NSWPF: NSW Police, ADF commemorate former officer in state’s south

Members of the NSW Police Force and Australian Defence Force gathered today to commemorate a former officer from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century at a grave site in Corowa in the state’s south.

In September 2020, a member of the ADF was performing duties as part of Operation Border Closure, when he began researching a historical link between the two organisations.

Inquiries revealed Thomas Charles Morris, a former NSW Police Sergeant and NSW Lancer, was the officer in charge of Holbrook Police Station during the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918, the last time the NSW/Victoria border was closed.

Thomas Charles Morris was born in 1876 in Singleton, NSW. The son of a contractor, he followed his father into the family business before joining the local detachment of NSW Lancers at the age of 18.

He left Sydney in 1899 for training at Aldershot, where he remained until the start of the war, when the majority of men volunteered for service at the Cape and came under fire on many occasions.

Trooper Morris went on to take part in numerous engagements until the Lancers Squadron was withdrawn in late 1900.

Remembered as a humble man, Trooper Morris did not speak of his actions. While conducting a mounted reconnaissance, his patrol was ambushed. Noticing that a fellow Lancer’s horse was felled, Trooper Morris rode straight back into heavy enemy fire, and with bullets scattering on three sides, rescued Harrison and then rode through the gauntlet of heavy enemy fire for the second time.

“The first time you go into action,” said his townsman, Trooper Waddell, “you think every bullet is going to hit you. After a while you imagine none will.”

Trooper Morris was invalided to NSW with typhoid in 1900.

In 1902, he was appointed to the NSW Police, bearing police registration number 7848.

He served as a police officer for 30 years, achieving the rank of sergeant in 1918, before retiring at Corowa as sergeant first class in 1934.

During his policing career, Sgt Morris was involved in a shoot-out with a bushranger named Batson in Jingellic, and also led the arrest of the ‘Staghorn Flat’ murderer.

In February 1938, Lord Wakehurst presented Tom Morris with the Imperial Service Medal at NSW Government House. The letter from the Home Office, Whitehall, London, which accompanied the medal, was as follows:

“Sir, —I am commanded to forward an Imperial Service Medal which His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to award to you in recognition of the meritorious services which you have rendered. I am, Sir, yours faithfully, R.R. Scott, Secretary and Registrar of the Imperial Service Order.”

Morris married Amy Clare Nickson on 5 March 1906 in Coolamon, and had three children; Gladys Ellen, Edwin James and Irene.

He was buried at the Corowa old cemetery on Wednesday 5 October 1955.

NSW Police Southern Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Joe Cassar APM, said today is an opportune time to reflect on the courage and dedication of an officer who has served in both organisations.

“Historically speaking we have a number of members who have served across both the NSW Police Force and the Australian Defence Force, and their service to NSW and Australia does not go unnoticed,” Assistant Commissioner Cassar said.

“Today we are taking the time to reflect, commemorate and celebrate the actions of one officer across both organisations.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere thanks to the men and women from the ADF who have provided invaluable support to both local and deployed police during the border operation this year.

“The partnership between our organisations has been paramount to the success of the operation,” Assistant Commissioner Cassar said.

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