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JOHNS, John

From "A Force Apart?" p121

Another constable about whom we know a little is Mounted Constable John Robert Johns who served in the Northern Territory from 1910 to 1915. Johns later returned to South Australia, where he reached the rank of Superintendent before his retirement. Born into a farming family at Hamley Bridge in 1887, Johns grew up in the country. Unlike Cowle, Johns appears to have received only a basic education, leaving school at the age of 15. Soon after completing school, he felt the urge to leave home and the next four years were spent working as a station hand in South Australia’s ninety-mile desert. Still hankering for adventure he sought work on a railway being constructed from Port Lincoln to the South Australian inland. He obviously liked the heavy work involved on the railways because his next job was working on another new railway line, this time to Pinnaroo. After five years Johns tired of the railway life and travelled to Broken Hill where he worked as a miner for a year. These outdoor and hard working environments stood him in good stead when he became a police officer because he was able to withstand the rigours of the hard life in the bush. He joined the South Australian Police Force in December 1908. He spent the initial year of his service in Adelaide before transferring to Wanneroo and was appointed to the Northern Territory on 21 June 1910. During his service in the Northern Territory, Johns was stationed at Darwin, Brock’s Creek and Roper Bar. He also spent lengthy periods patrolling the north-west portion of the Northern Territory and across Arnhem Land. One of the more famous incidents in which he was involved was the capture of Koppio, an Indigenous Australian hanged for the murder of two Chinese. Accepting all the hardships of policing in the Northern Territory soon after the turn of the century without demur, Johns was the quintessential ‘bush copper’, quiet, unassuming and efficient. He returned to Adelaide in August 1915, where he served until 1947. He died in 1949, aged 63, his son believing that his death was hastened by privations suffered during his service in the Northern Territory. Reading Johns’ autobiography it does not seem that he felt he suffered many privations. Certainly, he had hankered after a life in the bush since he left school and his life in the Northern Territory appeared no worse than for many others of the same era.

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