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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and horses before long, preparatory to forming a camp for
the night. One of them then ascended a tall tree to its very
top, and, having apparently thus taken in the lie of the
country, descended, and with his tomahawk blazed the trunk
all round. Then, quitting the trail, he mounted his horse
and rode off at a tangent, merely remarking as he pointed
with his chin (the customary gesture), ' I believe water sit
down there.' We had been suffering from thirst for some
time now, and, like most ^men under similar conditions,
glad thoughts arose in my mind of bubbling springs and



cool water affording unlimited ' drinks ' of the life-giving

" Alas, for the reality ! We came at last to a deep defile
in the forest, and having with some trouble ridden the horses
down its steep banks, the dry bed of a small creek presented
itself. We followed this down in single file, when the lead-
ing ' boy,' uttering an exclamation of disgust, threw himself
from his horse, which I then saw was making frantic efforts
to rush into a sort of scoop-out in the ravine. The others
tried to follow suit, and we had difficulty in restraining the
poor beasts, who had smelt water. And what a miserable
puddle it was ! The quick eye of the ' boy ' had seen that
any one of our steeds would have drunk most of it up and
rendered the residue undrinkable by stirring up the mud. So
he saved the situation by his warning. It took two of us
all our time to hold the animals, whilst the third man care-
fully dipped out about a gallon of the precious liquid with a
pint pot, pouring it into our largest billy. In spite of its
being warm, and spiced with gum-leaf juice, the drink all
round proved most refreshing, and we were able to smoke
again. After filling the can once more for a big brew of tea,
we waited sufficiently long for the small hole to fill up, and at
last partially watered the horses by means of an india-rubber
basin we had with us. They were then hobbled out, and as
the dew fell copiously that night, and there was a fair
amount of herbage, they proved pretty fit by the next

" There was little more than a pint of muddy water left
in the hole when we looked into it at sunrise the next day,
so the source had evidently stopped running. Now I
wondered, as we prepared to mount after our night's rest,
whether the trackers would make a cast, and so hit off the



trail, or return to the blazed tree. They chose the latter
course, doubtless for some good reason known to themselves,
and picked up the footsteps at once. Shortly after we had
made this fresh start the course of the wanderer proved
most erratic, circling around the belts of timber to the right,
again to the left, without either aim or object. It was
evident that the man we were hunting had no compass with
him ; further, that he was becoming wildly bewildered.
We followed the errant footmarks thus for some two hours,
when they suddenly took a straight course, and looking
ahead the troopers pointed out a fringe of dark-leaved trees,
which, as I knew of old, denoted the channel of a water-
course, and this it proved to be, but utterly dried up. Into
this the feet of the exhausted man had taken him, and in it
his hands had scraped deeply in the sand, but to no purpose,
and we knew now that he had not met with water during the
whole of his lonely wanderings."

But the hapless " jackeroo " was not far off. The blacks
ran his tracks down the sandy bed and presently returned
to announce : " That fellow sit down there, that fellow
bong (dead)." A native dislikes handling the corpse of a
white man, and the two boys left Mr. Kennedy to inspect
the body by himself. Fortunately the trackers' surmise
proved incorrect ; the poor fellow was not " bong " but
" budgery " (all right), in the sense that he was still alive.
He was in a pitiable condition through lack of food and
drink, and it took some time before he was sufficiently
restored to be able to walk any distance. However, the
party returned him safely to his home, where he picked up
strength again within a few weeks.

The above experience conveys to us a clear idea of a
black tracker's methods in following a trail, at the same

~ 397


time that it gives us an illustration of the noble work per-
formed by the mounted police. No one is ever more ready
than the trooper to set out in search of a person lost in the
bush ; no one is more indefatigable in his efforts. It is in
the country, in the back-blocks, that the police receive
their due meed of appreciation. Your townsman, safe
within his sheltered, well-ordered streets, is too apt to regard
the trooper with indifference. He sees that worthy at parades
and on show days, in all the glory of full dress white
helmet, Bedford cord riding breeches, polished high boots,
and dangling sword and if his eye is pleased with the
spectacle that is probably all. Many of us will do well to
remember that there are two sides to the picture.

