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|Frank MILLS - Part I [6 June 2008] transcribed from an oral interview|
|Cadet ID: 123|
|Association ID: 29|
FRANK MILLS, POLICE CADET NUMBER 123,
KILLARNEY VALE, NSW
Ian Granland: When were you born Frank?
FRANK MILLS: I was born in Manly NSW, on
Ian Granland: What school did you attend?
FRANK MILLS: I went to
Ian Granland: What was growing up in Tottenham like?
FRANK MILLS: Tottenham didn’t have much going for it particularly in the depression; The town had one policeman and about 250 people. We used to play cricket in the back yard and occasionally roll the tennis courts when the grown-ups didn’t want to play. I don’t think we had a football team around that time.
The town was founded in about 1901. Copper was found there and in 1916 they
wanted copper for the war effort so they brought the rail line through and they
also brought hundreds of men to clear the land so wheat could be grown to feed
Ian Granland: What did you father do for a living?
FRANK MILLS: My father opened the first general store in Tottenham. Being the storekeeper he also was the real estate agent and the stock and station agent. My eldest brother was the first child born in the town. Again no doctors or midwife. The nearest doctor was 80 miles away at Trundle and that was a long way to drive a horse and sulky.
Ian Granland: What did you do at Tottenham?
FRANK MILLS: Other things to fill my time as a kid was kangaroo shooting, setting rabbit traps to catch rabbits, riding horses then of an afternoon you had to find the milking cow, lock the calf up and chop the firewood for the house. Split up the blocks. There was always something to do.
Sometimes they couldn’t get the eleven men for the cricket team and if you were around they would slip you in even if you were only 10 or 11 (years of age).
Ian Granland: Was yours a religious family?
FRANK MILLS: We weren’t a particularly religious family but we believed in god. There were three churches in the town when I was there but no resident minister or priest. They came from Trundle and came out to do their service, have lunch with someone in town and then get on their horse and sulky and drive back. There were no cars much in those days.
Ian Granland: What did you do when you left school?
FRANK MILLS: One of my brothers was employed in the store so there was no room there for two of us so I applied for the post office, the railway, the bank , anything that was going.
As Dad was the stock and station agent, if he sent more than four truck loads of sheep to Sydney , that entitled you to send a man down free of charge and return fare to keep the sheep upright etc. Well on one occasion my father had eight loads of sheep going down that he was agent for so my brother Eddie and I were given the job and Eddie was keen to join the police force. He already had a batchelor of agriculture but he couldn’t get a job. So when we arrived at the Flemington Sales Yards we handed over the sheep and then went into Central (Railways Station) where we had a shower and a bit of breakfast then went out to the police depot at Redfern.
Eddie was a quarter of an inch too short. Rolly McKeechie was the recruitment sergeant
and he eyed me off and said “What about your little brother?” I had no idea that there was such a thing as
a police corps. They measured me and
were about to start the dictation test, which was taken from the
editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald, for the group, and there were a lot of applicants in
those in those days , so I joined
in. There were lots of words in the test
that I hadn’t even heard of but I got through and through the mathematics as
well. Whilst I was at
Then 3 months later, the local policeman,
Constable Victor Burgess, came over and told me that I had been selected and
that I was to be in
Ian Granland: How did that all happen?
FRANK MILLS: When I arrived there no-one seemed to be very interested in me, bar a Sergeant Douglass, and he said “If you if you spell my name correctly with two “s’s” at the end you and me will be good friends.” Well he turned out to be almost a father to me. His son Reg Douglass joined one year later. He steered me in the right track. I learnt to work the switch. There was no radio in those days you took every message down and my bit of shorthand was helping. Then I typed them up.
The police force really opened my eyes. Pubs closed at in those days and I had never seen a woman drunk before let alone lift her skirt and urinate on the floor and be told to get a bucket and clean it up and I thought “Ohhh – I’m going home”. The next day, well we worked 48 hours a week – 6 days. I got three pound fourteen a fortnight ($7.40) and the next day I was to start at 8:00am and just about lunch time I was called into the Inspector’s office and I thought “umm – I’m in trouble” but the Inspector said ”Would you take this packet of cigarettes to the kiosk around the corner, it’s the wrong ones.” So I took it around and came back. Another half hour or so later on “Son will you take them back, they are still the wrong one”. At that stage Sergeant Douglass said “Don’t take any more cigarettes around there” and he went in and slammed the door and I could hear him bellowing at this inspector. I was carrying SP bets around to the kiosk. Yes, that was one of the lessons in life.
