A. L. (Arthur Lincoln) Haydon.

The trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time online

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Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 11 of 32)
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been empty the sergeant would certainly have tried to finish
the job single-handed, but in the circumstances he deemed
it wiser to fall back upon Hosie. As investigation showed
that there was no back exit, they had their man in a trap,
and they decided to rush the room together. Gardiner,
whom they had thus surprised, was expecting nothing less.
When the two suddenly burst in upon him his pistol rang
out and Hosie fell forward on the floor.

Seeing that he had hit one, and knowing that the other
was wounded, Gardiner flung himself at the sergeant who
stood in the doorway. But Middleton was too tough a nut
to crack easily, and the bushranger found himself engaged
in a fierce struggle. In the tussle Middleton found a heavy-
handled hunting crop that he carried a most useful weapon.
Then Hosie, who was not badly wounded, but had been par-
tially stunned, got to his feet in time to lend useful aid.
Between them the sergeant and the trooper got Gardiner
to the ground, where the handcuffs were quickly snapped
round his wrists.

The next step to be taken was to convey the prisoner to
the security of a police cell. As Fogg averred that he had no
horse on the place, or any one who could act as messenger,
it fell to Middleton to ride off to the nearest township of
Bigga for assistance. Although weak through much loss
of blood he mounted his horse and set off, while Hosie,
in little better case himself, stood guard over the bushranger.
The latter, it was now found, had been wounded by the
sergeant in the exchange of shots, and had suffered severely
from the blows of the hunting crop. At first it was believed
that Gardiner was so badly hurt as to be dying, but he re-
gained sufficient strength shortly after to enable Hosie to
carry out his superior's instructions. These were that



he should start out on the road with his prisoner as soon
as possible, with a view to meeting the police party from

What followed from this stage was for long the subject
of controversy. By many people it was asserted that
Hosie accepted a bribe from Gardiner to let him go free.
This story obtained credence in many quarters, and has been
repeated again and again by those whose object has been
the detraction of the police. No doubt the Australian
Mounted Police have had their black sheep, men who have
sold their honour for money or otherwise disgraced their uni-
form, but Trooper Hosie was not of this breed. We have
the best authority for believing that his story as given in
evidence at the subsequent inquiry was true in every detail,
and that Gardiner's escape from custody was due to no fault
of his. Hosie's explanation was as follows

" In about an hour and a half," he says, after narrating
how the sergeant had left him, " I found myself getting
faint and called upon Fogg to take Gardiner in charge, which
he did, and when I recovered I found Gardiner in the same
place as when I fainted. I do not know whether he made
any attempt to get away from Fogg, but shortly after I
recovered he tried to get away from me. He attempted to
throw me down, and we struggled together for a quarter of
an hour, when he got away and rushed towards the river,
which was flooded, when he turned and got a sapling and
rushed at me with it. I fired at him and overcame him.
Fogg then assisted me again, and we took him back to the
house and gave him some refreshment. As Middleton did
not return with assistance, I thought he must have died on
the road, and I asked Fogg to assist me to take Gardiner to
Bigga, which he did, and got two horses, one for himself



and the other for Gardiner to ride. Fogg led Gardiner's
horse, and I rode behind. When we had got about three
miles and three-quarters on the road towards Bigga we were
attacked by two bushrangers, one of whom I believe to have
been Piesley, who ordered Fogg to let go Gardiner's horse,
or they would shoot him. He did so. Then they fired at me,
and I fired at them the only charge I had when they both
rushed at me and covered me with their revolvers. Fogg
rushed up and begged of them not to shoot me, but to spare
my life, and I believe they would have shot me only for
Fogg's interference. They then left, taking Gardiner with
them. After they left, Fogg accompanied me for about a
quarter of a mile on the road for protection."

The man, John Piesley, referred to above, was one of
Gardiner's associates who later entered upon a career of bush-
ranging by himself. On the Southern Road particularly he
was concerned in a large number of " sticking up " cases,
including that of the mail-coach from Gundagai. But
although highly successful in most of his raids, Piesley
was not destined to enjoy his freedom long. The brutal
murder of a settler named Benyon, a man against whom he
had an old grudge, led to his pursuit and capture, and in
March 1862 he was hung at Bathurst.

