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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stating that if any lights were seen in the neighbourhood
after eight o'clock at night, or if any fire-arms were dis-
charged, the offenders would be fired at by the military."

The 2nd of December was a Saturday. By the middle
of the day the insurgents' stockade was seen to be deserted,
but a little later a fairly large muster of armed miners
appeared. Over a hundred Calif ornians from adjacent
diggings had joined them. Of the original roll-up not a few
by this time had thought better of their decision and quitted
the scene ; the various delays, further, accounted for the
absence of many others. This weeding-out left the foreign
element in the majority. Lalor's followers were now prin-
cipally Italians, Germans, French and Prussians. Despite
the weakening of the force, however, and the knowledge
that the men's enthusiasm had cooled somewhat, the leaders
determined to stick to their guns.

The battle began in earnest in the small hours of Sunday.
Leaving his camp before daylight Captain Thomas advanced
upon the stockade with two hundred and seventy-six soldiers
and mounted police. 1 As dawn broke the miners' sentries
gave the alarm, and several shots were hastily fired at the
troops. Inside the stockade all was animation as the men
rushed to their posts, but the onset of the troopers could not
be stayed. The outer breastwork of overturned carts, ropes
and slabs was broken down, and the rebels were driven back
to their inner entrenchments. From this moment it became
a fierce hand-to-hand fight, bayonet against pike, and musket
against musket.

1 The troops engaged consisted of the following : 117 men of the 40th
Regiment, under Captain Wise, Lieutenants Bowdler, Hall and Gardyne ;
65 men of the 12th Regiment, under Captain Queade and Lieutenant Paul ;
70 Mounted Police, under Sub-Inspectors Furnley, Langley, Chomley, and
Lieutenant Cossack ; and 24 Foot Police, under Sub-Inspector Carter.


THE RUSH FOR GOLD, 1852-1855

In his story of the melee Raffaello tells how his comrades
took shelter in the rifle pits that had been dug within the
enclosure. Peter Lalor, a prominent figure at his station,
was one of the first to be picked off by a rifle bullet, being
shot in the shoulder and so badly wounded as to necessitate
the amputation of his arm. After his fall the issue of the
fight was no longer in doubt. Under the deadly volleys
poured upon them the defenders of the stockade were
quickly mowed down, and a bayonet charge put a finish to
the hopeless struggle. As the remnant of the miners broke
into wild flight the troopers tore down the blue Southern
Cross flag with its silver stars, and remained masters of the

The engagement had occupied less than half an hour, and
it had cost twenty-eight lives. Of the fallen no fewer than
twenty-two were diggers. On the side of the troops one
officer, Captain Wise, of the 40th Regiment, had been killed.
Many of the attacking force, however, received severe
wounds, for the fighting had been of a most desperate char-
acter. While the injured on both sides were being tended,
the troopers gathered in a large number of prisoners, one
hundred and twenty-five in all being taken. These were
marched back to Ballarat, to be subsequently tried for high

Such was the inglorious and pathetic affair of the Eureka
Stockade, which stands for all time, in the words of one writer,
as " the finger-post of Democracy in Australia." Ineffec-
tive as it was in its immediate results, it was a spirited
attempt to vindicate the rights of free-born citizens, and its
justification, or part justification, was not long in following.
While the general feeling of the goldfields community at its
termination was one of relief, the widespread sympathy that



was extended to the rioters could not be mistaken by the
Government. In all parts of the colony a similar expression
of opinion was heard, and little doubt was felt as to the
result of the impending trial.

Lalor, Black, Vern, and other leaders successfully eluded
capture, and of the prisoners who eventually appeared before
the tribunal of justice all were acquitted, amid universal
satisfaction. Just before the trial Melbourne, at a monster
meeting, had passed a resolution to the effect " that the un-
happy outbreak at Ballarat was induced by no traitorous
designs against the institution of monarchy, but purely by a
sense of political wrong and irritation, engendered by the
injudicious and offensive enforcement of an obnoxious and
invidious tax, which, if legal, has since been condemned by
the Commission." With as little delay as possible Sir Charles
Hotham had instituted an inquiry into the matter, and the
Commissioners in their report found that the diggers had
many genuine causes for complaint. They also made several
recommendations which the Governor promptly carried into
effect. By an Act in Council the licence fee was done away
with and the system of " Miners' Rights " substituted, this
entailing an annual payment of 20s. and conferring upon the
recipient both mining privileges and the franchise. A gold
export duty of 2s. 6d. per oz. was fixed upon as a source of
revenue. Representation in the Legislative Council was the
next point conceded, two members each being allotted to
Bendigo, Ballarat and Castlemaine, and one each to the gold-
fields at Avoca and Ovens.

