Brooke Smith

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Side of Authority
This page contains content from police and those who supported authority.

Importance of Inspector Brooke Smith

In charge of police at Wangaratta. Major figue in the hunt for the Greta Links to the KellyGang , Early Years , Fitzpatrick Incident, Murders at Stringy Bark Creek, Warby Ranges, Euroa Robbery , Jerilderie Robbery , Autum 1879 , Hare replaced by Nicolson , Spring 1879 Early 1880 , Death of Aaron Sherritt , Glenrowan Siege , Ned Kellys Trial , Royal Commission , Early service , Later service, Family..

Links to the KellyGang

Early Years I was born in 1832.

I prosecuted James Kelly and Thomas Williams for cattle stealing. (Ensign4/3/1873)

In 1875 was asked to report on the Glenmore police station. I agreed with Sup Barclay that it should be closed. It was moved to 3 miles above Hedi station.(RC2nd reportII)

Photograph Fitzpatrick Incident 15/04/1878 On 12/04/78 I told Sgt Whelan to send Fitzpatrick to Greta while Const Strahan was on leave.(RC5944 ) (RC12883)

In early September 1878, Det Ward sent out information about the KellyGang. It was that Ned Kelly, had been seen about three weeks before between the Woolshed and Sebastopol. Det Ward suggested that I should be told about the matter. (RC3109)

Murders at Stringy Bark creek in the Warby Ranges 26/10/1878 I was stationed at Beechworth at the time of the murders (RC134)(RC228)

I led a search party that travelled between Merriang, across the Buffalo, over Black Hill, and down through the King River. They were at Merriang on 28/10/1878. (RC17372)

I arrived in Wangaratta on 1/11/1878 and stayed in town (apart from a short trip to Chiltern) on 2/11/1878. (RC17369) (RC17446)

When I got to Wangaratta I recieved the following letter from Ass Com Nicolson:

"30th October 1878, Myrtleford.

My dear Brooke Smith,-

I arrived at Wangaratta yesterday evening, and was surprised to find you gone. I followed you here to learn your object and plans, because I have been placed in charge of this case, and have been made responsible for all steps taken and result. I must return to Wangaratta and to Benalla, if possible, to-night. I cannot ascertain your object and plans, excepting that I find your men are not supplied with hobbles, billy cans, &c., which show that you do not anticipate camping out. ......... Three parties besides yours are now out under my knowledge. Communicate with me by telegraph at every opportunity. Don't waste your strength fruitlessly until you get further orders. Ever yours, C. H. NICOLSON. " (RC17525)

At about 2am on 4/11/1878 Const Twomey came to see me in Wangaratta and told me about a possible citing of the KellyGang early the day before. (RC17406) (RC17328) (RC17418) (CHC) (JJK)

I sent him off with Const Hayes to see Mrs Delaney and her 2 sons John and Daniel made the citing and he returned to see me at 5.45am (RC17412)

Of course I did not go to see her myself. No, indeed I did not; I should want something more than that to go. (RC17308)

I could not follow up on this information because there were was only one policeman in Wangaratta at the time. (RC17293)

Const Alexander arrived in Wangaratta about 4/11/878 as one of my search party (RC13059)

On that day I had 6 constables in Wangaratta (RC14072)

At 5.40pm on 4/11/1878 I sent the following telegram:

"I can neither verify nor controvert Delany's statement (that is the old woman) after further enquiry. They are respectable people, easily frightened. Have ascertained from a friend, who crossed Mulwalla punt yesterday to Yarrawonga, that four New South Wales constables are actively patrolling banks of Murray, near punt; also, that although crossings might be made higher up by fishermen's boats, lagoons and creeks on other side so bad, no escape could be made that way, so that Warby ranges could be the only resort for hiding, perhaps on to Ryan's at Lake Rowan, No horses reported missing. Constables Hayes and Twomey on Thom's horse are awaiting duty with me when ordered; but such party is too small, and is not well armed, the sight off only Spencer rifle. Constables Davison and Healy misconducted themselves so much on my search party I would never take either again, as it would be risking other men's lives. Send rifles and ammunition, if you can spare such. Weather increasingly worse. Floods rising." (RC17309) See also (RC17381) (RC17514)

