Richard “Dickie” Squires: Philip Selth

Richard (Dickie) Thomas Squires was born in London on 10 February 1893. He was educated at the Elementary County School, London, until fourteen years of age.

On 7 January 1910 Squires enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving at the Cambridge Hospital until 1912, when he went to Africa, serving at the Bloemfontein, Potchefstroom and Pretoria Hospitals, “dealing with both Europeans & Natives”. He was Scout Master of the 1st Pretoria Scout troop. In 1914 he “went to the war as a stretcher bearer”. (Squires is said to have served as a Corporal in the Medical Corps when he took part in the retreat from Mons in August 1914.) Squires served in various military hospitals until he “went back to the trenches in 1917”.  Wounded, he was sent to England where again he worked in a military hospital.  He was demobilised in January 1919. He worked at the London Hospital as a dresser, and undertook venereal disease and post-mortem work until he went back to Africa in January 1920.  Here he worked with the Pretoria Health Department as “Assistant Superintendent, Meat & Food Inspectors”.  He left the Department in March 1923 and came to Australia, where he initially obtained work as an orderly with the Perth Hospital.

In August 1925, Squires wrote to the Commonwealth Public Service Inspector in Perth from the Fremantle Public Hospital, responding to an advertisement in the Western Mail for “Medical Assistants” in New Guinea.  He had had “15½ years on practical nursing & dealing with the health of the population in various countries”.

In September 1925 the Acting Public Service Inspector interviewed Squires. He noted that Squires had:

no physical disabilities and can drive a car. He is practically a teetotaller and claims to be a good swimmer. He engages in boxing as a pass time [sic], but on account of long hours of duty does not take part in ordinary sports.

Squires was appointed a Medical Assistant with the New Guinea Department of Public Health with effect from 19 November 1925.  Squires was posted to Ambunti under “Kassa” Townsend. In his memoirs Townsend tells how the Army had taught Squires to make himself at home under all manner of unpromising conditions. Townsend had the only house with a wire-gauze mosquito room. Townsend went away on patrol, and on his return was met at the riverbank by Squires, who invited him to dinner that night. “Ordinary tie”, he said with a completely serious face, “There will be only the two of us”. Townsend and Squires were the only Europeans within a hundred miles. Squires told Townsend dinner would be as soon as it was dark. When the time seemed right, Townsend sent his orderly to tell Squires that he was on his way. Squires met Townsend at the steps wearing a coat. As Townsend did not have a coat, Squires put him at his ease by taking his off, remarking on the heat.

Squires had made himself a mosquito-proof room. The walls were made out of hospital gauze: dozens of rolls, each 12 inches wide. Food was passed in at floor level by the cook-boy at a point where the gauze had not been fastened to the reed floor. After dinner (which included two whiskeys and hot tomato soup), dripping with sweat in the airless room, Townsend was seated in front of a piece of canvas affixed to one wall. Townsend “could not believe” his ears when Squires said to his servant, “Andimeri, light the fire.”

Andimeri, with the precision of one well-drilled, unfastened the canvas and disclosed a fireplace! It was a sheet of tin painted a brick red, with the “bricks” picked out with white paint. There was a recess in it to represent the grate and this had been painted black and stuffed with balls of gauze which had been painted also. To complete the illusion, the cook then emerged from his kitchen with a lighted, kerosene hurricane-lamp which he placed on the floor outside the room, and behind the painted gauze which appeared red and black.

They then had “coffee beside the fire”. The “crowning touch” to the evening was the playing of Squires’ favourite record, The Prisoner’s Song, a pop-song of the period. Because the spring was weak, the machine had to be continually wound as the record revolved. “As the music meant nothing to the native who turned the handle, he was blissfully unaware of the variations in tempo which he produced. Squires, meantime, with his eyes closed, was listening more with his mind than his ear.”

Squires, Medical Assistant Grade 1, Department of Public Health, was promoted Medical Assistant Grade 2 on 16 December 1936.