Other changes that resulted included the abolition of
the title of Gold Commissioner, that officer being in future
styled " Warden of the Goldfields." Local elective mining
courts were also established, and several of the principal miners


THE RUSH FOR GOLD, 1852-1855

received their appointments as Justices of the Peace. By
the end of December 1854, the miners of Victoria had settled
down again into peaceable, law-abiding citizens, with a
measure of local government that ensured a happier and
more prosperous future for themselves and the entire colony.
Of Peter Lalor it may be added that when in 1855
Ballarat was asked to send representatives to the Council,
he was among the first to be nominated. In after years he
filled several important positions in the Legislative Assem-




Edward Eyre, Police Magistrate InspectorRobert O'Hara Burke-
The Victorian Exploration Expedition W. J. Wills The start
from Melbourne Division of the party At Cooper's Creek The
dash for the Gulf Wright at Menindie Burke and Wills reach the
coast The return journey Death of Gray The 'deserted depot
Wright and Brahe A series of blunders Burke, Wills and King in
the bush Among the blacks Nardoo Burke and Wills succumb

j Howitt finds King Other expeditions Frederick Walker, Inspector
of Police From Rockhampton to the Gulf Colonel Egerton-Warbur-
ton In Central Australia Sub-Inspector Robert Johnstone.

IT is among the proud boasts of the Mounted Police that
they are worthily represented in the ranks of the Aus-
tralian explorers. Along with those of Eyre, Leichhardt,
Sturt, Grey and McDouall Stuart, are to be found the names
of Burke, Egerton-Warburton and Walker, each of whom
was directly and actively connected with the police service.
Edward Eyre, by the way, had a link with the force, inasmuch
as he held the position of Police Magistrate previous to
making his memorable and hazardous journey along the
coast from Adelaide to Western Australia in 1841. In the
present chapter we may digress for a moment from the plain
record of police administrative work in the Australian
colonies to consider the achievements of those officers who
have been detached for special duty in exploration.



In Robert O'Hara Burke the Mounted Police have their
most famous representative. No record of Australian history
is complete without the story of the great journey from
south to north made by Burke and Wills in 1860. It was a
journey fraught with tremendous difficulties and attended by
terrible disasters, and round it has raged no little controversy.
After the lapse of half a century, when the share of praise
and blame to be
meted out to the
leaders has been
properly appor-
tioned, one can see *
how great was the
achievement and
how lacking were
the attributes that
make for success in
such an enterprise.

The Burke and
Wills expedition
owed its inception
to an offer made
by Mr. Ambrose
Kyte of Mel-
bourne, at a time
when Victoria was desirous to add her quota to the great
work of exploration initiated by the sister colony of New
South Wales. " I will give 1,000," said this gentleman,
" towards the equipment of a party to explore Central Aus-
tralia, provided that a similar sum is contributed by the
public .' ' The response was immediate and generous . Within
a short time over 3,000 was subscribed, and to this was




added 6,000 voted by Government, with an additional
3,000 for the purchase of camels from India. For the first
time in Australia the " ship of the desert " was to be employed
as a factor in traversing the bleak, sandy regions of the

Under the auspices of the Royal Society of Victoria the
details of the Victorian Exploration Expedition were quickly
arranged. The main depot, the " jumping-off place," was
to be Cooper's Creek, which had been the limit of Sturt's
last journey. Thence the explorers were to strike out due
north for the Gulf of Carpentaria. The choice of a leader
was left to a selection committee, and after due consideration
the appointment was given to Mr. Burke. Mr. George James
Landells, who had brought over the camels from India,
was second in command, the other members of the party
being : William John Wills, surveyor and astronomer ;
Herman Beckler, medical officer and geologist'; Charles
Ferguson, foreman ; Thomas McDonogh, assistant ; William
Patten, Patrick Langan, Owen Cowan, William Brahe",
Robert Fletcher, John King, Henry Croker, Gray, John
Dickford, and three sepoy camel drivers.

