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World War II

War in the Territory for the NT Police


Darwin was bombed over 60 times during WWII and other Territory locations felt the impact of Japanese military forces in what was known as the 'Battle for Australia' becoming the first and only Australian police force subjected to enemy action.

Members of the Northern Territory Police and their trackers were seconded to the Army to form a reconaissance and surveillance unit called the 2/1st North Australia Observer Unit (NAOU - also know as the Nackeroos or Curtin's Cowboys) that had a 'stay behind' role for the imminent invasion (see article to right). This 6 page poster document outlines the formation of the North Australia Observer Unit (NAOU or Nackeroos) during WWII and the pivotal role played by serving members of the Northern Territory Police who were attached to the unit during the war. (this compressed file is 5 MB in size). Also see the 'In the Line of Duty - Timeline' for 1942 regarding the Bombing of Darwin, Police emplyed in Military Patrols, Before the bombing of Darwin there was a civilian evacuation of the town. Two months before the raid there was a riot at the Victoria Hotel. Judge Wells stayed in Darwin after the bombing and continued during the war with his duties. Constable Lionel McFarland stayed on as the only policeman in Darwin after the remainder were moved south 6 weeks after the first bombing. Wartime Justice prevailed albeit often in unusual circumstances. WWII Resources at the NT Library Service


Post War return of responsibility.

A story provided by Barry Frew. The Conscripts From the records of the NT Police Museum and Historical Society Records. During WW2 the NT Police Force was stretched to the limit and below strength due to members leaving to join the Defence Forces in the War. There were also members working with the Army in the NT and with the North Australia Observation Unit (Nackeroos). Quite a few members with the Force had also foregone annual leave during the last years of the War. The gazetted strength of the NT Police was 80 members. The actual member number was 50. Civil Administration of Darwin resumed at the close of 1945.The army turning over the control of the Top End to civilian government. Residents of the NT were returning and the shortage of Police members was acute. The number of Constables was inadequate as it only allowed one reserve man to answer telephones and to attend to the public for each of two shifts and one officer for town duty on those two shifts. Arrangements were made for SA Police and WA Police to lend officers to the NT Police to fill the gap. SA Police were to lend five Constables for the two years 1945 to 1947. WA Police were to lend two officers from 1946 to 1949. When SA advertised the vacancies 38 members of their Force applied. They gave us some of their newer members. In February 1945 the SA Police Commissioner chose the members and five Junior Probationary Constables came to the NT;

  • Kevin (Bobby) Breen aged 19 years;

  • Peter Delderfield aged 18 years;

  • John Donegan aged 19 years;

  • Bruce Evans aged 19 years; and

  • Ron Huddy aged 19 years.

The officers from SA although young in years and service were appreciated by the NT Police. Constable Huddy was an amateur boxer and a footballer of some skill. In 1950 he fought the Australia Heavyweight Champion Jack Cousins in a challenge bout. While a member of the NT Police he was injured (firearm wound to his leg) on a combined border patrol of the SA – NT Border area he was patrolling with a SA Police officer. At the end of their two years appointments to the NT Force a difficultly arose. They wanted to stay in the NT. The NT Force would have readily accepted them but the Federal Govt after a great deal of correspondence with SA Government ordered them home to their respective states. Typical reports on the members concerning them was – It is with regret that the Constable is leaving. He is an outstanding type, an excellent horseman, a good and willing worker and quite capable in carrying out in a competent manner any duty he has to do…. The SA Police appreciated the ‘thrown in the deep end’ training for their members in the Top End. All the conscripts were promoted to the rank of Mounted Constables on their return to SA. The WA Police appointed Constable John Dwyer and Gordon Reade who came in 1946 for two years to the end of 1948. They had some experience and maturity. During their time in the NT Force, both officers from the West had the misfortune of being injured in accidents.

Members during the War


Bombing of Darwin Video Link - The First Raid from the perspective of the members who were there.

Les Penhall was present on the day of the first bombing raid on Darwin.


Jim Mannion filmed his WWII travel to the Middle East in the Troopship Mauritania.


An external video covering the bombing. Military History Links

The East Point Military Museum is the major repository of artefacts of war in the Northern Territory and the Australian War Memorial the largest collection of Australian war relics and information

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