Royal Commission report day 4 page 6

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The Royal Commission evidence for 29/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 4)

Assistant Commissioner Nicholson giving evidence

992 The time during which Power was at large, and the length of time of various gangs in New South Wales-Hall, Gilbert, and other men-and specially those men who shot a number of police under circumstances not very dissimilar to the circumstances of the shooting by the Kellys-do you think you will be able to supply that ?- Yes, I think so; it will take a few days, but I can do it.

993 You have read Superintendent Hare's report ?- Yes, his letter to the Chief Commissioner of Police, 22nd July.

994 Have you a copy of it?- Yes.

995 Will you look at paragraph?- "I received orders from you at the end of May that I was to proceed at once to Benalla to relieve Mr. Nicolson. I accordingly, on the 2nd of June, went up there. I arrived at Benalla at about eleven o'clock that day. I saw Messrs. Nicolson, Sadleir, and O'Connor in the office. After some conversation on general subjects, Mr. Nicolson produced a letter he had received from you, directing him to give me all the information he had obtained concerning the Kelly gang during his stay at Benalla; he showed me the state of his financial account with one of his agents, and said there was nothing owing to any of the others. He opened a drawer and showed me a number of papers and the correspondence which had taken place during his stay at Benalla, and said, 'You can get all the information from these papers.' He gave me no verbal information whatever, but said, 'Mr. Sadleir can tell you all I know concerning the movements of the outlaws.' He left the office, and I never spoke to him again, and he went to Melbourne by the evening train. "Have you any explanation to offer about that report?- I would rather wait until Mr. Hare gives his evidence on the subject, if the Commission will allow me.

996 You give the statement a denial?- I do, but I would rather speak of it after hearing Mr. Hare's evidence.

997 Have you closed?- No, but I will very shortly do so now. I am going to hand in my report, and ask you to allow me to read the points of it.

998 Will you put in what letters you received from Captain Standish ordering you to dismiss Aaron Sherritt?- I will try and do so. I have to say this, that I had no difference with Superintendent Hare. I was on terms of friendly acquaintance with him up to the date of his letter of the 2nd of July. When he arrived there, on the 2nd of June, I, with the other officers, Mr. O'Connor and Mr. Sadleir, received Mr. Hare with kindness, although I was frequently annoyed by his being brought into opposition to me, sometimes apparently of his own accord, and sometimes through Captain Standish.

999 Will you give any evidence of that?- I will produce papers presently; I am just finishing this. When I took charge at Benalla in July, relieving Mr. Hare and Captain Standish, I found the men, notwithstanding their seven months' work, very ignorant of how to use their arms-the rifles (the most important arms of precision)-the Martini Henry, and other weapons with which they were armed. Some of them hand lost their ramrods, others their sight guards; some of them had never fired a gun in their lives (so they stated), and they had all the appearance of it.

1000 Ramrods are used for cleaning those guns?- Yes, they are fastened in the usual way. The guns are breech loading.

1001 What were those men you alluded to?- Policemen.

1002 Were those the men you had selected for this special service, or were they there by accident?- They were the men left in my absence to continue the work.

1003 Those men, you say, on your return to duty, in July 1879-were they all inefficient-you have your mind's eye on some particular men?- Yes, the men at Benalla. -

1004 Did those men remain on with you on duty in the district?- Yes, until I left.

1005 You still retained them?- Yes, I still retained them.

1006 Could you name some of those men?- They were nearly all the staff, with few exceptions, senior constables.

1007 Your statement applies to the general body of police?- The police as a body. One of the men named Keene shot another, McHenry.

1008 Shot a comrade?- In the barrack yard, larking.

1009 This is a proof of his inefficiency, you think?- Yes, he was larking. He thought his rifle was not loaded. He was handing a Spencer rifle down, and he saw no cartridge, and he drew the trigger. He was so ignorant, and thinking it unloaded, and he drew it back and forward, and loaded it without knowing, and shot this man through the body, on the 26th of July 1879, immediately after I took charge.

1010 Did you put them through proper drill after that?- I did. I formed a class for them at once, under Senior Constable Irvine, and, when duty admitted of it, I had them taught properly how to shoot, measure distances, and so on. ..

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