John Kelly Baillif

Area : Brotherton

Born : 1889

Died : 1950

Rank : Lance Corporal

Regiment / Service : Military Mounted Police

Family information : Husband of Mary Ann Baillif

War Service

John Kelly was a Lance Corporal in the Military Mounted Police. (Regimental No. P1390). All numbers were prefixed by the letter P/ and it was common to see the ranks of the Military Mounted Police filled with men who had previously seen many years of service with a cavalry regiment. With Field Marshal Kitchener's announcement of the creation of a Volunteer (New) Army in August 1914, it was quickly realised by the British commanders of the British Expeditionary Force

(BEF) that a compensatory increase in the force of military policemen would be required. As the war on the Western Front slid into a state of virtually static trench-warfare, the need for the policing of movement of men and material in the congested environment of the Western Front battlefield became increasingly imperative. Moreover, it also became apparent that the involvement of the British Army in other theatres of war meant a large number of military police would be required in these locations too.

Accordingly, the formerly high standard of recruitment and probation were eased somewhat, and military police recruits were sought from time-served soldiers, and serving and former civil police. Also, large numbers of the infantry and cavalry were redeployed to military police duties. John Kelly did not fit neatly into this pattern but he was comfortable with horses and was probably a good horseman. In 1911 he was lodging at Monk Fryston - only about 4 miles from Brotherton - with a George Goodenough and family. George was a ‘coachman’ and John Kelly was a ‘groom’.

The personnel accompanying the G.H.Q., Expeditionary Force, and the first five Divisions overseas, were still wearing blue clothing with red caps and the distinctive dress made them conspicuous targets and those with the Brigades consequently suffered heavy casualties. Later they wore the standard khaki battle dress but he peaked cap was still topped with a crimson-red cloth cover (hence the nicknames 'Red-Cap' or 'Cherry Knob') and a black cloth brassard bearing the letters 'MP' in red was worn on the right arm. Later, at the Front, a steel helmet was introduced with the letters 'MP' painted on the front.

The Corps demanded an exceptionally high standard of turnout from its MPs. A holstered pistol was the normal personal weapon, although other small arms would be carried when required.

The duties of the Corps of Military Police overseas were many and varied, and at times both unorthodox and surprising, but, officially, as laid down in the " Regulations for the use of the Provost Marshal's Branch with the British Armies in France (I9I7)," they embraced the following·

Gen​​​eral Duties:-

  1. The detection of crime, and the arrest of offenders.
  2. The maintenance of order under all circumstances.
  3. The surveillance and control of all civilians and followers within the area occupied by their formations.
  4. Assisting in maintaining march discipline of troops and transport and in regulating traffic.
  5. The collection of stragglers.
  6. The custody of prisoners of war until their transfer to railhead or to a P.O.W. working company.
  7. The protection of the local inhabitants against acts of violence on the part of soldiers or followers

There were also numerous special duties they were expected to see to, amongst which were :-

  • Taking measures to prevent troops getting into contact with undesirable characters - prostitutes, enemy agents, provocateurs, etc.
  • Ill-treatment of animals.
  • Civilians found within the lines without passes or identity cards.--
  • Plundering, marauding and looting.
  • Ill-treatment of inhabitants.
  • Soldiers and civilians trafficking in rations or Government property.
  • Unauthorized cameras and photography.
  • Collecting and returning of horses.
  • Careless talk and the apprehension of anyone giving military information.
  • Arrest of suspicious individuals.
  • The shooting of dogs found unattended near the forward lines, and search of the bodies for messages, etc.
  • Seizure of carrier pigeons.
  • Surveillance for means of communication with the enemy.

The regimental number given to John Kelly suggests he was enlisted between January and May 1915. His induction period must have been short as he was in France by the 19th of June 1915 , qualifying him for the 1915 Star award. His medal Index Card also shows he was on the SWB list and that he was discharged on 12th April 1917. SWB stood for the ‘Silver War Badge’.

The Silver War Badge, sometimes erroneously called the Silver Wound Badge, was authorised in September 1916 and takes the form of a circular badge with the legend "For King and Empire-Services Rendered" surrounding the George V cypher. The badge was awarded to all of those military personnel who were discharged as a result of sickness or wounds contracted or received during the war, either at home or overseas.

The sterling silver lapel badge was intended to be worn in civilian clothes. It had been the practice of some women to present white feathers to apparently able-bodied young men who were not wearing the King's uniform. The badge was to be worn on the right breast while in civilian dress, it was forbidden to wear on a military uniform., was a way of preventing this happening to discharged soldiers.

Family Life

When discharged from the army John Kelly returned to his home area. He already had one child - Mary who had been born in 1915 in Leeds and his first son Harry was born in early 1918, the birth being registered in Pontefract. His third child Neta was born in 1920 and he birth was also registered in Pontefract. However, by 1924 he must have been living in or around Dewsbury as the birth of Peter, his second son, was registered in that town.

John Kelly died in 1950, the occasion being registered in Don Valley, West Yorkshire.

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