the present organisation has grown with the introduction of a Special Investigation Branch, who receive specialist training initially with the Royal Military Police and RAF Police SIB training schools and now at the Defence College of Policing The Office in Portsmouth being self contained in the Barham Building in HMS Nelson. A recent entry in a staff magazine a young Leading Wren Regulator reported she had conducted investigations in a shore base, a ship and even a submarine.

Investigations in Crete and Scotland, fraud, sexual assaults, theft of firearms and a neglect of duty/allowing/causing the hazarding of a HM Ship. So it can be seen the RN SIB are highly skilled and provide a worthwhile service to the Royal Navy

So What is new with the Regulating Branch?

Well the most visible change for the Branch is a complete change of emphasis. In November 2005 the Regulating School in HMS Excellent closed and move lock stock and barrel to the previous naval Establishment that was known as HMS Dryad, which had responsibilities for training all things to do with Radar and Operations Room workings, the training of the Warfare specialisation was moved to HMS Collingwood in Fareham, which previously was the training base for Weapons and Electrical training, so it would seem the MOD(N) have joined much of its training facilities under one large establishment.

Emptied of Warfare personnel Southwick Park was to be the home of training all three service police forces, Anchourthe Royal Military Police moving from their well established home in Chichester, the RAF Police moved from RAF Newton in Nottinghamshire and RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. Under the Command of a Col. Royal Military Police. Hampshire Constabulary have also a training school within the College grounds

Within the grounds each of the Service police have a museum, the Royal Military Police have a self contained new building having had an established museum at their old Barracks, RN Police and Regulating Branch and RAF Police Museums can be found on the ground floor of Dryad Building. The RNP and RBA museum is well worth a visit. There is also a web site which can be found at RN Police and RBA Museum.

In early 2006 the new Armed Forces Act declared that the term Regulating Branch would be known as Service Police a title Policewomenthat they last held in 1860! And the Branch Title would be changed to Royal Naval Police, and would have a command structure that would be headed by a Commander with a title of Provost Marshal (Navy), responsible to the First Sea Lord

Sholder badgeIt is pleasing that the Rank and Rating titles within the branch will remain the same, there will be a clear identification that they are Naval Police by a rank badge worn on the epaulettes of a shirt. The Crown, Crown and Laurels will still be retained.
On passing out from the Royal Navy Police Initial Course, newly qualified ratings are issued with a warrant card, which is a change from passing out from the LPM(Q) or LREG(Q) course of the past when the Crown was considered your authority or maybe it was the NP Armlet worn on the wrist
Training is more in line with Police work, investigation of offences, taking statements, identification of suspects, custody of suspects and offenders. Than with Administration and Naval Law

With the implementation of the Armed Forces Act 2006 in October 2009 with a single, harmonised system of Service law all three services will be subject to a single Discipline Act, which will streamline much of the training given to any Service Policeman or Policewoman

The education of RN Personnel in misuse of substances is still a high priority with the lecture team named ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE MISUSE EDUCATION with regular visits to all parts of the UK.

What will the next turn of the wheel throw up?
Only time will tell

February 2017 - The new Provost Marshal Navy Commander Hawkins on the 3rd March 2017 will be attending the Passing Out Parade at HMS Raleigh, which will include the FIRST RN Police Able Rates candidates.

That is a big turn of the wheel
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