Brian John Holloway, CBE, QPM

Brian HollowayBrian was born on 31 July 1927, in Adelaide, South Australia. He was the third and last surviving son of Percy Holloway, KPM, and Mabel Holloway of Adelaide.

Brian married the love of his life, Fae Ferguson on 19 November 1948. Brian and Fae had three children: Patricia (Patsy) (Dec. 1972), Gary and Susan. They had five grandchildren: Scott, Ben, Sam, Tess and Brandi and four great grandchildren: Trinity, Alex, Eve and Elizabeth.

After entering the South Australian Police College in 1943, he became noted for his considerable athletic ability and won the Police Heavyweight Boxing Championship at a time when boxing was a major sporting activity in the police force.

Brian also won the police athletics one mile championship in 4 minutes 27 seconds, a very respectable effort at the time when the world record was still above 4 minutes. He broke and held the State Basketball goal-scoring record for many years with 96 points scored in a single game.

Recalling an event on the parade ground in his police college days, Brian’s unpublished autobiography begins with the words, bawled at him by Inspector Bill ‘Rajah’ King, formerly of the Indian Army, “OLLIWAY YOU ARE THE TYPE OF SILLY LOOKIN BASTID THAT WOULD WEAR PIJAMIS ON THE FIRST NIGHT OF ‘IS HONEYMOON”. He had a great sense of humour and would often sign his letters ‘Brine’.

Soon after graduation, Brian was posted to Port Adelaide which held special memories for him. “My last and most memorable recollection of the time I spent in the Port, concerns again standing on the Black Diamond Corner, this time with another Police Officer called Ned Kelly. Ned and I were on afternoon shift on a quiet afternoon when a bus pulled up and a young girl of about eighteen alighted.

“She was dressed in red, had her hair done up on top of her head in a bun and was, without question, the most gorgeous young lady I had ever set eyes on. When she had walked past, Ned said “Her name’s Fae. She’s the new cashier at the Ozone Theatre.” Little did I realise then that this was the girl who was to become my wife, look after me with loving care and share my life and adventures in New Guinea and elsewhere.”

Looking for adventure, Brian took Fae to New Guinea a month after they were married in November 1948 where his first posting was Assistant Sub-Inspector in the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. In December of that year he was posted to Wau as Second in Command.

In May 1949 he was posted to Bulolo to establish the first Post War Police Detachment, and in December he and Fae moved to Rabaul where he was Investigations Officer and Police Prosecutor. In November 1951, he was commended by the Commissioner of Police for the apprehension of two murderers who also raped their victim, a young girl.

In June 1952 he was appointed acting Inspector at Madang and then Officer-in-Charge. In March 1954 he was posted to Goroka in the Highlands to establish a police station where he was commended by the Commissioner of Police for successful investigations at Minj involving serious allegations of police corruption.

At Goroka, where Fae was in charge of the town kindergarten, Brian spent many weekends working on an impressive arbour, covered with passionfruit vines: a place with idyllic views to sit having a quiet drink around a barbecue. Before leaving for an outlying area one day he asked the sergeant in charge of the prison work detail to clean up the surrounding area and trim the vines. When he came home he said that it was like driving into Sydney with the harbour bridge gone. Something familiar was missing but he couldn’t work out what until he realised that the shelter had been included in the clean-up. The sergeant stood smiling, well pleased with his efforts until he saw Brian pick up an axe and come towards him. The sergeant took off with Brian in hot pursuit and yelling dire threats—reminiscent, in Brian’s words, of a Tom and Jerry cartoon—with Fae behind Brian calling out “Brian don’t you dare touch him” until the sergeant disappeared into Goroka.

In August 1957 he was promoted to Inspector and transferred to Kokopo as Officer-in-Charge of the District.  In January 1960 he became Superintendent of Training and Personnel (being the youngest Superintendent worldwide at the time).

He planned and established the Police College at Bomana, Port Moresby, from which the first indigenous Police Officers graduated on 26 August 1964. He designed and wrote the entire course including training manuals and lecture materials.

He planned and established the Police Training Depot in Port Moresby and formulated the Riot Manual, with procedures to be adopted by police in the event of disturbances anywhere in the country.

He planned and conducted induction courses for overseas Officers appointed to the PNG Constabulary. He was appointed Chairman of the Police Recruiting Board, Promotions Board and Transfer and Dismissals Board. In this context he trained selected Police for special duties associated with border surveillance.

When severe riots broke out in Rabaul in July 1961, he was ordered there to introduce emergency procedures which earned him special commendation from the Administrator.

In keeping with his hard-earned reputation as a specialist in handling out of control situations, he was placed in charge of the Police Contingent sent to Bougainville as a result of the people’s rejection of Government Authority and Law and Order. He commanded the action involving 1200 civilians and eighty police.  Brian was popular among the villagers of PNG and he stood out because of his height: “five foot seventeen”. Some Solomon Islanders who had seen Brian in Moresby assured me that he was a “looong-pela true”.

He represented PNG at an Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East forum in Canberra on “The Role of Police in the Protection of Human Rights”.

In April 1965 members of the Lyndon Johnson cargo cult were creating major unrest in New Hanover and Brian assumed command of the Police Contingent ordered there to deal with it. He was officially commended by the Commissioner of Police as a result of another successful outcome.

He was posted to Rabaul as Divisional Superintendent, New Guinea Islands Division in June 1965 and again officially Commended by the Commissioner of Police over his handling of a serious incident involving many hundreds of squatters on disputed land in the Kokopo Region in October 1967.

