The Royal Commission evidence for 31/8/1881
(see also introduction to day 47)
F. C. Standish giving evidence
16226 Did it ever come under your notice whether he was a man who could be relied upon or not?— I do not think he was a man with very much head, not much mental capacity. I would rather this should not be published
16227 We have plenty in the evidence already about him, that he was a man without courage at all at the time of the attempt to catch the Kellys?— I have seen that in the evidence.
16228 You were not aware whether he was a man of courage or not?— No, it was never brought under my notice one way or the other.
16229 Were you ever made aware whether he was given to intemperate habits?— I did not know that; I never saw him the least under the influence of liquor.
16230 Did you see the evidence given here, that the police were unable to use arms have you any explanation to give to the Commission why?— As you are aware, the only weapon that the mounted police had was the revolver, and a great many of them have had no practice with guns or rifles. If, as I understand, after this part of your labors is concluded, you proceed to enquire into the future organization of the police force, I shall on that occasion be most happy to give any information you wish; and I think I have some suggestions which, if you examine me, you will think it advisable to adopt. I remember, several years ago, insisting upon having all the men drilled here once a month, and bring and using their arms. There was a great outcry against it. The Chief Secretary of the day said this military organization was very bad and it must cease.
16231 It was through that that organization was prevented?— It did not interfere with the discipline of the force, but with its action as a semi-military body.
16232 We will not pursue that subject further at present. We simply have it in evidence that the men were not armed, and that when they were armed a great many did not know how to use them?— The weapons were breech-loading double-barrelled guns.
16233 That they were not expert in the use of them at all. Here is the report with reference to Mr. Brooke Smith.— “Benalla, 10th November 1879 . My dear Captain Standish ,—I went up to Beechworth on Tuesday last, the 4th instant, and returned the following day. I am sorry to have to write you on such a painful subject in connection with my visit. I saw poor Brooke Smith for a short time on each of those days, and he was a wreck both in body and in mind. There was no odour of liquor about him, but his appearance was wretched, and his memory apparently much gone. He seems to go about muttering and speaking incoherently about the Kellys , &c. He evidently has broken down in mind just now, and his presence as chief officer at Beechworth at the present time is simply a reproach to the department, and I assure you I cannot correspond with him on any matter of the slightest importance. But I have to write to Ward . It appears to me that the Kelly business has preyed upon Brooke 's mind, and that he requires change and medical attention and relief from duty for some time. I was quite shocked at the change I observed in him last week, and I fear the consequences if he is not removed; even suicide was suggested to me by more than one person at Beechworth. But I do not think Brookes has the courage for that remedy.” That is written by Mr. Nicolson . “I was also told that his private circumstances were bad just now, and that was also preying upon his mind. I would suggest that he be ordered promptly to Melbourne , and after a fortnight s leave of absence there, and quiet living among his private friends, you may then be able to decide what to do with him. At present he is not only useless in Beechworth but an object of reproach to the whole service.” Did you do anything upon that information?— If I remember right, I gave him leave, and he came down and stayed with Judge Hackett and his wife. I know he came down here for the benefit of his health and stayed with them.
16234 Is he in charge of the district now?— No; he is in the Wimmera district now, under Superintendent Nicholas, stationed at Horsham. He is in charge at Horsham, and has to assist Mr. Nicholas in the supervision of the district.
16235 You complained of Mr. Nicolson not giving you information?— I certainly did.
16236 Did you, as a matter of fact, show his private letters to Mr. Hare ? I may have shown him one, but I am not quite positive, and I am not in the habit of showing those letters to anybody.
16237 Mr. Nicolson complained that his advice was neglected. If you look at question No. 619 you will see he says— “Any advice I offered on the strength of my experience was pooh-poohed previous to that and on-that occasion.” That was with reference to the advice given by Mr. Nicolson . “On this occasion you left no record, neither did you verbally express to the gentlemen with whom you were associated as officers the importance of following out any course you thought best adapted for the object you had in view, neither in writing nor verbally?— No. The day I left was upon that occasion, the 12th. I was, as I tell you, when I came in from that party, completely prostrated; in fact when I was going about the street I had to be led about, and take the arm of someone. Your answer is that you were too incapacitated at that time to advise?— Yes. –—And Captain Standish did not ask you?— No.—Subsequently you say you performed all the functions pertaining to the Chief Commissionership of the colony?— Yes. You were in constant communication with the Government on matters official?— Yes. After you had time to recover your health, did you not think it of sufficient importance then, from the position you had occupied and the important position you then occupied, to consult with the Government, and to advise as to the best course?— I did not. Captain Standish at the time was in direct communication with the Government himself, and I was not. I did not know what course he was pursuing at all, and he never invited me to give any opinion. I gave an opinion once or twice, a suggestion, but on all those occasions he treated me with coldness and repelled me”?— That is utterly untrue.....
This document gives you the text of the report about the KellyGang for this day. The text has been retyped from a microfiche 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. This document is subject to coypright.