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 4 of 32)
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peak. This was for full dress order. When accoutred in
bush uniform the men wore a patrol jacket and trousers, and
a cabbage-tree, or Leghorn, hat. The arms used were sabre,
carbine and horse pistols.

At first this force was of very low strength. Two
officers and thirteen troopers is the total given. With this
small complement it entered upon its duties forthwith, for
several bushrangers of more or less notoriety were terrorising

33 D


the settlers. Donohue was then working the Sydney dis-
trict. This man is described as being a particularly bad
specimen of the escaped convict. Of middle height, he was
powerfully built and possessed a violent temper, while he
was daring to the point of bravado. With him were associ-
ated three other men, all of them convicts, but of these
only two call for mention, Walmsley and Webber.

" During four years," says Mr. White, hi his History of
Bushranging, " the country rang with reports of their des-
perate deeds, to narrate which hi detail would fill a volume.
Cases of ' sticking up ' on the road or hi houses were of daily
occurrence. Settlers and others were robbed, completely
stripped, and left in the bush to make their way home as best
they could. Nor did the ladies even escape, for there were
several instances in which it was related that the robbers had
taken the earrings from then* ears, and the rings from their
fingers these outrages being committed close to Sydney.

" A Mr. Eaton was proceeding from Sydney towards
Liverpool on horseback when Donohue or one of his gang
fired at him from the side of the road and severely wounded
him. After he had fallen two members of the gang robbed
him of his money and valuables and a portion of his clothing,
and then decamped, leaving him bleeding in the road.
Before nightfall, however, some settlers on their way to town
picked up Mr. Eaton and carried him home.

" Next day a young man who had gone up to inspect some
cattle at Liverpool was deliberately shot in the neck and
chest when on the road, and as Donohue and Underwood
(another of his companions) were then in the neighbourhood
they received credit for the outrage. No attempt was made
to rob the victim, who was left lying on the road."

The Australian and other newspapers of the day were loud


in their demands that this bushranging gang should be exter-
minated, and that the roads between Parramatta and Liver-
pool should be well patrolled. The police were too few in
number and too scattered to do much good by themselves.
All attempts to catch the desperadoes were futile until a
body of influential citizens took the matter in hand. Then
one day the attacking force, strengthened by a number of
mounted troopers, surprised Donohue in his retreat in the
bush, and a desperate fight took place. In the end Donohue
was shot. Later on his chief associates, Walmsley and
Webber, were captured, the latter being hanged, while the
former was sent to the gaol in Van Diemen's Land.

It was in 1833, when Mr. R. Waddy was in command of
the mounted police of the colony, that an important step
was taken towards superseding military rule by civil tri-
bunals. In that year Governor Bourke passed a law (4
William IV, No. 7,) which provided for the appointment of
two or more Police Magistrates for " the Town and Port of
Sydney," these officials being empowered to enrol a certain
number of suitable men for a Police Force for the said town
and port, in order to check robberies and capture felons.
Governor Brisbane's Mounted Police force had been under
military jurisdiction, as it had been military in its establish-
ment. Henceforward the police were to be more under
civil control, and persons arrested by them were to be tried
by the magistrates.

At this juncture, too, the annual charge for police and
gaols underwent supervision. The Patriotic Association, of
which William Charles Wentworth l was the spokesman and
which aimed at many reforms in the constitution, severely

1 Known as " the Australian Patriot " ; the same Wentworth who
with Blaxland and Lawson first crossed the Blue Mountains.



criticised the financial side of the Government. One point
strongly urged was that Great Britain should bear the greater
share of the expense incurred by the convicts, but the de-
mand passed unheeded. Before 1834 police and gaol charges
had been paid out of the military chest ; in that year the
British Secretary of State transferred the burden to the
colonial revenues. This special form of taxation became a
burning question with Wentworth and his followers, and they
gave it no rest for several years.

