Earlier this year, the government of Papua New
Guinea was voted from office, following the worst scandal
to hit the country since its independence. It was
triggered when the government sought to contract a British
mercenary firm, Sandline International, to take on the
task of wiping out a local insurgency. For weeks, the
press ran articles depicting Sandline as the stereotypical
mercenaries, the dogs of war, hired killers. But, there
was barely a mention of another company which was also
involved in bidding for security work in P.N.G., and
which, in fact, had initiated the proposal that the
government bring in ``private'' companies to fill its
counterinsurgency needs. The other company, standing
discreetly in the shadows, was the Corps of
Commissionaires. It was only after the Corps of
Commissionaires, which maintains a permanent office in
P.N.G., submitted a bid higher than the government's
limited budget, that Sandline was given the
contract--which, some observers report, was on the Corps'
recommendation. Sandline, in turn, farmed out part of the
contract to another London-based ``private'' security
firm, Defence Systems Ltd.
Sandline and the Corps of Commissionaires appear to
be very similar outfits: Both are based in London. Both
draw exclusively from the military and police
establishments of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
Both have Special Air Service (SAS) veterans in their
employ. Both take on work for foreign governments and
The Queen's squadristi
But, in fact, the Corps of Commissionaires is not a
competitor to Sandline, Executive Outcomes, Defence
Systems Ltd., and the rash of other British and
Commonwealth ``private'' mercenary companies that have
surfaced in recent years; it is an umbrella agency, and
central hiring hall, which brings the entire collection of
so-called ``private'' services under the direct auspices
of the British Crown.
The substantial difference that puts the Corps higher
on the pecking order, is that it lists the Queen of
England as its official patron and honorary chair. It has
substantial sister organizations in Canada and Australia,
two countries which are still under the direct sovereign
control of the House of Windsor; the Queen is their patron
and honorary chair, as well.
A spokesman for the Queen, in a moment of royal
indiscretion, admitted to EIR, that Queen Elizabeth II
serves as head of the various Corps of Commissionaires, as
part of her official duties as Commander-in-Chief of all
military forces of the Empire. In short, the Corps is an
integral part of the military structure of the
Crown--albeit a usually ``invisible'' part.
Given the Corps' royal sponsorship and direction, it
should come as no surprise that the British Corps' Board
of Governors is dominated by retired senior officers, who
have held positions within the Royal Household. Many board
members belong to the Order of the Bath, the only
chivalric order, which honors military officers who made
extraordinary contributions to the Crown. The Order of the
Bath was founded, in the eighteenth century, by King
George|I, in the early days of the Hanoverian-Windsor
Her Majesty's mercenary clearinghouse
A spokesman at the Corps' London office, in a recent
interview, confidently assured EIR that the Corps could
draw upon a pool of former military and uniformed services
personnel, from ex-SAS veterans, to regular soldiers, to
senior officers up to the rank of four-star general. These
include veterans capable of any tasks, from organizing
operations of a logistical nature; to military and police
training, in Britain and overseas; to more esoteric
operations. Although the spokesman denied that the Corps
plays any role in recruiting mercenaries, he hedged, ``We
can do anything in this field, and if we can't do it, we
can find someone who can.'' While advertising its more
mundane security services on a well-maintained web site,
the spokesman further explained to EIR that ``other''
services are available, but that details would have to be
``discussed across the table. Get my drift?''
The scale of operations of the Corps of
Commissionaires is staggering, particularly in light of
the spokesman's veiled admission that it can provide
The Canadian Corps is the largest of the
organizations, with over 13,000 Commissionaires presently
on the payroll. By comparison, the Canadian Army, which
has forces deployed in United Nations ``blue helmet''
peacekeeping missions all around the globe, has only
20,000 men and women. Although organized as a
not-for-profit private company, the Corps is the official
uniformed security service for the Canadian government.
Commissionaires can be seen at all Canadian federal
facilities. Its chief patron is Canadian Governor General
Romeo Leblanc, who holds this position as the official
appointee and representative of the Queen. Leblanc is
himself a member of the Privy Council.