Yet another remarkable display of tracking that is on
record occurred in South Africa, at the time of the late Boer
War. With one of the Australian contingents was a native
tracker named Billy. In an officers' mess one evening the
subject of scouting came up for discussion, and when an
Australian who was present sang the praises of the aboriginal
there was a chorus of disbelief. He was accused of " blow-
ing." With all due respect to the black's ability one couldn't
be expected to swallow fairy tales !

" Very good," said the Australian. " Perhaps you'll
believe your own eyes. I'll bet you fellows that our man
Billy will track any of you wherever you like to go, and that
he will bring back a correct report of your doings."

The wager was snapped up promptly, and a day was
appointed for the test. It was arranged that five British
officers should start, at different times and in different
directions, two of them being on foot and three on horseback.
Billy, of course, was not to see where they went.

This programme was carried out, and the tracker was


placed at the starting-point after a proper interval had
elapsed. He quickly picked up a track and followed it for a
stated time, doing the same with the four other tracks, so
that all were covered well before dark. Then he returned
to tell his story to the expectant officers, the five whom he
had tracked producing their note-books to check the details.

" The tracker," says Mr. E. B. Kennedy, who is again our
authority, " first stating that the men had chosen their
various routes over all the hard and rocky ground of the
neighbouring veldt, then proceeded to draw five lines hi the
sand, and descanted on each track. Those of the mounted
men he had followed at a run. He described how one had
got off his horse and had then lit his pipe, producing the
half-burnt match to prove it. Another had been thrown
by his mount putting its foot into a hole whilst going at a
canter ; the horse had then bolted, and the rider had
caught it within a mile. The third had got off his horse and
walked into the shade of some trees, and having tied up his
charger had climbed one of these, presumably to get a view,
as there was neither 'possum nor ' sugar-:bag ' in it, said Billy.

" The footmen had given a little more trouble, especially
one man whom the ' boy ' described as ' silly fellow ' be-
cause he had gone in his socks, had cut his foot at one point,
and gone lame for the rest of his journey ; a piece of fluff
from a sock was brought back as one proof, whilst the officer
allowed the accident to his foot to be true. Dark brown,
light brown, and grey hairs represented the three horses.
In fact, Billy proved beyond doubt that he had run and read
every track faithfully, by recording many other minute
finds and incidents.

" The officers were thoroughly convinced, and willingly
handed over their bets to the Australian."



For what remuneration, it may be asked, does the intelli-
gent aboriginal offer his services ? Generally speaking there
is no fixed sum. The trackers who were summoned from
Queensland to aid the Victorian police in the hunt after the
Kellys, were paid 3 a month each, with uniform, quarters,
and rations ! This was a special rate. Present day trackers
such as " Paddy " and " Leo," who are on the South Aus-
tralian police staff, or the two natives in the Victorian force,
stationed at the stud depot at Dandenong, will receive
a regular salary. Others who are engaged by individual
troopers, as occasion requires, make their bargain indepen-
dently. Sometimes the pay is made in cash, sometimes
in cash and goods. In former years, when the police pay
was not so high as it is at the present time, the average
allowance for the keep of a native tracker was 2s. a day.
Out of this sum there were flour, sugar and tobacco to be
bought. " Black tobacco " (the only kind then procurable)
cost 7s. per pound, twenty-four sticks going to the weight.
In winter, with molasses mixed with it, the tobacco made
eighteen sticks. As the trooper, further, had to clothe his
assistant, with shirts at 8s. each, moleskin trousers at
10s. and boots from 12s to 15s. a pair, to say nothing of
hats, there was not much margin for luxuries.

In those days, however, a native was more easily satis-
fied. If he returned to his camp with a little money and
various useful presents he was a comparatively rich man.
Nowadays the black tracker has come to understand his
value, and is ready to insist that the labourer is worthy of his


i. " LEO." 2. " PADDY" (profile and full face).



