A. L. (Arthur Lincoln) Haydon.

The trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time online

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1 The title of his autobiography, Reminiscences of an Adventurous and
Chequered Career, is no misnomer. Before emigrating to South Australia
he served as a soldier of fortune in the British Legion which espoused the
oausa of Dom Pedro and Donna Maria against the usurper Dom Miguel in
Portugal. On returning to England he enlisted in a cavalry regiment,
but waa disappointed in hia hope of gaining a commission.

256



IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Consolidating Police Act which has controlled the force
ever since.

Within this period, too, a notable expansion of the
colony had taken place. At first the boundaries had been
defined to embrace an area of nearly 300,000 square miles,
" between the 132nd and 141st degrees of east longitude
and between the Southern Ocean and the 26th degree of
south latitude." In 1861 was added a vast tract of country
known as No Man's Land, situated between the western
boundary of the province and the eastern boundary of
Western Australia. This extension covered 80,000 square
miles. Two years later there came the important inclusion
of the Northern Territory, which stretches northward from
the 26th degree of south latitude to the Indian Ocean and
eastward from the 129th to the 138th degree. From this
time, therefore, until the recent separation of the Northern
Territory, South Australia boasted of a total area of over
900,000 square miles.

To cope with the additional work entailed by increase
of population and territorial expansion it was, of course,
necessary to raise the strength of the police force. From an
official return of 1851 we find the number of officers and men
given as 134, the expenditure being 12,770 19s. In 1855
there were 252, including 45 black trackers, and the cost to
the State had nearly quadrupled itself. Under Major
Warburton a reduction in numbers to 176 men took place,
with a consequent decrease in expenditure, and at this low
strength the force remained for several years. In 1872
twelve more men were added to the ranks. The next six
years saw further increases, until in 1878 the number em-
ployed was 307. In 1884 the figures were 438, by this time
the cost having amounted to 98, 594 185. Qd. The disparity

257 s



THE TROOPER POLICE

between this expenditure and that of 1861 is partly to be
accounted for by the increase in the rate of pay. In the
earlier days a trooper received 3s. Id. per day ; in less than
thirty years the minimum wage was raised to 7s. Qd.

While, in comparison with New South Wales and
Victoria, South Australia has enjoyed remarkable im-
munity from bushranging there have been no desperadoes
of the Morgan and Kelly type it has had its own eras of
crime. During the first twenty-five years of its existence
horse-stealing and cattle-duffing were prevalent in the
colony, but the energetic measures of the mounted police
were successful in stamp ing these out. We have dealt with
some notable cases in the present chapter. In later years,
particularly since the acquisition of the Northern Territory,
the main troubles have been with the aborigines. To nar-
rate one instance of this latter kind is enough to show what
has to be contended with. The story is almost invariably
the same. A prospector, or other solitary white, falls in
with a party of blacks. He has provisions, or weapons, or
other articles of value in the native estimation, and an early
opportunity is found to murder him. Then the tragedy
becomes a dread secret of the bush until native gossip or
some chance discovery of his remains brings the matter into
the light of day.

It was so with poor Tom Egan, prospector, who was
speared by a black at the Robinson River in the far north
in May 1909. Egan was presumably travelling in the
direction of Borroloola, when he lost his way. On the east
bank of the river he encountered Pupelee, aboriginal, in
company with the latter's lubra (wife), three children, and
another woman. At first the blacks appeared to be friendly,
giving the unfortunate man some food and acceding to his

258



IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA

request that they should guide him to the township. But
during the evening, while the party camped and Egan set
about making his billy boil on the fire, Pupelee seized his
stone-headed spears and plunged them into his victim's side.
The body was afterwards thrown into the river. Then
Pupelee, having appropriated such of the dead man's be-
longings as he coveted, went on trek again with his family
until R. Stott, Mounted Constable of Borroloola, brought
him to justice.

The story of police work in the Northern Territory
demands a chapter to itself, for it is there that the most
arduous work of the Australian trooper policeman is en-
countered. It is time now to consider the South Australian
force as it is to-day, under the able control of Commissioner
W. H. Raymond, who succeeded Colonel Madley in January
1910. Like so many other officers, the present Chief rose
to his position from the ranks, having passed through
all grades. He joined the force in 1865, and has thus seen
forty-six years of service.