Burke, who was an Irishman, like so many prominent
men in the Mounted Police, had had a varied and eventful
career. He had served in the Austrian Cavalry with the
rank of Captain, and in the Royal Irish Constabulary, before
emigrating to Australia. Van Diemen's Land gave him
his first colonial experience, his appointments there having
included that of Acting-Inspector at Hobart Town. In
Victoria he became Police Magistrate at Beechworth, a post
he held until 1855, when the Crimean War led him to apply
for leave of absence in the hope of obtaining a commission in
a line regiment. His hopes were not realised, however.



The war came to a sudden termination, and he returned to
Victoria to enter the police force as an Inspector. When
his services were accepted for the projected expedition he
had charge of the station at Castlemaine. He was then
thirty-six years of age.

Wills was a native of Devonshire, where he was born
in 1834, and had begun life in Australia as a shepherd on
the Edwards River in Victoria. Tiring of this occupation,
he entered the Government Survey Department, and in
1858 became an assistant at the Melbourne Observatory,
where his scientific attainments were soon recognised.
Two years previously, when an expedition had been talked
of, Wills had applied for a post, but the project had fallen
through. On the organisation of the 1860 expedition he
was one of the first to be appointed.

The 20th of August saw the party set out from Melbourne
with its complement of twenty-seven camels and a few
horses and waggons. Proceeding through the settled dis-
tricts to the River Darling, it reached Menindie, and here
the first depot was established. Here, also, began the first
troubles. Ferguson, the foreman, was dismissed by Burke,
while Mr. Landells and Dr. Beckler resigned their positions
owing to differences of opinion with their leader. These
three now returned to Melbourne, and Burke reconstituted
his force. In place of Landells he appointed Wills second
in command. A man named Wright, whom he had picked
up at a sheep station and secured as guide, was given the
charge of the camels. With these new arrangements effected
Burke divided his party, leaving half in camp on the Darling,
while he, Wright, and seven others pushed on for Cooper's

Good progress was made to this point, but ere reaching


the Creek Burke made yet another change. Wright, to
whom he had taken a great fancy, was promoted to be
third in command, and was despatched back to Menindie to
bring up the rear party with the supplies. In the meantime
a camp was formed at Cooper's Creek, where, pending
the arrival of their companions, Burke and Wills made
several excursions into the surrounding country. The
knowledge gained by these trips did not encourage them to
be hopeful. In most directions the ground was bare, rough
and stony, and water was scarce. On one occasion Wills
travelled a distance of ninety miles without finding water,
and had the misfortune to lose several camels. On an-
other he and King ventured into a wide desert which offered
no practicable route to the north.

It was the llth of November when the advance guard
arrived at the Creek. After more than a month had gone
by and there was no sign of Wright and his party, Burke
became impatient of delay and decided on a bold plan.
Four of his company were to remain at the depot, to con-
struct a stockade there and await the others. With Wills,
King and Gray, he meant to make a dash for the Gulf,
taking with him six camels, one horse, and three months'
stock of provisions. Of those left behind Burke wrote in a
despatch to the Government : "I shall leave the party
which remain here under the charge of Mr. Brahe, in whom
I have every confidence. The feed is very good. There
is no danger to be apprehended from the natives if they
are properly managed, and there is nothing therefore
to prevent the party remaining here until our return,
or until their provisions run short."

Burke's impetuosity had led him into making a rash
move, and yet all might have gone well but for one untoward



and unexpected incident. The explorers had not been at
Cooper's Creek more than a day when Wright, hi his camp
on the Darling, learned the news that McDouall Stuart
had succeeded in nearly crossing the continent. As it
was important that his leader should know this, with a
view to following Stuart's track where practicable, Wright
hastily sent off two mounted men and a native with a
message to Burke. He himself, until their return, would
wait at Menindie with the stores.

