Sebastopol Cavalcade

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

The beginning

The Royal Commission commenced its comments on this incident in the following words:

"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" (RC 2nd report VI) see also (RC15801) (CHC) (JJK) (JJK)

The police recieved a report from a drunken splitter (bark stripper) that the KellyGang had been seen in bush near the Sherritt family home on 2/11/1878. That was reported to the police on 5/11/1878. (RC1946)

In the early morning of 7/11 the police turned up with all force.

Sup Sadier met up with a large number of police at The Gap 6/11/1878. He decided to split the police into two groups under Sgt Steele and Const Flood. Sgt Steele's party went to Myrtleford.

Nicolson and Standish with a party of police arrived at Beechworth from Benalla by train. They met up with Sadlier and his party at about 3am and moved off in the direction of the Sherritt home. (RC 2nd report VI)

Nicolson told the Royal Commission that on 6/11/1878, 'when Captain Standish happened accidentally to be up in Benalla with me. He came up to talk over matters with me, and we went up to Beechworth that night as related by him. I may state that on my arrival there-we arrived at dark-and when daylight broke I found a very very large number of police collected together, upwards of fifty mounted men, that had joined us, and we had a great cavalcade.' (RC361) I cannot say who collected all the police together. It was not by me. As we went along we had to cross some very rough country, great ranges of granite, and the rumbling noise that the party made was simply just like thunder, and the people heard us a mile off. (RC366)

See also (Argus8/11/78)

The Sebastopol Cavalcade

Sup Sadleir and Sconst James got into Beechworth about 10.30pm on 6/11/1878 after they had met 2 parties of police at Taylor's Gap. They found the place overrun with armed men, there were seven or eight citizens with guns and weapons of various sorts. Sadleir found there was a search party being got up by Consts Keating and Keen (see also (OMA27/2/1879)) on some information they had. He also found a man there who said he had seen the KellyGang two evenings before in the neighborhood of Sebastopol. While the information was stale, two days old, Sadleir thought it could not be passed over.(RC1764)

While Com Standish and Ass Com Nicolson were talking in Benalla they received an urgent despatch from Sup. Sadleir, then at Beechworth, that the KellyGang had been at Sebastopol, and that he believed that they were there then. Standish immediately ordered a special train, and proceeded with Mr. Nicolson, nine mounted constables, one black tracker, and two or three gentlemen of the Melbourne press to Beechworth, arriving there soon after 3a.m. (RC1768)

Sgt Steele arrived with 13 police. (RC1768)

There were at between 35 and 50 mounted police. They all met up within 3 miles of Beechworth at the Springs. That is about a mile or two miles out of Beechworth on the road we were going. (RC375) (RC1819) (RC1778)

Ass Com Nicolson and Sup Sadleir selected any men near us that they liked for the rush, asking Captain Standish to hold the others back, because they were very anxious about it, until at last we could get quietly near the place and start into a gallop. They searched the house and found no Kellys there, found a family, and they were all fast asleep when Mr. Nicolson, who was first in, arrived at Mrs Sherritt's home.(RC1770) (RC5712)

It would seem that the tip off that started the whole thing came from a laboring man, who had been stopping back amongst those ranges in the neighborhood of Mrs. Byrne's house. (RC408) (RC1765)

Ass Com Nicolson thought that Com Standish was in command as the senior officer even though he had no knowledge of the reason for the event (RC366)

As they came near the Sherritt home Standish and Sadleir were very much engaged talking. Nicolson could not hear what they were saying; there was such a confounded noise. He saw the men riding together, and devoted himself to knocking the men into some order. He went to the various sub-officers and asked "Where are your men ?" and "Keep them together;"(RC388)

Police arrive at the Sherritt home

The police came across the May Day Hills and went to the Sherritt family home. AssCom Nicolson burst in the door and many of the police followed him. They then moved on to Mrs Byrne's home22-aug-11e story. He said

'I was riding by myself with two or three men near me, when Mr. Sadleir came up and said to me, "Now Mr Nicolson, this is the house of the Sherritts;" you will do this and you will do that, and the outlaws are said to be here. This hut was backed by a large paddock. I turned to Mr. Sadleir and said, "You send some men into that paddock, and see the men do not escape by the back;" and I said to two or three men about me, "You - (mentioning their names) come along with me;" and I galloped with those men to the hut at full speed. I found the cavalcade was so noisy-we were expecting to get these men asleep-and I called to the men to come with me, and I galloped to the front.' (RC389) See also (RC7989) (RC1768)

The KellyGang was not at home. Nicolson describes his grand entrance into Mrs Sherritt's home in some style. (RC403)

Police move on to Mrs Byrne's home

After visiting the Sherritt home the police got down the gully, and at the foot of it a little way off is Mrs. Byrne's, and there they met Aaron Sherritt, many for the first time. (RC1782)

Meeting with Aaron Sherritt

Ass Com Nicolson described Com Standish's meeting with Aaron Sherritt the following therms, 'Subsequently, at some distance off, I observed Captain Standish surrounded by a number of men, in conversation with a slip of a lad, a young native of the same class of youth as I supposed the Kellys to be, because I knew Ned Kelly very well; I had been previously acquainted with him. I came up to them, and I found Captain Standish was making proposals to this man to help him and to betray the Kellys. This was in the presence and in the hearing of a lot of mounted constables.' (RC405) See also (RC1798) (RC15868)

Eventually Aaron Sherritt did a bargain with Com Standish, in return for information about the KellyGang the police would save Joe Byrne and guarantee his life. Standish said, "No doubt the Government would act upon his recommendation in the matter." (RC1801)

After the police camped at Mrs. Byrne's house they saw the game was up, and she and her children were about; and the diggers and different people about came down, seeing the crowd of men, and sat down, some of them amongst the police.

They were scattered perhaps over two or three acres, one man had tied up his horse here and sat beside it, and another was by his horse perhaps a hundred yards off. (RC1800)

After the discussion with Aaron Sherritt was over the police had to send right across the whole flat for refreshments, and there was some difficulty in getting them then. (RC1829)

Visit ...

Officers and others involved in the cavalcade

Agent, with his face blacked


Armstrong, H pc

Byrne, Mrs

Bracken pc

Faulkiner pc

Flood. SConst

James SConst

Keating pc

Keene pc

Lawless pc

Meehan pc

Nicolson, Ass Com

Sadleir, J Sup

Sherritt, Aaron

Sherritt, John Snr

Standish, Com

Steele Sgt

Strahan pc

3 reporters, 3 officers, 9 men from Benalla

2 from Beechworth

13 police from Taylor's Gap

tracker from Benalla