From the most recent Report we learn that the total
strength of the force is 421, a number which cannot lead any
one to say that the State is over-policed. 1 In 1885 the
figure stood at 438, and since that date the population has
increased by over 108,000. The mounted branch, exclusive
of those on service in the far north, accounts for 168 officers
and men, with whom there are eighteen black trackers.
This little force, only four hundred odd strong, is distributed
over the following six divisions, the headquarters being
given in brackets : Metropolitan (Adelaide), Central

1 The total expenditure for the year ending June 30, 1910, exclusive
of the Northern Territory, was 88,936, showing an average cost per head
of the population of a little over 4. 3Jd.

259



THE TROOPER POLICE



Division (Adelaide), South-Eastern (Mount Gambier),
Northern (Port Pirie), Far Northern (Port Augusta), and
Northern Territory (Palmerston). Each of these divisions
is in charge of an Inspector, for the rank of Superintendent
is no longer recognised ; and below that officer are Sub-
Inspectors who have command of separate stations. 1

It is naturally outside the Metropolitan area that the
trooper police are mostly employed. You will find them at
home in the salt-bush country, in the scrub ; you will
meet them by lake and river, by forest camp fire and in the
shearers' huts. And you will meet them, further, on horse
and camel in the desolate wastes of the great stony deserts.
The scrub land of South Australia must be seen to be appre-
ciated. There is nothing quite like it in any of the Eastern
States. Extending principally over the north and eastern
parts of the province, it takes the form of long stretches of
barren arid plains, the soil always of poor description
varying from clay to pure sand. It is largely rocky and is
destitute of water. What vegetation manages to thrive is

1 STRENGTH OF POLICE FORCE OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA ON JUNE 30, 1910.









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Metropolitan Police .
Mounted Police .


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174
148


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Detective Police .








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Foot Police in country
























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25








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Port and Water Police








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18








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Total ....


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Northern Territory .








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136


Grand total .


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IS


1


392


1


33


69


386



260



IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA

of a stunted character, spinifex growing in tufts, kangaroo
grass, and a variety of small shrubs. Looking out across
an expanse of this country, as in the Murray region, one is
struck by its dead monotony. Except where any clump of
trees is to be seen, the scrub is of a level height of a few feet,
and of a uniform bluish-green colour. It is monotonous
and depressing to the eye, and yet in its seasons it has
a charm of its own. Many of the shrubs bear flowers of
delicate beauty, while the rainy months bring into being
thousands of terrestrial orchids that give an added touch of
brightness.

That portion known as the Mallee scrub is clothed with
dwarf species of eucalyptus, twelve or fourteen feet in height
and thickly studded together. These willow-like trees have
no branches and are of a dark brown colour. The area
sometimes covered by them in an unbroken mass, is two
or three thousand miles in extent. Hardly less formidable
is the Mulga scrub, which consists of small acacias, grey
bushy plants of varying size and height and possessing
spiny branches. One meets with this type of country in
several part's of South Australia and in the Coolgardie gold-
fields district of Western Australia.

Where the salt-bush grows the stockman finds good
pastoral country. This shrub, which is most plentiful in
the northern districts, withstands the intense heat of the
summer sun when all else round it is parched and withered.
On its ever-fresh leaves the sheep can feed and maintain an
existence through a period of drought.

