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Despite dubbing himself with a title more fitting for a comic book hero than an Australian bushranger, ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ Frederick Ward recruited children for armed holdups and shootouts with police. Originally a drover from Paterson River, New South Wales, Ward was charged with horse thievery and sent to Cockatoo Island, Sydney harbour in August 1856 to serve 10 years of hard labour. After escaping on 11 September 1863, he settled into a life of armed robbery. Among Ward’s juvenile accomplices was 16-year-old John Thomson, who was shot and captured by police during an armed robbery, 16-year-old orphan Thomas Mason, who was captured by police and convicted of highway robbery, and 13-year-old runaway William Monckton. On 25 May 1870, Ward was shot-dead by Constable Alexander Walker at Kentucky Creek, Uralla.

 

On this day …….. 28th of July 1923

The Sydney Harbour Bridge connects the Sydney CBD with the North Shore commercial and residential areas on Sydney Harbour. It is the largest steel arch bridge in the world, though not the longest, with the top of the bridge standing 134 metres above the harbour. In 1912, John Bradfield was appointed chief engineer of the bridge project, which also had to include a railway. Plans were completed in 1916 but the advent of WWI delayed implementation until 1922. Workshops were set up on Milson’s Point on the North Shore where the steel was fabricated into girders. Granite for the bridge’s construction was quarried near Moruya. Construction of the bridge began on the 28th of July 1923, and took 1400 men eight years to build at a cost of £4.2 million. Sixteen lives were lost during its construction, while up to 800 families living in the path of the proposed Bridge path were relocated and their homes demolished when construction started. The Premier of New South Wales, Jack Lang, opened Sydney Harbour Bridge on the 19th of March 1932.

 

On This Day ……. 31st May 1942

When the town of Darwin was bombed by the Japanese in World War II, Australians were forced to accept the reality of how close the war was. Further bombing raids continued along Australia’s northwestern coastline, and even Townsville and Mossman in far north Queensland, but the war was truly brought home to Australians living along the more populated east coast on the day that three Japanese submarines entered Sydney Harbour. On the afternoon of 31 May 1942, three Japanese submarines sat approximately thirteen kilometres out from Sydney Harbour. Each launched a midget submarine, hoping to sink an American heavy cruiser, the USS Chicago, which was anchored in the harbour. One midget was detected by harbour defences at about 8:00pm, but was not precisely located until it became entangled in the net; the two-man crew of the submarine blew up their own vessel to avoid capture. When the second midget was detected after 10:00pm, a general alarm was sounded. The third midget was damaged by depth charges, and the crew also committed suicide to avoid capture. When the second midget was detected after 11:00pm and fired upon, the submarine returned fire, hitting the naval depot ship HMAS Kuttabul, a converted harbour ferry, which served as an accommodation vessel. Nineteen Australian and two British sailors on the Kuttabul died, the only Allied deaths resulting from the attack, and survivors were pulled from the sinking vessel. The submarine presumably returned to its mother ship, known as I-24. Nine days later, on 8 June 1942, I-24 surfaced off Sydney, about 10 km off Maroubra. For four minutes, the submarine’s deck gun was fired at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Every shot landed well short of its target, with at least 10 shells hitting the residential suburbs of Rose Bay, Woollahra and Bellevue Hill. All but one of the shells failed to explode and there were no fatalities or serious injuries.

On this day …….. 28th September 1973

The Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, sits on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour. Designed by Danish architect Joern Utzon in 1955, it has become one of the most famous performing arts venues in the world. Utzon arrived in Sydney to oversee the project in 1957 and work commenced on the opera House in 1959. The building was completed in 1973, at a cost of $102 million, and formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 20 October 1973. The opening was celebrated with fireworks and a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Prior to this, however, Sergei Prokofiev’s ‘War and Peace’ was played at the Opera Theatre on 28 September 1973. The following day, the first public performance was held, with a programme performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Charles Mackerras and with accompanying singer Birgit Nilsson.

 

On this day …….. 11th September 1863

Bushranger Captain Thunderbolt was born Frederick Ward at Wilberforce near Windsor, NSW, in 1836. As an excellent horseman, his specialty was horse stealing. For this, he was sentenced in 1856 to ten years on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. On 1 July 1860, Ward was released on a ticket-of-leave to work on a farm at Mudgee. While he was on ticket-of-leave, he returned to horse-stealing, and was again sentenced to Cockatoo Island. Conditions in the gaol were harsh, and he endured solitary confinement a number of times. On the night of 11 September 1863, he and another inmate escaped from the supposedly escape-proof prison by swimming to the mainland. After his escape, Ward embarked on a life of bushranging, under the name of Captain Thunderbolt. Much of his bushranging was done around the small NSW country town of Uralla. A rock originally known as “Split Rock” became known as “Thunderbolt’s Rock”. After a six-year reign as a “gentleman bushranger”, Thunderbolt was shot dead by Constable Alexander Walker in May 1870.

