Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter III page 2

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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

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Fox, the Commandant of the corps I belonged to, was a hard taskmaster. We had some six weeks’ stiff drill and training before we were considered fit for work in the country. Our Commandant was stern and strict during hours of duty; off duty he was altogether friendly and considerate. In the evenings he let himself go; and the self imposed task of the cadet on sentry duty when Fox returned to his tent was to help him to bed. Yet he was the first man up in the morning, and after plunging his head into a bucket of cold water he was ready for 6 am drill, just as he had had nothing stronger than tea or coffee the previous night. Only once did he fail, and that was through loss of voice, on Boxing Day, 1852. This no doubt was the result of extra deep potations the previous night. Drill, however, had to be gone on with as usual, for with our Commandant drill was a sacred duty. First one and then another Cadet was called upon to carry on the exercises. The older men were first chosen, but they happened to be some of those who had kept up Christmas as their officer had done; they failed to please him, and ended in getting the detachment into confusion, to Fox’s infinite indignation. Fortunately for me I had spent the holiday with some quaker friends, Mr. Robert Ffennell, of Abbotsford (Mr. Ffennell married a daughter of John Batman, whom, with her sister, Mrs Robert Collier, I met on several occasions. ) and his family, and when my turn came I was able to carry on the drill so entirely to the Commandant’s satisfaction that I was promoted on the spot, an advantage that held good for me throughout my service.

Our training now being fairly complete, the entire detachment was drafter to Ballarat. We met with but few incidents on the way. As we crossed the Keilor Plains on our march, we found many disappointed diggers returning from Ballarat, having found the shallow diggings on Golden Point either worked out or occupied by earlier arrivals. The disappointed ones with one voice declared that Ballarat was done; its prospects as a goldfield had passed away for ever. This was in January, 1853. What poor prophets they were!


Our provisions on the march were plentiful but very rough. The fact is there was not a single bushman amongst us, and our cooking was not a success. Crooke, the landlord of the Woolpack Inn at Bacchus Marsh, heard of our approach and prepared a royal feast for us. Fowls, joints, green peas, puddings and other dainties such as none of us had tasted since leaving “Home” were provided, for which the good old man had our thanks. It was reward enough for him that he was able to entertain those who were in the service of the Queen, and to see them enjoy his hospitality. Our Commandant showed how well he could refrain from over-indulgence when on duty, and drank very moderately of the liquor our host provided. The Woolpack Inn is now but a memory, though it is not many years since I saw some portions of the main building still standing.

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