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Who were the Nackeroos ?

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With sincere apologies to those who have viewed this interview as many times as I have, trying to sift through Boxall’s words and expressions, looking for a give-away.

An indication. A hint. Something of value in the hunt for this Somerton Man ..

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Minute 5:53 – go straight to it.

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Littlemore:

‘Mr Boxall, you had been working in an Intelligence unit, hadn’t you? Before you met this young woman?’

‘Did you talk to her, about that, at all?’

Boxall.

‘No.’

Littlemore.

‘Was it not done to speak about those things?’

Boxall.

‘Well, it was not done to speak about any Army affairs.’

Littlemore.

So she couldn’t have known about your involvement with Intelligence?’

1 second

2 seconds

3 seconds

4 seconds.

5th second:

Boxall.

‘Not unless someone else told her.’

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An Intelligence unit is one portrayed in literature and fact as being a body of men and women who strive to obtain secrets, secretly, then pass them up the line to those who may or may not act upon them.

The only Australian domestic Intelligence agency operating during WW2 was the Commonwealth Security Service, formed in 1941 to investigate organisations and individuals considered likely to be enemies of the Allied war effort. Communists in particular suffered, despite Russia being an ally.

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The Nackeroos

The North Australia Observation Unit (NAOU), nicknamed the “Nackeroos” or “Curtin’s Cowboys”, was created in mid-March 1942, a week after Broome was strafed. The unit’s commander, Major William Stanner, had been an anthropologist before the war and knew the north well.

The unit was barely 550 strong, and with their headquarters in Katherine, in the Northern Territory, they were given the task of patrolling northern Australia to look for signs of enemy activity. They operated in small groups, and most of their patrols were on horseback. The men made use of the knowledge of local Aboriginals and maintained coastwatching outposts.

As the threat of invasion passed, the unit was reduced in strength and disbanded in March 1945.

https://www.awm.gov.au/visit/exhibitions/underattack/mobilise/nackeroos

2/1st North Australia Observer Unit

Influenced by the tactics of the Boer War commandos, an anthropologist, W.E. Stanner, visualized a highly mobile Unit (horsed rather than wheeled), with good radio links, light weapons and made up of men with a bush background and adventurous spirit who could live outdoors for months at a time, operating in small groups, on their own initiative. Needless to say, many volunteers were ex-Lighthorse men. Like the Boer War commandos, they would operate without medical assistance or hope of casualty evacuation. Equipment, in addition to conventional military weapons, included .22 calibre rifles and shotguns to provide themselves with tucker. A sort of BYO arrangement.

From an address by Lt Col Des Harrison ED who served for two years as a Corporal with the 2/1 North Australia Observer Unit on the surveillance of North Australia during World War II.

http://www.lighthorse.org.au/2-1st-north-australia-observer-unit/

Curtains Cowboys

The North Australia Observer Unit, known as the ‘Nackeroos’ and ‘Curtin’s Cowboys’ were helped by Aborigines from across the Top End. The Nackeroos carried out surveillance from the Kimberley to the Gulf of Carpentaria. They were the first line of defence against a Japanese invasion.

https://northernterritory.com/articles/aborigines-at-war

Alfred Boxall served as a member of the Nackeroo unit.

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Boxall.

‘Well, it was not done to speak about any Army affairs.’

~~

If the Nackeroos unit was ‘Army affairs’, and it was not done to speak about them then no soldier would have considered it ‘done’ to confide in his wife or mother about his service in any capacity when home on leave, or his father, his friends.

Even after the war was over, as it was in September 1945 when Boxall and Harkness met.

But the 2/1 was not an Intelligence Unit and Boxall was able to speak freely about his time with them – building airstrips, clearing land, maintaining the equipment, patrolling the rivers and estuaries and watching for enemy aircraft.

The Nackeroos were a protective Army unit. A Border Force. Their work done openly and in hard circumstances.

~~

Again  …

‘So she couldn’t have known about your involvement with Intelligence?’

1 second

2 seconds

3 seconds

4 seconds.

5th second:

Boxall.

‘Not unless someone else told her.’

Told her what?

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Littlemore knew.

    October 20, 2019
  2. Clive #

    On the NAA, under NAOU NAA AP613/1 Page 24 mentions Intelligence Training.

    October 21, 2019
  3. You’re actually incorrect. There were more than one intelligence service.
    The most important one was at Ascot, in Queensland https://www.ww2places.qld.gov.au/place?id=40

    October 21, 2019
  4. Also, you might be interested in looking at the code book and manual that Coastwatch used. That Alf Boxall would of been familiar with if he was in the Nackeroos.. ~Page 30 odd onwards
    http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/scripts/AutoSearch.asp?O=I&Number=410718

    October 21, 2019
    • The Nackeroos used carrier pigeons to carry their reports back to base … code was necessary in the place of words given the limits of paper size carried in a small cylindrical tube attached to a pigeon’s leg.
      Boxall was a known sketcher, he may have been asked to do the scribing.

      October 21, 2019

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