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CONMEE, James

James Colin CONMEE joined the NT Police in 1952* having previously served in the Queensland Police for 2 years.


He was involved in the investigation of the Sundown Murders in December 1957.

The information below has been supplied by Jim's daughter in law, Karen Smith:

James ‘Jim’ Colin Conmee was born on the 3rd of May 1929 in Charleville, Queensland to parents James Timothy Conmee and Mary Ann Phelan. In his prime Jim was perceived as a formidably tough individual and was respected by many. He was a fiercely independent person who had, until recently, always taken care of himself. Jim – ‘Old school’ polite, with impeccable manners and a quick wit. An engaging conversationalist. Jim was sent to a Marist Brothers boys boarding school in Sydney when he was very young. As a Horse Breaker working on cattle and sheep stations, James Timothy Conmee (a single father) would have deemed it necessary to ensure that Jim received a proper education in a stable environment. His father James Timothy Conmee was a tough, hard and extremely determined individual – a giant amongst men, not in stature but in his very nature and deeds. He was particularly adept with horses and his horsemanship was well known among the men of the land in rural Queensland. He was widely touted as being an amazing all round horseman, a product of the mulga country and was thought by many to be without peer as a scrub rider. James Timothy and his four brothers - Patrick Duignan Conmee, Thomas John Conmee, Robert Emmett Conmee and Vincent Vivian Conmee (Jims Uncles) were all involved in the Great War (WWI). A Lighthorseman, James Timothy Conmee's contribution in WWI was heroic to say the least.

James Timothy Conmee and son Jim sitting on his fathers racehorse ‘Pruviean’, winner of 15 races. Queensland c. 1932

On the 14 May 1919 James Timothy was awarded the Military Medal which was created in acknowledgement of individual or associated acts of bravery. He was officially congratulated for his actions and conduct having been mentioned numerous times in dispatches during the last big push. James and his actions were so highly regarded he was even personally congratulated by the Commanding Major General Officer (4th army - British Expeditionary Force) Sir Henry Rawlinson for his bravery in the field. His recommendation for the medal states that:

"At Chuignes France on the 24th of August 1918 L/Cpl Conmee whilst in command of a reconnaissance patrol, and when held up by heavy machine gun and rifle fire, left his men under cover, and continued to advance by himself until he located the enemy position, and completed his mission. His courage and determination was beyond praise. The previous day he led his section in the attack with great dash and boldness." On the 8 Aug 1918 in Proyart, Chuignes, France Lance Corporal #958 James Timothy Conmee, Lance Corporal 5208 John Nathaniel Doughty, along with some men of Lieutenant Mitchell's platoon from the 1st Battalion; discovered the Chuignes Gun after taking it upon themselves to go searching for it independently (without orders). Though the general position was known to the allies it was James and his mates that are to be commended for its capture.

The Chuignes Gun was a 15 inch German naval gun, affectionately named 'Big Bertha', which was used to bombard Amiens about 30 kilometres away from its position. The gun, with its 21 metre barrel and concrete foundations, weighed more than 500 tons and could fire a one ton projectile at least 38 kilometres. It was the largest gun used to fire on Amiens and had been out of action since early June 1917. The first barrel was worn out, a second was fitted and the gun was again in action on 7 August 1918. After firing only 35 shells it was destroyed by German troops on the morning of the 8 August 1918, pending its imminent capture by the Allies. The oldest brother Patrick Duignan Conmee was also awarded a Military Medal for bravery. His recommendation states " For inspiring gallantry under heavy shell fire. He picked up a man who lay wounded, in an exposed postion, and carried him 30 yards on his back".

Tragically Thomas John and Robert Emmet did not return from the war. Thomas was KIA in Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, Belgium and Robert passed away whilst on leave from septic pneumonia in Killarney, Ireland. Jims father also enlisted and fought in WWII. Jim remembered the day of his fathers enlistment as he had taken him along. He told how the solider taking enlistments had advised his father to “go home Granddad and look after your son”. James Timothy was 53 years old and he falsely claimed on his enlistment that he was 42 years old.

