Written by John Stubbs.
It was Guy Fawkes Day in 1971 when George Entwistle joined the Police Force. There were no fireworks however, George had more than his share of mayhem in the years that followed. He faced a loaded double barrel shotgun, survived a helicopter crash and was awarded a Victoria Police Valour Award.
George Entwistle’s fledgling career was just like anyone else. He commenced at Russell Street, moved to Collingwood, West Heidelberg, Caulfield and Corrumburra. He was at Bendigo and Heathcote when the “after dark” bank robber, Peter Morgan robbed the Heathcote bank and shot colleague Senior Constable Ray Koch.
He enjoyed working in the bush and eventually the quietly spoken man scored his own one-man station at Moyhu in the King Valley. The town has a population of a little over 500 and is about a 2-and-a-half-hour drive from Melbourne and 25 minutes from Wangaratta.
Little is known about the day-to-day dangers faced by those working alone from isolated 1-man stations. George and others like him rely on their senses, the community and situational awareness to do their job when backup was often a long distance away. Unfortunately, there are still occasions where physical fitness and courage are the only options.
In 1988 George had twice his usual workload when he was covering the neighbouring district of Whitfield where the local Policeman was on leave. It was a Friday afternoon about 4.00pm when D.24 called on George to attend a rural address in the Whitfield district where there were reports of shots being fired. That’s not an unusual event in the country as there are often hunters and farmers using firearms to control feral animals. Even so, he approached the farmhouse with caution.
Loud music boomed from the property as he approached and stepped onto the veranda. There was no sign of a resident present however he located the source of the music player and turned down the volume. There was silence as he entered the unlocked building. George was wearing his usual equipment including his gun, cuffs and vest however it was a was a rainy day and he’d put on a coat over his outfit.
He was uneasy as he gradually crept into the loungeroom when instantaneously he was confronted with a man seated on a lounge chair pointing a double barrel shotgun into the air. When he saw George, the man lowered the gun toward him with his finger on the trigger. George couldn’t reach his own pistol fast enough because the coat covered his holster, so he had no choice but to pounce. The two struggled violently to gain control of the gun for what seemed like an eternity until George eventually gained the upper hand and squeezed the man in a headlock. He broke open the weapon whilst holding the man and ejected two live shotgun cartridges.
The man continued to wrestle violently as the Policeman strived to drag him outside to the Police car radio. George was becoming fatigued from the struggle nevertheless he couldn’t let go. He eventually hauled the defiant man to the car and wedged his head in the door which gave him the opportunity to call for help. It was over 40 minutes until they arrived and by then George was on his last legs. He was shaken yet physically uninjured.
It was subsequently confirmed that the man was attempting to commit suicide by cop. He created the confrontation with the intention of being killed by Police in a shootout.
After the distressing experience George didn’t take a break and resumed work the next day. He was offered offered psychiatric assistance which involved a 5 hour round trip to Melbourne for a 10-minute session, so he only had one consultation. He was later proud to receive the Victoria Police Valour award.
1992 George was in the Police Helicopter searching for a missing girl when the chopper attempted to land on soft terrain. The pilot realised it was too soft and powered up however the rotor blades struck branches and the machine crashed and rolled. George was thrown out, knocked unconscious and pinned under the chopper for over 20 minutes. One of the pilots dowsed the vehicle and George in foam flame retardant thus preventing a fire however George suffered broken ribs and vertebrae. He was off work for 9 months and continued working in “the job” until 2004 after 33 years’ service. He’s now happily retired in Gippsland,
Those who worked at 1-man stations often go unrecognised for the work they do. They face the same dangers at the city cops without the backup, communications and privacy. Everyone knows them, they are never off duty, and they are often required to dispense advice and justice to people they know personally or who may live next door. They need the respect of the locals as well as their support. Imagine going to a pub brawl alone without the support of a couple of local bystanders? It’s a fine line that only few can achieve.
PVV congratulate George Entwistle 16964 and all those who serve in small, isolated communities.