On 5/11/1878 I stayed at home (RC17337)

Warby Ranges search party 6/11/1878 I took a lot of complaint from people over this incident. (CHC)

The reflections appear to amount to this, as far as I can judge that I was not there immediately when I was required; that is what they state. Now I had been so much worked for several days before that that I was simply overdone. (RC17281)

I was not totally responsible. There was no special officer appointed to any party whatever. You appear to know more than I do. There were two parties had charge of that party besides myself. There were Kennedy and Johnson, and I got instructions to divide them, and I did so. (RC17351)

On 6/11/1878 I led a search party from Wangaratta to Yarrawonga and to Peechelba on about 7/11/1878. We had Const Johnston and Det Kennedy as part of the party.(Argus9/11/78) (RC13534) (RC17283)

I had crossed the Buffalo twice in high flood, and I cannot swim, and I had to go across on a horse with a sergeant and six men.(RC17283)

We then went to Lake Rowan on 8/11/78 and Johnson and Dixon up tracks that could have been from the KellyGang . We followed the tracks into the Warby Ranges but had to go back to Wangaratta as be had run out of food. see (RC17432)

I agreed to send the party out the next day with trackers. We returned to Kitts Hotel, where I was staying at about 9pm. (RC12361)

Const Johnson tried to wake me at 4am on 9/11/78. I eventually got up at 7am and sent Johnson off to Byan's were I arranged to meet them. They got there at 9am and waited for me until 1pm. I eventually turned up. (RC12395) (RC17327)

I met up with my men just on dusk and ordered the men, "Halt; form up. Any applications or complaint?" This was after Johnson and the men had found the pack horse. I then ordered them proceed to Wangaratta.(RC12411)

I sent word ahead when we were about three miles out of Wangaratta to tell Ass Com Nicolson that one of the police horses was recovered. We met Mr Nicolson about 10pm after dinner. Mr Nicolson ordered us to follow up the KellyGang and if we found them to shoot them.(RC12417)

Ass Com. Nicolson sent me the following message; :-"Wangaratta, Saturday, 11 p.m., 9 Nov. 1878. -Memo. - Inspector Smith and party will proceed tracking to-morrow no further than 'Eleven Mile Creek,' should the tracks lead in that direction. He may then go quietly to Greta to feed horses, &c., first sending here to me for further orders. -C. H. NICHOLSON, Inspctg. Supt. Look out by the way for the Government horses. -C. H. N

The next morning, 10/11/78 the search party did not leave until about 9am even though Const Johnson got the men up at about 4am. I joined the men on the road before Brien's organgery (RC12426)

I wanted the men to turn off on to the left, and get up the gully, and not go near Brien's place at all, for the purpose of setting on the tracks where we had left them. According to Const Johnson when we got on near to the foot of the range where I ordered the men to "form up" again, and I asked him where he was taking me to. He said, "We are going up this gully, and we will get on the tracks where we left off yesterday in about twenty minutes." He says my response was "No you will come this way. You must go to where I lost the tracks myself, I will follow them up there." Johnson says this was about ten miles further back than he had tracked them. (RC12448)

Johnson also accused me of getting the men tack along the same 10 miles in the place where we found the pack horse four times. (RC12456) see also (Argus12/11/78)

On 12/11/1878 I went out again into the Warby Ranges with Ass Com Nicolson, Sup Sadleir, Sgt Steele a large search party of police. (RC12475) See also (RC412)

The next day I had another run in with Ass Com Nicolson. After the horse from the Stringy Bark murders was brought back to Wangaratta he sent me back to Beechworth with instructions to attend to the duties of my district and not interfere with the Kelly business any more. (RC415)

The orders I got were from Sup Sadleir go back and prosecute three cases at Beechworth, and I went back and prosecuted.

