Royal Commission report day 2 page 9

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The Royal Commission evidence for 24/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 2 )

Assistant Commissioner Nicholson giving evidence

437 Were you out at the time that information was given that the bank was likely to be stuck up?- I am not aware of hearing anything of the kind. I have not come to that yet. During the time I was compelled to go out, my colleague or subordinate officer in charge of the district, Mr. Sadleir, had just recovered from rheumatic fever, and was a convalescent at the time, and he was unable to go out at that time. He had resumed his ordinary duties, but he was not fit for extraordinary duties-travelling from morning to night through that rough country, and camping out.

438 The last date was the 7th November-what date do you fix for forming those search parties?- I was frequently-several times-out with search parties before then, but not for any length of time. On the 20th November 1879.

439 That was the time that Mr. Sadleir was not sufficiently strong, in consequence of his recent illness, to be able to do bush duty?- -That is it exactly. I had to go out with several parties, and I was out first with one, and then with another; and when I was not out with parties actually. I was continually travelling from one place to another; and when out with these search parties at that time we could not get any guides or assistance from the inhabitants, with the exception of one man, who is now a mounted constable, Dickson at Wangaratta, who joined us as a guide. He was taken into the force since, and there was a man picked up at Mansfield, named Nicholson, a native of that place or Gippsland, I believe, a resident there at any rate. After travelling through these ranges and that country, when we would come to a halting place; we were in the habit of camping first and having tea, and placing sentries, and having supper, and then select a place to sleep in, leaving the fire, of which we had very little, and move on to another place to sleep. I, then, instead of being able to lie down to rest with the men, at that time generally had to go with two or three men to places from one to four miles off on foot-huts of suspected persons and so on.

440 What number of men would those parties consist of?- At first from six to eight and nine; but I used generally to go with as few men as I possibly could-small parties, in fact, of about six or seven. I would not get back to the camp after visiting those places until about twelve or two or three o'clock at night. I had to lie down to rest till daybreak, which at this time (November) was very early. This had a serious effect upon my strength. It reduced my strength. It also affected the whole party; we would come in very much fagged, horses and men. The young men used to recuperate in a couple of days; but it took me, at my time of life, and the other members of the force, mounted constables and others, more than that; but I had to go out notwithstanding at once.

441 As a matter of fact, is it not the hardest duty that a man can do?- It is the hardest duty one can experience. I have experienced duty of all kinds in the colony. I had experienced similar duty in that part before in 1852.

442 What sergeant had you?- I have been obliged to go out with different men, Senior Constable Strahan and Constable Flood.

443 Where is Strahan's station?- He was then stationed at Greta.

444 What length of time would those search parties be out before returning to head quarters?- At first a very short time. Myself, or James, or Steele did not remain out for very long; but on those occasions we went out for a fortnight or more, prepared for that. We had to go out as secretly as we could, to avoid notice, because any movements of the police always created a sensation amongst the inhabitants and got spread all over the country.

445 What were the general instructions you gave to those search parties?- They had particular districts, and Mr. Sadleir and myself, with the assistance of Constable Wheelan, of Benalla, and Sergeant Steele, of Wangaratta, mapped off this mountain country into districts; then each party took a certain district.

446 Have you a copy of that map, as marked at that time?- I left the map up at Benalla.

447 And the names of the various parties?- No. - Those parties were told off, not in writing; they were all arranged, and then instructions were given to start. ...

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