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Victoria Hotel Riot 1941

Two months before the bombing of Darwin there was a riot at the Victoria Hotel.

A group of soldiers who had been drinking at the Victoria Hotel. A game of football started improvising with 4 gallon kerosene tins in the middle of the roadway outside. This caused friction with local civilians going about their work and the police were called. Vastly outnumbered by over 50 young soldiers attempts by police to restore order were resisted. The Victoria Hotel closed its doors which infuriated the drunken soldiers and some of them broke open the front doors and stole about 600 pounds worth of beer and spirits.

Assistance was requested from the army base at Larrakeyah and soon an armed party arrived and spread across the street in two ranks with .303 rifles and bayonets and an officer in front with a drawn sword. They advanced and made short work of the rioters.

During the war there were large numbers of Australian and American personnel based or transiting through Darwin which because of its geographical location made it an ideal launch pad for the pacific war. With the tension crated by imminent conflict combined often with boredom it was inevitable there would be some issues. Especially when alcohol was added into the mix and it was a duty of police to close the bars. A number of incidents are chronicled in the memoirs of the members who served in Darwin during this time.

'Boory' Hale was the Master of the Maroubra which did runs to Gove and the South Alligator to pick up buffalo hides and he also did a bit of crocodile catching.

Bob Darken recounts Boory going into the Victoria Hotel or 'Vic' just before 10.00 one night but he couldn't get a drink as the bar was so packed with thirsty soldiers. Boory had some young crocodiles which he placed on one end of the bar and let loose. The foot long snappy crocodiles quickly cleared him enough room with one running the length of the bar. One night Boory had taken some soldiers to his shack next to the ice-works. When he went to bed they began to help themselves to his generous store of liquor in his cold store. Pretending to be asleep at first he waited until both were inside and shut the cool room which due to the insulation was practically soundproof. A couple of hours later let the freezing duo out saying "How'd you blokes get in there? I thought you'd gone back to your camp!". Boory was often visited by police on their rounds of the town centre.

The story is recounted in 'Patrol Indefinite' by Sidney Downer

Also see 'Bush Justice' by Ron Brown and Pat Studdy-Clift

* research story about Boory and Constable Jack Kennett in the mount of the Fitzmaurice River aboard the Maroubra where they were attacked. p82 Browns book

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