The scrub land is to be avoided, for it is easy for the
traveller to lose his way therein and perish miserably for
want of water. But more terrible is the region of the stony
deserts in the interior. Here the sun beats down merci-

261



THE TROOPER POLICE

lessly and makes the rough ground so hot to the feet as to
be unbearable. So Sturt, the explorer, found it on that
memorable journey of his in 1845. All the water-holes had
dried up, the horses were in a constant perspiration, and the
stirrup-irons burnt their riders' boots. " The ground,"
says Sturt in his journal, " was thoroughly heated to the
depth of three or four feet, and the tremendous heat that
prevailed had parched the vegetation and drawn moisture
from everything. The mean of the thermometer for the
months of December, January, and February had been
101, 104, and 101 respectively hi the shade. Under its
effects every screw in our boxes had been drawn, and the
horn handles of our instruments, as well as our combs, were
split into fine laminae. The lead dropped out of our pencils,
our signal rockets were entirely spoiled, our hair, as well as
the wool on the sheep, ceased to grow, and our nails had
become as brittle as glass. The flour lost more than eight
per cent, of its original weight, and the other provisions in
a still greater proportion. The bran in which our bacon had
been packed was perfectly saturated, and weighed almost
as heavy as the meat ; we were obliged to bury our wax
candles, a bottle of citric acid became fluid and, escaping,
burnt a quantity of linen ; and we found it difficult to write
or draw, so rapidly did the fluid dry in our pens and brushes."
As it was then, so is it now. Central Australia in many
parts offers no attractions to the settler. But into this un-
inviting wilderness of scrub, sand and rock, the trooper
policeman must venture at the call of duty. We who live
for the most part in settled districts, with all the accom-
paniments of civilisation, can have little idea of what life is
like amid such surroundings. Now and then the story of a
trooper's bravery in handling a mob of turbulent blacks

262



IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA

comes down to the settlements and finds a note in the news-
papers. Now and then one hears of a plucky dash into
the desert to rescue some lost traveller from the terrors of
death by thirst and starvation. But how many hundreds of
unrecorded acts of heroism have there been, all equally
deserving of commemoration ? Only the bushman, perhaps,
can tell, but he is a notoriously silent person. And from
the lips of the police themselves you will learn little.

If we read the Police Manual we find that " the duties and
powers of a mounted constable differ in no respect from those
of an ordinary police constable," but the reality is far from
the case. No doubt it was originally intended to be so,
both in South Australia and other States. The development
of the country, however, and the exigencies of the service
under an economical government, have made this rule much
" honoured in the breach." To-day the mounted policeman
has to perform duties of a multifarious character. He may
be called upon to act as bailiff, Crown Lands Ranger, assist-
ant Inspector of Schools (making sure that all the children
in his particular neighbourhood are sent to school), issuer
of mining and other licences, and registrar in several
capacities ; while and this does not exhaust the list, by any
means he is expected to collect jury lists for the Sheriff
and agricultural statistics for the Under Secretary of State,
to take note of cases of destitution and report to the Destitute
Board accordingly, to destroy vermin and give certificates
to scalp-hunters.

These are the extraneous duties, mostly. As policeman,
the sole representative, maybe, of the law in his district, he
has plenty of ordinary work to get through. When in charge
of a station he must patrol the country around his post and
keep a daily journal of all transactions ; he must acquaint

263



THE TROOPER POLICE

himself with the people and the physical character of the
district ; he must watch and report upon suspicious persons ;
in many cases besides making arrests he must act as Crown
Prosecutor. Your trooper of the back-blocks, then, must
needs be a man of resource and aptitude, of firm resolve and
quick decision. Not only has he white settlers to look after,
but those far more difficult children of nature, the blacks.
In drawing a comparison between the Canadian North-
West Mounted trooper and his Australian brother in this
respect, there is no question but that the latter has the
harder task to perform. The North American Indian,
with his " reservation " and store clothes, is a child of peace, a
Sunday School scholar, compared to the uncivilised, or only
half -civilised, aboriginal of the Southern Continent. Through-
out the vast interior the blacks are constantly on the move
in scattered tribes or parties, living from hand to mouth
and, except in a few instances, scorning the protection and
help of the Government. Among these nomads there is
incessant warfare. One tribe spears another almost as a
matter of duty, and certainly with keen enjoyment, these
raids being varied at intervals by cattle-killing.

For work in the central parts of South Australia the
camel has become an all-important feature. On the great
inland plains, so largely covered with spinifex, the horse was
at first superseded by the bullock, but this useful draught
animal made slow progress in the course of a day's journey.
Ten miles a day is said to be a fair average for a bullock
team. The camel, on the other hand, is capable of doing
eighty-four miles in eighteen hours, with a load of three hun-
dred pounds on his back, and he possesses a remarkable
ability to do without water for a lengthened period. He can
find his own living wherever he may be. It will be under-

264




PISTOL-CARBINE USED BY THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MOUNTED POLICE.
Showing adjustable stock affixed and detached.



IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA

stood, therefore, how settlers were ready to give a welcome
to the ship of the desert when the experiment of importa-
tion was made.

As we have seen, camels were used in the Burke and
Wills exploring expedition of 1860. They were not brought
into South Australia, however, in any numbers until 1866,
when Sir Thomas Elder landed 109 animals with a view to
establishing a herd. After some ups and downs, owing to
diseases which it took some time to stamp out, these became
acclimatised and throve satisfactorily. Eventually the in-
habitants of the outlying districts came to appreciate the
great value of the camel, and more had to be imported.
In 1884 there was a shipment of 661, since when the demand
has been met largely by home-bred animals. In the mounted
police service the camel has played an important part.
Commissioner Peterswald first recognised the difficulties
confronting the troopers stationed far to the north, and it
was at his instance that a police camel depot was established
at Beltana. For hunting down criminals, as well as for other
work entailing long journeys inland, these animals have
been used extensively. A trooper on camel-back is a
familiar sight in many portions of the interior.

In the matter of training the South Australian force
follows very much the same system as is in vogue in New
South Wales and Victoria. The recruit for the mounted
branch is taught riding and the use of arms, and is put
through a semi-military course that turns him out a thor-
oughly efficient unit. At the Adelaide depot the mounted
men are under the care of Sub-Inspector Orr, an officer
whose forty-two years of service include a long term in the
Northern Territory. Another instructor, and one of whom
the public probably know much less, is Shimna, a champion

-265 -



THE TROOPER POLICE

wrestler from Japan. This individual gives special lessons
in the art of ju-jitsu. Although it is not compulsory, the
majority of the troopers avail themselves of his teaching.

For many years past the principal arm of the mounted
police has been the Smith and Wesson revolver-carbine
with detachable stock, enabling it to [be used either as
revolver or carbine. This is a trustworthy, far-reaching
weapon, but it is likely to be superseded ere long by one of
lighter make. Except for bush work, swords are still worn,
the touch of smartness which they give being a point that is
not overlooked.

The uniform of the troopers has been a matter of par-
ticular consideration to several Commissioners. The State
likes to see its men turned out in a soldier-like fashion.
After the eighties light-fitting riding breeches of Bedford
cord took the place of the old-time trousers, and riding-boots
were introduced. The old glazed peaked cap in time was
superseded by a light pith helmet, white in summer and blue
in winter. Of late years a peaked cap with a white band
has been 'more popular for winter wear. The tunic still
remains of blue cloth, bringing it into line with the general
uniform adopted in other States.

Lastly, a word as to pay. Starting at Is. 6d. per day, a
mounted constable of the third class rises to a wage of 8s. Gd.
Senior constables receive 9s., corporals 9s. 6d., and ser-
geants 105. 6d. From the Police Fund, which was established
some years back, pensions are provided for those who retire
after a certain term of service, while a portion of it is devoted
to rewards for meritorious acts.



266





CHAPTER XV

THE NORTHERN TERRITORY

Early history Exploration McDouall Stuart Annexation Port
Darwin founded Mounted police Criminal elements Trooper
Donegan Bogus Customs officers Borroloola Shanty-keepers
Burnt out The Territory to-day Native question A back-blocks
tragedy Troopers Holland and Dempsey Sub-Inspector Waters
Inspector Foelsche The northern black A startling experience
Out on patrol The brighter side The new province.

