Aaron Sherritt, Andrew Goerge Scott, Australia, Ben Hall, Bill Skillion, Bushranger, C.C. Rawlins, Captain Moonlight, Captain Thunderbolt, Captain Waldo, Constable Fitzpatrick, Constable Hall, Constable Lonigan, Constable Scanlon, Dan Kelly, Dan Morgan, Frank Gardiner, Frederick Wordsworth Ward, Glenrowan, Glenrowan Hotel, Harry Power, Inn, Joe Byrne, John Fuller, John Jones, Johnny Gilbert, Kate Kelly, Martin Cash, Martin Cherry, Matha Jones, McBean, Mrs. Jones, Ned Kelly, Sergeant Michael Kennedy, Steve Har, The National Archives of Australia, The Victoria Institute of Forensic Medicine
I had made a plan to rob all of the banks of Benalla. However, we had to do something about the police headquarters that was located there. There were just too many policemen and aboriginal trackers for us to take on at their headquarters in Benalla.
They were a little miffed about what had happed to Aaron Sherritt and had a sense that we were on the move again. This would work to our advantage.
The only solution was to kill or capture the entire Benalla police. Our plan was to lure the police to Glenrowan by creating a diversion. If we could create a big enough stir we knew they would show up by taking the railroad from Benalla to Glenrowan. There were just too many of them to get there by horseback; seems as though somebody took a lot of their horses.
After shooting Sherritt we rode to Glenrowan. Our plan was to wreck any special police train sent after us. We reached our destination on Sunday. I remember the date because it was the day before the big shootout; 27 June 1880. We immediately took over the town. It wasn’t very hard; we had plenty of practice at subduing whole towns.
Once we had everyone under control we were able to identify which ones were the railroad workers. We got them and a few able bodied men to damage the railroad track. They were a little hesitant at first but a revolver stuck in an ear quickly convinced them otherwise.
The idea was to damage the track at a turn near the town. That way the engineer would not see the damage until it was too late. We lifted the both rails just a bit. Then the ties were taken out. When the heavy engine hit the damage it would slide off to one side or the other and we would have our fun with the police and the trackers.
Between the time it took to capture the town and damage the track it was late at night. We put all fifty hostages in the hotel. Well we thought we put them all in the hotel. One had escaped. He was the schoolmaster Tom Curnow. Some people say I let him go but why would I do such a stupid thing. So just to keep the record straight I will repeat; “He escaped.”
So here is where things started going a little wrong. Schoolmaster Curnow knew we had damaged the tracks in order to shoot whatever policemen may have escaped the train wreck.
He heard the train coming and ran down the track with a lantern to warn them. It was three in the morning when all those policemen and aboriginal trackers got off the trains. There were so many of them that it took two trains to get them all there.
We were now trapped in Mrs. Jones’ Glenrowan Inn along with a bunch of hostages.
We were equipped with armor that repelled bullets. The equipment was a little heavy. It weighed nearly 100 pounds but it covered us from the top of our heads to our knees.
Somehow the police knew about the armor. We had been testing it and were observed by a few locals as well as the fellow who made it for us. Someone had squealed on us; maybe it was Aaron Sherritt. We should have shot him a long time ago.
At ten paces the armor was very sufficient. We all had helmets. Joe Byrne’s was the best and all of us could see out of the helmets. We wore long coats reaching past our knees thinking that the police would not know we had armor.
The police and aboriginal trackers surrounded the Glenrowan Inn. One of them hollered a threat and told us to come out. I hollered an oath back to them and started shooting. The hostages were all screaming and hollering. It was very distracting.
The police opened fire and didn’t seem to care how much ammunition they were wasting. We had the hostages in the back room and told them to lay down. There was a substantial wall between the front room and the back room. We would fire out the front and then return to the back to reload our weapons. Bullets were flying all over and bouncing off our armor. Between the “twings” and “twangs” of the ricocheting bullets, the screaming of the hostages, and the breaking of glass the boys could hardly hear me shouting directions to them. The smoke became so thick that you could cut it with a knife. Of course I always enjoyed the smell of gunpowder so that was the only saving grace.
After about fifteen minutes of constant gunfire the police decided to stop shooting at us.
Mrs. Jones’ young boy had caught a bullet in the back. She stayed inside for some time although she wanted to take the boy out for help. She knew that the police would confuse her with one of us and take a shot at her. We saw the first light from sunup and advised her that it would probably be alright for her to take her son for help. I think she had gone insane by that time. She went outside, wandered around screaming nothing in particular and then went into the bush. She continued screaming and wandering around for some time. Soon she came back into the inn. One of the hostages talked her into taking the boy for help. She and the hostage were able to carry the boy outside. The police put him in a coach and he was taken to Wangaratta.
Some of the police officers who were wounded were put on railroad engine and taken back to Benalla for treatment. Onlookers and newspaper reporters started showing up. It was a wonder none of them were shot. We had some hostages that were shot by the police bullets.
Every once in a while the shooting would erupt again. I got hit but was able to move around. Steve Hart was slightly wounded and my brother Dan got hit bad. Joe Byrne was hit several times but his armor protected him.
The railroad engine that had taken some of the wounded police to Benalla returned. It was full of back-up police. I later learned they were called from all over the place. Some were from Benalla and others were from Wangaratta and Beechworth.
