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Alfred Amos Wilks (1901–1983)

by Margaret Tyrie

This article was published:

Alfred Amos Wilks (1901-1983), police officer, was born on 15 August 1901 at Balmain, Sydney, second of three children of Victorian-born Walter Henry Wilks, general labourer, and his wife Maud Mary Ellen, née O’Mara, born in Sydney. After leaving school Alf worked as a clerk and a wharf labourer, and in rubber manufacturing. On 17 November 1923 at St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Rozelle, he married Ethel Mary Kelly.

Having joined the New South Wales Police Force on 5 April 1924, Wilks rose through the ranks. By 1930 he was an ‘experienced Detective in all phases of investigation’, having served in ‘the Criminal Investigation Branch in such Sections as Company, Homicide and General’. He was seconded in 1934 to assist military intelligence officers conducting inquiries into foreigners living in the Commonwealth, and he travelled extensively throughout Australia to interview new arrivals.

Wilks resigned from the New South Wales Police in December 1945 and joined the Australian Capital Territory Police Force in Canberra. He was then re-attached to the Commonwealth Investigation Service in Sydney. In September 1946 he visited Australian army and air force posts in the Pacific region to establish the level of morale, listen to complaints (mainly about the lack of fresh food), assess the entertainment provided and check on any fraternisation with locals.

On 1 January 1947 Wilks was appointed detective-inspector and he travelled to Singapore to investigate the illegal export of gold from Australia. Acting Prime Minister H. V. Evatt directed him to conduct inquiries for the royal commission in relation to timber rights in the Territory of Papua-New Guinea (1948-49). In 1934 he had accompanied the Duke of Gloucester on his Australian tour and he performed escort duty for the 1954 royal visit, for which he was appointed MVO (1954). As the acting deputy-director of CIS in New South Wales from 1957, he took responsibility for important investigations.

In June 1958 Wilks sustained fractures to his shoulder, pelvis and five ribs when he attempted to protect a young woman from being hit by a car. He developed arthritis in his right hip and subsequently his right leg was shorter than the other; he received £6750 in compensation. In 1960, when the CIS and the Commonwealth Peace Officer Guard merged to form the Commonwealth Police Force, he was made acting-superintendent, 1st class, and officer-in-charge of Commonwealth Police in New South Wales. He would later claim that he was passed over for the substantive rank and was denied a further five years service because of his injuries.

Awarded the Queen’s Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1960, Wilks retired on 14 August 1961. (Sir) Peter Abeles, the managing director of Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd from 1968, appointed Wilks his first chief security officer. Hawk-nosed, florid-faced, rotund and heavy-set, Wilks was always well dressed and gentlemanly. His colleagues remembered him as a good leader. Predeceased by his wife (1976) and their son and daughter, he died on 9 February 1983 at Toukley, New South Wales, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Commonwealth Police Gazette, no 1, 1960, p 7
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 14 Feb 1983, p 8
  • A1378, item P13979, and A7359, item 3/A583, parts 1-3 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Margaret Tyrie, 'Wilks, Alfred Amos (1901–1983)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 17 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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