A bomb was placed in a rubbish bin outside the hotel, and as the Indian Prime Minister arrived, a firing mechanism was pushed. Fate intervened and the bomb failed to explode. The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and myself were standing three metres from the rubbish bin, and it exploded later that night killing three people. Since that day I consider myself a ‘dead man talking’.

Prime Minister’s Bodyguard is the story of John McArdle, Malcolm Fraser’s personal bodyguard and security officer. He spent nearly five years with the Prime Minister through the most violent and turbulent times in Australian political history, owing to the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam Labor Government.

Observer to some of the most sensitive information in the Australian government, and eyewitness to the life of Fraser and his family, McArdle’s role in protecting the Prime Minister above all else was a part of his job - and if that meant getting between an attacker and the PM then it was something McArdle was prepared to do.

At times violent and dangerous, at others hilariously funny, Prime Minister’s Bodyguard gives the reader a fascinating insight into a pivotal moment in Australian history. From violent rallies to assassination attempts, and onboard flights with terrorists, John McArdle shares with the reader his memories and gives a glimpse into an extraordinary life.

In Store Price: $AU25.95 
Online Price:   $AU24.95

ISBN: 1-9210-0575-0
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 231
Genre: Non Fiction/Autobiography



Author: John McArdle 
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2005
Language: English



It was 1973 and I owned and operated a successful motor driving school in Melbourne. I had a nice suburban home and a beach house at Rye, a popular beach resort. At the age of 27 I had a wife, two children and was what could loosely be termed as ‘on the way up.’ 

But, there was something missing. I had always looked for something different in life. I had been a promising boxer, but was talked out of that sport by a concerned mother. I had ventured to England by ship when I was twenty-one, and lived for a short time in England. 

I had always had a hankering to be a police officer, as they were always in the news and it seemed this would offer a way out of the humdrum existence of normal life. 

A cousin was in the Victoria Police Department, and indeed in the Criminal Investigation Branch. I asked his opinion on joining, but his advice was to stick with the money that my business offered. I told him that I was going to join anyhow, as I had had enough of the business life, and was successful. I now wanted to get some action and excitement into my life. 

He could see that I was going to go ahead with my plan and advised me not to join the Victoria Police, but to go federal, as that was where the future would be.

The then Commonwealth Police were situated at 43 McKenzie Street, Melbourne, a nondescript building attached to the side of the Victoria Police Department Headquarters. A brief history of the Commonwealth Police reveals they were raised as the Peace Officer Guard by Prime Minister Billy Hughes after he was assaulted at a political rally in the early 1900s. Hughes had called on the state police to arrest the perpetrator, but the police refused to arrest the offender. Hughes then had the Peace Officer Guard raised as an alternative federal force, though the Guard lacked sufficient powers to be really effective. Eventually the late Ray Whitrod became Commissioner and moulded the Guard into the Commonwealth Police, which had teeth in relation to the Commonwealth and were stationed in all Australian states. 

The Commonwealth Police Force was loosely designed around some aspects of America’s FBI and Secret Service in that it would investigate all crime against the federal government and provide a uniformed police service with the same powers as state police at all Australian domestic and international airports, where they would not only act in a police role, but in a security role as well. They would provide policing at both Christmas Island and Norfolk Island.  

Uniformed police would also be stationed at government establishments like sensitive military installations as in Pine Gap, and Defence Signals, whose job was to break and monitor overseas codes and transmissions. They were also stationed at intelligence organisations, government aircraft and ammunition works, the Prime Minister’s and Governor-General’s residences, as well as providing security at a number of overseas Australian Embassies. Plain-clothes officers provided security for overseas Heads of State, as well as visiting government members and VIPs. They also provided full-time security for the Prime Minister and Governor-General of Australia.

Not knowing any of the above I applied to join the organisation in early 1973. I was invited to attend and pass a full medical examination, attend and pass an entrance exam, and then be interviewed by a psychiatrist as well as the initial interview with the Commonwealth Police recruiting officer. If I passed the above, I would have to be fully security-vetted and this would take at least two months, then wait for a vacancy to occur.  