Ian Granland: So Frank you didn’t start at the police depot.
FRANK MILLS: No, it was
Rex was a very French horn player and he more or less straight away went into the police band. He was the only that I know of who ever wore a police uniform. I think they swore him in as a special constable so they could get away with that. Rex is still alive but I don’t think his memory is too good. He lives down around Nowra way.
Alan Power is dead and Bill Wright never made 18 months in the job. He used to come to work in a taxi cab. In those days we were flat out getting a penny to travel down to Central Railway Station.
Ian Granland: How old were you when you joined?
FRANK MILLS: I was about sixteen and a half.
Ian Granland: What age were you when you were sworn in?
FRANK MILLS: Twenty one. And we stayed on three pound fourteen until
the day we were sworn in. I had to
continue with my shorthand and typing and pay for that myself. I went to
Ian Granland: What did you do when you went to the gymnasium on that Monday?
FRANK MILLS: We just fell in and this Ken
Frost who was looking after me just told me what to do, get your gear on, strip
along with the eight or ninety of us. There were no pegs to hang you clothes, you just threw them on the floor. Someone had given me a little old gladston
bag which I kept my lunch in. Just
remember in those days there were no plastic bags, you just had it in a brown
paper bag. Anyhow we got outside and
lined up. There was no welcome to the
four new cadets. Harry Bamford was the
assistant. He was a constable first
class and there was sergeant Bruce Grigger. He was the sergeant in charge of us. He was a twin. He and his brother
had joined the British navy and served their time. His brother went onto become an Admiral in
Ian Granland: What did you do then?
FRANK MILLS: Well you would shower and then it was a scramble because the hot water system didn’t last to long and I remember Ken Frost told me (laughs) , he lent me his soap, I didn’t have soap, “If you drop the soap, don’t bend over to pick it up, we’ve got one amongst us” And, I, being a country boy didn’t have a clue what he meant. Well it turned out that we did have one amongst us and he was sacked as a sergeant in due course. I’m not going to give any names (laughs).
Ian Granland: How long did you live at – did you say Burwood?
FRANK MILLS: I stayed at Burwood until I was
nearly 19, I think. We used to do our
gymnasium when they were building boys clubs at Hornsby,
Granland: How long did you spend at
FRANK MILLS: Ohhh – that’s a long while ago, I think about six months. They moved us around on a fairly regular pattern, so went to Headquarters and worked in the correspondence section there writing up indexes and filing and occasionally they would get us to ride a big … after I’d learnt to ride the Harley Davidsons, sometimes you’d be sent down to the GPO in Martin Place. You’d get into Pitt Street, then you’d go down a hole, down underneath the the GPO with a Harley Davidson and a big box about seven feet long instead of a side car and you’d have to lift all your mail sacks into that and then coming back up, it was a good slope and there’d be a chap up on the footpath – a GPO employee with a red flag – and he’d wave you out when it was time to come out and the trams were up the main street and things of that nature. All hair raising, good fun.
Ian Granland: So you would take a motor bike and side car from headquarters and pick up all the mail?
FRANK MILLS: Yes pick it up, from
Ian Granland: Would you have a uniform them?
FRANK MILLS: No, some days … on a wet day someone at the patrol yard would loan you a wet suit coat. I’m not sure of the protection you got.
Ian Granland: So there was no lift in headquarters then?
FRANK MILLS: There was a lift, but that was reserved for officers and gentlemen in those days.
Granland: Was there any suggestion that you might live-in at
FRANK MILLS: That came when you were sworn in, yes. I got into a bit of a predicament when I was approaching 19 and I had to be eleven stone seven – for my height. I think I was five foot eleven and I couldn’t make it and the police surgeon at the time sent out a letter saying that if I didn’t make it they would dispense with my services.