Wright's decision in the circumstances was undoubtedly
a wrong one. In remaining at Menindie he clearly dis-
obeyed orders, while his own intimate knowledge of the
country should have told him of the danger of delay. As
the weeks passed by the fierce heat of the summer dried
up the herbage and exhausted most of the watercourses.
The difficulties of the journey to the main depot were
multiplied a hundredfold. When at last the non-appearance
of the messengers showed that things had gone amiss
with them a search party was sent out and the men were
discovered in a camp of blacks nearly two hundred miles
away. They had lost themselves, had wandered for many
days suffering great hardships, and had taken refuge with
the natives, their mission unaccomplished. There was now
no occasion for further waiting. On 26th January Wright
broke camp and began his march to the Creek.

How this lamentable check proved fatal to the four
explorers who had gone ahead in the attempt to reach the
coast will be seen as we follow the story of their journeying.
It was 16th December when Burke and Wills bade their
companions good-bye and plunged into the interior. From
Wills' diary (Burke did not keep his posted regularly) we
learn that the little party made successful progress along a

113 i


fine watercourse which took them a considerable distance
to the north. Both water and grass proved to be abundant,
fish and wild-fowl were procured in plenty, so that there was
no danger of starvation to be feared. The blacks were often
troublesome, but no conflict with them occurred. Travelling
easily and without molestation the explorers crossed a
range of mountains which they named the Standish Ranges,
after the Victorian Commissioner of Police, and reached
Cloncuddy Creek, a tributary of the Flinders River. Here,
owing to the swampy nature of the ground, the camels
were abandoned, and, King and Gray being left in camp
with the bulk of the stores, Burke and Wills pushed on to
the sea.

In his brief notes Burke says : " 28th February. It
would be as well to say that we reached the open sea, but we
could not obtain a view of the ocean, although we made
every endeavour to do so." What prevented the actual
accomplishment of this was the dense forest of mangroves,
which barred their way. Leaving their exhausted pack-
horse behind, hobbled, the two men made a gallant effort to
cut a path through the tangled undergrowth, but it proved
too herculean a task. They had to abandon the attempt
and remain satisfied with having practically arrived at their
goal. They were within a mile or so of the sea, though
unaware of their exact whereabouts. The river they had
followed they mistook for the Albert, but as a matter of
fact they were some hundred miles to the east of this stream.

There was now the return journey to be faced, the jour-
ney to the main depot where Wright and the rest of the
expedition were to be in waiting. Having picked up King
and Gray, and recaptured the camels, Burke and Wills
set themselves bravely to the tremendous task before



them. That it was to be such soon became apparent.
Rain poured upon them incessantly for days, making travel-
ling slow and laborious. Then sickness broke out. Gray
was the first to fall ill with dysentery, and soon after
Burke fell a victim to the same complaint. As they dragged
wearily along the provisions became reduced. First one
camel, then another, had to be killed to supply meat. And
on top of short rations and hardships came the disaster
of a camel bogged and abandoned in a swamp, with the loss
some days later of much valuable baggage. By the 6th
April accidents and the exigencies of the journey had re-
duced their train to three camels. " Billy, " the horse 3
had become so weak that it was imperative to shoot him.

Of the four men one, Gray, was now really ill. Both
Burke and Wills at first believed him to be shamming, and
the former is stated to have treated him roughly when the
poor fellow helped himself to some flour to make gruel
with. Gray was strapped on the back of a camel, which
itself could do little more than crawl, and the slow progress
thus made added to Burke's irritation. On the 16th of
the month, when seven miles only had been traversed, Gray
died, and Wills records that they were all three so weak
that they could hardly dig a grave for him in the ground.
The party was by this time in the terrible Stony Desert.

After a day's rest they pushed on again, now with only
two camels and a slender store of meat. Happily, as they
thought, the depot at Cooper's Creek was not far distant ;
within a little while tliey would rejoin their comrades. By
making a desperate spurt, travelling by night as well as
by day, the three reached the Creek on the 21st, to meet
with a woeful disappointment. Instead of a camp they
found only a deserted stockade. No sign of life was to



be seen. Hardly crediting his eyes Burke rode on in ad-
vance and found on a tree the word " Dig " cut into the
bark. Underneath, when he obeyed this instruction, he
discovered a small parcel of food stuff and a bottle in which
was a letter from Brahe stating that he and his companions
had quitted the spot that very morning !
The message ran as follows


April 2lst, 1861.