Gardiner, in the meantime, soon made it clear to the
world that he was still alive. With such well-known and
desperate followers as John Gilbert, Ben Hall, Jack
O'Mealley and John Dunn, he ranged over an extensive dis-
trict, making a series of robberies that the small force of
police were powerless to guard against. At this time the
gang's favourite hiding-place was in the Weddin Mountains.
Whenever the officers of the law did get on the track of the
offenders the odds were usually against them by reason



of the superiority of the bushrangers' horses. Time and time
again the Mounted Police were obliged to give up the chase
because their steeds failed them. With the stables of the
whole country to pick from the outlaws kept themselves
provided with the fastest and strongest horses, enabling
them to race back to their strongholds in the hills and laugh
at pursuit.

Gilbert and Ben Hall, in particular, each had a good eye
for a racehorse. The latter one day walked into a station at
Croggan, on the Bland Plains, and bailed it up single-handed.
There were three men and a boy in an outhouse ; these
he tied with rope and laid upon the floor. Then he presented
himself at the house of the station proprietor. " I've come
for 'Troubadour,' Mr. Chisholm," he said, naming a famous
horse which that gentleman kept in his stable ; "no non-
sense, please ; I mean to have him." And a little later Hall
rode off on his prize, at the same time taking with him
another horse that had pleased his fancy.

The most sensational feat of Gardiner was the " sticking
up " of the gold escort on its way from the Lachlan diggings
to Sydney. Once every seven or ten days large quantities
of gold and specie were sent by road to the capital, mostly to
the banks, the mail coach in which the boxes were deposited
being guarded by a body of mounted police. 1 Sometimes
the value of these consignments was very high. One such
escort from the Lachlan fields carried 34,000. The tempta-
tion thus offered to the bushrangers was very strong indeed.
Rarely was there a guard of more than four or five constables,
and along the road were several places where an ambuscade

1 In the early days of the diggings the gold was deposited in strongly
made wooden boxes on which the Government seal was affixed. Later on
smaller round iron boxes took the place of these, as being safer and more
convenient to handle.



could be posted. How effectively advantage was taken of
one of these points will be seen.

Writing of his own experience as a digger in these stirring
times, Mr. G. E. Boxall gives us a vivid pen-picture of a gold
escort of 1865. 1 He says : " We [himself and two mates]
were travelling along the road leading from Blaney to Bath-
urst, near Back Creek, when we saw the Government Gold
Escort in the distance. The police authorities of New South
Wales had learned a lesson from the great escort robbery of
1862, and no longer mounted all the police on the coach or
drag in which the gold was conveyed to Sydney. At the
place we had arrived at the road, a chain and a half (99 feet)
wide, had been cleared through a stretch of heavy forest
timber. It ran as straight as possible as far as the eye
could reach, and was bordered on either side by a dense
growth of timber and scrub rising to a height of from two
hundred to three hundred feet like a wall of greenery. In the
centre of the roadway was a metalled or gravelled road about
fifteen feet wide. The remainder on either side was graded
to near the timber lines, where a small cutting to carry off
surface water was made. We rode on the soft grassy side
elopes, and left the metalled or gravelled road for vehicles.

" It was in the centre of this gorge in the forest that we
first sighted the escort. First rode a single trooper ; at
fifty yards' distance came two more, then, at about the same
distance, came the escort cart, drawn by four horses, the
driver and another policeman sitting on the front seat, while
another trooper sat behind. A mounted trooper also rode on
each side of the cart. Fifty yards farther back were two
more troopers, while the rear was brought up by another
single trooper. The men had their carbines ready in their

1 The Story of the Australian Bushranger*.


hands, the butts resting on their thighs. When the leading
trooper came within hail of us he cried ' Halt ! ' and raised
his rifle. We halted. The two troopers behind him came
forward at a rapid pace until they were near enough to sup-
port him, if necessary. The cart stopped, and the other
troopers gathered round it ready to defend it.

