The Argus at KellyGang 19/10/1881 (7)

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Royal Commission second report -comment

14. When Mr Nicolson resumed charge in June, 1879, sweeping reductions were insisted upon, despite his repeated protestations; and when he applied for additional men for ordinary duty to re- place those who had been invalided, Superintendent Hare sent him up from the depot a number of men, described as cripples, who were utterly useless.

15. While Mr Nicolson was in charge, Superintendent Hare, in a manner highly unbecoming an officer, extracted privately from one of the constables some information respecting the cave party, and immediately informed the chief commissioner, as a piece of current gossip, that all about the cave was known at the depot. Further, while Mr Nicolson was endeavouring to improve the efficiency of his men by rifle practice, Mr Hare interfered, and told Captain Standish that the men were simply wasting ammunition. Those points may appear insignificant, but to our minds they indicate a system of tale-bearing undignified and ungracious, and calculated to materially obstruct operations against the outlaws.

16. Mr Dixon's statement in clause 6, that when Mr Hare went to Benalla, on 2nd June, 1880 , the police were as far off the capture of the Kelly gang as when he left the district eleven months previously, is a reiteration of Superintendent Hare's assertion, contained in his official report, and is not borne out by the evidence. The allegation also based upon question 1,477 is to some extent misleading. There is nothing in the paragraph mentioned to show that the steps taken by Mr Hare were calculated to prevent supplies being conveyed to the outlaws.

17. Clause 7 of the protest is calculated to convey a false impression. The hut party alluded to had not been stationed at Aaron Sherritt s place by the assistant commissioner. During the last week of Mr Nicolson's command in the North-Eastern district, and while scouring the ranges in the vicinity of Mrs Byrne's hut, he had placed some men temporarily in Sherritt's house, but withdrew them prior to Mr Hare's arrival. The organisation of the hut party, properly speaking, is due to Mr Hare, and it proved a most disastrous failure.

18. We have not been slow to acknowledge Superintendent Hare's energy and promptitude upon receiving intelligence of Aaron Sherritt s murder, but the injudicious zeal of his friends provokes the criticism which he might otherwise be spared. Mr Dixon gives him credit for extraordinary foresight in providing a pilot engine for the special which left Benalla for Beechworth on the night of the 27th of June, but a reference to Mr Carrington's evidence shows that, prior to the starting of the train, it was generally known or at least currently reported at Benalla, that the rails had been taken up. Under such circumstances what was more natural than that a pilot engine should be procured?

19. Mr Hare, as officer in command, should not have tolerated the presence of ladies in the special train when leaving Benalla, especially as he was aware of the report that the rails had been removed.

20. We consider that this officer cannot be complimented upon his discretion or general- ship in the conduct of operations at Glenrowan for the short time that he remained upon the scene. He knew little apparently of the precise situation of Glenrowan, notwithstanding that he had been for eight months in command of the district. He was informed during the journey that the Kellys had taken possession of the place, and imprisoned all the people, yet on arrival he seems to have had no correct idea of the peculiarity of the situation. The moment he was informed by Bracken of the presence of the outlaws at the hotel, he dashed away, without waiting for some of his men to collect their arms. When he reached the hut he found his onslaught resisted by the gang. He was disabled in the wrist by the first volley, and after an absence of from five to 10 minutes from the platform he returned to have his wound dressed. He left the front without transferring the command to anyone. The order to surround the house given to Senior- constable Kelly and to Inspector O'Connor cannot be regarded as transferring the command. This neglect he might have rectified when he essayed to reach the front on the second occasion, but he failed to do so. Did he propose to rush the place, and at once overpower the outlaws? If that were his intention, he should not have been deterred by a mere wound in his wrist from doing so. If he had resolved merely to surround the gang and prevent their escape, then he ran unnecessary risk in exposing himself and his men to the fire of the outlaws If, however he simply trusted to the chapter of accidents, without any definite idea of what was best to be done, then his management of affairs displayed a decided lack of judgment and fore-thought. Comparisons may be odious, but it cannot fail to strike one as singular that, while Superintendent Hare felt himself obliged to leave his post and return to Benalla, under the impression that the wound in his wrist would prove fatal, the leader of the outlaws, with a rifle bullet lodged in his foot, and otherwise wounded in the extremities. was enabled to hold his ground, encumbered, too, by iron armour, until 7 o clock, when, in the effort to rejoin his companions, he fell overpowered by numbers.

21. Superintendent Hare's bill against the Government for surgical attendance amounted to £607, about £480 of which was paid to his relative, Dr Charles Ryan. While this officer was being petted and coddled on all sides, and a special surgeon despatched almost daily some 30 miles by train to attend him, the Government questioned the payment of four guineas for the treatment of one of the black trackers who had received a wound in the head at Glenrowan.

22. It is however, chiefly in relation to Superintendent Hare's official report of the 2nd of June, 1880 , that we the undersigned commissioners, have been led to regard this officer's conduct with suspicion. The document was manifestly written with the design of crushing Mr, Nicolson once and for all; to deprive him of all credit for anything that he had done or suffered in the pursuit, and to brand him as disloyal to the service and his brother officers. The evidence, however, discloses that many of the charges contained in the report were unfounded, the insinuations unjustifiable, and the statements mere assumptions.


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