Entering the force Preliminary tests At the police depfit A day's
routine The riding school Drill " First) Aid " Class work
End of probation Practical education Manifold duties Com-
pensations A long journey " Hatters " The lighter side Wanted
a divorce A Queensland episode Summing up. ,

WE have followed the mounted policeman through his
varied career in the several States of the Common-
wealth ; we have watched him at work in many capacities,
in town and country, on goldfield and pearling ground, in
bush and scrub, north, south, east and west. We have
accompanied him through the stirring pioneering days,
seen him pitted against bushranger, cattle-thief and savage
black, and seen him, too, come through the ordeal bravely
and well. It may now be asked, what manner of man is
the trooper of the present day, and how is he trained for the
duties that he has to perform ?

Some little insight has been given already into the mode
of entrance into one or more of the police services. To
properly comprehend, however, the nature of a trooper's
schooling and his evolution from the raw product into the
finished article, we cannot do better than follow a recruit
through his various stages. No particular force need
be stated ; except in a few minor details the methods of
training are alike in all.

401 DD


The applicant for a post as mounted constable in the first
place receives a form which he is required to fill up. This
gives the necessary qualifications of candidates and includes
a list of questions bearing on character, past record, and other
important points. 1 Assuming that his application has been
accepted our would-be trooper policeman presents himself
at the headquarters office, where his measurements are taken,
to ensure his being up to the requisite standard. The next
step is personal inspection by the Commissioner. The chief
puts the candidate through a cross-examination, checking
the replies by the papers before him, and satisfies himself
that the other is the right type of man. There are then three
more tests to be passed, educational, riding and medical.
The first of these is not severe ; it is to horsemanship that
most attention is paid, to good hands and an easy seat in the
saddle. The practised eye of the riding-instructor quickly
sums up a man's capabilities.

Having passed these preliminary tests, and there being a
vacancy in the force, the candidate is sent to the police
depot to enter upon his probationary period. Here he is
provided with his kit and equipment, with helmet, cap,
tunic, riding breeches, boots, leggings, spurs, gloves, button
brushes, etc., and saddlery. At the stables he is allotted a
horse, which he will himself groom and otherwise look
after. In the course of the next day or two he has explained
to him the mysteries of putting a kit together, bedding down
a horse, burnishing a sword, and generally cleaning his
accoutrements. Everything must be " just so " in this
respect, as spick and span as in a first-class line regiment.
The slacker will pay dearly for slovenliness.

On the morning after his arrival at the depot the recruit

1 See Appendix E.


has his first taste of routine life. Here is one day's pro-
gramme, as followed in an eastern state's police force :

5.45 a.m. Rise ; fold up bed and bedding.

6.0. Stables ; clean out stables, stack up clean bedding
and water horse.

7.0 to 7.30. Clean and feed horse, and get kit and
stable ready for inspection.

9.30. Parade for inspection. Afterwards stand by
bed while beds and barrack rooms are inspected by officer in

10.0. Parade on drill ground for dismounted drill,
with carbine or sword.

10.30. Riding school. Afterwards take off saddlery,
clean it and water horse.

12.0 a.m. Prepare forage for next twenty-four hours.
Nose-bags to be filled up with proper proportions of rations,
and horses fed.

2.0.p.m. Parade for an hour's drill (dismounted).

3.0 to 5.0. Thoroughly clean kit, groom horse and have
it ready for inspection.

5.0. Water and feed horse and bed it down for the
night and leave stable clean.

Every recruit takes turn of duty as stable guard from
6.0 a.m. to 6.0 p.m., the relieving guard going on duty from
6.30 to 9.30 p.m., and the night guard from 9-30 p.m. to
6.0 a.m. At 9.30 p.m., unless on guard or on leave, he must
stand by his bed at roll-call.

In the riding school during the first three weeks the
recruit dispenses with stirrups. He advances to these and
spurs as he progresses. Particular attention is paid to the
control of the horse, the average rider, be he ever so good a
bushman, using his hands more than his legs. Apart from



exercise in trotting, galloping and other movements the new
hand is taught how to fit his saddlery correctly, how to apply
the proper aids in controlling his mount, and further, how
to shoe it and tend to it as he will have to do in the course of
duty when a full-fledged trooper.