For quite a long while before that I used
to keep an apple core or carrot called ‘Stormy’ and Sergeant Windsor, who was
in charge of the horses had told me earlier never give them sugar but it was
alright to give them a carrot. He asked
me if I knew how to feed a horse and I said, yes you put it in the palm of your
hand so it can’t bite you fingers. He
asked if I could ride a horse and I said yes so this went on for … I’d say, two
years and he’d always say g’day. Well
this went on for two years or so and I told him of my predicament I said I
don’t think I’ll be here much longer, he asked why and I told him. Anyhow within about … before I went on my 19th birthday they transferred me as the
first cadet to go to the police stables. A week later, Alan Neilson came over, there were two of us, we used to
ride horses over to
Ian Granland: So did you go from police headquarters to the stables?
FRANK MILLS: No, ah no, I’d been
elsewhere. I’d been to Fingerprints,
Modus Operandi , I had a little stint at No. 7 (division – Redfern) and I was
two days at the fingerprints and the next thing this transfer came to the
mounted section. The fingerprints in
those days was out in the same … at the police depot. It had been at the
the Modus Operandi Section was at
FRANK MILLS: It was at
Granland: Where abouts at
FRANK MILLS: In the
There were about seven cadets at the Modus Operandi. All we did … if there was a stolen watch and it was described as ‘from Lucy to Jarrand’, well you put ‘from Lucy from Jarrand’ on the card and things like that. The detectives would then come in and say “I’ve got a watch here with Lucy to Jarrand” on it they would get the card and it would be returned to the owner. Might have been stolen at Dubbo but they would know where it was.
Ian Granland: How many cadets were at Fingerprints with you, do you remember that?
FRANK MILLS: Merv Wood was there. He stayed most of his service at Fingerprints. No I don’t remember how many cadets were there.
Granland: Where abouts was the Cadet Sergeants Office?
Ian Granland: And did you do law training as well?
FRANK MILLS: Only when we started the actual trainee class is when you got your law instruction.
Ian Granland: What about public speaking, did you do that?
FRANK MILLS: They used to get us debating classes but it wasn’t public speaking.
Ian Granland: So your shorthand hadn’t started either then?
FRANK MILLS: Oh yes I was a competent shorthand writer.
Ian Granland: Yes, but you did that by yourself?
FRANK MILLS: No, No, there were no shorthand classes within the department. Jack Hyslop started that much later.
Ian Granland: Was he with you, Jack Hyslop?
FRANK MILLS: He was ahead of us. He saw a good lurk there and got away with it.
Ian Granland: Was only one cadet sergeant and a first class constable?
FRANK MILLS: Yes. We used to go to Coogee Aquarium for our swimming lessons, got the bronze medallion out there after a couple of years. Summer time we wouldn’t go to the depot for gym we would go straight to Coogee and have your swim and do your lesson in life saving and things of that nature.
And we did the St John Ambulance. They used to come and give us instructions. We’d do the wrapping of each other up in bandages, something different.
Ian Granland: So you said there was about 80 or 90 cadets when you joined?
FRANK MILLS: Doing the gym course, yes I think we were always about 90 strong and there were always about 10 or 12 going down to the police rowing club, they would do rowing rowing instead of physical culture. Merv Wood was one. We never saw much of Merv until it was time to do some display, he’d be there somewhere.
Ian Granland: So did you all know each other?
FRANK MILLS: Pretty well, yes.
Ian Granland: And when did you start doing displays and gymnastics. How did that all happen?
FRANK MILLS: I would say that was on from
1938 was 150 years of
Ian Granland: How were you treated by the police as a cadet?
FRANK MILLS: Most of them were very good to us. There was one fellow in particular we all didn’t get on with. A fellow named Don Ferguson. His father was the Metropolitan Superintendent which in those days was the third highest rank. Don had been to the Olympic Games in ’36 with the rowing team. He would come into the M.O. Section and he treated us like … ah … how can I say … a bit of dirt.
Ian Granland: Was he a cadet?
FRANK MILLS: No he was a policeman. And he was one there that … no he was right
against us, against the lot of us. He finished
up as the Detective Superintendent in Charge of the
Ian Granland: What other studies did you undertake as a cadet?
