Ovens and Murray Advertiser at KellyGang 15/7/1880 (2)
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Captain STANDISH has very properly demanded, on behalf of the police, a full enquiry into the whole search; but although we are confident the force will come out scathless, much of what was done to bring the outlaws finally to bay must, from the very nature of the circumstances, never be made known.Many persons, and some public writers, now go so far as to declare that nothing is due to the police for their conduct at Glenrowan, except reprobation and contempt.Mr Hare is openly accused of temerity in his first rush, and of cowards in retreating from the field, although severely wounded.What can one say to such accusations?
Every man must regret that any innocent persons, especially women or children, were killed or wounded during the encounter; but the conclusions drawn by the critics have been arrived at with a present knowledge of facts so strange, no unprecedented, and almost so inconceivable, that a writer of fiction could only have ventured on them with a wonderful faith in the credulity of his readers.The indictment against the police is a heavy one.It is also rather volumnous and contradictory; but we may select from it two main counts, and examine on what evidence they are founded.
The first is, that they unnecessarily and knowingly fired volley after volley into a house containing innocent persons; the second that they set fire to the building instead of storming it.We have in a previous article dealt with the latter accusation.Suffice it to say now, that miscreants who had torn up a rail, not knowing or caring whom or how many they would slay and mangle; who had imprisoned a number of men, women and children in a wooden shell, which they knew must assaulted; who had massacred the comrades of the attacking party in a brutal manner; who had the night before assassinated an unarmed man in cold blood, and who were so particularly careful of their own skins as to fight in armour—such wretches deserved no more consideration than wild beasts, and were certainly not worth the less of another human life.Firing into the house is another matter.
But the party under Superintendent HARE knew nothing of the inmates, except that they were outlaws, and probably sympathisers; and even they did not fire till they accepted a volley.Each contingent as it arrived, and took ground for a time, labored under the same ignorance; and, in fact, after the first few rounds, there were were no regular volleys fired until the people escaped.When it became known that so many unfortunates were really boxed in, and also that they were all lying down, the order was given to fire breast high—much, no doubt, to the amusement of the armored bandits—and also only to fire at anyone moving, and this order was, we believe, faithfully obeyed.
Indeed, all the wounds were inflicted in the first or second fire; and providentially BYRNE was shot dead, and Ned Kelly wounded about the same time, or more blood would unquestionably have been shed. But let us put the most extreme case in favor of the critics, and let us suppose that the whole thirty police were on the spot at daylight, and that a general assault was then determined on. Can anyone imagine, without a shudder, the slaughter that must have ensued amongst the unhappy prisoners, before the armored outlaws could have been mastered? Because, it must be remembered, that in such an onset the attacking party must have used their firearms, as we do not believe that three amongst them had any sidearms.We leave out of the question how many police must have been knocked over, as it is their business to risk their lives
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