" The sergeant in charge inquired what our names were,
where we were going, and what was our business. We told
him. He said our horses were superior to those usually
ridden by diggers. We replied that we didn't care about
riding old screws. He asked whether the two guns we car-
ried were loaded. We informed him that one was loaded
with shot in case we came across a duck or a pigeon. He
told us to sit up straight and follow him. Then he motioned
to the two troopers just behind him. He led the way while
the troopers followed behind us. We all kept to the side
of the road ; the cart having been drawn up on the other
side. The other troopers sat on their horses, carbine in hand,
as we passed. It was a most impressive show of force out
there in the bush. The sergeant and two troopers conducted
us for about a hundred yards past 'the cart and then pulled
up. The sergeant said it was difficult to tell what men were
by their appearance. He advised us to be very careful, and
asked if we had any gold or money with us. He then wished
us good-day, after^ telling us to ride straight on and not
attempt to turn back."

Mr. Boxall adds byway of reflection that in talking the
matter over in camp later, he and his mates came to the
conclusion that despite the improvement in the escort service
it would not have been impossible to rob the escort again.
By holding the attention of the foremost troopers in much
the same way as described and posting others of its members



in the scrub, a gang of bushrangers could have shot down the
policejwith little difficulty. However, this protection for the
escort proved to be sufficient, for there is no record of its
having been ever plundered again.

Before the story of the great gold escort robbery is told
mention must be made of another affair in which Gardiner
was concerned. It is chiefly important as having been partly
the means of securing his ultimate conviction. Early in
March of 1862 a storekeeper of Lambing Flat named Horsing-
ton, was driving from the township of Little Wombat to his
home with his wife and another resident named Hewitt.
The last-named rode behind the vehicle on horseback. The
party had only proceeded a few miles when Gardiner and
three companions jumped out from the bush with the cry of
" bail up ! " Without any preamble the cart was turned
into a side track and the captives were conducted to a remote
spot free from possibility of observation. The bushrangers
had knowledge that the two men were worth plucking, and
they were rewarded with plunder to the amount of about
1,000. Having taken this and sundry articles, including
a saddle and whip, the gang made off. Messrs. Horsington
and Hewitt on their part lost no time in rousing the police,
but although a search party rode out no traces of the robbers
could be found.

It was only three months later that Gardiner brought
off his great coup. On a Sunday morning in June, the
15th of the month, the mail-coach with its escort set out as
usual from Forbes, the centre of the Lachlan goldfields.
It was driven by Johnny Fagan, a well-known and popular
character. In charge of the escort was Sergeant Condell,
who sat by the driver's side, the other police being Senior-
Constable Henry Moran, Constable William Haviland, and a



fourth trooper whose name is not given. These rode inside
the vehicle. The consignment carried in the coach comprised
700 in cash and 2,067 oz. ISdwts. of gold for the Oriental
Bank ; 521 oz. 13 dwts. 6 grs. for the Bank of New South
Wales ; and 3,000 in cash and 129 oz. for the Commercial
Banking Company. The total value was placed at 14,000.
In addition to this treasure there were, of course, several
mail-bags, in which were letters and packets containing
various sums of money.

With no suspicion of impending danger the mail-coach
rattled briskly along the road towards Sydney. It was just
before noon when it started, and five hours elapsed before
the first warning was experienced. Just past a place called
Coobang, where the road begins to run between the Eugowra
range of rocks, two drays drawn by bullocks were found stand-
ing in the path. No teamsters were to be seen. In itself
there was nothing very alarming about this occurrence, and
the escort turned sharply into the narrow passage between
the drays and the rocks. Owing to the limited space and
the curve of the roadway Pagan reined in his horses to a

Then unexpectedly the attack began. From behind a
group of rocks appeared six men conspicuous in red shirts
and red caps, and with their faces blackened. Before the
police could raise their carbines these poured a volley into
the coach, wounding the sergeant and Constable Moran and
drilling a hole through Johnny Pagan's cabbage-tree hat.
Immediately after this discharge another half-dozen men took
the places of the other party and fired a second volley, which
had the effect of causing the horses to take fright and capsize
the coach. The police, thus taken by surprise, fired back at
the bushrangers as quickly as possible, but as they were too



exposed in the open they now sought cover in the bush at the
side of the road. From this vantage point they endeavoured
to hold their own, but the numbers of their enemies made it
advisable to beat a retreat and seek assistance.