The drill (mounted) includes cavalry sword exercise,
pursuing practice, manual and firing exercise, and mounting
and dismounting with carbine. There is also revolver
practice both in and out of the saddle. For improvement in
marksmanship the novice undergoes a course of instruction
at the butts. The physical drill is a part of the training
which is carefully supervised in every police force. A depot
barracks is provided with an up-to-date, well-equipped
gymnasium under the charge of a competent instructor, and
herein the men are daily exercised. The useful art of ju-
jitsu, of late years, has been taken up by the police, and it
bids fair to become a general accomplishment.

Swimming being an essential qualification of a trooper
policeman it follows that he must receive instruction in life-
saving. In some services the men are encouraged to attend
ambulance classes and to learn " first aid," but this is not
yet compulsory. That it should be so has been urged
strongly, and in view of the isolated life led by many troopers
in the back-blocks such knowledge would be of the utmost
value. In this connection it may be noted that the West
Australian force makes a special feature of this class of work.
One of its members, Sergeant Smith, now stationed at the
Perth headquarter barracks, has been recently awarded the
Distinguished Service Medal by the Royal Life-Saving

On the educational side the young recruit's training is
quite as thorough. There are lectures on police rules and



discipline to be attended, lectures and demonstrations on
the system of taking finger-prints, and lectures on the various
statutes affecting the force. By attending police courts he
learns how evidence should, and should not, be given, and
by preparing papers on imaginary examples he studies the
art of presenting a case in correct official form. The clerical
work that falls to a mounted constable is no small part of his
duty. Reference has been made more than once to the
assistance that the police afford various Government depart-
ments in the accumulation of statistics and general informa-
tion. Our probationer, therefore, must be equal to making
out careful, detailed returns on agricultural, pastoral,
mining and other industries. There is no knowing what a
trooper may be asked to report upon : he is one of the first
people to whom a department turns when it requires facts
and figures on some special subject.

We will say that the would-be mounted policeman has
successfully survived his probationary period of twelve
months. He is now ready^to be drafted to a country district,
to be broken in to the actual life of a trooper. So far as he
knows, he is well primed for his duties ; he has the Parlia-
mentary Acts at his fingers'ends and a very proper confidence
in his own ability to interpret the law. There comes now
the commencement of an education a practical education
that will set the seal upon his training. His experience
may be said to justify the old card-playing dictum that
" whist begins where Cavendish leaves off." He finds that
the unexpected is always happening and that he is con-
stantly being confronted with the unprecedented. Here
comes the opportunity for him to display those qualities of
judgment, decision and tact which are absolutely essential
to his success. He must learn to think and act quickly,



to be lenient or severe as occasion demands even to shut his
eyes to a breach of the law, maybe. His position, particu-
larly if he is the only constable in his district, is an onerous
one, for to him everybody will come when difficulties arise.
Life in a small, scattered settlement is made up of small
things. There will be much to try his temper and test his

Above all things, the trooper policeman must be "a
whale for work." He is the only public servant the
only working man, indeed in Australia for whom there is
no eight-hours day. His work begins at any time and it
ends similarly, if it ever does end. From a week's trip after
a horse-thief or a black raider he returns to his office to find
a heap of letters awaiting replies. "Mr. So-and-So of the
Public Lands Department desires Mounted Constable John
Mulcahy, Reg. No. 0126, to furnish him with particulars
as to the number of acres cleared for cultivation in his
district during the past twelve months." Mr. Blank, of
another branch, asks for information with regard to bee-
keeping. An Hon. Member has raised a question in the
House and statistics must be prepared in readiness.

And so it goes on. There are a hundred and one things
calling for attention. One day it is pen and ink work,
another he is hi the saddle again to help in putting out a
bush fire, or in rounding up a lost horse. Let no prospec-
tive mounted constable think that it is going to be " all gas
and gaiters " for him when he has donned the smart-looking
uniform and goes riding out with sword and carbine in the
glory of full dress. There are plenty to envy him, perhaps,
but they mainly see the smooth side to his life.