Brian was promoted to Assistant Commissioner in July 1968. He was awarded the Queens Police Medal and the Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, both in January 1969.

He was appointed Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary in December 1970. He was appointed a Member of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in January 1971.

In 1972 he was elected President of a Senior Police Executive Officers Course at the Australian Police College. Chrissie and I stayed with Uncle Bri and Aunty Fae in Moresby for a few weeks at that time and Uncle Bri amazed me by singing a couple of songs from The Sound of Music. He was a fair way off sounding like Julie Andrews but he did sing in tune and there was even a bit of vibrato in there.

In May 1974 he was appointed Commissioner of Police, Royal PNG Constabulary. He attended the 43rd General Assembly Session of Interpol in Cannes, France, September 1974.

He retired as Commissioner of Police under Section 14 of the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance Act) 1973, in June 1975 as PNG became independent.

On September 16 1975, he was promoted to Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

In 1976 he retired after 28 years of truly dedicated service to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary and he and Fae returned to Australia.

Brian and Fae lived in various places around Australia before retiring permanently in Perth including the Gold Coast, Geraldton and Horrocks. One of Brian’s retirement projects was to produce his autobiography, an idea that was enthusiastically received by those of us who knew that his truly extraordinary life, his gift with words and his brilliant sense of humour would make a great story. It would be a tragedy if it is never published. Brian’s career as a pioneering police officer in Papua New Guinea is best summed up in his own words:

“This is a story based on fact, about the old days of policing when common sense, loyalty and dedication were prerequisite to being a good police officer and before the introduction of ‘modern methods’.”

The world is a significantly better place for Brian having lived in it, and no-one can leave a better legacy than that. To me he was and always will be a real hero.

Robert Holloway

Brian HOLLOWAY CBE, QPM, PLS&GC Medal1 joined the South Australia Police as a Cadet on 15 February 1943, at the age of fifteen following the tradition set by his father Percy Holloway, Kings Police Medal. During his training in the mounted police, “tent pegging” (galloping on horseback and taking out the stakes holding tents so that they collapsed) was part of the course. He never could understand why that was necessary in a modern police force. When in the police training depot, John Spillard Grimshaw (later to become the first post WW2 war police superintendent (later first commissioner) of the Royal Papuan Constabulary and New Guinea Police Force in 1947) was a senior instructor. Brian resigned from the police on 22 November 1948 and, inspired by Grimshaw, joined RPC&NGPF on 30 November 1948 as an assistant Sub Inspector.

 His first posting was to Wau in December 1948, shortly after to be posted to Bulolo. Over the next few years he served widely at Rabaul, Kavieng, Madang, Minj, Goroka and Kokopo.

 At the time of the Navuneram (Rabaul) riots in 1958 he was nearly murdered but saved by a courageous Senior Constable.

 July 1961 saw him in charge of police during the Rabaul town riots between Sepik and Tolai tribes, in which 3 Tolai were shot dead by police. Tolais murdered three innocent Sepiks in the Papua New Guinea “pay back” fashion.

 In February 1962 he was in charge of the police detachment at Hahahis (Little Buka, Bougainville) during the insurrection of the “baby farm” anti-Council riots led by John Teosin and  defrocked former Catholic priest Francis Hagai, who were, between then, breeding a “super race”.

 May 1965 saw him in charge of peacefully quelling the insurrection at Lavongai, New Ireland during the “President L.B. Johnson” cargo cult riots.

Again in October 1967 he was in charge of restoring major unrest involving hundreds of illegal squatters on disputed land in the Kokopo, New Britain, area.

 In January 1969, he was awarded the Queens Police Medal for meritorious and exemplary police service and, for service in policing in excess of 22 years, the Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. January 1971 saw him being appointed to be a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).

 In a very real sense, Brian Holloway was the “Sheriff” of Papua New Guinea. Whenever there was an insurrection, he was placed in charge, even being recalled from leave in Australia on occasions to handle the explosive situation then existing.

 In the early 1960s he planned and established the Police College at Bomana from which the first 11 indigenous police graduated a Sub Inspectors on 26 August 1964 after a four-year course.

 On 10 July 1969 he was appointed Assistant Commissioner and on 3 December 1970 he was appointed Deputy Commissioner. In the transition period prior to forthcoming Independence was appointed on contract for a one year term as Commissioner of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary on 7 May 1974, a position which he held, as the last white Commissioner, until be handed his baton to Commissioner Pius Barbey Kerepia on 8 May 1975.

The peaceful transition of Papua New Guinea as administered by the Commonwealth of Australia to an Independent State within the British Commonwealth on 16 September 1975 is in very large part due to due to Brian Holloway for the planning, leadership, skills, dedication, courage, fortitude, exemplary character and respect with which he was held in the highest esteem by the Officers and indigenous police as well as the ordinary Papuan New Guinean. No man could have done more, recognition for which, after leaving Papua New Guinea, he was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in September 1975.

For some time he has been compiling his autobiography Cadet to Commissioner which remains unfinished.

He was one of the three surviving police officers (John Graham and James Dutton) of the late 1948/49 era of the Constabulary. He is survived by Fae, his wife of 64 years, son Gary, Susan and her husband Len Roberts-Smith and their sons Ben Roberts-Smith VC, MG, Australia’s most highly decorated soldier and Sam Roberts-Smith, a tenor and Young Artist with Opera Australia. An exceptionally tall man, Brian was known by fellow police officers as “5 feet 17 inches”. There will never be another Brian Holloway and he will be missed by all whom he touched in many ways.

Maxwell R. Hayes, RPNGC 1959-1974

    1   Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

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