While, therefore, the exultant bushrangers were busy
plundering the coach and packing the gold boxes on their
horses, Sergeant Condell, Pagan and the three troopers
made their way in the gathering darkness to Mr. Clements'
station, near at hand. The squatter at once despatched a
messenger to Forbes to acquaint Sir Frederick Pottinger, 1
the Inspector in charge of the police there, with the news.
This officer with all promptitude organised a party of
troopers and black trackers, and by two o'clock on the fol-
lowing morning was on the scene of the outrage. The trail
of the bushrangers was picked up and followed, the troopers
eventually coming upon the remains of a fire in which were the
charred remnants of the red shirts, caps and masks. In the
vicinity were found the mail-bags, ripped open, some empty
boxes and a litter of papers and letters. From the direction
of the hoof-marks the trackers concluded that the gang had
ridden towards their customary haunt in the Weddin Moun-

Sir Frederick Pottinger and his men pushed on in pursuit
with all speed, but the police horses were no match for those
of the bushrangers. Before anything of real value could be
accomplished the party was forced to return to Forbes for
fresh mounts. In the meantime, the mail-coach was re-
horsed and sent forward on its journey with such of the mail
as was recovered untouched. Soon after leaving Orange,

1 Sir Frederick Pottinger had joined the Mounted Police in the days of
the Southern Patrol, then being known as Trooper Parker. He assumed
his real name on succeeding to the baronetcy.



however, another tragedy occurred. Constable Haviland,
who was seated inside the vehicle with his fellow-trooper
Moran and two passengers, shot himself dead with a revol-
ver in circumstances that left little doubt that the affair was
due to accident.

From Orange and Forbes the news of the escort robbery
at]fthe Eugowra Rocks spread quickly over the country, and
the greatest excitement prevailed. Captain M'Lerie, the
Inspector-General of Police in Sydney, supplemented Pottin-
ger's efforts by ordering out several other superintendents
and inspectors into the field. From Bathurst went Super-
intendent Morrissett with his troopers, and from Yass,
Superintendent Battye. These, and other bodies of police,
scoured the district as thoroughly as could be managed, but
without avail until several days had elapsed. At the same
time a reward of 1,000, with the promise of pardon to an
informer if an accomplice, was offered by the Government. 1

The first to get upon the actual trail of the bushrangers
was Senior-Sergeant (afterwards Superintendent) Sanderson,
a member of Sir Frederick Pottinger's party. It was well-
known by now that Frank Gardiner was the leader of the
gang pursued, as Sergeant Condell had positively identified
his voice at the time of the attack. With this knowledge
Sanderson followed a certain course to the Weddin Moun-
tains, with the result that he pressed so hard upon the heels
of the bushrangers that they abandoned a pack-horse which
carried a considerable amount of gold. Sir Frederick,
who was continuing the search at another point, later on made

1 The mode of despatching a gold escort without the accompaniment of
mounted troopers (in the Lachlan instance the men rode inside the coach)
was the occasion of public condemnation. As a result of the outcry the
Government shortly after issued instructions for the proper guarding of the
mail-coach by mounted troopers in advance, and in the rear, of the vehicle.


a notable capture of two men implicated in the robbery,
together with a portion of the plunder, but while conveying
them to Forbes a rescue was effected. The police officers,
three in number, were attacked by a larger party of bush-
rangers and compelled to fall back letting their prisoners go
free. One of these men, it may be said here, was the notori-
ous Manns who was afterwards re-arrested and hung. The
only consolation the Inspector had was the knowledge that
he had safely kept the recaptured gold, although Gardiner
had made it known that he would never let it be taken to

Following upon this incident many wild rumours were
circulated throughout the colony. It was more than once
asserted that Gardiner and other principals had been shot
down in an encounter with the police, but each report was in
turn falsified. What did actually happen was an attempt to
apprehend Gardiner that almost proved successful. In this
both Sir Frederick Pottinger and Sergeant Sanderson were
concerned. Acting " on information received " the two
officers with Sub-Inspector Norton and a trooper named
Holster watched a house which the bushranger was believed
to be visiting. There was known to be a woman in the case,
the wife of a settler with whom Gardiner was carrying on
an intrigue. The information turned out to be correct.
From a position in the pine tree scrub outside the house Sir
Frederick at midnight observed a man on a white horse
approaching the place.