Yet, with all its hard work and trials, a trooper police-
man's lot has its attractions and compensations. There is



an undeniable status conferred by the position. In his
own circle he is a very important personage ; and if he makes
many enemies among a certain class, he makes many friends
elsewhere. There is always a welcome for him at a squatter's
station, and bush hospitality in Australia is proverbial.
Then there is the freedom of the life when patrolling has to
be done ; the long rides through the bush with one or two
native trackers for company, and the opportunities for sport
of varied kind. In up-country districts wild-fowl are plenti-
ful. The camp meal is often to be provided by the gun.
When the feeling of loneliness that is apt to seize upon a
man has worn off, and he comes under the spell of the bush,
a trooper policeman finds the harness sitting lightly upon
him. There is something in the country that catches him,
something that is satisfying to his life, and he can shrug
his shoulders at the cares of office.

" I look back," said one ex-trooper, " to the years I
spent in the bush and wish I had them to live over again.
There was plenty of hard work, real tough jobs at times, and
a fair share of nasty work ; but it was a life for a man !
You don't take kindly to the city after you've been in the
wilds for long. Streets and houses seem to cramp you. And
the comradeship you enjoy, the scores of good fellows you
meet, the spice of excitement at times, the hard ride by day
and the camp-fire with its yarns at night they're not easily
forgotten, I tell you. ' Oh ! the hardest day was never
then too hard ! ' Gordon knew all about it, for he had been
a trooper himself. I served a rough apprenticeship in my
first few years of service, and I had my bad times after that,
but one looks back upon them easily in the end. Get a dozen
' old hands ' together and set them yarning of the days
' out back.' You'll see then what I mean."



Touching the variety of duties that fall to a mounted
policeman's lot only a few have been mentioned. He ex-
hibits his usefulness to the State in so many ways that it is
difficult to enumerate them all. An important work he
frequently undertakes is the care of indigent blacks, to whom
he serves out blankets and other necessaries. Of the detec-
tion of native criminals enough has been said in previous
chapters, but it is not always recognized how great is the
distance that a constable may have to travel in the execution
of his duty. In one case that came under the writer's
observation a trooper had the following experience.

An aboriginal murder had been committed in the
Murchison country, W.A. With three native witnesses
the officer proceeded under orders to Carnarvon, which he
reached only to find that the offender had escaped. He was
then instructed to take the witnesses back to the Mt.
Wittenoom Station and remain there for orders. Eleven
hundred miles had now been covered. The next move was
to Geraldton, 210 miles distant ; thence he returned to Mt.
Wittenoom, and thence, again, to Moorarie, this last a 200
miles' journey. In all over 1,700 miles were covered, and
the blacks walked all the way ! The time occupied was
from the end of June to the end of the following January.
This is an extraordinary instance, perhaps, but Aus-
tralia is a country of immense distances, and a trip of many
hundreds of miles may be a trooper's experience at any time.
An unpleasant form of duty is the bringing in of lunatics
from outlying parts, though, happily, this does not occur
frequently. If it is in the hot weather and the plains
have to be crossed, the scarcity of water adds greatly to the
hardships of the journey. The " hatters," as the patients
are commonly known, are the bane of the country police-



man's life when they break loose. The news that one is
abroad in the bush in a state of nudity generally means
that his capture will only be effected after a long, tiresome
chase in the teeth of a stifling hot wind.

Of the lighter side of his life the police trooper is much
more ready to speak, and often his experiences are quaint.
As registrar of marriages, for instance, he has been called
upon to " tie the knot " for many a happy couple who were
out of reach of a clergyman, and once at least he was peti-
tioned to pronounce a divorce. Trooper Donegan was the
officer in the case, that same Donegan who was representa-
tive of the law in the Northern Territory, as has been told.
The parties to the suit were an illicit grog-seller, whose
shanty had been destroyed by the police, and his wife.

As Mr. Searcey narrates the story, soon after the raid

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 30 of 32)