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Bad lighting on new bridge proves fatal

Updated: Aug 5, 2022

Two young policemen in the prime of their lives, working together as part of the thin blue line, soon to be forever united in death by one fatal act.

It is rare that people are buried with anyone other than family, but at Rookwood cemetery, the final resting place of two young men, Joseph McCunn and Clifford James Bush, tells a sad story.

Clifford Bush. Courtesy NSW Police Force

Both were constables in the Australian police in the early 1930s stationed at Clarence St police station. On the night of August 5, 1932 both men were performing special traffic duties at the southern end of the newly opened Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The bridge had only been opened for just over four months and on this particular night the constables were stopping passing vehicles and using a torch. From the north side of the bridge, a car came at a rapid pace and was signalled to stop.

The car was being driven by well-known horse-trainer Michael William 'Mick' Polson. He claimed in the coroner's inquest after that fateful night, that he didn't see them two men before he hit them with his car.

Joseph McCunn. Courtesy NSW Police Force

Bush was killed instantly and McCunn died later in hospital. Polson was charged with manslaughter of the two constables and remanded until the inquest. A coroner's verdict stated, if the young constables had been wearing their white gauntlet gloves on the night they were directing traffic, they would still be alive, as they had been standing in the shadows at the time of the accident. It was claimed Mr Polson was driving between 25 to 30mph when he hit both the men.

It was estimated around 100,000 people attended the funeral of the men as they were laid together side by side in the Anglican section of Rookwood cemetery. Polson sent an impressive floral tribute to the funeral and was in attendance. He was eventually discharged from all wrongdoing.

The final resting place of Constables Clifford Bush and Joseph McCunn. Photo: Kevin Banister.

In an attempt to support the widows of the men, he offered them cottages to live in rent free for two years.


  • 'Joseph McCUNN & Clifford James BUSH', Australian Police, accessed online 14th July, 2022,

  • 'Bridge Tragedy', Queensland Times, Tuesday, 9 August, 1932, Page 6

  • 'Night Death Sped upon Gloveless', Truth, Sunday, 4 September, 1932, Page 20

  • 'Harbour Bridge tragedy', The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, Tuesday 30 August, 1932, Page 1

Story suggested by Kevin Bannister.

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1 comentário

Tragic loss of two young lives. And also tragic for the man charged with their manslaughter.

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