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

. (page 16 of 32)
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 16 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

to remove his family to his own home in the evening. This
achieved, he set about his purpose of stopping the special
train which was then on its way up the line. At great risk
he took a candle, a red scarf and some matches, and ran
down the railway track in the darkness to display his impro-
vised danger signal. His efforts met with success. The
train came to a standstill before the embankment was
reached, and the wondering police officers, with Superin-
tendent Hare at their head, jumped out to learn to their
surprise that the outlaws were at Glenrowan instead of

On the way up to the hotel the police were met by the
town constable, Bracken, who had given his guards the
slip. He, too, had some useful information to impart, and
at a run the whole party dashed up to the hotel. The place
was in darkness as they approached, but was not deserted.
A volley blazed out from the verandah, one of the shots
striking Superintendent Hare in the wrist and disabling
him. The fire was returned, though necessarily somewhat at
random, but with what effect could not be ascertained. Ned
Kelly's voice, however, was heard above the din, taunting
the police and bidding them " come on."

The attack of the police was now checked by the know-
ledge that a number of non-combatants, including women
and children, were in the building. Superintendent Sadleir,
who arrived by train with a reinforcement of troopers from
Benalla, meanwhile assumed command in the absence of
Superintendent Hare, the latter's wound proving to be more
serious than was at first thought to be the case. The order
to cease firing had been given before Mr. Hare left the scene,
but not before some of the unfortunate people penned in



the hotel had suffered. One or two were children, and one
Mr. Reardon, a railway man whom Ned Kelly had compelled
to help in destroying the line. This indiscriminate firing
aroused intense indignation after the affair was over, the
interval between Mr. Hare's departure and Mr. Sadleir's
advent having left the attackers without a recognised com-

Immediately the Superintendent realised the situation
he called on the non-combatants in the hotel to come out,
and several took advantage of the lull to escape. The Kellys,
to do them justice, had no desire to keep the prisoners or hi
any way profit by their presence there. What fault there
was lay with those of the police who in the excitement of
the moment lost their heads, and failed to discriminate
between the innocent and the guilty.

One of the last volleys poured into the building shot Joe
Byrne, just after the outlaw had come within an ace of
hitting Sergeant O'Dwyer. A little while earlier Ned Kelly
had left the house by the rear for some unknown reason, and
he was seen returning through the trees. Sergeant Steele,
who was posted near at hand at first thought that he was
a blackfellow well known to the district, what was appar-
ently a blanket over the man's shoulders, and some black
strappings on his trousers, giving him a curious effect. As
the bushranger came nearer he flung up this covering, which
was actually a cape, and opened fire on the police with a
revolver. The fusillade was returned, but to the troopers'
amazement, Kelly seemed to bear a charmed life. Bullet
after bullet struck him without bringing him down. This
extraordinary situation lasted fully twenty minutes, the
grotesque figure of the outlaw standing in the open defying
every gun that was concentrated upon him. Then the secret



of his immunity was understood. He was protected by a
casing of armour, an iron helmet guarding his head and
thick plates covering breast, sides and back. 1

Sergeant Steele seized his opportunity and made a dash
for Kelly, firing low to wound him in the legs. In this he
was successful. Dropping to the ground the outlaw lay with
his helmet fallen off, and was quickly disarmed. He was
divested of his armour, and carried to the railway station
to be medically attended prior to his removal to Benalla.

Meanwhile, the hotel having been emptied of all its
occupants save Dan Kelly and Hart, the attack was renewed.
A proposal to carry the place by storm was negatived, in
the fear that there would be too much loss of life. Super-
intendent Sadleir now decided to wire for a field-piece from
Melbourne and in response a 12-pounder Armstrong gun
was actually despatched ; but before it came, the fight was
brought to a finish. A police trooper volunteered to fire
the building. This was effectually done, and when the hotel
was entered the bodies of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were
found side by side, charred beyond recognition. It was
known that they had been shot before the fire reached them,
but whether by the police or by their own hands was not
evident. The body of Byrne was removed from an out-
building where it had been placed, being subsequently handed
over to his friends for burial.