Months passed and one day the buff government envelope arrived.  I held it nervously in my hands for some minutes then ripped it open: YES, I had passed the vetting and was offered a position as a Constable, Commonwealth Police, Melbourne. I was absolutely delighted. I sold my business and reported to Commonwealth Police Headquarters in March of 1973, was interviewed by an inspector, given a rundown of the organisation and of my starting instructions issued with the Commonwealth Police Standing Orders and Regulations, and sworn in. 


CHAPTER TWO (part sample)  


Two days later I reported for duty at the Commonwealth Police Headquarters situated at Victoria Barracks, St Kilda Road, Melbourne. I was interviewed by Senior Constable George Garland, who spent the better part of the morning explaining my duties as a Constable and what my job was at Victoria Barracks.  

Duty would be carried out on rolling 24-hour, 7-days-a-week basis, and included the following: perimeter security, door and access gate security, checking of personnel and their security passes. Patrols after hours were always carried out carrying a firearm and included checking for intruders, signs of theft or break-ins, checking of security passes for persons encountered during these patrols, static security in sensitive areas such as buildings where intelligence was carried out, the gathering of any documents or paperwork including notes that were left in offices or desks. These were immediately impounded back at the station and a security breach ticket left in its place. The perpetrator would be summoned to the security office the next day to ‘please explain’ if a document was of a sensitive nature, say highly confidential, secret etc. This was impounded and the military intelligence officer was called immediately no matter what the hour, who would then take the document and interview the offender. 

Victoria Barracks was a huge sprawling mass of buildings, offices, footpaths and roads, surrounded by a three-metre bluestone fence, and was staffed by hundreds of civilians and military personnel. It held records and administrative files for the three Armed Services. Day shift was comprised mainly of a security role of checking vehicles and access passes for the hundreds of people flowing in and out of the entrances and exits. It had a cheery aspect as you spoke with people and were surrounded by constant activity. 

Night time was a different matter. Then the place was dark and empty; it took on the look of a crouching, brooding monster. Patrols of the miles of empty dingy corridors and dark grounds were not for the faint-hearted, as you were on your own and although armed with a gun and a torch, you would see imaginary intruders and evil-doers everywhere in the dark.  

One new recruit on his first and last night was patrolling on a darkened verandah and just as he started walking he heard somebody jump onto the roof not far from where he was standing. Now this officer was a very nervous character and he stayed purposely still waiting for the intruder to move. After a period of time he moved off again and the footsteps on the roof followed. He stopped again, no footsteps. By this time he was close to losing it so he called out, ‘I know you’re on the roof! This is the police!’ The footsteps started to run and so did he in a blind gut-wrenching panic till, reaching the end of the verandah, he leapt off. Whoever was on the roof leapt too, and landed on the recruit’s back. By this time he had his gun in his hand, his torch in the other and his cap over his eyes. The constable screamed, threw his weapon and torch in the air and bolted for the station where he arrived in a hysterical condition. An armed police patrol went to the area and with weapons drawn flashed on their torches to reveal one very scared possum. The recruit was unable to continue his police duties and subsequently left the job. 

Although it was a funny incident it did underline that, at times, these night patrols were capable of inducing a mild blind panic in the police officer.

As a weapon was carried on these night patrols, initial training was in the use of handguns and weapons at the range and the law surrounding the use of firearms. 

Training was initially by correspondence with the Australian Police College at Manly in New South Wales, and covered something in the vicinity of fifteen to sixteen assignments, which could take you up to a month to complete. The areas covered were law: criminal, common and statute; evidence: how to collect it and present it at a Court; powers of arrest; preparation of briefs of evidence; police duties such as handcuffing and fingerprinting; duties of a Commonwealth police officer; powers of extradition; and a thorough knowledge of the ‘Red Herring’. This was a mammoth book, detailing everything a police officer should know and do to uphold his duties as an officer. Its official title was The Commonwealth Police Regulations

It was entirely up to the trainee how fast he completed these assignments and whether he passed or failed, as they were returned from the Australian Police College with pass marks or red-lined failure with cutting and crippling comments in the margins. 