Jim spoke of a visit with his father where he told his dad that he was being beaten and bullied at the Marist Brothers. He retold how his father took him down to the local boxing gymnasium to learn how to fight. Jim said it was a tough lesson but it served him well and that after a few fights with other boys the bullying ceased. Jim had no knowledge of his mother as he had been separated from her when he was just an infant. Even so he loved his son and cared for his welfare. When he was 14/15yrs old Jim ran away from the Marist Brothers to work on stations in outback Queensland. Jim’s cousin, Robert Kinchington (son of Patrick Duignan Conmee) remembers Jim visiting with his Uncle Jim Snr at their house when he was young. He recalls that “Little Jimmy” Jnr had told him that when he left school he was going to join the police force. Jim did go on to do just that, joining the Queensland Police Force in 1950 at the age of 21 years. Jim was a Constable in the Queensland Mounted Police until 1952 at which time he accepted a transfer to the Northern Territory Police Force. The relocation meant that he had to leave his partner of 2yrs, a police horse named ‘Ranger’ with whom he had won a ribbon in 1951 for best horse in the detachment. Jim met Shirley Patricia Lindon sometime around 1960 in the Northern Territory outback. He had just left a marriage to Valma Doherty with whom he had two children – James Stephen (Jamie) & Camille, both born in Darwin. Whilst stationed at Finke he was part of the investigative team for the Sundown Murders in 1957-1958 which resulted in one of the biggest manhunts in South Australian and Northern Territory history. The case involving the murder of Thyra Bowman, her daughter Wendy and a friend of the Bowman Family, Thomas Whelan in Dec 1957; was so named as their remains were found on Sundown Station in Northern South Australia. Jim and Shirl had one child, Robert James Conmee who was born in 1963 at Alice Springs Hospital. At the time Shirl and Jim were running the Finke Hotel, south of Alice Springs. Their relationship ended in 1966, though they maintained a mutual respect for each other and were in regular contact through the years. Shirl still speaks fondly of Jim. After leaving the NT Police Force Jim became a bus coach driver in Queensland, worked for ABC as a transport officer in NSW and later a sales representative for Territory Jerky in Darwin. His jobs saw him travel extensively. Jim has resided in outback Queensland, Manly NSW, outback NSW, Alice Springs, Finke Hotel and Darwin; where he resided at Tiwi Gardens Nursing Home until his death. Recent years had seen Jim suffer many serious health problems, but even though he had no family to support him in Darwin he was adamant that he would see his days out there. Jim was a much loved grandfather to James Robert, Steven Leslie Isaac and Mitchell David Conmee. Jim on 30 June 2011 and was buried in the Thorak Road cemetery in Darwin.


Jim Conmee - The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, QLD: 1951 - Friday 10 August, p5. Bushmen in the "Force" Police Commissioner Smith saluted yesterday as 17 bushmen rode past him on shining horses. The bushmen were former station workers, now members of the Queensland Mounted Police in a showtime display. Ex-Light Horseman Sub Inspector R H Sabien said he had drilled the detachment in cavalry manoeuvres. The troopers would be used in next years Royal Tour. Ranger, ridden by 22 year old Constable J C Conmee (ex-Charleville) won the ribbon for being the best horse in the detachment. The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, QLD: 1952, Thursday 28 August, p5 Parting of the ways Last thought for his horse, Constable Jim Conmee, 23, of Cunnamulla watched his horse, Repulse, being shod by Constable Alex Mackenzie at Oxley Police Depot yesterday before he started his own packing for his journey to the Northern Territory. Constable Conmee and Constable Primo Bonato, 23 of Ayr will leave for the Territory by car at dawn on Sunday to begin duty as Commonwealth Police Officers. They will leave their horses behind. Both former stockmen, Constable Conmee and Bonato say they prefer bush patrol to city beats.

Jim Conmee watches while 'Repulse' is shod. *The NTPM Database has two start date listings for James Conmee - 8/9/1952 and 2/12/1954 which requires further research to clarify. Alf Bonato has provided information that his father Primo Bonato and Jim Conmee left the Queensland Police Force at Oxley on Friday the 29th of August 1952 after completing their last shift. They arrived at the old Bennett Street Station on the afternoon of Sunday the 1st of September. It is believed that Jim and Primo started work on Tuesday the 2nd of September and were sworn in on Sunday the 28th of September 1952.

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