With Ned Kelly's execution which followed upon his
trial at Melbourne in November, the curtain fell upon the
grim tragedy. Several prosecutions of persons implicated

1 The armour worn by Ned Kelly, and similarly by the three other
bushrangers, was made of J inch iron plates. The headpieces were quilted
inside, this having been done, presumably, by one or other of the Kellys'
womenfolk. Altogether each suit of mail must have weighed close on 100


in the gang's doings were undertaken, but the authorities
did not press their investigations very far home. The des-
truction of the outlaws had put an end to bushranging in
Victoria, for no other outbreak was to be feared. What
remained was to count the cost, and this, it proved, was no
light matter. The sum expended hi the hunting down of
the gang amounted to nearly 50,000.

In 1881 a Royal Commission sat to inquire into the con-
duct of the police hunt after the Kellys, and to consider the
need for reforms in the administration. It was an exhaus-
tive and searching inquiry, and its result was to exonerate
several officers against whom charges of incompetency had
been levelled. At the same time it awarded blame to those
officials whom it considered responsible for the bungling
that had been so apparent from the first. By its recom-
mendation Captain Standish, the Commissioner, Assistant-
Commissioner Nicholson, and Superintendent Hare were
retired upon superannuation allowances. Certain other
officers of high rank were censured for their want of esprit
de corps, and drastic changes were made to ensure a better
condition of things in the future.

The Commission was not wholly destructive, however.
It made many wise recommendations for the more efficient
policing of the districts affected by the recent outbreak.
Among other things it urged the immediate re-equipment
of the troopers with better weapons and better horses than
had been the case hitherto. These improvements were car-
ried into effect in due course, and in time, as we shall see
when considering the Victorian Mounted Police in more
detail, the force was brought up to a high pitch of perfection.




The Act of 1862 Initial difficulties Changes in uniform and equip-
ment Captain M'Lerie, Inspector-General Bushranging suppressed
Mr. Edmund Fosbery The " Angel " and Thurston case
Superintendent Day An exciting encounter The Darling River mys-
tery Ex-Superintendent Brennan "Waterloo Tom" Aboriginal
murderers A long chase Mr. Thomas Garvin Mr. Day, Inspector-
General Mounted Police of to-day Necessary qualifications
An " Out-back " story Extraneous duties Equipment and pay.

THE evolution of the New South Wales police force
from the military guard of the old convict days
has been traced in the foregoing pages. In 1862 the Police
Act (25 Victoria, No. 16) brought about a revolution in
methods, and it is from this date that the story of develop-
ment may be taken up. By the new Act, as has been
already noted, the previous laws relating to the police
force of the colony were consolidated and amended. The
Bench Constables, 1 the Sydney Police and the Mounted
Patrols now ceased to exist as separate bodies : they
became merged in the general organisation. Centralisa-
tion was aimed at as the keynote of efficiency. To this
end the colony was split up into divisions, each of which
was controlled by a Superintendent. Under this officer

1 These were constables controlled by the Bench of Magistrates, as
at Goulburn in 1859, where Chief Constable McAlister was in charge.
At some towns these were supplemented by night watchmen who peram-
bulated the streets and proclaimed hourly in stentorian tones : " All's
well ! "



were inspectors and sub-inspectors, with the lesser ranks
of senior-sergeants, sergeants, senior-constables, constables
and supernumeraries. In all, foot and mounted, the force
totalled about 800 men.

Sir Charles Cowper, the Colonial Secretary, who estab-
lished this new system, found his scheme subjected to a
severe test during the troublous years of the great bush-
ranging outbreak. Owing to the low strength of the force
and its wide distribution, and owing also to the poverty of
its equipment, many weak points were exposed. Public
criticism was ever ready to denounce the ineffectiveness
of the police to deal with lawlessness when offenders con-
tinued to remain at large uncaptured, but such criticism
was often hasty and ill-considered. There was much that
might have been, and no doubt was, urged in defence. One
especial difficulty experienced was in recruiting for the force.
Natives of the colony were reluctant to join the police,
who were not popular, while there was the compelling
attraction of the rapidly expanding goldfields. The In-
spector-General, Captain M'Lerie, was often obliged to
fall back upon ex-sailors from the coast towns, and others
who were hardly more suitable for the task in hand. For
the mounted men, too, there were difficulties in the way
of procuring horses that were equal to the strain imposed
upon them by arduous bush work.