FRANK MILLS: Birds … um (laughs) female birds. Nothing else. We were required to study the police rules and instruction book and I was a bit lucky when I was at the mounted stables. Ron Livermoore was the second in charge and he wanted to pass the sergeants exam so I used to question him. Questions and answers, I used to type them up – the questions and he’d give me the answers and I’d check them all and I’d used to… I knew where the previous sergeants examination papers were from headquarters were so I’d get all the questions from those and I make sure he knew all the correct answers. That was to be a great stead to me because later on Alan Neilson and I, we made up a booklet and the whole class that started on the 3 July 1939, one hundred and fifty three of us, they all wanted a copy of the booklet, so we had it printed up, someone recommended we got a commendation over it and the Commissioner of Police thought it was a great idea and we got commended on the wonderful book we produced and for years after it someone copied that book and used to sell it from somewhere over Manly way.
Ian Granland: Have you still got a copy of that book?
FRANK MILLS: No (laughs). Had it for years but it would be out of date now.
Ian Granland: When did you get sworn in?
FRANK MILLS: On my birthday,
Ian Granland: Had shorthand been brought in as part of the curriculum by then?
FRANK MILLS: Yes. The ruling was then I think that if you couldn’t do 120 words a minute they would not confirm you at the end of your probation; at the end of your first years service. There were a lot got caught. Rex Waddington was one. He was senior to me by age and – ah, been sworn in before me he got ah, well behind me. There were quite a lot got caught.
Ian Granland: And who was running the shorthand then? Jack Hyslop?
FRANK MILLS: No. I think Hyslop must have started during the war years. Our class started on the 3rdJuly there were about … there was total of 153 and I think 25 of those could have been cadets and umm, one cadet got the sack two days before the class started and they ah, grabbed Reggie Douglass and he dropped and he was a year … he was one exactly one year and a couple of days younger than me. They brought him forward and I think Reg might have been the last of the Metropolitan Superintendents before they changed all the ranking system.
Ian Granland: Have you ever used shorthand in your service, in your life?
FRANK MILLS: Ah. They transferred me to Wagga to learn to be a detective out there and, I took a statement from a girl who tossed her baby in the canal and that was … that was produced in court and it wasn’t queried. Ummm - quite a few times I’d used shorthand, yes. Ah, I … they also used to … because I was out that area there was a police inquiry, entered, an internal police going I would be taken away and do the shorthand for that and, on two or three appeals when the police had been dealt, my shorthand was never queried. But it gradually slowed down you could keep up if you weren’t using it.
Ian Granland: What hours did you work as a cadet?
FRANK MILLS: It was six days a week. The gymnasium was always 8:00am till … 8:00am then you would go down to wherever you were working then you would knock off at. On the Saturday you would go straight to your branch or station wherever you were working. That might be a bit altered you might be told to be there at instead of 8 and things like that.
Ian Granland: Did you work police headquarters and the M O section of a Saturday?
FRANK MILLS: Yes.
Ian Granland: So everyone in society worked of a Saturday?
FRANK MILLS: Yes. It was a 48 hour week. I think it might have been 1948 before it became a 40 hour week. I was at … Through the war years it was decided we should give one day a week extra and that was supposed to raise money for the spitfire fund or something so we worked 13 days out of the 14. No overtime. You never mentioned overtime.
Ian Granland: Did you get time off in lieu for overtime?
FRANK MILLS: Ahhh . If you were game enough to look for it and ask for it. It was just part and parcel of life you worked the hours and that was it.
Ian Granland: And at police headquarters. Were there all cars underneath and motor bikes, there was no horses there?
FRANK MILLS: There was no horses were at police headquarters. All the horses were out at the stables and well they are still are under that new agreement with the monks who bought the depot … the police depot is now owned by some monks and ahh, but the stables are heritage and they’ve got a peppercorn lease for 99 years I believe. I went down to the opening of the new stables its very, very nice. Stainless steel horse troughs. We used to have to walk round with buckets of water. They have their own troughs now, never empties. Their meal comes down in one shoot into their stainless steel bins. Theres no need to get amongst them.
Ian Granland: How long did you spend at the stables as a cadet?
FRANK MILLS: I was there from the time I was 19 until I was 21. Nearly two years.
Ian Granland: And you put that weight on – obviously?
