Constable Bracken had seen where the Kellys had put the key of the room in which he and others had been imprisoned, and watching for his opportunity, while the Kellys were getting into their armour, opened the door and escaped from the hotel. The other prisoners feared being shot if they followed Bracken, and so decided to remain in the hotel. He rushed over to the railway station, into which the train had just come. Supt Hare had already given orders to unload the horses, but on hearing from Constable Bracken that the Kellys were in Jones’ hotel, and that the place was full of people bailed up there by the Kellys, he then called the men to let the horses go and follow him.
Supt Hare led the way, followed by Constables Kelly, Barry, Gascoigne, Phillips, Arthur, Inspector O’Connor, and five Queensland blacktrackers.
Before Constable Bracken left the hotel he told the civilians held up there to lie flat on the floor if there was any firing. Ned Kelly mounted his horse and rode round to the station; when close to the station he hurriedly jumped off his horse to take charge of the train. In doing so he broke a bolt in his armour and had some delay in repairing it. By this time the police had rushed over in front of the hotel and fired a volley. The women and children screamed, and Ned, thinking the screams came from the gate house, where Steve Hart had been, hastened down to their assistance. He got halfway between the gate house and Jones’ hotel, when he was shot in the foot, and almost immediately afterwards he received another shot in the arm. Ned then fired four shots from his Spencer rifle. He fired at the flashes made by the firing of the police at the hotel, which they (the police) knew was full of innocent men, women and children. One of these four shots hit Supt Hare. Ned’s hand was so badly injured that he was unable to use either rifle or revolver effectively.
The Kellys did not fire a single shot until Ned was wounded, which was the third volley from the police.
Ned went to the hotel and called out to those inside, “Put the lights out and lie down.” He then went around the back of the hotel and met Joe Byrne, who informed Ned that Constable Bracken had escaped. Ned told Dan and Steve to go into the hotel and to pull up the counters and barricade the sides of the building. The police now kept up the continuous fire at the hotel. The bullets went through the weatherboard walls as if they were cardboard. Ned then retired to a spot some distance from the hotel in the direction of the Warby Ranges, and lay down. He was bleeding freely. There was still a cartridge in his rifle.
Supt Hare retired after being shot in the wrist. He called out to O’Connor to surround the house, and he told Senior-Constable Kelly to do likewise. Hare continued: “Come on, O’Connor, the beggars have shot me; bring your boys with you and surround the house.” Supt Hare then retired from the field. He went over to the railway station and ordered the train back to Benalla so that he could receive medical attention. He did not offer to take the women, Mrs O’Connor and her sister, Miss Smith, back to Benalla with him; they were left to take their chance of being shot. Hare appeared to be bent on self-preservation. His wound was dressed by Dr Nicholson, but he (Supt Hare) also sent for his cousin, Dr Chas Ryan, of Melbourne. Hare did not return to the fight.
The screaming of the women and children in the hotel was heartrending, but the police, as if craving for someone’s blood, kept up a continuous and murderous fire on them. It was a bright moonlight night. Mrs Jones’ boy was shot by the police early in the encounter. Some of the civilians got out during a short lull in the murderous fire on the women and children from the ranks of the police. Mr James Reardon and his wife and children tried to escape from the hotel about daybreak, but were driven back by the volleys of hissing bullets directed towards them. They went into the hotel again. Mrs Reardon saw Byrne, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart in the passage. She said to them, “Will you allow us to go?” One of the three replied, “Yes, you can all go, but if you go out the police will shoot you.” Mrs Reardon put her little girl out in the yard and she screamed, and she herself followed and screamed. Dan Kelly said, “If you escape ——” “What will I do?” said Mrs Reardon. He replied, “See Hare and tell him to keep his men from shooting till daylight, and to allow these people all to go out, and then we shall fight for ourselves.”
Mrs Reardon, in giving evidence on oath before the Royal Commission, said: “I came into the yard and screamed for the police to have mercy on me. ‘I am only a woman; allow me to escape with my children. The outlaws will not interfere with us—do not you.’” (RC10617)
“I could see the men behind the trees. A voice said, ‘Put up your hands and come this way, or I will shoot you like —— dogs.’ The voice came from a tree behind the stable on the Wangaratta side. I did not know at the time whose voice it was. It was Sergeant Steele, but at the time I did not know who it was; I saw him afterwards. I put my baby under my arm and held up my hand, and my son let go one hand and held the other child by it, and we went straight on. The man commenced firing, and he kept firing against us. I cannot say he was firing at us, but against us. He was firing in my direction, and I got close to the fence, and the tree stood some distance from the fence of Jones’ yard, and as I did I saw a gun pointed at me. I then turned round and went down along the fence towards the railway station, and two shots went directly after me, and two went through the shawl that was covering the baby. I felt my arm shaking, and I said, ‘Oh, you have shot my child!’ I have the shawl here with two bullet holes in it. (Shawl produced and the holes in it examined).
This document gives you the text of this book about the KellyGang. The text has been retyped from a copy of the original. We have taken care to reproduce this document but areas of the original text may been damaged. We also apologise for any typographical errors. JJ Kenneally was one of the first authors to tell this story from the KellyGang's point of view