Royal Commission second Report Part VI ( page 9)

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Story of the KellyGang - the Royal Commission

Second Report

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The Royal Commission Second Report -Part VI


One of the earliest combined movements of the police in pursuit of the outlaws was not calculated to favorably impress the mind of the public as regards the capacity of the officers. The " Sebastopol charge" as it has been designated, and which took place on the 7th November 1878 , proved an utter fiasco, calculated simply to excite ridicule, and for this Superintendent Sadleir must be held directly responsible. On the 6th November, a splitter, in a state of intoxication, made his way from the Woolshed into Beechworth, where he was heard to boast that three days previously he had seen the gang in the bush near Sebastopol . This individual was conveyed to the lock-up, where he reiterated his statement to Superintendent Sadleir, and indicated where he believed the outlaws were secreted. Mr. Sadleir telegraphed to Mr. Nicolson, at Benalla, the information. Captain Standish happened to be with the Assistant Commissioner of Police at the time, and it was arranged that, taking with them a party of police, they should both proceed immediately by special train to Beechworth and accompany Superintendent Sadleir to the spot where he seemed sanguine of catching the Kellys. The Benalla contingent arrived at Beechworth at 3 a.m. , and were met by Mr. Sadleir, who communicated to Captain Standish the information he had obtained, and then all rode off, leaving the Assistant Commissioner behind, searching for a horse, which occupied some time. The cavalcade moved rapidly forward, and as it proceeded, its numbers were gradually increased by parties of troopers who were gathered from various directions, until the force present numbered, according to various computations, from 23 to 50. The noise of so large a body of horsemen, clattering along a hard road in the early hours of the morning and in the clear atmosphere of the ranges, was described by one witness as "just like thunder," and could have been heard a mile off. Indeed, everything was done as though it were desirable to give the gang - supposing that they were in the neighborhood - timely warning of the approach of the police.

What followed was perfectly in keeping with the haphazard organization of the party. It was not until the party had arrived opposite the house of Sherritt, senior, that Mr. Sadleir informed the Assistant Commissioner of the precise object of the expedition, whereupon arrangements were made for the attack. While Mr. Nicolson and Mr. Sadleir rushed the but where the outlaws were supposed to be concealed, the Chief Commissioner took up a position at a distance, in charge of the reserve force. The hut was duly searched, but nothing to excite suspicion was discovered. A second hut adjacent was pounced upon after a similar fashion with a like result. The procession of horsemen then moved on to Mrs. Byrne's, but here again the police were doomed to disappointment. The entire proceedings of the day were little better than a travesty; and as indicating the extent to which discipline prevailed in the force, it may be mentioned, that not a single witness could positively state which of the officers present was actually in the command of the party.....

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