In late 1938 John Murphy, recently promoted Patrol Officer, was posted to the Gasmata sub-district to establish a Police Post at Arung Bay in Passimanua on the south-west coast of New Britain, “where the Kowlongs inland were causing a bit of trouble”.

The Assistant District Officer running the Gasmata Sub-district was Ted Sansom. Dickie Squires was the Medical Assistant. In his memoirs Murphy recalled that Squires:

retained his English heritage out in the colonies by putting on his white suit every night and sitting before a cozy fire after dinner. The fire was in a fireplace he had constructed against the wall and consisted of a lit light bulb covered in light folds of red cloth in a neat heap of firewood. There Dick would sit ruminating, in a white suit and a walking stick between his knees, of the days that were gone, after a sedately served dinner.

Sansom and Squires “kept a civilised Saturday”. In the morning Sansom:

held a formal inspection of the Police Detachment with his war medals up, and Dickie Squires as the Medical Officer, with his white suit and War medals up, did the medical inspection which consisted, in part, of inspecting the soles of the police feet. They then adjourned for a regimental snort or two…

Squires was the medical assistant for the prison at Gasmata. One of his duties was to attend executions, and then certify that the prisoner, in pursuance to an order of the Supreme Court, had been “hanged by the neck until they were dead”.  On 2 February 1937 he witnessed the deaths of Piaru, Piplagi and Alukaldi, who had murdered a couple clearing their garden. The murdered man was said to have “made poison” against a member of their own village.

At the beginning of 1942, Eric Mitchell was the Patrol Officer at Gasmata. With him was Assistant District Officer Jack Daymond and Medical Assistant Dickie Squires. At Talasea on the north coast was Assistant District Officer Keith McCarthy. Both McCarthy and Daymond had made contact with Port Moresby when Rabaul ceased to answer their signals after the Japanese landed on the morning of 23 January 1942. The Japanese had not landed at Gasmata but Mitchell had reported to Australia the presence of their ships offshore. The Australian radio service broadcast the message to the world. This tragic stupidity caused the Japanese to promptly land at Gasmata and on 9 February 1942 captured Daymond and Squires, and a few days later Mitchell. The three government officers were taken to Rabaul; they are believed to have died on the Montevideo Maru on 1 July 1942.

After Squires’ death it became known that he had a de facto wife, with whom he had lived in Sydney when on leave between August 1941 and March 1942. After a lot of chasing by the Department of External Territories, Squires’ family in England and his “wife”, Mrs Jean Amaranthus Green/Squires, a nurse, were traced. Mrs Green (née Patterson) had married Frank Green in Sydney in April 1937, but he had deserted her without explanation in September 1937. She met Squires in 1939. Now living in Kalgoorlie, Mrs Green (who wished to be known as “Mrs Squires”) claimed she was Squires’ de facto widow. She claimed to have begun an association with Squires in 1939, and lived with Squires when he was in Sydney on leave between August 1941 and January 1942. Squires had established a credit account for her at Anthony Hordens’ and had, she said, promised to regularly send her money while he was away. “Mrs Squires” was unsuccessful in her attempt to claim a New Guinea Civilian War Pension.

New Guinea Gazette, 31 December 1925, p. 833; New Guinea Gazette, 15 January 1937, p. 3674; New Guinea Gazette, 15 February 1937, p. 3693.
New Guinea – Squires RT, NAA A518, 852/1/351: 3278152; RT Squires, NAA SP423/5, Squires RT: 3525947.
G.W.L. Townsend, District Officer: From untamed New Guinea to Lake Success, 1921-46, Sydney, 1968, pp. 155-156.
John J Murphy, unpublished memoirs, p. 29 (copy in author’s possession).
Rabaul Times, 20 November 1936

If you have any further information about those mentioned in this article please contact Philip Selth at:  or PO Box 1682, Lane Cove, NSW, 1595


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