Some Statistics from the Frontier Conflict and the Native Mounted Police in Qld Database

When we launched our online database as a public research resource in December 2019 we hoped that people would make use of it to understand more about frontier conflict in Queensland and especially the role of the Native Mounted Police (NMP).

NMP database homepage


Two hundred and forty-seven people have logged on to our database since then, many of whom are high school students studying frontier conflict in Qld. This is a much smaller percentage than the total number of visitors to the public end of the website (the part)—the latter’s had a staggering (to us, anyway) 1601 users so far! The average session duration is around 20 minutes and not surprisingly most of our users are from Australia, although we’ve also had visitors from North America, the UK, France, Germany, Russia, India, Japan, New Zealand, Indonesia, and China. People were also looking (on average) at 18 pages per session, which means they’re delving into the various connected segments of the database.

To help our goal along, here are some statistics from our database, summarising a variety of interesting things that are revealed within it or that relate to it. These aren’t the major categories of how many artefacts we’ve catalogued, or how many officers we’ve identified (for that you can read these blog posts or just go straight to the database yourself), but other, more ‘buried’, things that we find noteworthy. Some are especially meaningful, others less so, but all of them reveal snippets of information about the NMP and its operation.

In no particular order, they are:

Number of officers who were former military: 26
Number of officers who were former Royal Irish Constabulary: 16
Number of officers dismissed for drunkenness: 32
Number of officers known to have had Aboriginal children: 4

Officers who did unusual things following their career in the NMP: Tough choice. We’ve opted for:
1.  John Marlow, who became the Chief Inspector of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1880; and
2. William Britton, who left two-thirds of his £12,000 estate (roughly AUD$1.4 million today) to various Qld hospitals, but nothing to his widow (she successfully petitioned the estate for an annuity).

Number of officers named John: 44 (and 35 named William)
Number of officers’ wives named Mary (or versions thereof): 36
Number of officers named John whose wife was called Mary: 5 (and confusingly two of those were named John Kenny)

Number of officers without a Police Staff file in the Qld State Archives: 217 (almost half of the total number of officers we have been able to identify [440])
Number of officers whose Police Staff file is missing any information on the earliest part of their career: 24 (this is unfortunate, because many officers were only NMP in the earliest parts of their career)
Number of officers who served more than one period in the NMP/police: 31

Number of officers who required an artificial arm after their weapon misfired: 1 (it was John Affleck. He received a payout of £200 in January 1890 for the injury)

Number of officers who died destitute: 3 (William Britton obviously wasn’t one of them)

Number of known Irish born officers: 80
Number of known Scottish born officers: 12
Number of known English born officers: 47
Number of known Australian born officers: 16
Number of known Canadian born officers: 3

Numbers of troopers for whom we have a photograph: 16
Number of troopers whose spouse’s name we know: 67
Number of troopers known to have deserted: 109
Number of troopers for whom we know their area of origin: 262
Number of troopers said to have been recruited from Maryborough/Wide Bay: 42
Number of troopers said to have been recruited from the Condamine: 18

Number of troopers sent down to search for the Kelly Gang: 6
Number of troopers who returned after the search for the Kelly Gang: 5
Amount of reward money meant to have been paid to each of the troopers involved in the capture of the Kelly Gang after the shootout at Glenrowan: £50
Amount of reward money actually paid to each of the troopers involved in the capture of the Kelly Gang after the shootout at Glenrowan: £0
Amount of reward money paid to trooper Jack Noble for helping recover a missing gold watch in Victoria: £5

Number of reliably identified NMP camps in Qld: 148 (note that the full list in the database includes regions, camps in NSW and camps for which we have only very unreliable information, hence the number in the database is much larger)
Number of NMP camps associated with pastoral properties: 73 (or 49%)
Average distance between camps: 53 km
Greatest distance between camps: 214 km (between Coopers Creek and Thargomindah)
Smallest distance: 7 km (East Normanby and Puckley Creek; Palmerville and Glenroy)

Longest duration camp: Coen (44 years)
Shortest duration camp: Woodstock and the Springsure camp on Norwood Creek (both lasted only a matter of months)

Number of NMP camps with structures more durable than bark/grass, bush timber and slabs: 7 (When describing the structures at the Turn Off Lagoon camp in 1890, John Ahern noted the buildings were in the “N.P. style”, built from split slabs with an iron roof. An iron roof was something that only eventuated in the last two decades of the NMP, along with sawn timber—most camps before that made do with buildings roofed with bark, grass or thatch and constructed from bush timber and split slabs. The only exceptions were in areas where there was no bush timber to be had)

Number of NMP camps built on Aboriginal ceremonial grounds: 2, possibly 3 (Burke River, Mistake Creek, and possibly Puckley Creek)

Year the Snider rifle was issued to the NMP: 1870
Most distinctive NMP weapon: The Westley and Richards double-barrel carbine with pinfire cartridges. Even though imagery of the NMP usually shows them with Sniders, the Westley and Richards weapon was only issued to the NMP, not ordinary police. It also had a very short use-life: 1867 to 1869 officially, although some were still in use until at least the mid-1870s.
The number of NMP weapons held in the Queensland Museum collection: 6

What the NMP and the Brisbane Gaol have in common: NMP uniforms were made by prisoners in the Brisbane Gaol from at least 1875-1880: “As to the quality of the articles thus produced, it would be satisfactory to have some additional proof. They consist to a great extent of clothing and equipments for the native police, as well as clothing for the warders and inmates of the prisons. The saddlery, for instance, has sometimes been said to be indifferent. That is the report from the native police” (Brisbane Courier 20 May 1875, p2).

Number of times Dr Helmuth Korteum, a doctor based in Cooktown, tended to a victim of frontier violence: at least 11

Number of attacks on telegraph lines/stations/survey parties: 34

Pastoral district with the greatest number of NMP camps: Cook (54)
Pastoral district with the fewest NMP camps: Darling Downs, Burnett and Moreton (3 each)
Pastoral district with the greatest number of conflict events: Cook (more than 603)
Pastoral district with the highest concentration of conflict events: Wide Bay and Moreton (1 attack every 230 km2)
Pastoral district with the greatest number of attacks against NMP detachments: Leichhardt (8)

Five year period in which the most NMP camps were established: 1871-1875 (28)

Biogeographic region with the greatest number of NMP camps: Brigalow Belt (49). This is the area south of the northern tropical rainforest region and extending into New South Wales.
Biogeographic region with the fewest number of NMP camps: New England Tableland (0)

Greatest number of NMP camps in a single Aboriginal language group’s territory: 16 (Kuku-Yalanji in southeast Cape York Peninsula)

Kilometres we drove during this project: 126,000 km
Number of car windscreens we had to replace during this project: 4
Number of car v tree incidents during this project: 1  (the tree won)
Number of car v wedge-tailed eagle incidents during this project: 1 (see number of car windscreens above)
Number of car v wallaby incidents during this project: 2
Number of packets of Vita-weat crackers eaten during fieldwork on this project: 93

One thought on “Some Statistics from the Frontier Conflict and the Native Mounted Police in Qld Database

  1. Regon where the greatest number of sub inspectors were killed in the line of duty , Burk . Barracks from which the greatest number of sub inspectors killed were based , Cloncurry .

Leave a Reply