The newsmen kept good track of who arrived. They recorded that Superintendent Sadlier came from Benalla with nine more men and Sergeant Steele of Wangaratta brought six. The newspapers later said there were 30 more men just after sun-up.
Before daylight I left Joe Byrne in the inn and escaped into the brush. I layed still for a while but when the sun started coming up I moved to another spot. The pain made my thinking a little off. I had left my repeating rifle behind. All I had was my repeating pistol.
The plan was for Joe Byrne to send the women and children hostages out. While the police were busy with them I would attack the police from behind. It worked. The police became engrossed with the hostages thinking that my gang was hid among them.
In the early morning light I attacked the police from the rear.
All I had was my revolver. I used the trees for cover. The police returned fire.
I bought some time by moving from tree to tree. Three men attacked me at close quarters. My armor continued doing its job. They fell back in amazement. It wasn’t too long before someone realized there was no protection on the bottom part of my legs. It took two bullets before I dropped. One of them attempted to grab me but a drove him off with more gunfire. I had lost so much blood that I finally passed out. However, not before I hollered some of my best obscenities at the police.
A Sargent Steele got credit for my capture even though there wasn’t much “capturing” to be done.
I had been shot in the left foot, left leg, right hand, left arm, and twice in the groin. Every wound was were my armor failed to cover me; between the plates or in my shooting arm.
They took me to the railway station, and placed me in a guard’s van. Dr. Nicholson, of Benalla patched me up as good as he could. I guess they needed me alive to parade around as an example.
While they were busy with me my boys continued the gun fight. The female hostages that had been released told the police that Dan, Steve and Joe were still inside. Byrne got shot while drinking whisky at the bar. Steve and Dan kept shooting from the rear of the building most of the morning. Their armor continued to do the job it was designed for.
In the late morning a white flag was held out at the front door. My boys let 20 or 30 male hostages go. My brother Dan and Steve Hart continued watching the back door.
The police ordered all the hostages to lie down. They gave each one the once-over. Two brothers named McAuliffe were arrested as Kelly sympathizers.
In the middle of the afternoon a company of military men and a cannon was brought to the inn. They fired a few volleys but without results. Dan and Steve wouldn’t give up.
The police tried a new plan.
It was early afternoon and I was still laying in the railway station. I couldn’t hear any more shooting and asked what was happening. None of the dummies could hear my questions; maybe all that shooting effected their ears.
It really didn’t matter. I was looking at the station clock on the wall. It said “2pm.”
It was eerily silent for a gun battle. About forty-five minutes later I understood why. Several rounds of cannon fire were poured into the Glenrowan Inn. For sure my brother Dan and the boys were a bit concerned.
No small arms fire was returned from the inn. The police, being a cautious bunch, set fire to the inn. Another few rounds of cannon fire were sent tearing through the walls. Still no return fire.
My two sisters, Kate and Maggie, came to see me. The police asked them to go to the inn and talk the boys into giving up. The two girls told the police what they could do with that idea.
The inn became a roaring inferno. I could hear the timbers crackling while I lay in the train station. Maggie came back to tell me that the boys were dead and she could see them smoldering in the ruins. She was madder than a wombat.
All that was left standing of the hotel was the lamp-post and the signboard.
I made a few statements to the press. Some of them can be printed; others not. Here is one news article that is fairly accurate. Most of them were not.
“I was going down to meet the special train with some of my mates, and intended to rake it with shot; but it arrived before I expected, and I then returned to the hotel. I expected the train would go on, and I had the rails pulled up so that these %@$*&@ might be settled. I do not say what brought me to Glenrowan, but it seems much. Anyhow I could have got away last night, for I got into the bush with my grey mare, and lay there all night. But I wanted to see the thing end. In the first volley the police fired I was wounded on the left foot; soon afterwards I was shot through the left arm. I got these wounds in front of the house. I do not care what people say about Sergeant Kennedy’s death. I have made my statement of the affair, and if the public don’t believe me I can’t help it; but I am satisfied it is not true that Scanlan was shot kneeling. He never got off his horse. I fired three or four shots from the front of Jones’s hotel, but who I was firing at I do not know. I simply fired where I saw police. I escaped to the bush, and remained there overnight. I could have shot several constables if I liked. Two passed close to me. I could have shot them before they could shoot. I was a good distance away at one time, but came back. Why don’t the police use bullets instead of duck shot? I have got one charge of duck-shot in my leg. One policeman who was firing at me was a splendid shot, but I do not know his name. I daresay I would have done well to have ridden away on my grey mare. The bullets that struck my armor felt like blows from a man’s fist. I wanted to fire into the carriages, but the police started on us too quickly. I expected the police to come.”
Inspector Sadlier then asked me “You wanted, then, to kill the people in the train ?”
I answered “Yes, of course I did; God help them, but they would have got shot all the same. Would they not have tried to kill me?”
They had to carry me into the prison on a gurney.
When I got a little better they put me on trial; but that is another part of the story.
But before I go I have to show you what they did to poor Joe Byrne’s body.
Do you, any longer, wonder why we hated the police?
I feel so bad about Joe that I can’t even make a joke about “These Old Bones.
I wish the guy below would not look so happy. Maybe his is a constable.