The changes in uniform and equipment made in 1862
must be noted. A trooper's outfit now comprised a blue
cloth jumper, grey cloth riding pants, blue cloth overalls,
a waterproof cape and cloak of military pattern, and Napo-
leon boots. For bush service, as before, the mounted
man's dress was less precise. Red tape, fortunately, did
not prescribe any hard and fast regulations in this respect.



One new feature that was universal, however, was the adop-
tion of leather leggings ; before their introduction the
trooper was wont to strap his trousers tight with basil.

In the matter of arms we find the old muzzle-loading
carbine yielding to the Terry rifle, while the cumbrous
and often ineffective horse-pistol, with its percussion cap,
was replaced by the Colt revolver. Swords were still carried
for parade purposes and other special occasions.

In his choice of the head of the re-organised Police
Force the Colonial Secretary was exceptionally fortunate.
Captain John M'Lerie was an English Army officer who
had risen from the ranks and proved himself a capable
disciplinarian. He had come out to Australia in 1844,
the following year seeing him engaged in the Maori war in
New Zealand. In 1847 he left the Army to become Pay-
master and Adjutant of the Mounted Patrol, with head-
quarters in Sydney. Thereafter his appointments were
Principal Gaoler at Darlinghurst, Police Magistrate, Super-
intendent of Police, and finally Inspector- General. For his
lieutenant Captain M'Lerie had Mr. Edmund Fosbery,
who held the rank of Superintendent and Deputy Inspector-
General. This officer did much towards increasing the
efficiency of the force, and when in 1874 his chief died he
succeeded naturally to the post.

An important feature of the new system was the estab-
lishment of mounted patrols which passed to and fro in the
Colony at irregular intervals. No station owner could say
when he might not be visited by one of these police parties,
and this uncertainty did much to check the harbouring of
criminals. On their way through the bush, too, the troopers
took count of every one they met : suspicious characters
were questioned and, if not found satisfactory, were sub-



jected to closer examination. As the years went on and
the sphere of police work widened, Sir Charles Cowper's
scheme came successfully through its ordeal. The force
grew not only in numbers but in usefulness. The mounted
constable in the country districts made himself indispen-
sable to both old and new settlers ; he was guide and friend,
in addition to being guardian of the peace, and his abilities
in this pioneer work are deserving of full recognition.

Before Captain M'Lerie's death bushranging had been
suppressed in New South Wales. Such cases as did occur
after the reign of the Clarkes and " Thunderbolt " were
sporadic and of brief duration. Interest in this peculiar
phase of crime was diverted to the neighbouring colony of
Victoria, where the notorious Kellys were keeping Captain
Standish's troopers busy. The depredations of cattle-
duffers and horse-planters, too, were considerably checked.
The mounted police were prompt in running down any
gangs that engaged in this nefarious traffic, and the severe
sentences imposed on such offenders as were brought to
justice had a salutary effect.

Under the rule of Mr. (now the Hon.) Edmund Fosbery
the New South Wales Police gained much in prestige. The
new Inspector-General was a man of considerable adminis-
trative ability. The policing of outlying districts was
taken in hand thoroughly, and people quickly recognised
that a new order of things had set in. What was of no less
importance, the status of a mounted constable greatly
improved. The force had survived the searching criticism
to which it was subjected in former years ; it had proved
itself under the most severe tests. To become the wearer
of the blue uniform was no longer to lose caste. There was
now no lack of applicants, and with the opportunity for





selection the Inspector-General could report that the type of
man who joined was better all round than it had ever been.

In the calendar of crime of this period one finds nothing
of the magnitude of the great escort robbery, but several
minor affairs are worth chronicling for various reasons.
Take the case of the " Angel," a very promising desperado.
The story of his bringing to book has a dramatic touch.
It is of particular interest, too, inasmuch as it concerns
an official high up in the police service.