On completion and passing of all assignments the trainee was then sent for a six-week live-in training course at the Australian Police College, where he went through an intensive month and a half of training and if successful, graduated with a certificate and title of Constable, Commonwealth Police Force (U) Uniform. 

I was fully determined to do as well as I possibly could. Even with a limited education, I believed that if you really wanted something you could do it. 

It was with this belief that I tackled the assignments, passed through them, successfully completed the course at the college and arrived back in Melbourne as a Constable. 

The biggest incentive of the Constable training was to graduate from the Police College with a score of 75% or more as this could lead to the heady mystical heights of becoming a Plain-clothes Officer and an Investigating Detective, providing of course you had the equivalent of the Victorian Leaving Certificate, and were deemed a good candidate. This in turn would see you return to the Australian Police College for the exciting and demanding Investigator’s Course.  

I had left school in the twelfth grade but I used Winston Churchill as a model; he having had no education rose to be a British Prime Minister. 

The Australian Police College was situated at Manly in New South Wales and overlooked some of the most spectacular water scenery in all of Sydney. It occupied what is known as part of North Head, situated high over the water with absolutely spectacular and magical views over private waterways and bays. 

The College was made up of many classrooms, with a magnificent library containing all manner of publications relating to policing law and all ancillary matters, as well as a comprehensive collection of references and biographical material. 

There was an excellent dining room with all meals provided, and a recreational bar and club area with TVs and games rooms attached. 

Trainees were fortunate to have their own rooms, which afforded personal study at one’s desk. There was of course a parade area for drills and inspection and an outside barbeque facility. All in all it was a wonderful training facility, so much so it was not only used to train Commonwealth police, but also where all officers of the rank of Inspector or above from all Australian Police Forces would attend for the Australian Police College’s Officers’ Course. 

The instructors at the college were all former state police officers with a wealth of varied policing experience. The Commonwealth Police were fortunate that they could attract officers from state forces and offer them much higher rank and pay to bring their expertise over to the Commonwealth and this they did, in droves. To a man they were all placed in the plain-clothes investigative wing of the Commonwealth Police, and although they too would complete these investigative courses, they had a great knowledge to implant into a fledgling police force. 

I attended the college in late 1973, determined to do well and make it back for the investigations course. I loved every minute that I was there, the lectures, the films, the outside visits to courts and police stations and the wonderful camaraderie of the other thirty-two trainees. 

Some of the lectures were meant as a test of your mental processes. We were attending a lecture at the Manly Hotel-Motel where they had set up chairs and desks in a lounge; the lecture was on ‘powers of observation.’ We had been in the class about three hours and were all feeling a little jaded, when we heard two shots and a crashing of furniture and through a side door a male sprinted into the room. He had a rifle and was wearing a balaclava, and he was being hotly pursued by the manager of the hotel yelling, ‘Stop him! Stop him! He’s robbed the hotel!’ They both ran through a side door. I really shit myself and so did most of the class. We were all rooted to the spot with mouths open. However, two ex-London Police sprinted after them and as they reached the exit, were called back by the instructor.  

The instructor then informed us that it was a fake robbery and in fact the whole incident was an observation test. We had to describe both persons’ height, weight, colour of hair, age and clothes etc. Most of us failed. All I could remember were two males running through, one of them armed with a cannon that had a barrel that looked at least a metre wide.  

We were shown how to dust and lift fingerprints from articles, and of how to serve a Summons. We would assemble outside the classroom and the instructor would be inside with the door locked. The first attempt to serve a Summons was by another instructor who knocked on the door and announced ‘Police.’ The door immediately opened and the other instructor said, ‘Oh thank you, officer, I’ve been expecting this,’ then shut the door.  

Then our instructor said, ‘See how easy it is?’ The first student took the Summons, knocked on the door and said in a loud voice, ‘Open up, it’s the police.’ There was no answer, then another ‘Open up, it’s the police.’ Then a loud voice from inside said, ‘Fuck off, prick.’ Of course all the students were laughing as the poor trainee was looking at the instructor with a red face with a ‘What do I do now?’ look on his face.  

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