In August of 1838, when Governor Sir George Gipps had
succeeded Bourke, another Act was passed (the Border Police
Act, 2 Victoria, No. 2,) which was designed to regulate the
police hi the towns of Parramatta, Windsor, Maitland, Bath-
urst, and other places in the colony, where Police Magistrates
had been appointed with power to enrol constables. By
this time the mounted force had increased to nine officers,
a sergeant-major, and one hundred and fifty-six non-com-
missioned officers and men. All the officers were magis-
trates by virtue of their commission. As had been the case
from the beginning, the majority of the rank and file were
ex-soldiers, the best material that could then be obtained.
Good shots and good riders, accustomed to discipline and
very often versed in bush-craft, they were the ideal men
to be the representatives of law and order.

The headquarters of the mounted police were at Sydney,
the chief officer being the commandant. At Bathurst
and other points were posts of varying strength, according
to the needs of the district, and, what was of utmost import-
ance, the main roads were now regularly patrolled by small
parties. The reason for this latter special duty is not far to
seek. As the colony developed with wider settlement the
crime of horse and cattle stealing became more prevalent,



and the highways of traffic needed close watching to keep a
check upon the raiders. Especially was this the case on the
Great Western, Southern and Northern roads, the divisional
headquarters of which were respectively Bathurst, Goul-
burn and Armidale. Many were the conflicts between the
troopers and the cattle-thieves there, and rarely did a
constable ride out upon his mission without literally carrying
his life in his hands.

A good story is told of the capture of some bushrangers of
this period, the gang having made very free with their neigh-
bour's property. The hero of the incident was a prominent
member of the mounted police.

" This gallant officer," says the chronicler, 1 " having to

the surprise of the people and garrison of the town of ,

marched one day, as prisoners to the gaol, a body of bush-
rangers three or four times the strength of his own force,
was asked by his admiring comrades how he had contrived
this sweeping capture with such long odds against him.
The readers of Joe Miller will recollect the Hibernian soldier
who boasted, according to that veracious annalist, that he
had made prisoners of a whole section of the enemy, single-
handed, by surrounding them. Mr. not being an

Irishman, did no such impossible thing. Stealing cautiously
through the bush, with his little party of four or five men, he
espied the banditti, in number about sixteen, busily cooking
and eating in a hollow some thirty yards below where
heTstood their arms piled a few paces distant. Leaving
the men above with orders how to act, and creeping down
the bank, he suddenly jumped into the midst of the robbers
shouting out, ' Yield in the King's name, ye bog-trotting
villains ! ' Then, looking up towards his party, ' Send

1 Colonel Mundy in Our Antipodes.



down,' cried he, ' two file to secure the arms : stand fast
the remainder, and shoot the first man that moves.' About
twenty stand of arms were thus taken possession of, hand-
cuffs were applied as far as they would go, and, incredible
as it may appear, the disarmed banditti, with their teeth
drawn, were safely conducted by the captain to a neigh-
bouring township."

Yet another story of these early and stirring days
examples the danger incurred by the police in the execution
of their duty. It relates to a convict bushranger named
Cummerford, a member of a gang headed by one Dignum.
With his leader and another man Cummerford, quite a young
fellow, had murdered six of their companions in order to free
themselves for a life in the bush. Later on Dignum made a
dastardly attempt to kill Cummerford, whereupon the latter
betook himself to Melbourne, surrendered to the authorities
and revealed the whole story of the crime. In due course
the truth of this was proved by a search at the spot indicated
by the informer, the remains of the murdered men being

Cummerford himself had accompanied the search party,
which consisted of a sergeant from an infantry regiment,
a private soldier, and two police-constables. On the way
back a sad tragedy occurred. Two of the warders the
soldier and a constable separated from the others to turn
back for some stores that had been left behind at the last
camping-place. The prisoner, meanwhile, had so favour-
ably impressed the sergeant by his bearing that suspicion
was disarmed and he was less closely guarded than would
have been the case otherwise. Whilst a halt was made for
the evening meal the handcuffs were removed from Cummer-
ford's wrists, to allow him freedom in eating. The sergeant



and the remaining constable, a man named Tompkins, then
busied themselves with the fire, their weapons being placed
against a tree. In a flash the bushranger saw his chance
to escape, and seized it. Snatching at one of the guns he
shot Tompkins fatally and jumped on a horse. The sergeant
followed with as little delay as possible, but neither he nor
the others of the party, who came up shortly after, could
obtain sight of the fugitive. However, Cummerford was
captured later, while raiding a station, and was eventually
convicted and hanged.

