Historical Society's graves project has now recognised 100 WA officers

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WA Police graves

The WA Police Historical Society, in association with the National Trust of Western Australia, recently held a dedication ceremony for 20 police officers who lie in unmarked graves at the East Perth Cemeteries. 

The officers being recognised served between 1828 and 1898. Memorial plaques commemorating their name, date of birth, death and police service were installed on the relevant denominational fences throughout the cemeteries. Descendants of the officers attended, along with members of the WA Police Force, WA Police Union and WA Police Historical Society members.

The ceremony included a blessing of the site by Police Chaplain David Ladner, along with presentations by WA Police Force Commissioner Chris Dawson and the Hon Bob Kucera APM, former Member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly, National Trust of Western Australia Chairman, and a former Assistant Commissioner of Police.

The ceremony also featured mounted police in historical dress, the Armadale Rangers, Police Piper Adam Britten and a performance by police officer-turnedopera singer Fiona Mariah Motherway.

Among the officers recognised was Theophilus Ellis - the first police officer to be appointed in WA and the first to lose his life in the line of duty. There were also several young men who died in their twenties of conditions such as typhoid and tuberculosis – a reminder of just how precarious life was during the colony’s first decades.

Many early police officers had other, regular employment and were only paid as police representatives when called upon to serve summonses or uphold the law. They were divided into three distinct groups – foot constables, mounted troopers and water police – which amalgamated in 1853 with the formal establishment of the West Australian Police Force.

Set up by Commissioner Brian Bull AO, APM (deceased) the Historical Society’s ongoing Graves Project locates and identifies graves of deceased police officers to ensure that no WA Police Force Officer, Aboriginal Aide or Tracker languishes in an unmarked grave after faithfully performing their duties to the State. Since the first recognition service in 1994 for Constable Thomas Knibbs, a further 79 graves had also been recognised.

The ceremony for the 20 unmarked graves at East Perth Cemeteries was the largest held so far, bringing the total number of recognised graves to 100.

The WA Police Historical Society is a volunteer association made up of retired police officers and people who have an interest in the preservation and history of the West Australian Police Force. East Perth Cemeteries were established in 1829 and, until their closure in 1899, almost all of the people who died in Perth were buried there. Although thousands of people were buried, fewer than 800 marked graves survive.