FOR forty-seven years South Australia has administered
the vast tract of the continent known as the Northern
Territory. Its history briefly is as follows. In the early
years of the last century military settlements were formed
at Melville Island and later at Port Essington, but these
were eventually abandoned. For a long time the region
remained practically a sealed book to the world. Then
came the explorers Leichhardt, Gregory and Stuart, working
their way northward from the south and east, and bit by
bit the nature of the country between Central Australia and
the northern ocean became known. To John McDouall
Stuart, who crossed the continent from Adelaide to Adams
Bay in 1862, belongs the credit of opening up this immense
and valuable area. He recognised its possibilities of develop-
ment, its rich natural resources, and it was his advocacy that
induced the South Australian Government in 1863 to
formally annex it. Since that date, until last year, it has

267



THE TROOPER POLICE

been controlled from Adelaide, with a Resident whose head-
quarters have been at Port Darwin.

The first attempt at settlement after annexation was
projected hi 1864, when the Government disposed of a
considerable quantity of land and sent Mr. B. T. Finniss to
the Territory to superintend the surveying. Mr. Finniss
proved unsuccessful in his object, the spot he chose for
headquarters being objected to by the landowners. Conse-
quently he was recalled and the work was left to Mr. G. W.
Goyder, the Survey or- General of the colony. The latter
gentleman selected Port Darwin and its immediate neigh-
bourhood as the base of operations, and the wisdom of his
choice was evidenced by the flourishing state of the com-
munity that in time gathered there.

With the settlers went the trooper police to take their
share of the pioneer work. Particularly were they needed,
as has been said, to keep in check the native tribes, who
were only too ready to resent this fresh intrusion of whites.
The blacks of the far north retain more of their pristine
savagery than their brothers of the south. To the mounted
constables, therefore, has fallen no light task in preserving
the Pax Britannica in this wild region. It was the police
who helped materially to carry the great overland telegraph
across the interior from Adelaide to Port Darwin in 1870-2.
The wires and poles were not tampered with for good
reason, 1 but the operators at the stations were frequently
attacked, and many an exciting chase after the culprits fell
to the troopers' lot.

The blacks, however, were not alone in making work

1 As a precaution against any meddling on the part of the natives
the telegraph men gave many of them electric shocks from the wires.
This alarmed the blacks beyond measure, and the " whitefellow's devil "
was held in such awe far and wide that no one dared touch the wires.

268



THE NORTHERN TERRITORY

for the mounted police in the early days. In the country
were already the brumby hunters, men who rounded up the
wild horses of the ranges and herded them into Queensland,
where there was a market for the animals. The hunters
were usually a rough class, and many very many of them
took to cattle-duffing. Their ways and wiles will be dealt
with in a separate chapter, and need not detain us here.
In addition were hundreds of illicit grog-sellers, among the
slimmest of law-breakers. These two classes of criminals
provided a large share of the excitement incident to life in
the wilds, and the police never had to complain of being idle.

Mr. Alfred Searcey, who for fourteen years acted as
Sub-Collector of Customs at Port Darwin, tells in his book 1
of the trials and troubles of some of the mounted men.
Trooper Donegan, a big Irishman and the first policeman
to be stationed at Borroloola, had a long and full experience.
Here is a sample :

" The outlaws had a playful habit of making off with the
police horses. On one occasion Donegan and his trackers
had to follow them a hundred miles before they recovered the
horses. One day two Chinamen turned up at the M' Arthur
police-station, and reported that they had been stopped at
the Robinson River by three men who said they were
Customs officers, and who collected 20 a head poll-tax.
Donegan and his mate Curtis, with a tracker and one of
the victims, left to pay a visit to the self-appointed officers.
On arrival at the shanty the police party were received by
twelve armed men, who threatened bloodshed if they were
interfered with. Two of the men the Chinaman recognised.
At a sign from Donegan, his mate and the Chinaman jumped
behind trees and covered the crowd with their rifles. Done-

1 In Australian Tropics.
269



THE TROOPER POLICE

gan sang out, ' Shoot the first man that moves ! ' With
that he and the tracker walked up to the crowd, revolvers
in hand, disarmed the two men identified, and handcuffed
them. He and his tracker then retired with their prisoners
some hundred yards behind Curtis and the Chinaman.
Donegan and the tracker then covered the crowd, while
Curtis and the Celestial retired. This they continued to do
until some distance away. Having spare horses, the
prisoners were mounted. A chain was passed round the
horses' necks and then padlocked to the prisoners. The



Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 20 of 32)