THE ORIGIN OF THE POINTSMAN
After seeing the Silver Sapper of the Royal Australian Engineers and other Corpʼs centrepieces, Cpl Rod Stone put forward a Motion at a Mess Meeting at 1MP Coy Winton Barracks, Indooroopilly Brisbane, that the Military Police Corp should have its own centrepiece.
Ideas were forwarded and the final decision was to be a statuette from a poster by Sir William Dargie and Ralph Malcolm Warner hanging in the OCʼs office depicting a WW2 Military Policeman directing traffic at an intersection during the withdrawal in Crete (believed to be the last man off Crete).
A prominent Australian sculptor Mr George Luke residing in Brisbane was contacted by RSM WO1 Webster and agreed to take the commission. The first casting was completed and displayed in the mess and accepted, the final cost being $4000 (this first casting was later presented by George Luke to WO1 Webster as a personal gift).
The finished Pointsman was presented in 1978 at a function at the 1MP Coy Mess. Major Phil Warwick presented the Pointsman to Provost Marshal Lt Col K.G. Peterson who accepted the Pointsman on behalf of the Corp.
The mission was now completed and the Pointsman become part of the Corp and its history.
The Pointsman Poster
Back about late 1978 or early 1979, the 1st Military Police Company embarked on a project of commissioning a silver centrepiece based on a coloured print from an original painting by the artists William Dargie and Ralph Malcolm Warner. The poster depicted a military police pointsman directing trafﬁc set, ostensibly, against a background of the withdrawal in the latter stages of the Battle of Crete (20 May- 1st June1941).
The pointsman depicted in the poster was known in some quarters of the corps as Ossie Osborne. A distinguishing feature of the poster was that Ossie Osborne was wearing the ribbon of the Military Medal (MM) above the left breast pocket of his jacket. 1hat would seem to suggest that Ossie Osborn and WXl50I W01 Thomas William Osborn MM (who was discharged from 6th Divisional Provost Corps, 2ndAustralian Imperial Force in 1944) are one and the same.
The coloured print from which the silver Pointsman was modelled hung in the office of the Officer Commanding, 1st Military Police Company. At that point in time it was the last surviving coloured print (colloquially known as The Pointsman) although there were certainly black and white copies circulating within the Corps as well.
The silver centrepiece is another story.
Search for the Original
Some years later, perhaps about 1983/84, the Directorate of Military Police made a determined effort to locate the original of the poster.
Enquiries with the Australian War Memorial and (maybe) with the Art Gallery of NSW came to nought.
Sir William Dargie was alive at the time and the Directorate wrote to him explaining the reasons for our search and asking him if he could throw any light on where the original work might reside. sir William was gracious in quickly responding saying that he had no idea where the original might be as both he and Ralph Warner were war artists at the time and works completed for the Military became the property of the army. sir William went on to say, words to the effect, that if we were successful in locating the original work then he was happy to Vest whatever entitlement he might have to the work to the Corps. if that letter has survived then it may reside in Corps archives. Sir William Dargie died in Melbourne on 25 July, 2003, aged 91.
Ralph Malcolm Warner studied commercial art in Geelong, Melbourne and Sydney. He was an advertising artist and illustrator as well as an Australian war artist. Ralph Malcolm Warner died in Queensland on 25 July 1966, aged 54.
To this day, if the original work survived, its location remains unknown.
The Story Continues
At the time it was disappointing that so much effort had been expended for so little gain (although Sir Williams letter was a generous response to our enquiries).
At the time (and within Army Office) it was known that each year the Chief of Operations would task the Army Survey Regiment in Bendigo to reproduce copies of an original work of art in the possession of the Australian War Memorial.
What the Directorate had in mind hardly qualified. We didn’t have an original work of art let alone being in the possession of the Australian War Memorial. The coloured copy hanging in the office of the Officer Commanding, 1st Military Police Company was hardly in mint condition, but was all we had.
Initial enquiries to the office of the Chief of Operations were hardly encouraging. As our story unfolded (this was our last shot to preserve an important piece of Corps history) the Chief of Operations exercised his discretion and authorised the Army Survey Regiment to reproduce, perhaps, 500 coloured copies of The Pointsman.
Copies were subsequently forwarded to units of the Corps from the Directorate and, as a result, the Pointsman poster, in colour, will survive well into the future.
in relation to the composition of the poster it was thought that Ralph Warner, being a commercial artist and illustrator, painted the poster’s background depicting the withdrawal from Crete together with the name of the Corps on the bottom of the poster and the Corps motto “For the troops and with the troops" across the top of the poster. Sir William Dargie, being primarily a portrait painter, probably completed the work by painting Ossie Osborn as he posed in uniform with his red on black MP brassard (and MM ribbon). who commissioned the poster is not known, but
was likely produced as a recruiting poster for the Australian Army Provost Corps of the day.
This short article has been pieced together, largely from memory, and therefore some inaccuracies may become apparent to readers who are also familiar with the content of the article. corrections are welcomed.
Major Phil Warwick (Rtd)