The Men in Blue

Albert Wallbank’s Police Jacket

When Albert Wallbank (1887-1953) joined the Police Force in 1913, there was no state-wide police uniform in New South Wales.

Prior to 1934, country police were issued a mixture of khaki and blue uniforms. This particular blue heavy serge fabric, shaped in a tunic style jacket, with a high celluloid or linen-lined collar and double-breast pockets, appears similar to other police jackets worn between 1911-1918. So it is likely this jacket, which belonged to Albert, dates from the early days of his long police career.

At the Police Association of New South Wales (PANSW) Conference in 1934, Commissioner W. H. Childs announced the standard-issue of blue serge uniforms, declaring: ‘[M]any of you have the same feeling that I have, that love for the Police blue, and that you never think a man is a policeman unless he is in the blue uniform. We are putting the whole of the men into blue.’

Despite the uniformity of the NSW police apparel, there remained the widespread issue of general discomfort throughout the sweltering summer months. In 1937, the PANSW Conference passed a motion for a lighter uniform and 90% of the force backed the change. The uniform would change to an open-necked military-style coat made of a lighter fabric, which was more comfortable and effective, allowing for better freedom of movement and to access batons, pistols, or other items as required.

Unfortunately for Albert Wallbank, the official decision was put on hold until 1949 – a year after his retirement.