The Nackeroos

Waler Data Base @ FaceBook. Image: Montague Albert Turner, Tania Turner’s grandfather, family photograph.

Lovely photo sent in, it’s Tania’s grandfather, Montague Albert Turner. He served in northern Australia, presumably WW2, when most mounted soldiers were issued with a sword so became cavalry-like.

The AIF in Australia did a great job, parts of the north were being bombed by the enemy, and being such a vast area the army had to be highly mobile and good at coping with distances, arid and semi-tropical conditions. Horses once more were critical. The men did a top job.

2/1st North Australia Observer Unit (NAOU) set up in WW2 in Australia was based on the Boer commandos. Highly mobile, self sufficient, the men issued with .22’s and shotguns to get their own tucker. Aboriginal guides who served with them were critical to their survival. They were called the Nackeroos, positioned along the coasts. Many small boats were also part of it. The Special Reconnaissance Unit was similar.

Mounted forces here in that war – and horse drawn transport – had over 1,000 horses, mules and donkeys, most being caught wild and broken in. Five Nackeroos had to muster 80 wild horses from Darwin area and overland to W.A. in the wet season, through wild country. Three swollen rivers had to be swum across. Four horses swept downstream in one river, and were seized by crocs. The men did an extraordinary job of delivering 73 live healthy horses at the end of the 700k journey. Later, during a patrol in the Gulf country a sergeant had his horse taken from under him by a big croc, as they swam across a river.

These units needed to be tough and self reliant as there was no medical back up. They operated in groups in a line across Australia, Qld to WA, covering 4 million square miles. Sigs set up a series of radio contacts, sometimes using old pedal radios at stations. This way an alert could be made in case of invasion in the north, as Darwin would be easily outflanked. As well as sending alerts they were a guerilla force, to fight any invaders alone.

Wonderful to see these family photos, thank you so much!

A good article used as a reference for some of this post.

A book about the Nackeroos, by Richard and Helen Walker: Curtin's Cowboys

Image: A book about the Nackeroos, recommended by a follower of our FB page (David Hutchinson).

Another of our FB followers, Greg Falkiner, commented:

“My dad, Lloyd Falkiner was part of this Commando group during WW11. They called themselves Nackaroos and were part of NorForce(Northern Australia Observer Unit).Dad was a fine horseman and had many interesting stories of his time in remote areas of the Northern Territory!

I will do a bit of searching in the family records and see what I can send you.

Just briefly, I remember my dad, who was a Sergeant and two other Nackaroos drove a mob of about 80 army remounts about 600 kilometers, I think from Newcastle Waters over about 8 weeks through largely unmapped territory, using compass bearings. From my recollection , they hobbled the horses every night and then rounded them up in the morning. Each horse carried his own hobbles around the neck. Again from memory, they did not lose any horses en route, apart from one dangerous rogue which had to b dispatched. Unfortunately my dad’s extensive daily diaries were destroyed after his passing at 81 years in 1998.” (at his request)

Image: Horses at Renner Springs, Northern Territory in 1941. Photograph taken when Signals personnel from No 4 Military District, AMF, and PMG linesmen were updating the Overland Telegraph line from Alice Springs to Darwin. AWM

Horses at Renner Springs, Northern Territory in 1941

Comments from another of our FB followers, Robert Kirkwood: “My Dad Henry Kirkwood served with sigs he went From Geelong to Adelaide. Then up to Darwin then across to Townsville. There was only twenty of them in his unit they were part of NorForce which still going today. Dad written up in a couple of out back transport books.

The horses (in the Renner Springs image) probably for Curtin’s cowboys ( Norforce )…top end had 500 light horse troopers…came from all over Australia. South Gippsland in Victoria sent quite a few like other districts.”

Posted by Enoch Waler

Waler gelding purpose bred to help educate and advocate for Walers, in person and via Facebook and Instagram.