" The noise of horse's hoofs," he says, " sounded nearer
and nearer, when I saw Gardiner cantering leisurely along.
I waited until he came within five yards of me, and levelling
my carbine at him across his horse's shoulder (the weapon, I
swear, being about three yards from his body) I called upon



him to stand. I cannot be mistaken, and on my oath I
declare that the man was Frank Gardiner. Deeming it not
advisable to lose a chance I prepared to shoot him, but the
cap of my piece missed fire. Gardiner's horse then began to
rear and plunge, and before I had time to adjust my gun,
he had bolted into the bush."

As Gardiner was riding away on the frightened animal
Sergeant Sanderson and Trooper Holster both sent flying
shots after him, but without effect. And so once more the
bushranger gave his would-be captors the slip and once more
had the laugh of the police. This unfortunate affair led to
Sir Frederick and his aids being severely criticised by the
public, who were chafing at the continued non-success of the
authorities. That the Inspector was somewhat to blame in
this instance must be admitted. A man of undoubted cour-
age, he was impetuous to a fault, a weakness that certainly
dimmed his reputation. Too anxious to make the arrest
single-handed, he tied the hands of his companions by
issuing strict orders that no shot was to be fired until he
gave the command. When at last he did so it was too late
for the other officers to do anything effective.

However, although much ridicule was levelled at the
Mounted Police they stuck steadily to their work, and were
not long before they were able to proclaim an arrest of the
greatest importance. Sergeant Sanderson, who had been
quietly making investigations in the neighbourhood of
Wheogo, apprehended five men, among whom were John
McGuire, Benjamin Hall and Daniel Charters. On one of
these were found some notes believed to be identical with
those stolen from the escort. There was certainly enough
to justify arrest on suspicion, but the police were not aware
of the value of their " haul " until Charters made a



voluntary confession. In his statement the latter revealed
the true history of the robbery and named the men who had
played the leading part therein. Among those not yet
under lock and key were three, Alexander Fordyce, John Bow
and Jack O'Meally. These were now arrested, while the satis-
faction of the police was increased by the knowledge that
another prisoner, known as Turner, was in reality Manns, a
prominent associate of Gardiner.

In due course the bushrangers Fordyce, McGuire, Bow,
O'Meally and Manns were tried before a Special Com-
mission that sat at Sydney. There the informer Charters
repeated his confession in more detail, and after certain of
the law's delays Fordyce, Bow and Manns were convicted
and sentenced to death. Charters, as promised, received a
pardon. The others, with six more highwaymen arraigned
on different charges, escaped with terms of imprisonment.
The death sentence, however, was only carried out in the
case of Manns. Strong pressure was brought to bear to
secure the reprieves of Fordyce and Bow, the result being
that their sentences were commuted to imprisonment for

What became of Gardiner, Hall, O'Meally, Gilbert and
others of this noted gang, will be related in the following
pages. In closing this chapter of their history it only re-
mains to add that, beyond what the police recovered in the
first stages of their search, no more of the stolen treasure
was discovered. In commenting on this Mr. Charles White,
in his account of the escort robbery, remarks significantly :
" Some of the residents of the district have always held to
the opinion that more than one of the ' shares ' so carefully
divided ^by the leader of the gang still lie hidden in the fast-
nesses of^the Weddin Mountains. My own opinion is that



(Taken after death.)




there are persons living at the time this is being written
and nearly forty summers have passed away since the robbery
who could, if they chose, account for the unrecovered gold
and notes. More than this I dare not say."




" Gardiner's Flying Squadron " Inspector Patrick Brennan Catching a
tartar Bushranging tactics " Bush telegraphs " Gardiner disap-
pears Detective McGlone Capture of Gardiner Trial and sen-
tence Ben Hall Sticking up of Canowindra Relaxations Mock

Online LibraryA. L. (Arthur Lincoln) HaydonThe trooper police of Australia; a record of mounted police work in the commonwealth from the earliest days of settlement to the present time → online text (page 11 of 32)