" The depot party of the V.E.E. leaves this camp to-day to
return to the Darling. I intend to go SE. from camp 60 deg., to
get into our old track near Bulloo. Two of my companions and
myself are quite well ; the third, Patten, has been unable to walk
for the last eighteen days, as his leg has been severely hurt when
thrown by one of the horses. No one has been up here from the
Darling. We have six camels and twelve horses in good working


It was an appalling moment for Burke, Wills and King.
Ill and weak after more than four months' of hard travel
and privation, and with their provisions sadly depleted,
they were dealt the cruellest blow that Fate could have held
in store for them. Wills might write cheerfully (as he did)
in his diary, that they made a good supper off some oatmeal
porridge and sugar that Brahe had left, and that this,
" together with the excitement of finding ourselves in such
a peculiar and unexpected position, had a wonderful effect
in removing the stiffness from our legs." He might also
touch lightly on their disappointment and the fact that
they were " awkwardly placed " as to clothing ; the know-
ledge must have been borne home to him even then that
death stared them in the face.

Before leaving the Creek to strike out for Adelaide, which
point Burke decided on making, Wills placed his written



record with a message from Burke * in a bottle and buried
it in Brake's cache. By a fatal want of thought, however,
he neglected to alter in any way the word " Dig " on the
tree, an omission that finally cut off their chance of rescue.
Sixteen days afterwards Wright and Brahe were again at
the camp. They saw that the cache to all appearances
was undisturbed and left without examining it. King
subsequently averred that he and his companions had left
several traces of their visit, but this was denied. And so
blunder was added to blunder, making the culminating
disaster inevitable.

What had happened to bring about this seemingly
inexplicable desertion may be briefly stated. In his tardy
progress to Cooper's Creek Wright met with continuous
checks. Several of his party fell ill with the scurvy, neces-
sitating the formation of a sick camp, and the natives
encountered now began to show signs of hostility. From
Bulloo he made a vain effort to reach the Creek, a distance of
nearly eighty miles, and returned to recruit his force. The
day on which this retreat was made was the 21st of April,
the very day that saw Burke and Wills stumbling into
the abandoned depot. At Bulloo Wright's party was

1 " Depot No. 2, Cooper's Creek. The return party, consisting of myself,
Wills and King (Gray dead) arrived here last night, and found that the
depot party had started on the same day. We proceed on to-morrow slowly
down the creek to Adelaide, but are very weak. Gray died on the road from
exhaustion and fatigue. We have discovered a practicable route to
Carpentaria, the chief portion of which lies on 140 deg. of east longitude.
There is some good country between this and the stony desert. From there
to the tropics the country is dry and stony. Between the tropics and
Carpentaria a considerable portion is rangy, and it is well watered and richly
grassed. We reached the shores of Carpentaria on February 11, 1861.
Greatly disappointed at finding the party here gone.


" PS. The camels cannot travel, and we cannot walk, or we should
follow the other party."



diminished by two deaths. To this calamity was added
a conflict with the blacks, upon whom they were
compelled to open fire.

Then, on the 29th, came the unexpected arrival of
Brahe and his companions. Having seen nothing of the
advance party under Burke for over four months, and
being anxious about Wright's movements, Brahe had de-
cided to rejoin the latter. Here was another irremediable
mistake. It was the irony of fate that while Brahe was
camped down the Creek, scarcely a day's journey from the
depot, the three men whose lives were in such dreadful
jeopardy were only a few miles distant from him ! At
Bulloo the leaders of the two parties were in some indec-
ision as to how to act. Wright's impulse was to return to
Menindie, but, thinking it advisable to assure himself that
the explorers had not reached Cooper's Creek, he set out
thither with Brahe. As we have seen, they arrived on the
spot after Burke, Wills and King had left, and failed to
find any signs of their comrades. Thereafter Wright
retraced his steps to the Darling, to report the situation

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 9 of 32)