The " Angel," to those who were interested in him pro-
fessionally, was Thomas Hobson, expert cattle thief, aged
twenty-seven. Early in 1885 he was arrested by Senior-
Sergeant (afterwards Sub-Inspector) Boyd at Coonamble,
which is on the Castlereagh River, in northern New
South Wales. After being convicted and sentenced to a
term of penal servitude he was transferred to Bathurst.
This stronghold impressed the " Angel " unfavourably
when he cast about for means to escape, and he set his wits
to work. In the prison, as it happened, was one William
White, alias Thurston, a young man of his acquaintance
whose branch of crime was forgery. Thurston was serving
a term of seven years. To this man the " Angel " repre-
sented that if they could get back to Coonamble on some
pretext they might break gaol easily. The lock-up there
was none too strong. In accordance with this plan he
made out a petition in which he urged that Thurston was
an invaluable witness in his defence, and that new evidence
was forthcoming that would clear him of the charge of
cattle-stealing on which he was convicted.

The plausible manner in which the petition was worded
persuaded the authorities that the case ought to be reopened.
In due course a new trial was ordered and the two men were

209 P


sent to Coonamble. The lock-up had only two or three cells.
As the" Angel " had anticipated, he and Thurston were
placed together. This simplified matters greatly. Their
plans were carefully laid and on the morning" after their
arrival the warder who entered the cell was knocked down
and stunned. His revolver was seized by the " Angel," who
waited for the coming of the gaoler, Constable Mitchell.
This officer no sooner showed his face at the door than he
was shot dead, his body being dragged in and laid along-
side that of the unconscious warder. Then the two,
prisoners no longer, locked the cell door behind them, armed
themselves with guns and revolvers, and took to the high road.

The next that was heard of the " Angel " and his partner
was that they were engaged in bushranging on a small scale
in the Warrumbool and Wollar Mountains. Some stores
and isolated settlers' houses were reported to have been
" stuck up." News of this came to Gulgong, and a police
party of three Senior-Sergeant (afterwards Inspector)
Burns, Constable McKinley and Constable Day went in
pursuit of the fugitives. It was now April, about four
weeks after the escape from Coonamble.

In the hill country the mounted police received special
information which led them to believe that their quest
would soon be ended. Two men, answering to the des-
cription of the " Angel " and Thurston, had visited the store
of a Mr. Charles Stuart, at Green Gate, near Mudgee. There
they had purchased a few goods, paying for them with a
pound note. By this means, it was surmised, they had
learned where the old man kept his money, as he had had to
go below to the cellar for the change. It was a natural
assumption that the two would return ere long to rob
the store, and the police prepared to lie in wait for them.



Before nightfall Sergeant Burns and McKinley concealed
themselves in a room at the back, a small window giving
them a view of the store front. Constable Day's post was
behind the counter of the store, where he crouched, revolver
in hand, to await events.

Three hours passed without any cause for alarm, and
then the watchers heard the sound of horses' feet clattering
over a small wooden bridge that spanned the river close
by. The riders went by the store without drawing rein.
They had a call to make before the raid actually began.
Old Mr. Stuart was to be routed out of bed and forced to
accompany them, half-dressed, to unfasten his money-
bags. Their returning footsteps told the police that the
moment was at hand. Then the three entered, the store-
keeper holding a lighted candle in his hand, and the door
closed to behind them.

Immediately Burns' sharp summons rang out : " Hands
up ! You'd better surrender quietly ! " And the " Angel "
and Thurston found themselves looking into the barrel
of the sergeant's rifle, levelled at them through the little
window. With an oath the former turned on the old store-
keeper, believing that he had led them into a trap, and shot
him through the head. At the same moment Burns fired
and Thurston dropped dead to the floor.

Day now jumped up from his hiding-place to face the
" Angel." It was close quarters, only a few feet separating
the two. The candle, flickering on the floor, gave little light.
The trooper pulled first, his shot hitting the other in the
shoulder. The " Angel's " bullet went wide, for as he fired
he half fell. Recovering himself he made a dash for the
door, but Thurston's body had rolled against it, blocking
the way. Then Day leapt over the counter to make a



plucky attempt to capture his man, and in so doing had
the narrowest shave that he ever experienced in his career.
The " Angel " turned in a flash and fired again, but only
once more to miss. Darkness and the excitement of the
moment combined to favour the trooper's escape.