The records of the thirties and forties contain numerous
instances of police bravery, as they do, unfortunately, of
police recklessness and carelessness, like the case above
noted. And if newspaper criticism was severe when out-
rages were committed with alarming frequency, it must be
remembered that the small number of constables had to
cover a wide extent of country, the greater part of which
was bush, and that bush of a difficult kind. One can read
between the lines, in examining these old records, that the
troopers had quite as arduous a task before them, as had the
later members of the force when what is known as the great
bushranging era set in. Statistics go to show that in one
year, 1840, crime had increased 50 percent, on the previous
twelve months' returns. This year 1840, by the way, is
memorable for the fact that it saw transportation to New
South Wales abolished. This was effected by an Order in
Council, following upon urgent representations from the
colonists. Van Diemen's Land and Norfolk Island were
thereafter to be the only convict settlements in Australia.

As the most practicable distribution of the police force
at command, the troopers were dispositioned on the three
great roads of the colony. There were thus three divisions,



each in charge of a superintendent who had at his disposal
about fifty men. At Bathurst was Captain Battye, at
Goulburn Captain Zouch, and at Armidale Captain Scott.
The headquarters division at Carter's Barracks in Sydney,
it may be mentioned, was commanded by Captain M'Lerie,
who acted as paymaster to all the patrols and who after-
wards became Inspector-General of the force. As a rule,
the troopers patrolled the roads in couples, looking out for
and examining suspicious characters, and acting as escorts
to individuals or to valuable property.

What were known as the Gold Police came into force in
the early fifties, on the discovery of the goldfields, these
being placed directly under the Gold Commission and
having for their especial work the convoying of the gold-
trains from the diggings. But a division of duty was not
found to work satisfactorily. There was not an organised
system of co-operation, and in 1859 the Gold Police as a
separate body disappeared, to be merged into the various

The greater number of the troopers serving in the patrols
were ex-military men, and their uniform maintained the
military appearance of the earlier police of 1825. Full
dress was very similar to that of the 13th Light Dragoons :
blue trousers with white braid on sides, tight-fitting blue
shell jacket with red facings, white collar and white
shoulder-straps, glazed black cross-belt with cartouche box
for ammunition for carbines and pistols, and cavalry swords
with white sword-slings. For bush duty the sword was dis-
pensed with, only the carbine and pistols being carried. A
peakless round pill-box cap, with white band and white
button on top, fastened by a chin strap, and high boots with
heel spurs, completed the dress. For active service the



uniform consisted of blue cloth trousers without the stripe,
and a large double-breasted blue jacket without facings, cap
and boots being the same as before, except when the popular
" cabbage-tree " hat warworn in hot weather, with often the
addition of a green veil as protection against mosquitos.
The Gold Police of the fifties were usually distinguished by
light helmets.

The saddle in use at this time was the old military type,
with horns and holsters for pistols. The trooper carried on
it, behind him, a valise, and in front his cloak folded into a
roll. While in the bush he was provided also with a saddle-
bag containing an outfit for shoeing his mount. The horses
acquired then were bigger and stronger than those of the
present day, no horse being under 17 or 18 hands. Endu-
rance on long trips was a qualification of more importance
than speed.

In the Mounted Police Patrols the ranks were : trooper,
corporal, sergeant, sergeant-major and superintendent.
Inspectors and sub-inspectors were appointments of a later

It was on the Great Western and Southern Roads that
the liveliest times were experienced. The latter highway
was patrolled by the troopers under Captain Zouch, a
famous figure in police history. A son of Colonel Zouch,
who commanded a British regiment in the American war
of 1812-14, Captain Henry Zouch went from home to Aus-
tralia with the 4th Foot and was stationed at Sydney and
Newcastle. In 1834 he was placed in charge of the military
patrol at Bathurst, but on his regiment leaving for India
some years later he sold out and settled down on an estate
to breed horses. Such a capable man, however, was not
to be overlooked by the authorities, and in 1851, Captain



Zouch was appointed Gold Commissioner for the Turon
(now Hargraves) district, and soon afterwards was made
Superintendent of the Southern Patrol.