Unfortunately for me, any evidence I want to bring forward has departed. Mr. Hunt, of the Argus, came out that time with me, and he has gone away. (RC17362)

See also the Jerilderie Letter

The Royal Commission did not appreciate my efforts at this time and they were unkind enought to conclude;

"The conduct of Inspector Brook Smith while in charge at this period cannot be too severely censured. The history of the expedition which started on the 6th November 1878 from Wangaratta to search the Warby Ranges discloses culpable negligence and incapacity on the part of Mr. Smith, who was the officer in command. In the first place, he failed to take the proper steps with a view to the verification of the rumor that, on the morning of the 3rd November, the gang had been observed riding under the One-mile Bridge, at Wangaratta, in the direction of the ranges. Two days were allowed to elapse before starting in pursuit. Then, when the unmistakable tracks of the outlaws were discovered and Kennedy's horse found, this officer deliberately disobeyed orders by returning with his party to quarters. " They continued on with this sort of stuff about me for over a page and made no comment about my health problems. (RC2nd reportVII) (JJK)

Euroa Robbery 10/12/1878 By this time I was still incharge at Beechworth but I had a real problem with Com Standish. He did not want to see me. He sent me on the longest tour I could possibly make, to prevent me being at Beechworth during one of his visits to the town. I went to Tintaldra, Corryong, and all through that country. (RC11896)

I led a search party from Corowa. (Argus30/6/79) (Argus1/7/79)

Spring 1879 Early 1880 I prosecuted Aaron Sherritt for stealing a horse from Mrs Byrne. (OMA17/7/79)

10/11/1879 Ass Com Nicolson produced a report about my health. See text. I came down to Melbourne and stayed with Judge Hackett and his wife. (RC16233)

Royal Commission I gave evidence to the Royal Commission on 8/9/1881 (RC17276) and 9/8/1881 (RC17454)

I was suffering so severely from inflamed eyes that I could hardly see on the second I gave evidence. (RC17454)

Mrs Kelly did not like me (Argus16/5/81)

The Royal Commission found

" 7. That a most favorable opportunity of capturing the outlaws at a very early period of their career of crime, namely, on the 4th November 1878, was lost, owing to the indolence and incompetence of Inspector Brook Smith. Your Commissioners consider that Inspector Brook Smith committed a serious blunder in not having started in pursuit of the outlaws immediately upon receiving information of the gang having been seen passing under the bridge at Wangaratta, and also in not having properly followed up the tracks of the outlaws in the Warby Ranges, a proceeding which would have warranted your Commissioners in recommending his dismissal from the force. Your Commissioners, however, having in view his former services, recommend that Inspector Brook Smith be called on to retire on a pension of £100 per annum. (RC2ndReport)

The press reviewed my performance (Argus9/11/81) (Argus7/1/82)

Relationship between Sgt Steele, Supt Sadleir and me. (Argus12/11/81)

Early Service

I joined the Victoria Police on 5/11/1852 as an an inspector on a salary of £400 a year+ (RC17494)

In 1857 I left the police for a year after an accident but later rejoined (RC17504)

See the details of my career. (RCApp6)

Com Standish had a view of me (RC16226)

Later Service

I was in charge of police in Horsham in 1881 (RC6189)(RC17275)(RC16234)

-" I commence at a place called Murtoa. One journey alone is 70 miles, and another-Donald-is 100 miles, beyond Gnill; and I go right away to Bordertown. My head-quarters are at Horsham.

- A little while ago I used to do it (visit your outlying districts) monthly, but it was considered too short; and some places I go to once in two months, and two places once in three months, and other places once a month.


Cabinet did not comment upon the Royal Commission's decision. I was close to retirement and in bad health (Argus3/3/82)

I had died by October 1882 (Argus18/10/82)


wife ?... children ?.... home ?..

What happened to the Brooke Smith family