A One Cop Town

Constable Albert Wallbank, the NES Warden

When WWII began in 1939, the New South Wales government swiftly established a body known as the National Emergency Service (NES) to act as an air raid and civil defense service on the home front. All civilians, particularly government employees, were urged to join.

One of the 115,000 people who heeded this call was Albert Wallbank (1887-1953) from Dudley, New South Wales.

Albert was fifty-one years old at the outbreak of WWII. Whether or not he wanted to, enlisting as a soldier was not really a viable option. Albert was over the maximum allowed age for the Second AIF contingent and, perhaps even more pressing, he was Dudley’s sole police constable between 1921 and 1947.

Volunteering enabled Albert to contribute to the war effort, whilst remaining with his family and community. These two cards identified Albert as a NES Warden and proved he had been trained in air raid preparedness and first aid. This gave him the authority to act and give orders in the aftermath of an air attack.

On call day and night, NES Wardens maintained air raid sirens and shelters, monitored blackouts, and staffed the NES Control Centre. The service was structured around local government areas, so each municipality or shire became an ‘area’ controlled by a Chief Warden who was assisted by volunteer staff. 

The NES was disbanded in early 1946, replaced by the Civil Defence Service in the 1950s, and later evolved into what we now know as the State Emergency Service (SES).

From his decades of service as Dudley’s police constable to his selfless dedication as a NES Warden, Albert Wallbank embodied unwavering commitment to his community. Today, his contributions stand as a reminder of the impact one person can have on the place they call home.