Attack Creek Historical Reserve

The Attack Creek Historical Reserve is a memorial to the explorer John McDouall Stuart. The creek is the point from which Stuart turned back from his 1860 expedition to cross the continent, after an encounter with hostile Warumunga Aboriginal people. The memorial recalls that 'On 25 June 1860 John McDouall Stuart and his two companions William Kekwick and Benjamin Head reached Attack Creek the most northerly point of that expedition. Hostile natives and illness forced the party to return'.

Location: 74km north of Tennant Creek along the Stuart Highway.

The Reserve site does not have any direct physical association with Stuart or the events of June 1860 at Barrow Creek (see below). The site was chosen as a memorial road-stop and rest area. A short walk down the creek from the monument you can see where the old Stuart Highway once ran to the east of the current road.

Barrow Creek killing

In June 1870 some 3,000 sheep from the Lake Hope area in South Australia were overlanded to the Northern Territory, for the men working on the line at Roper River, by Ralph and John Milner. Near Wauchope Creek they lost 900 sheep which had eaten poisonous herbage. John Milner was killed by the Aborigines and Ralph arrived at the Roper River with only 1,000 sheep.

Constable Shirley Memorial

Located at the reserve is a plaque commemorates Constable John Charles Shirley , the first policeman to lose his life in the Northern territory. In October 1883, Harry Redford was reported missing from Brunette Downs Station in the Northern Territory. A search party was mounted under the direction of Mounted Constable John Charles Shirley. The party was comprised of eight men and eighteen horses.


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Tragedy overtook the search party and all perished from lack of water with the exception of two members - Alan Giles (an experienced bushman), and an Aboriginal Tracker. Ironically, Redford was later found but was to suffer a different fate - drowning in Corella Creek during heavy rains a few years later.

Mounted Constable John Charles Shirley was born in Ireland on 27 September 1856. He joined the South Australia Police on 10 March 1877 as a 3rd Class Trooper based in Adelaide. Records show that he was promoted to 2nd Class Trooper on 1 June 1879 and that he is believed to have been stationed at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station in 1880 - being the first policeman stationed there. On 1 July 1882 he was promoted to First Class Mounted Constable and later that month transferred to Barrow Creek. On 7 November 1883 he died at the age of 27. He was the first police officer to lose his life in the Northern Territory.

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