People - David Crawley

MBE - Bandmaster, European Constabulary, New Guinea Police Force, Founder of the New Guinea Police Force Band

Born: 12 March 1906  London, England.  Died: 10 July 1966  Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

David (Dan) Crawley was born in London, England on 21 March 1906. At an early age he joined the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers Regiment of the British Army and trained as a Bandsman. During his years of service the cavalry regiment was stationed in Ireland, Egypt, Palestine and India.

In early 1930 he took his discharge from the British Army and voyaged from India to Tasmania to try his hand at fruit farming. While there he joined the 22nd Light Horse Brigade. In 1935, in response to a recruitment campaign for the New Guinea Police Force, he travelled to Rabaul, New Britain. He joined the European Constabulary of the New Guinea Police Force on 15 May 1935 with the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2.

When training buglers for ceremonial parades he became aware of the musical aptitude of the young Tolais from Nordup village, and sought permission to form a police band. His request was rejected - he was considered "a mad Englishman - impossible to teach music to the native people"! He determined to persevere and bought brass band instruments himself, and in his spare time taught the young Tolais to play.

Their first public appearance in Rabaul in 1937 so impressed the Administrator Sir W Ramsay McNicholl that he recommended David Crawley be released from regular police duties to form a police band. The Police Band was officially formed in 1938. (A number of his original "Nordup boys" were still with the Band when David Crawley, then Senior Inspector, retired from the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary in 1963).

In Rabaul on 22nd March 1938 he married Kathleen Allen, from northwest Tasmania. A daughter and a son were born prior to the outbreak of war in New Guinea.

Early in 1941 Lark Force, the Australian Army 2/22nd Battalion arrived in Rabaul and a friendship was formed during that year between David Crawley and their bandmaster Arthur Gullidge, formerly of the Brunswick, Melbourne, Salvation Army Band. He was renowned as a fine musician and a talented composer. (Sadly he lost his life on the Montevideo Maru, along with so many others who were taken prisoner). In late December 1941 with fears of an imminent Japanese invasion, David Crawley's wife and two small children were evacuated to Australia on the M. V. Macdhui, together with the other women and children of Rabaul .

David Crawley remained in Rabaul with the male civilians and service personnel. When Rabaul fell, after the brief courageous battle against overwhelming Japanese forces on 23 January 1942, and the order was given "every man for himself", he took to the mountains of New Britain to escape capture. Prior to leaving, he and the band members had buried the band instruments, along with his family's personal belongings. (None were ever recovered).

A few loyal Bandsmen insisted on accompanying him, but as the danger became evermore evident, he persuaded them for their own safety to return to their villages. He travelled with a small group of Police officers and hacked his way through the undergrowth with his bush knife, which his family still have in their possession.

After many weeks evading the Japanese, with little food, water or clothing, they escaped, with help from Keith McCarthy and Frank Holland, on the small vessel M.V. Lakatoi. After a hazardous voyage from New Britain through the Trobriand Islands they arrived safely in Cairns on 28 March 1942.

He joined his family in Sydney where they had taken up residence to wait out the war. He enlisted in the Australian Army and after a short period of rehabilitation returned to Papua New Guinea with A.N.G.A.U.

He was transferred to the Royal Papuan Constabulary, one of the units of ANGAU, as Lieutenant, M. I. D. He was stationed at Bisiatabu for much of that time, and was requested to form another police band. Some of his original New Guinea bandsmen who had been taken prisoner by the Japanese, managed to escape and returned to him.

In 1945 he led his Band on their first tour of Australia to raise funds for the Third Victory War Loan, which proved very successful. Subsequent Australian tours he undertook with his Band were the Sydney Anzac Day March in 1950, Queen Elizabeth's visits in 1954 & 1963, and the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956.

In early 1946 his family joined him at the Royal Papuan Constabulary & New Guinea Police Force Training Depot at Sogeri, in the foothills of the Owen Stanleys, some 26 miles from Port Moresby. In 1947 a second daughter was born.

In 1945 David Crawley was awarded the Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, London, in recognition of his skill in training two brass bands in Papua New Guinea. The award was given annually for the most outstanding musical work of the year, and it was the first time the honour had gone outside the United Kingdom. Studying externally through the Trinity College of Music, London, many of the bandsmen passed their Theory of Music examinations with honours and distinctions.

In 1955 he was honoured by the Queen, receiving the MBE for his "outstanding contribution in pioneering the movement to introduce band music to the native people of New Guinea". The Investiture took place at Government House Port Moresby. He also received the Queen's Police Long Service & Good Conduct Medal, awarded for distinguished Police Service of 22 years or more.

In 1963 he retired from the RPNGC as a Senior Inspector. On the tarmac of Port Moresby's Jacksons airstrip the Band played in farewell, and many of the bandsmen wept. He took his wife on a long dreamed-of visit back to England and met up with his old British Army friends before he died suddenly in Brisbane in 1966. Archbishop Philip Strong, the former Anglican Bishop of New Guinea, officiated at his funeral service.

Related Entries

© Doreen MacGowan 2011

New Guinea Police Force Band Rabaul 1938

New Guinea Police Force Band Rabaul 1938

Ordeal by Evacuees on Amazing Trek Home

Ordeal by Evacuees on Amazing Trek Home
18 April 1942

David Crawley with Nelson Tokiel, First Cornet, Bisiatabu 1943

David Crawley with Nelson Tokiel, First Cornet, Bisiatabu 1943

David Crawley Lae 1944

David Crawley Lae 1944
20 May 1944

David Crawley with Royal Papuan Constabulary Band (Sogeri 1946)

David Crawley with Royal Papuan Constabulary Band (Sogeri 1946)

David Crawley with Royal Papuan Constabulary Band (Sogeri 1946)

David Crawley with Royal Papuan Constabulary Band (Sogeri 1946)

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Created by Joanne and Jenny Evans, July 2002. Updated 29 May 2011