Dictionary of Sydney

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Poole, George William

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Poole, George William

George William Poole, who was stationed at the Balmain Watch House for over 20 years, was born in Wellington, New South Wales, on 11 May 1872. He was the son of John Poole (Mayor of Wellington between 1890 and 1892) [1] and his wife Agnes. When he reached adulthood, George Poole was of solid build, just over 5 feet 10 inches (178 centimetres) tall, and 'twelve stone' (76 kilograms) in weight. His eyes were grey and he had dark brown hair and a 'sallow' complexion. He also had a slight harelip and at some stage sustained an injury to his nose. [2]

By 1890 George Poole appears to have moved to Sydney. There he married Elizabeth Trevillien in the suburb of Waterloo. In the same year his daughter Lilian was born in Redfern. Poole's initial employment was as a road contractor, but after the Boer War began, he was part of the second contingent of the 1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles – men recruited because they were 'good shots and good riders' – which sailed for Cape Town on the Southern Cross on 17 January 1900. A month later, Private George Poole (service number 95) arrived in South Africa, along with 20 officers, 385 other ranks and 404 horses divided into three squadrons. In March 1900 Poole's regiment saw action in the Orange Free State, the Transvaal and the western Cape Colony as part of Le Gallais' brigade. Poole appears to have taken part in the march to Bloemfontein and the advance on Kroonstadt and Pretoria.

We are particularly fortunate to have one of his letters, which offers important testimony on the conditions at Enslin. He wrote:

We get one loaf of bread a day, a one-pound loaf, hard, tough and nearly black, one pint of coffee or tea for breakfast; one pint of soup for dinner, with a bit of meat in it; and for tea the same as for breakfast. Occasionally we get two tins of jam for 11 men – there are 11 of us in a tent. The water is a bit scarce, one well for about 1,500 men to draw from, and it is hard to get a decent wash. About once a week we get a bath. There are three or four round holes dug in the ground. A great waterproof sheet is spread over them. About six or seven men get into them, and some of the men carry water and throw it over the bathers. I forgot to mention that sometimes (about half time) we are on bully beef and biscuit rations, that is one pound of tinned meat and one pound of biscuits a day. If you soak them all day the biscuits won't get soft. [3]

The 1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles suffered 10 killed, or died of wounds, as a result of engagements with the Boer forces; 13 others died from disease. Although the regiment served in the Boer War until the end of March 1901, Private Poole was one of numerous sick cases who were invalided home early, arriving in Australia on 15 December 1900. [4] Poole had left Australia when it comprised separate British colonies. He returned in time to witness Federation. Five months later, on 23 May 1901, with his health recovered, he became a probationary New South Wales police constable. Perhaps he had had enough of mounted service, for he served on foot in the metropolitan district.

On 1 June 1902 he was promoted to ordinary constable, and in 1906 he was sent to the Balmain Watch House. On New Year's Day 1910 Poole was promoted to constable 1st class. His police career was marred by very minor blemishes: in November 1902 he was fined half a day's pay for being 35 minutes late when reporting off duty at 3 am; and in January 1906 he was reprimanded and cautioned for not attending to a case at the Lunacy Court. [5]

George Poole was a popular figure in Balmain. When the Watch House closed in 1925, he organised activities for boys in the disused cells. These included lessons on crystal radio set construction. One of the local boys he taught was William Glenn Wade (1911–1983) who later became an electrician, wired ships for the Royal Australian Navy during World War II and then became managing director of Peters Brothers Wade and Allison Pty Ltd (later Australian Power and Distribution Industries Inc.), which built the first aluminium-bodied trucks, the first wheat augers and the first pad-mounted transformers exported from Australia. All his life, William Glenn Wade remembered the crucial inspiration of Poole's informal Balmain youth club meetings in the Watch House. [6]

George Poole retired from the New South Wales Police on 31 July 1931. He died in Waterloo on 26 March 1964. [7]


This biographical article first appeared in The Peninsula Observer, vol 47, no 1, issue 322, March 2012, p 2


[1] C Gass, and J Hiatt, Pictorial history of Wellington NSW, Wellington Historical Society, 2003, p 148

[2] George William Poole, Police Service Card, State Records Authority, New South Wales, AK 724

[3] Quoted by RL Wallace, The Australians at the Boer War, Australian War Memorial and Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1976, p 81

[4] Australian War Memorial, Boer War Nominal Roll; PL Murray, Official records of the Australian contingents to the war in South Africa 1899–1902, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1911

[5] George William Poole, Police Service Card. State Records Authority, New South Wales, AK 724

[6] E Duyker, 'William Glenn Wade (1911–1983): A Biographical Memoir', Sutherland Shire Historical Society Quarterly Bulletin, vol 2, no 10, May 1995, pp 209–13

[7] George William Poole, Police Service Card, State Records Authority, New South Wales, AK 724