Among the noted characters whom the Goulburn police
hunted down in the forties was a convict absconder named
" Scotchey." This ruffian at first frequented the Lachlan
district, but later for purposes of private revenge, transferred
his attentions to the Southern Road. A special object of his
hatred was an overseer named Fry. With three companions
" Scotchey " surprised his enemy on the latter's station and
a fierce duel took place, ending in the bushranger's death.
The mounted troopers, arriving on the scene, took up the
pursuit and were successful in capturing the rest of the gang.

The commander of the Western Patrol, Captain Battye,
was equally noted as a thief -catcher. His district, with
Bathurst as headquarters, offered many temptations to the
gentlemen of the road, and some brisk encounters between
the police and the bushrangers frequently occurred. Here
is the story of one exploit, partly gleaned from official records
and partly from the lips of one who took part therein.

In the month of June 1859, the township of Hartley, near
Bathurst, was thrown into commotion by the arrival of the
stage-coach for Sydney with the startling news that it had
been " stuck up." The mail-bags, containing several
thousands of pounds in cash, bills and other forms, had been
carried off by the robber, one man only having been seen
at the time. Andill, the driver of the coach, stated that he
had been compelled to surrender the bags. His two -pas-
sengers were walking up the hill some distance ahead, and a
gun levelled straight at him was an unanswerable argument.
All that could be done now was to hasten back to the scene
of the outrage and get upon the tracks of the thief.



A few of the mounted police then in the town at once
rode off with Andill to the spot, but the closest search failed
to reveal anything. As a matter of fact, the bushranger, an
ex-convict named Day, had been joined by a mate soon after
securing his booty, and the two had made off to a favourite
retreat in the scrub. There, while the troopers were scour-
ing the country, they were engaged in sorting out the more
valuable of the letters and packets.

Day, it may be said, was one of the Van Diemen's Land
" irreclaimables " who had worked out his sentence at Port
Arthur and then betaken himself to New South Wales . He
was known at the Turon diggings, whither he went with the
crowd at the time of the gold-rush, and known also at other
places as a blacksmith by occupation. Trade must have
been dull, or, like so many other old " lags," he could not
resist the " call of the bush," for after some years of com-
parative honesty, he suddenly disappeared to make his debut
in a new role. The chief object he had in view, it was
afterwards learned, was the gold-train from the fields, which
had passed over the same route on the previous day. Owing
to the number of armed police in the escort Day and his
companion had thought better of their plans and allowed
it to go on its way unmolested.

The " sticking up " of the coach had been done in broad
daylight. Late the same evening the police at Hartley
gained the first news of the robbers. A messenger from
" Walton's," a well-known hostelry on the Mudgee road
about a dozen miles distant, informed the chief constable
that his master believed the man wanted was in the house.
There were two men, he went on to add, and they were under
lock and key on suspicion.

" You can bet we were not long in following this up,"


said the police officer who related the sequel to the writer.
" Two troopers rode off to Walton's and jumped on the men
in their rooms. What they found there was pretty clear
evidence money in gold and notes, and a letter presumably
stolen from the mail. Our fellows brought the pair back to
the station, where they were safely locked up. In the
morning we tried their boots hi the tracks on the road and
found they fitted exactly.

" An hour or so later Captain Battye came into town and
examined the prisoners himself. As it was desirable to get
some or all of the stolen property, he ordered a party to
saddle up, as he meant to make a search in the bush. We
started out after noon, taking with us the prisoner Wilson,
Day's accomplice. This chap, we found, had a grudge
against Day, and Battye thought he might be induced to
' split.' It was worth trying, anyhow. But Wilson perhaps
thought he might get a lighter sentence than the other, and
lift the stuff they had planted before Day got out of gaol,
so he kept his face shut and said nothing. The Captain,
however, was too old a hand to be bluffed.