A second shot from Day's revolver found its mark, but
wounded though he was the " Angel " succeeded in breaking
down the door and gaining the open. He did not go far,
however. The constable, who followed, saw him fall to the
ground, and his capture was effected without any further
resistance. That was the end of the " Angel." He cheated
the gallows by dying the next day from the wounds he had
received. His captor, Constable Day, had the satisfaction
of being warmly commended for his gallantry and of gaining
his first step to promotion. Thereafter the young officer's
rise through the various grades was rapid ; at the present
time he holds the supreme rank of Inspector-General.
Sergeant Burns, for his share in this notable exploit, was
made a sub-inspector.

A case that puzzled the police for some time was that
of Tommy Moore, hawker and murderer. If you were to
ask Mr. Day about it he would probably tell you that it
was certainly one of the hardest nuts he had to crack.
The affair was wrapped in mystery from the outset. There
were no clues to work upon for some weeks, and even then
such discovery as was made seemed to offer little towards
elucidation. The attention of the police was first engaged
by a report that six mutilated bodies had been found in the
bush in the district of the Darling River. Owing to several
reasons these were unrecognisable, and nothing was found in
the vicinity to point to the perpetrator of these terrible deeds.

By special instructions from headquarters, Day went out


to see what he could do to unravel the mystery. He visited
Cootamundra, Yarrabool, Forbes and other places where
the ghastly finds had been made, but for some time had to
own himself baffled. Then he came upon the traces of a
camp in the bush by the river. Inquiry revealed to him
that the crew of a small steamer that plied up and down the
Darling had seen a man " a small man " punting across
while the water was low. With this slender information to
work upon Day searched the river banks diligently, and
was at last rewarded by finding a pair of sculls hidden in a
clump of reeds. Later on he discovered a lightly-built boat
filled with sand and sunk in the stream. He felt now that
he was on the right track.

By long and careful investigation the officer traced the
little boat to Adelaide, where he learned that it had been
sold to a man named Edward Smith, who made a living by
catching and selling fish to the shearers on the Darling
stations. In this way a careful hawker could accumulate
a fair-sized cheque. The man in question answered to
the description of the " small man " passed on the river.
Furthermore, he had been seen in the company of another
hawker, a general peddler, and Day now set himself to
follow this man. It was a long and difficult hunt, but in the
end successful. Tommy Moore was properly taken aback
when he was arrested in the market-place of Bourke, where
he was laying in a fresh outfit of goods. There was no
mistake made, though Moore swore stoutly to his innocence.
A cheque stolen from the murdered vendor of fish, with
other damning pieces of evidence, were traced to him, and
enough was discovered to assure the police that all of the
six dead men had met their fate at his hands. So after due
trial Moore was found guilty and was hanged.



Ex-Superintendent Martin Brennan, to whom reference
has been made already, is another noted thief -catcher who
has figured in some memorable affairs. An Irishman, like so
many of the Mounted Police, he joined the service as far
back as 1859, when he became a member of the Southern
Patrol under Captain Zouch. He was the first non-military
man to be enrolled in the patrol police. Brennan 's earlier
years were spent in gold escort duty and in police work hi
and around the diggings, but opportunities were forthcoming
for him to display his abilities in hunting down criminals.
In 1870, while he was at the Araluen goldfields, he captured
Duchief (alias Etienne), one of the three armed highwaymen
who murdered Daniel Grotty, the mail-carrier of Marengo.
Two years later he was in charge of the Queanbegan district,
and here occurred a somewhat exciting episode.

A notorious character named Robinson, who was popu-
larly known as " Waterloo Tom," killed a poor shepherd
at the latter's hut on the Murrumbidgee. Sergeant Brennan
(as he then was) set off with a trooper to arrest the
ruffian. They expected trouble, for Tom was a remarkably
good shot and was not likely to yield without a fight. And
so it fell out. When he spied the police on his trail he

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 16 of 32)