The Corps of Commissionaires sister organizations in
Australian have expanded its role well beyond the
traditional. They have established subsidiaries outside of
Australia. One of these is P.N.G. Corps Ltd., located in
Papua New Guinea.
An Australian spokesmen assured EIR that the Corps,
as a private company can ``supply customers with a wide
range of services.... We will do anything that's legal.
Our men have a wide range of military skills and these can
be put to good use in the private sector in areas of
security, crowd control, or whatever, as required by our
clients.'' Among their 700 clients are the country's major
banks and corporations, including, for example, ANZ
Banking Group Ltd., Westpac Banking, Commonwealth Bank,
Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp., and National
Among the industrial firms which employ the Corps
are: Imperial Chemical Industries, Unilever, and British
General Electric Company. The insurance giant Australian Mutual
Provident (the largest insurance company in the
country), as well as the nation's most important
stock-brokerage, Potter Warburg, both contract with the
Corps. Among Australia's largest mining and oil companies,
the Corps' clients include: Shell Corp. of
Australia, Western Mining Corp., British Petroleum,
and Caltex Oil.
As in the case of Canada, the chief patrons of the
Corps of Commissionaires in Australia, which are organized
by state, are the state governors, who are directly
answerable to the Queen. Their directors are drawn not
only from retired senior officers, but from the highest
level of the Australian establishment which is closest to
An imperial history
The Corps of Commissionaires, like its sister agency,
Crown Agents, was founded under royal sponsorship in 1859,
when the British Empire was at the peak of its power and
global reach. The Corps was established, ostensibly, to
provide employment for thousands of British soldiers
demobilized following the Crimean War. Initially, the
``soldiers'' of the Corps of Commissionaires were employed
principally as armed, uniformed security guards for the
prestigious financial houses of the City of London. Their
flashy uniforms have been a familiar sight, at the
entrances of elite banking and financial establishments of
the City ever since.
But, make no mistake. The Corps is not some kind of
benevolent society for war veterans, or even a
simple uniformed security guard service. It was organized
as an integral part of the imperial military system, as
evidenced by the Queen's role, to this day.
In the nineteenth century, the Corps of
Commissionaires was established in Australia, Canada, East
Africa, New Zealand, and South Africa, after a series of
resettlement agencies helped relocate a sizable number of
British military veterans and their families to the far
corners of the Empire, where they also assumed prominent
posts within the local military and intelligence
The Corps was founded by Sir Edward Walter, a retired
captain in the Royal Army, whose family also founded the
Times of London, which has always served as the
mouthpiece of the British Establishment.
The official history of the Corps, Our Sergeant,
writes of Sir Edward's motivation for founding the Corps:
``He believed they [Army veterans] could demonstrate,
through their military qualities, the essence of their
employability to the City of London, the world's financial
and commercial capital, the country as a whole, and indeed
to the Empire beyond. The City would surely come rapidly
to appreciate representatives on the doors of head
offices, who embodied discipline and loyalty, men who
could guard banks and store houses, men of trust who could
carry sensitive valuable items between branches of
companies and between companies themselves.'' On where
their loyalties lay, the same book reports that the Corps
of Commissionaires' ``very existence relied on the
establishment, on protecting the property of financial
houses, the professions and the major industrial
The role of the Corps of Commissionaires was
substantially upgraded when Margaret Thatcher was elected
prime minister in 1979, and the radical ``free market''
policies of the Mont Pelerin Society were unleashed on the
world with new force. In 1984, following a reorganization,
drafted by Peter Loyd, executive director of the British
Institute of Management, the Corps of Commissionaires
moved to expand way beyond its role in the City. Its
uniformed security service was converted into a separate
division, within the Corps, and new divisions were created
to provide ``specialist security functions.'' At the same
time, the Corps began recruiting personnel from a broader
range of military, paramilitary, and police agencies. The
scope of its operational capabilities expanded
tremendously, as the use of privatized counterinsurgency
forces, suited to operate in zones of instability, became
a crucial part of the British bag of tricks.
In 1986, to commemorate this reorganization, a
special reception was held at Buckingham Palace in honor
of the Corps.