" ' All right, my man,' he said, ' we can wait if you're
going to play that game. As it's getting dark we'll camp for
the night. I shall chain you to a tree and you can think it

" Wilson thought it over very quickly. It was cold at
nights, being winter, and he didn't relish the prospect.
Besides which, he saw that our Captain meant business.

" ' I'll own up,' he said , ' the stuff's a good way off yet,
but I'll take you straight to it.'

" Having learned where the ' plant ' was, we rode back
to Hartley for the night, and left the search for the next day.
Then, with Wilson leading the way, we started off again on a



forty miles' trip, about fifteen of which we did on foot. And
we found the stuff buried in a gully, all, that is, that they
had not destroyed. In the end Day received a long sentence
of penal servitude. Wilson was to have been brought up
for trial, and would no doubt have been let off as he turned
Queen's evidence, but he broke out of prison and got clear
away. No one ever saw him again that I know of."

What other scenes were enacted on the Western and
Southern Roads when Gardiner and his imitators had their
day will be told in a later chapter. Before passing on to
these more notorious bushrangers it is important to detail
the events that led up to a notable development in police
history. Up to this date there was little co-ordination in the
force. Each branch of the police, the patrols, the escorts,
guards and town constables, had its own chief ; the time
was approaching for a more systematic arrangement. This
became the more urgent when, on the opening up of the
new goldfields in New South Wales and Victoria, some
alarming riots occurred and the resources of the police were
taxed to their utmost.

In 1854 occurred the famous affair of the Eureka Stock-
ade, at Ballarat. 1 A few years later came the outbreaks
at Jembaicumbene, near Braidwood, and at Kiandra. The
Southern Patrol was called upon to deal with both these
latter disorders, and hard work did the troopers have in
restoring peace among the miners. At Kiandra the reserve
force from Carter's Barracks, Sydney, under Captain M'Lerie,
was summoned to assist, so determined was the attitude
of the rioters.

But Lambing Flat, in 1861, did most to effect a change
in affairs. On the rush to this field taking place a population
1 See p. 100 for full account.



of nearly five thousand was scattered over the ground in
huts and tents. There were plenty of genuine diggers, of
course, anxious to try their luck on new claims, but with
them came a large number of the worse types, including
ex-convicts who expected to reap a golden harvest from their
neighbours. There came, also, a body of Chinamen, of
whom numbers were always to be found at these rushes. It
was this element which precipitated the trouble.

The Chinamen had settled themselves at Tipperary
Gully, on the fringe of the Flat. The laws of the mining
fields did not allow foreigners to pitch their camps among
the white men. But though they had complied with this
regulation, and behaved themselves in as orderly a manner
as could be wished, they were not to be left in peace. The
lawless ones among the diggers made up their minds that the
" Chinks " were not to be tolerated so close, and at a " Miners'
Protective League " meeting a resolution was passed that
they should be driven out. The agitators did not let the
grass grow under their feet. One night, before the police
had any warning of their intention, over a thousand armed
miners made a swoop down on the unsuspecting Chinamen
in the Gully and swept it clear from end to end. Huts were
burned, property was destroyed, the Celestials were sent
flying for their lives, and all their hard-earned gold was
carried off.

At the police station on the fields was only a handful
of men, insufficient to cope with any serious disorder.
When news of the riot came, therefore, the sergeant in
charge (Saunderson) * sent off for reinforcements. These
arrived eventually, but in the meantime the first step had
been taken by arresting three of the supposed ringleaders.

1 Afterwards superintendent of the Bathurst district.


The latter were confined in the lock-up, which, as at all bush
stations, was roughly composed of timber and was guarded
by a strong outer stockade. No immediate attempt at
rescue was made by the miners, but the calling up of extra
mounted police was soon to be justified.

" The police camp was quiet at eight o'clock that night,"
says one account, " yet expectant, for it was known that the
mob was gathering in the streets of the township, and pres-
ently the sounds of music and revelry were heard. The
band played ' Garryowen,' ' Cheer, Boys, Cheer,' and ' See
the Conquering Hero Comes,' and thus the crowd marched

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 4 of 32)