I might send one of you to Manangatang

Chapter 7

Published Jun, 2022

Horsemanship in the Victorian Mounted Police. James Chester Draper is pictured 4th from left during training at the Victorian Police Mounted Branch Depot oval in St Kilda Road, Southbank. This photo was used in The Argus newspaper on Saturday, October 19, 1929. Photo credit Draper family

When horses were used, the hills on the road were the main features. Bear’s Hill was the big one leading up from Running Creek Road to the Doreen – Ridge Road junction.  It was known as the finger post; its hands pointing the various directions. Before Bear’s Hill was the Little Hill. The cutting at Yan Yean was Grimshaw’s Hill. The road along the Reservoir was Lyon’s Drive. The Council had bought it from the MMBW, to make Grimshaw’s Hill a bit easier.

Cr. Lyons lived where the Yan Yean Feed Store is now. To the north next door, was Cr. W.H. James place, ‘Kooringal’, probably the show place of the district. Cr. James owned a lot of land and ran sheep. My brother Tom bought his farm from Cr. James. Tom’s place was next to Kelvin Thomas’s. Tom milked cows until he died. We always went to the Whittlesea Show. I entered a drawing book once and got first prize. Hurrey Brothers used to show Ayrshire cows. Jack and Charles Andrews of Whittlesea also showed Ayrshires. Nearly all farmers, in Whittlesea and near the railway line, milked cows. A train load of milk would be picked up, from Whittlesea to Thomastown.

There was no electricity and we used kerosene lamps. Kero. tins (four gallons) were used as buckets. The kerosene came in cases of two tins. A kero. case made a good tucker box. We used to make a Coolgardie safe[1] to try to keep food in, especially meat and butter, but in summer the meat was mostly salted and after a few days a bit of corned beef got very hard. A Coolgardie safe is made by putting a vessel of water above the food safe, with a few pieces of rag hanging from the water. The water would drip from the rag.

Girls played jack bones and hop scotch, and boys played mostly football when we could buy a ball, about once a year. Blackboards and slates were used for writing, but the bigger grades also had a copy book with writing on the top line, which you copied exactly.

Drays, and some wagons, had no springs and the horses pulling them were never taken out of walking pace – about two miles an hour. Buggies, spring carts, and wagons with springs travelled much faster and sometimes, in buggies and coaches, the horses would get into a gallop. Early motor vehicles had solid rubber tyres. The first motor truck I saw was carting timber in Flinders Street, Melbourne. It was an ‘Itala” and had a motor up front and a big chain like a giant bike chain, which drove the back axle. It was very noisy. Needless to say, early motors caused many horses to bolt.

Our family often played cricket, always with a home-made bat – sometimes willow and sometimes wattle – chopped out with an axe. Other times we went for a walk in the Board, as we called the land around the Reservoir. You always had a stick, as snakes were plentiful. Tom and I, and Staff were at home working on the farm and George was about to leave school. I thought I would leave home and be one less on the farm. I put in for a vacancy in the North Australian Police but missed out.

I then went to the Australian Army Service Corps. We were at Sturt Street, South Melbourne with about 80 horses, which were prepared for the Easter Camps of the Citizen’s forces. Military training was compulsory for those living within 20 miles of Melbourne. The year was 1927. I applied for the Police Force and came up for examination. About 12 of us were picked from 1200. We then had to wait. I was called up on 8 May 1928. Tom also applied but did not attend for examination. Money was very scarce at the time, but the crops had to be attended to. Tom was a very good farmer and at one stage did a short course at Dookie College[2]. He was extra good too with large teams of horses.

I was eleven and a half stone and six feet tall, and was one of the small men of the batch of 65 recruits, but I was able to cope with the drill and physical exercises and the books. I was second top in the retention examination, beaten by Rod Breavington[3], who had done four years in the New Zealand Police. (Rod was later a war hero.) I wrestled as a middle weight and won Novice Amateur and Open in 1929.

I went into the riding school for the Mounted[4] in 1929 and worked in the Sergeant’s Office while waiting for the school. When we finished training the Inspector in charge Mr. O’Neill inspected us. He said “A fine body of men. Some of you will go a long way in the Service. Yes, I might send one of you to Manangatang[5].”  He probably did. One went to Sea Lake and one to Nathalia. I went to Numurkah[6].

Before we left Melbourne, we did duty at the various race-courses and football grounds. There was also a lot of strike duty, mostly protecting volunteer workers on the wharves and timber industry. At football we’d protect the umpires. There were escorts for St. Patrick’s day, the arrival of Amy Johnson[7] on her flight from England, the opening of Parliament and of course the Melbourne Cup.

At Numurkah the Mounted Men’s room joined the office, so I was on call. A tin bath in a detached building had a cold water shower and no shortage of cold water. I would run one mile and get warmed up for the shower, quite healthy I think.

I should mention that the end of fruit growing at ‘Barton Hill’ came when the Government took over the crop by forming an apple and pear board. All this fruit belonged to the Government. They instructed the growers where to deliver. They packed it and paid cartage on it and sold it. My mother informed me all she got was 30 pounds for the year’s apples. The boys pulled the trees out of the ground and started milking cows, selling the cream. When we sold apples for export, they were put into one bushel cases. We were paid one penny for making the case and three pence a case for packing. The Board cost half a million in wages to run an industry worth one and a half million pounds. The plum and apricot trees were old and dying out too. At ‘Charnwood’, quince trees grew along the creeks and we would pick about 200 cases each year from these.

