The great Sherlock Holmes New Guinea mystery
Melanesian jurisprudence needed to clarify PNG’s laws

Brian Holloway dies: Last expat PNG police commissioner


BRIAN HOLLOWAY CBE QPM died in Perth on 23 January after a long illness. He was 85.

Holloway joined the South Australia Police as a Cadet in 1943, at age 15, following the tradition set by his father Percy.

During his training in the mounted police, "tent pegging" (galloping on horseback and taking out the stakes holding tents so they collapsed) was part of the course, and he never understood why this was necessary in a modern police force.

At the police training depot, John Grimshaw (in 1947 to become the first commissioner of the Royal Papuan Constabulary and New Guinea Police Force) was a senior instructor. Inspired by Grimshaw, Holloway joined the RPC&NGPF as an assistant Sub Inspector in November 1948.

His first posting was to Wau, and shortly after to Bulolo, Over the next few years he served in Rabaul, Kavieng, Madang, Minj, Goroka and Kokopo.

At the time of the Rabaul Navuneram riots in 1958 he was nearly murdered, his life saved by a courageous Senior Constable.

July 1961 saw him in charge of police during the Rabaul town riots between Sepik and Tolai groups, during which three Tolais were shot dead by police.

In February 1962 Holloway was in charge of the police detachment at Hahalis in Buka, Bougainville during the insurrection of the "baby farm" anti-Council riots led by John Teosin and defrocked former Catholic priest Francis Hagai, who said they were breeding a "super race".

May 1965 saw him in charge of peacefully quelling the insurrection at Lavongai, New Ireland during the President Johnson cargo cult riots.

In October 1967 he was in charge of restoring major unrest involving hundreds of illegal squatters on disputed land in the Kokopo area.

Holloway was awarded the Queens Police Medal for meritorious and exemplary police service in 1969 and received an MBE in 1971.

In a sense, Brian Holloway was the "Sheriff" of Papua New Guinea. Whenever there was an insurrection, he was placed in charge, even being recalled from leave in Australia on occasions to handle explosive situations.

In the early 1960s he planned and established the Police College at Bomana from which the first 11 indigenous police graduated a Sub Inspectors on 26 August 1964 after a four year course.

In 1970 he was appointed Deputy Police Commissioner and, in 1974, during the transition to Independence, he spent one year as Commissioner until be handed over to Pius Kerepia in May 1975. He received as CBE after leaving Papua New Guinea.

For some time he had been writing his autobiography, Cadet to Commissioner, which was unfinished when he died.

Holloway was one of the three surviving police officers (the others being John Graham and James Dutton) of the late forties era of the Constabulary. He is survived by Fae, his wife of 64 years, and children Gary and Susan, mother of Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG, Australia's most highly decorated soldier.

An exceptionally tall man, Brian was known by fellow police officers as "5 feet 17 inches". There will never be another Brian Holloway and he will be missed by all the people he touched in many ways.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Geoffrey Luck

What's missing from the obit is mention of his service as Inspector, Port Moresby Police Station in 1957.

I had not long arrived in town, posted by the ABC as its Journalist in Charge.

I found I was allocated a wartime jeep, painted blue and much the worse for wear and no servicing. The steering was so loose the jeep wandered all over the road.

Knowing ABC bureaucratic process, I decided to take direct action. On my morning call at the police station, I asked Brian to get someone to make a snap vehicle check on the jeep outside.

He did, and issued an official notice of a list of defects so long it was cheaper for the ABC to buy a new vehicle. Which it did. Brian was a great one for direct action.

David Bolton | RPNGC 1968-76

I had the privilege to serve under Mr Holloway and always found him to be an honest and helpful person. It is sad to know he has died as many of those of area have.

It is good to see that Max still keeps everyone informed. Would like to hear from you.

Margaret Nicol (previously Mensforth)

I had the pleasure of working for Superintendent Holloway as his personal secretary in Rabaul for several years in the sixties. I am saddened to learn of his death.

He was an absolute gentleman, a competent police leader, and a delight to work with. My sympathy to his family.

Phil Fitzpatrick

I'm interested in the Rabaul Navuneram riots in 1958 Max, particularly the incident about Brian being saved by a policeman.

Is there an account of this incident anywhere?

Terry Kelliher

Brian was the bravest, wisest and most intelligent Police Officer I ever saw. He was a great family man, a perfect gentleman but still the life of many parties. But when he stood straight and looked down at you he was a formidable human being. It was fitting that he was the last expat Commissioner and I was privileged to be present at his appointment. Vale Sir.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)