UNFORTUNATELY, there are many dangers members of our police force have to face when they go to work.
Over the past two days, we have told the stories of Constable William Sharrock, who drowned while trying to save lives on a boat in the Hopkins River.
We also learnt about Constable Daniel O’Boyle, and how he was killed after being struck on the head by a hammer by a murderous prisoner at the Warrnambool Courthouse.
Now we tell the story of Constable James Brewis, who died while on duty in November, 1954.
Constable Brewis began his career in the police force in Gippsland, spending time at the Sale and Maffra stations. From there, he made the move into the city, working at the Maribyrnong station. It was also recorded he worked at Casterton, Bacchus Marsh, Dartmoor and Hamilton.
After his stint in the big smoke, Constable Brewis was again back in the country, this time making the move to the Derrinallum area.
Constable Brewis, who was born on April 12, 1903, at Bedlington in England, brought plenty of experience with him to Derrinallum.
He had lived through a loaded rifle being pointed at him while arresting men accused of robbery in Gippsland. After they were arrested, he realised the danger had been even greater than he knew when he found a tomahawk on the back seat of the robber’s car.
Also in Gippsland, Constable Brewis had to attend a crime scene where a local farmer had been murdered.
The farmer had been shot dead, with the culprit turning out to be his young apprentice.
When questioned by Constable Brewis on why he had done away with his boss, the young man said he was unaware of the crime he had committed, claiming he had carried out the shooting while he was sleepwalking.
So when Constable Brewis got to his posting in the sleepy town of Derrinallum, he would have been entitled to think his days of too much excitement on the job were well behind him.
But that all changed when he responded to a call on November 28, 1954, in relation to a number of thefts in the local area. It was to be a call-out that led to the constable’s demise.
His wife Mavis, with whom Constable Brewis had a son, Norman, and daughter, Cathy, was able to piece the first part of her husband’s action on that fateful day for police.
She explained that she had received a call from Constable Brewis informing her that he was making enquiries regarding the location of a suspect who was wanted for questioning in relation to the theft of wool.
He had left Derrinallum at 4.20pm in the company of a Mr Andrew Keith Caldow.
It is believed Mr Caldow was visiting at the time and offered to take the constable in his motor vehicle to search for the suspected thief.
He told his wife he was expecting to return around 6pm that evening.
The pair headed off to the Elephant Bridge Hotel in Darlington.
The licensee of the hotel, a Mr John Lewis, had made his way to the hotel at around 5.30pm to meet the constable.
Mr Lewis was reporting a possible sighting he had of the suspected thieves and spoke to Constable Brewis for up to 15 minutes about the information he had.
Mr Lewis was to tell police later that while he talked to the constable, Mr Caldow remained in the car the whole time. On Constable Brewis’ return to vehicle, the pair headed towards Lismore. At approximately, 6.20pm, on the Darlington – Derrinallum Road about three miles west of Derrinallum, the vehicle ran off the road and rolled a number of times.
As a result of the accident, Constable Brewis died instantly from the injuries he sustained. Mr Caldow died the next day as a result of his injuries.
Constable Brewis was buried at the Lismore Cemetery, but a lack of finances meant his wife was unable to afford a headstone, leaving the grave unmarked.
The resting place for Constable Brewis stayed that way until earlier this decade when his grandson, Jason Kelly, set about getting his grandfather recognition for his service to the community.
Mr Kelly’s work got Constable Brewis’ name added to both the Victoria and national police memorials. In 2013, Constable Brewis’ family received in his honour the Victoria Police Star, a medal for those in the police force who were killed or seriously injured.
Constable Brewis’ grave was one of 14 which were restored as part of the Victorian Police Graves Memorial Fund, managed by the police graves restoration committee.
In April, 2015, members of Constable Brewis’ family joined representatives from Victoria police, the police association and the Blue Ribbon Foundation, gathered at the Lismore Cemetery, to unveil a plaque marking the fallen policeman’s final resting place.