After my father left Charnwood in 1900, Auntie Maria came back from Glenburn and lived in Ryder’s old house. When my grandfather died in 1909, she, with my father and Auntie Mary bought Charnwood. Auntie Maria moved into Charnwood and milked cows. When Auntie Mary died in 1911, my father took over her share. Auntie Mary also owned three blocks opposite Reid’s house. These were known as Slessar’s, Jimmy Cornell’s and Mary Draper’s selections. Uncle Tom Hurrey bought these. My father took over the remainder of Charnwood when Auntie Maria died. My grandfather had sold a lot of Charnwood before he died.


[1] The Coolgardie safe used evaporation to keep the food inside cool while protecting it from flies and scavengers. It was invented in the late 1890s on the Western Australian goldfields

[2] The University of Melbourne’s Dookie campus is Victoria’s oldest and Australia’s second oldest agricultural college. It is set on the tranquil rolling hills between Shepparton and Benalla.  Dookie campus has played a key role in the development of agriculture and agricultural teaching and learning in Australia since 1886 and it remains a focal point for the key research, teaching and technology development that is helping to shape the future of agriculture in Australia. Situated on 2,440 hectares the campus includes a small community which houses our students and teaching staff, merino sheep, an orchard, robotic dairy, winery and a natural bush reserve.

[3] Corporal Rodney Breavington. Born in Southend, England, on 14 April 1904, he was serving as a constable in the Victorian Police Force at the outbreak of the Second World War. Following Japan’s entry to the war in December 1941, Breavington enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force, aged 38. Joining the Australian Army Ordnance Corps, Breavington was sent to join the 8th Division, which was fighting a fierce campaign against Japanese forces on the Malayan peninsula.

[4] The St Kilda Road Police Depot was established during the early 20th century as the headquarters for police training and mounted police operations in Victoria. The red brick stables (1912) and riding school (1913) were part of the former Victoria Police Depot facing St Kilda Road, now the Victorian College of the Arts Southbank campus of the University of Melbourne. Most of the heritage registered buildings on the site were already occupied by the arts school but the stables and riding school continued to be used by the police’s Mounted Branch up until February 2016 — six of the original horse loose boxes have been retained and conserved in the centre of the complex, now used for offices and meeting spaces.

[5] Manangatang is a rural township 70 km north-west of Swan Hill in north-west Victoria.

[6] Numurkah is a rural township in Victoria, located on the Goulburn Valley Highway, 37 kilometres north of Shepparton.

[7] British-born aviator Amy Johnson was the first female pilot to fly solo from England to Australia. She landed at Darwin Airport on 24 May 1930 in Jason, her Gipsy Moth G-AAAH biplane, after 19 and a half days. She toured Australia and was greeted by huge crowds wherever she went. Her daring flight captured the imagination and attention of the world.

The kerosene came in cases of two tins. A kero. case made a good tucker box. We used to make a Coolgardie safe to try to keep food in, especially meat and butter, but in summer the meat was mostly salted and after a few days a bit of corned beef got very hard.The Coolgardie safe used evaporation to keep the food inside cool while protecting it from flies and scavengers. It was invented in the late 1890s on the Western Australian goldfields.Credit Australian Food Timeline australianfoodtimeline.com.au
Corporal Rodney Breavington and Private Victor Lawrence Gale.The Bandiana World War Two memorial is specifically dedicated to the lives of Corporal Rodney Breavington and Private Victor Lawrence Gale. The monument comprises of two obelisks joined at the base, engraved only with the surnames of the men.Corporal Rodney Breavington and Private Victor Gale escaped from Singapore in May 1942 by stealing a fishing boat and attempting to sail to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). After an epic voyage of nearly 2000 kilometres, and near their destination, they were picked up by a Japanese warship and returned to Changi in July.After their recapture and the recapture of two British prisoners, the Selarang Barracks POWs (which numbered around 15000) refused to sign a pledge not to escape, and were forced to crowd in the areas around the barracks square for nearly five days with little water and no sanitation. Corporal Rodney Breavington, Private Victor Gale and the two British prisoners were executed with Breavington pleading for the life of Gale who he said was only acting under orders.The executions failed to break the spirit of the Selarang Barracks prisoners but the commanders finally capitulated on 5 September when their men started to fall ill and die from dysentery. Upon signing the pledge, the men were allowed to return to the barracks buildings.Corporal Breavington's action inspired a poem the 'Corporal and his Pal' by one of the witnesses to the executions.Information credit Monument Australia monumentaustralia.org.au. Photo credit www.ww2cemeteries.com
'Ches' also known as 'Jim' (James Chester) Draper and his brother Tom Draper, at 'Barton Hill', just before riding to church at Whittlesea. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper
Constable J.C. Draper, Registered Number 8281, on troop horse Robin. Jim Chester was stationed at Woomelang from 1934 to 1939. Photo was taken at the Victorian Police Mounted Branch Depot in St Kilda Road Southbank, during a refresher course for the 1934 tour of Australia by Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester. Photo credit Draper family
In March 1934, Jim Chester Draper was appointed to take charge of the police station at Woomelang in the Mallee (pictured), where he and Beatrice commenced their family life together. In August 1939, he was appointed officer-in-charge of the Heyfield Police Station, one of the last mounted police stations in Victoria. He was offered many promotions but didn't want a desk job. "Contact with the public was the greatest thing in the police force and was a major reason I stayed in the job, especially in the country". Photo credit Draper family
From 1939 to 1955 Jim (Chester) Draper was officer-in-charge of the Heyfield Police Station, an historic single-officer mounted police station. He was in a reserved occupation during the war years - a profession considered important enough to a country that those serving in such occupations are forbidden from military service. His brother George Edward Draper (1911 – 1993) served in the Second Australian Imperial Force and is pictured here outside his tent in Palestine in October 1941. Photo credit Draper family

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