The Queensland police blacktrackers whom Ned feared so much were now preparing for the trip home. How ironic this was, if only Ned had known that his biggest threat was being removed as he was holding up Glenrowan. (Where was the ‘Bush Telegraph” that was famous for supplying the Kelly Gang with movements of the police?) Once news of Aaron’s death came through, the trackers were asked to assist in the pursuit under the command of their leader Sub Inspector O’Connor. Newspapermen and a few others accompanied the police on the ‘special’ train.
The special arrived at Benalla (the police headquarters for the North East) around 1AM Monday morning. Hare boarded the train with his men and horses. According to a telegraph (shown below) held in the archives, Hare anticipated the ripping up of the rails and asked for a pilot engine.
As it turned out, Hare was able to use the special, which had been involved in a minor accident at Craigieburn (it crashed through the gates, disabling its brakes), as a pilot, and thus swapped the locos around. (imagine the way history would have been different had the train not had this accident at Craigieburn, in that case the train would have arrived before Curnow had left the Inn, and therefore everyone on that train could have perished!). Hare had a crazy idea to strap a policeman to the front of the pilot engine to keep an eye open for any danger ahead, this idea was abandoned fortunately. Curnow whom Ned had allow to go home, had a plan to save the train and its occupants. He ensured his wife was ok and then started preparing his buggy. He was organising this when he heard the distinctive sound of a train in the cool quiet night air. Plans had to change quick, so he ran as fast as he could along the tracks holding a candle and red scarf.
His plan was to stop the train and he was risking his life in a big way doing this. Sympathisers were all about and his chance of being shot whilst holding a candle was immense.
The two trains blew their whistles, signifying that there was danger ahead and at the same time alerting the gang to their fate. The stopping of the train had destroyed the gang’s plan. (the rails had been lifted on the Wangaratta side of Glenrowan, therefore it was still safe for a train to stop at the platform.)
The train slowly pulled into Glenrowan station, lights were extinguished onboard and pillows placed against windows by reporters for protection. These trains were very vulnerable to any attack, one which fortunately never eventuated. In fact trains would be driven to and from the siege all day and the crews of these trains showed great bravery and were later rewarded for their efforts.
Superintendent Hare, the man in charge of the ‘Kelly’ chase, ran with some of his
officers to the stationmaster’s house after being indirectly informed by Curnow that the
gang was nearby. In doing so, Hare only just missed running into Steve Hart on
horseback. Upon arrival at the Stationmasters he found Mrs. Stanistreet in a terrified state.
She pointed toward Morgan’s
lookout and told him that the gang was behind the Glenrowan Inn. Fortunately, a bit earlier, Constable Bracken had managed to fold up the hem of his trousers and slip in the key to the Inn and as the gang donned armour in a back room, made good his escape. He ran straight to the station warning Hare of the gang’s actual location and then rode off to get help. Unfortunately he appears to have neglected to inform the police that the gang were not the only occupants of the Inn.
Ned rode down to see this unfold and then returned to the Inn. Steve had also left the inn on horseback to see what was going on.
The time of reckoning had come, the Kelly gang on one side, the police the other! All hell was about to break loose.
Hare with several constables and a civilian ran towards the Inn. O’Connor and his men also ran towards the Inn via the drains (O’Connor stayed there all day). To their surprise Ned and the boys were standing on the veranda of the Inn, having been hidden in the shadows, whilst the moonlight illuminated the police.
Most likely Ned and the gang fired first. Hare stood out as he was 6’6″ and Ned fired a lucky shot that hit him in the wrist. (Ned said later, that he had no idea who he was shooting at) The police returned fire with Ned receiving several paralysing wounds and Joe was hit in the leg. Constable Phillips who was close by the Inn, overheard Ned tell Joe that he had been wounded with a bullet through his foot, another in the arm. The wounding of Hare was to be the only major wounding of any police officer. (A tracker would be wounded slightly on the forehead.)
Ned left the Inn several times. He watched as sky-rockets were launched and headed toward their origin, possibly to send away the many armed sympathisers who it is said had come to help fight. (the police reported that there were many armed men close by during the siege) Ned would come and go four times, the police firing at him but nevertheless allowing him to get away each time. In fact it was on Ned’s final exit from the Inn that he believed Dan and Steve had followed him. He saw that Joe was dead and called the boys to come with him. For some reason they did not and eventually he would return to try and save them.
Hare’s loss of blood meant that he had to leave the fight. Artist Carrington had dressed the wound incorrectly (a claim he later denied) and the blood loss became critical. Despite Hare trying to return to the battle several times, he eventually fainted and had to be sent away.
For some time after Hare’s departure no one was in charge of the police at the siege. Chaos reigned as police fired wildly into the Inn, despite the screams of the innocent people inside. An order had been made to ‘aim high’, and another to aim at the chimneys (believing the outlaws were hiding in there). Unfortunately most bullets were fired into the flimsy boards of which the Inn was constructed.
Several prisoners were shot by the police during the fray, including young Johnny Jones who would die the night after in Wangaratta hospital. Also wounded was platelayer Martin Cherry, he would perish after being taken from the Inn.
Early on in the battle there were only a handful of police (and escape would have been easy), now there were many. Over time they would arrive from Wangaratta, Beechworth and Benalla. The Inn was finally surrounded and escape was now impossible for Dan and Steve. Both outlaws called to the police to stop firing and let the people go. It was the police not the gang that were holding them there and causing such danger to hang over their heads. Even when a white flag was used, it was fired upon by police.
On several occasions people made a run for it only to be shot at by police. The worst offender was Sgt Steele who exclaimed “I have shot mother Jones in the t**s!” A very brave const Arthur told Steele that he would shoot him if he did not cease firing at civilians. Not only did Steele shoot at Mrs. Jones, he also fired at and hit Michael Reardon in the shoulder as he only held up one arm! At Ned’s capture it would be Bracken who warned Steele that he would be shot if he tried to kill Ned. (Steele had Ned by the throat and beard and threatened to kill him)