The Corps' key personnel
Her Majesty the Queen, chief patron.
Maj. Gen. David Alexander, Companion of the Bath,
president of the Board of Governors, Corps of
Commissionaires. His is a former Equerry and Treasurer to
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and a senior retired
officer whose last position was Commandant of the Scottish
Adm. Sir Nickolas Hunt, Board of Governors, Corps
of Commissionaires. Hunt is chairman of the British
Chamber of Shipping, representing the British shipping
industry, a key institution in the City of London which
coordinates with the ``Invisibles,'' the City of
London business group that utilizes the Queen's royal
yacht for its international business activities.
Vice Adm. Sir Robert Gerken, Knight, Companion of
the Bath; Commander of the British Empire; chairman of the
Board of Directors, Corps of Commissionaires. Gerken is
also Commodore of the Royal Western Yacht Club, whose
patron is the Duke of Edinburgh.
Air Marshal Sir Thomas Kennedy, Board of
Governors, Corps of Commissionaires; Knight Grand Cross of
the Bath; Commander of the British Empire; former
Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Air Force in Germany; and,
Air Aide-de-Camp to the Queen (1983-86). Director of Dowty
Group, a major British defense contractor.
Maj. James B. Leslie, chairman of the Board of
Governors, British Oil Refineries Australia Ltd. (Boral),
1991-94; International Advisory Board of Chemical Bank
New York; chairman, Qantas Airways Ltd., 1980-89; chairman and
managing director, Mobil Oil Australia, and Christies.
Maj. Everard Baillieu, president: Commander of
the Order of the British Empire (CBE), founder of the
Baillieu Allard Real Estate empire and member of the
family of brokers which virtually controlled the
Australian Stock Exchange.
Will Bailey, board member of the Tasman
Institute, a Mont Pelerin Society front group; deputy
chairman, ANZ Banking Group, 1984-92; deputy chairman,
Coles Myer Ltd. (a retail giant).
Commodore Dacre Henry Deudraeth Smyth,
Aide-de-Camp to the Queen 1975-78; Order of Australia;
director, David Syme and Co. Ltd., 1982-94; patron, Animal
Welfare League. Son of Gen. Sir Nevill Smyth (London),
Victoria Cross, Knight Commander of Bath.
Col. Norman Carlyon, Order of the British Empire;
chairman and founder, the Carlyon Hotels Group.
Nobby Clark, board member, Institute of Public
Affairs, a Mont Pelerin Society front; chairman, Coles
- Sir Rupert Clarke, Third Baron of Rupertswood,
member, Order of the British Empire; chairman, P&O
(Australia) Ltd.; chairman, National Australia Bank,
1986-92; chairman, Cadbury Schweppes Australia Ltd.,
Lt. Col. Sir John Holland, director, ANZ Bank
1976-81; chairman, Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee
Trust, 1981-87; member and director, Winston Churchill
Memorial Trust; patron, Voluntary Euthanasia Society of
Victoria; board member (since 1970), Institute of Public
Affairs; member, Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee.
Sir Arvi Parbo, chairman (since 1974), Western
Mining Corp.; patron, Australian Drug Foundation (a group
which is pushing drug legalization); chairman, Broken Hill
Proprietary Co. Ltd. (Australia's largest company, and the
third largest mining investor in the Western World),
1989-92; chairman, Alcoa Ltd. (Rio Tinto subsidiary).
Joseph Trethowan, Australia Medal; deputy
chairman (since 1988), Mayne Nickless; director (since
1984), National Australia Bank; treasurer (since 1986),
Corps of Commissionaires.
Sir Wilfrid Brookes, CBE; former director, Alcoa
Ltd., Western Mining Corp. Ltd., and Central Norseman Gold
- Romeo Lebanc, Governor General of Canada; member,
Lt. Gen. J.A.R. Gutknecht, National Executive
Secretary of the Corps of Commissionaires. Officer of the
Order of St. John of Jerusalem. He is a 35-year career
officer with postings in Vietnam, Pakistan, India, and the
United States, and is a representative of Canada on the
Military Committee of the North Atlantic Treaty
The preceding article is a rough version of the article that appeared in
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