FRANK MILLS: No, at that stage I umm, I had moved out of Burwood into a boarding house about 200 yards from the stables in Redfern. I was doing some … competing in some amateur wrestling - for the police. I won it for two years, in 1938 and ’39 while I was still a cadet. And the police team used to come and wrestle in the gymnasium. And Stan Windsor, who was the sergeant in charge of the mounted used to often say “Come on over, I want to see you wrestling” I’d go over there and mix it with the big boys and the little boys and occasionally I get a wrestle out at Leichhardt Stadium on the quiet and get four pounds for it. The promoter got one pound, the bloke who minded your clothes, gave you a locker and loaned you a pair of wrestling boots, he got a pound (laughs) you got two pounds for getting bashed about for four rounds or so.
Ian Granland: Wasn’t bad money though.
FRANK MILLS: Good money. It made a difference between starving, well not starving you had that extra bit of pocket money.
Ian Granland: How did you put that weight on you spoke about earlier?
FRANK MILLS: Well, because I was a mounted
man, they didn’t seem to worry about me getting to be eleven seven. I was still wrestling at eleven four but I
could lift it up and lift it down sort of business, and (laughs) I might
mention that throughout my life I’ve been around fourteen seven and I’m still
around 14 stone 7. When I think of all the fat guys they had in those days that
couldn’t climb up the ropes in the gym and couldn’t run around there was one of
Ian Granland: Was he a cadet?
FRANK MILLS: He was a cadet. Umm, his brother, what was his name. We always called him ‘Guts’. Umm Guts and a detective named Ahearn went
out to Long Bay one morning to pick up a criminal and bring him into court over
something and, Ahearn trusted Bowie to receive the prisoner and as Bowie said
afterwards he wouldn’t have expected a prisoner to have a gun in his pocket and
Bowie ran and Ahearn got shot, shot dead.
Ian Granland: Did he get sacked over it?
FRANK MILLS: I don’t know whether they sacked him or he decided that , you know, whether it was your proper…. Don’t know all the details of that.
Ian Granland: Was he a cadet then?
FRANK MILLS: No, No, he was a young trainee detective. His father was a detective inspector. You know, if you had a dad who was an inspector in those days you got on pretty well in the force. They looked after them.
Ian Granland: How many holidays did you get then Frank, when you were a cadet?
FRANK MILLS: Fourteen days.
Ian Granland: Would you go home.
FRANK MILLS: Umm, yes, on the train and out to Tottenham.
Ian Granland: What type of things did you get up to as a cadet? Anything unusual or …?
FRANK MILLS: There were plenty of jokes
played, I suppose.. I don’t know, it was
a pretty pleasant life. Sing under the
showers. There was a few good
singers. Old father
Ian Granland: Did they have a canteen at the training centre in those days?
FRANK MILLS: No, no.
Ian Granland: Well where were your classrooms?
FRANK MILLS: The classrooms were … they built a brand new building over the … armory was down underneath, we had three classrooms over it. That would be on the western wall of the police depot. You have the gymnasium on the eastern side and that would have been on the western (I think he means the southern side). Our class of 153 cleaned up. You had all the foot police up the front, then there were five cadets in that room, more foot police and more cadets and then the mounted men were behind that were there with the rest of the cadets.
Ian Granland: Were the mounted men separate?
FRANK MILLS: Yeah, because they came in … they got their numbers after, it was a bit unfair. If you have a look at the classes of those days the foot police always got their numbers and … and you were promoted by that numerical system.
Ian Granland: So - mounted police, were they only mounted police in the academy then or were there still mounted police out in the bush?
FRANK MILLS: Oh yes, still had them in the
bush. I was the last of the mounted
police at Howlong. I was the only active
one that was still one stationed at the … north of … north of
That’s where the horse fell with me at ah, Howlong and buggered my life up.
Ian Granland: So you went to Howlong as … as, and I know we are diverging here, but as a mounted policeman?
FRANK MILLS: Yes.
Ian Granland: What year was that?
FRANK MILLS: 1946 and I was Officer in Charge of Howlong, a one man station, Balldale (a nearby town) was closed down for the war years but it was still active so I had to go out there and … Brockelsby. You rode the old troop horse from – Howlong to Balldale and issued petrol and cleaned up the mail and rode him home again. Two days later on out to Brocklesby and did the same. Petrol rationing was on at that stage, and you’d be going along and the farmer would be pulling up in his big flash car and saying “how long will you be, Ive …" you know.
Continued in Part IIwh