The Twelve Hours Siege at Glenrowan
It was 3 am on Monday June 28th, 1880, when the pilot engine attached to the special police train, pulled in to this very platform at Glenrowan. Among its passengers were Supt. Hare and seven constables from Benalla, Sub-Inspector O’Connor with five black trackers from Queensland, four reporters and a number of other civilians, including several women.
Shortly after their arrival they were informed by Constable Bracken, who had escaped from the Glenrowan Inn, that the Kelly’s were inside and about to leave. Under the light of a full moon, the police immediately made a frontal assault. Without warning, the gang opened fire on the approaching men. The police immediately took cover behind the fence surrounding the station and in the gully, which today is where the police bollards are sited, and returned the fire.
Supt. Hare was wounded by the very first shot and several of the thirty odd hostages being held in the Inn were wounded by the police firing. Heavy shooting continued over the next four hours, with one bullet mortally wounding a member of the gang, Joe Byrne in the groin.
At around seven o’clock, Ned Kelly, wearing his famous armour, left the building and moved to a position some 30 metres to the side of the Inn to catch the police in a crossfire.
Their numbers by this time had increased to about 30 officers and when Ned started shooting from his new position, the 15 minute gun battle which followed gave birth to the expressions “as game as Ned Kelly”.
The combined police pistol, shot gun and rifle fire finally brought Ned to the ground and after a short scuffle he was disarmed and captured.
Stripped of his armour, he was taken to the railway station building and attended to by Dr Nicholson. At 10:15 am, there was a cease fire and the last of the hostages were released, leaving the last two members of the gang, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart to shoot it out with the police.
By mid morning the railway tracks had been repaired and word had spread throughout the district, bringing hundreds of spectators to the scene. Some even climbed onto the roof of the station building for a better view of the siege. More police had also arrived bringing their number up to fifty-two.
As the siege dragged on the police were starting to become concerned that if it continued into the night, the bushrangers may slip through the police cordon in the dark. It was finally decided to flush out the remaining gang members and at around 3 pm, Senior Constable Johnston crept up to the Inn and set fire to it.
When the fire died down, the remains of two bodies believed to be those of Dan and Steve were found among the ashes. The Kelly Gang had finally been destroyed. Casualties incurred during the siege included: the deaths of three gang members, Joe Byrne, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart; the death of two hostages, Johnny Jones and Martin Sherry. Those injured were Supt. Hare, a Queensland black tracker, and the hostages Jan Jones, Michael Reardon and William Metcalf.
Ned was conveyed to Benalla, then on to Melbourne the following morning under heavy police guard, and placed in the prison hospital of the Melbourne Gaol. After being nursed back to health, he was tried and sentenced to death. At 10 am on the 11th November, 1880, he was hung. At the time of his death Ned was barely twenty-six years old.
His famous last words were… “such is life”.
Source: An Easy Self-guided Walk Around the Glenrowan Siege Site,
Wangaratta Visitor Information Centre
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