 

On this day …….. 20th of August 1857

Irishman James Johnson the sole survivor of the Dunbar which was wrecked near the entrance to Sydney Harbour on 20th August 1857 with the loss of 121 lives. Nine years later, help by two other men, Johnson was responsible for rescuing the sole survivor of the Cawarra which was wrecked off Newcastle on 12th July 1866 with the loss of 61 lives.

 

On this day …….. 20th of August 1857

The Dunbar was a first class sailing vessel, and, at 1,320 tonnes, was the largest of the time to be built at Sunderland shipyards in England. The vessel left Plymouth on 31 May 1857, carrying 63 passengers and 59 crew. On the night of 20 August 1857, the Dunbar approached the heads of Sydney Harbour. It seems that the captain, though experienced in Sydney waters, was disoriented by the driving rain and gale conditions. Possibly he mistook ‘The Gap’, a spectacular ocean cliff near South Head, for the entrance to Sydney Harbour. The swell pushed the ship into the reef at the foot of South Head and the Dunbar began to break up immediately. Only one person survived: 23 year old Irish seaman James Johnson, who was flung into the cliffs where he managed to gain a foothold, remaining there until he was noticed clinging to a ledge in the morning. A mass funeral was held on 24 September for those who died in the shipwreck, as many of them were unidentified. A monument to the victims still sits at St Stephen’s Cemetery, Camperdown.

 

Despite dubbing himself with a title more fitting for a comic book hero than an Australian bushranger, ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ Frederick Ward recruited children for armed holdups and shootouts with police. Originally a drover from Paterson River, New South Wales, Ward was charged with horse thievery and sent to Cockatoo Island, Sydney harbour in August 1856 to serve 10 years of hard labour. After escaping on 11 September 1863, he settled into a life of armed robbery. Among Ward’s juvenile accomplices was 16-year-old John Thomson, who was shot and captured by police during an armed robbery, 16-year-old orphan Thomas Mason, who was captured by police and convicted of highway robbery, and 13-year-old runaway William Monckton. On 25 May 1870, Ward was shot-dead by Constable Alexander Walker at Kentucky Creek, Uralla.

 

On this day …….. 28th of July 1923

The Sydney Harbour Bridge connects the Sydney CBD with the North Shore commercial and residential areas on Sydney Harbour. It is the largest steel arch bridge in the world, though not the longest, with the top of the bridge standing 134 metres above the harbour. In 1912, John Bradfield was appointed chief engineer of the bridge project, which also had to include a railway. Plans were completed in 1916 but the advent of WWI delayed implementation until 1922. Workshops were set up on Milson’s Point on the North Shore where the steel was fabricated into girders. Granite for the bridge’s construction was quarried near Moruya. Construction of the bridge began on the 28th of July 1923, and took 1400 men eight years to build at a cost of £4.2 million. Sixteen lives were lost during its construction, while up to 800 families living in the path of the proposed Bridge path were relocated and their homes demolished when construction started. The Premier of New South Wales, Jack Lang, opened Sydney Harbour Bridge on the 19th of March 1932.

 

On This Day ……. 31st May 1942

When the town of Darwin was bombed by the Japanese in World War II, Australians were forced to accept the reality of how close the war was. Further bombing raids continued along Australia’s northwestern coastline, and even Townsville and Mossman in far north Queensland, but the war was truly brought home to Australians living along the more populated east coast on the day that three Japanese submarines entered Sydney Harbour. On the afternoon of 31 May 1942, three Japanese submarines sat approximately thirteen kilometres out from Sydney Harbour. Each launched a midget submarine, hoping to sink an American heavy cruiser, the USS Chicago, which was anchored in the harbour. One midget was detected by harbour defences at about 8:00pm, but was not precisely located until it became entangled in the net; the two-man crew of the submarine blew up their own vessel to avoid capture. When the second midget was detected after 10:00pm, a general alarm was sounded. The third midget was damaged by depth charges, and the crew also committed suicide to avoid capture. When the second midget was detected after 11:00pm and fired upon, the submarine returned fire, hitting the naval depot ship HMAS Kuttabul, a converted harbour ferry, which served as an accommodation vessel. Nineteen Australian and two British sailors on the Kuttabul died, the only Allied deaths resulting from the attack, and survivors were pulled from the sinking vessel. The submarine presumably returned to its mother ship, known as I-24. Nine days later, on 8 June 1942, I-24 surfaced off Sydney, about 10 km off Maroubra. For four minutes, the submarine’s deck gun was fired at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Every shot landed well short of its target, with at least 10 shells hitting the residential suburbs of Rose Bay, Woollahra and Bellevue Hill. All but one of the shells failed to explode and there were no fatalities or serious injuries.

On this day …….. 25th May 1870

Bushranger Captain Thunderbolt was born Frederick Ward at Wilberforce near Windsor, NSW, in 1836. As an excellent horseman, his specialty was horse stealing. For this, he was sentenced in 1856 to ten years on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. On 1 July 1860, Ward was released on a ticket-of-leave to work on a farm at Mudgee. While he was on ticket-of-leave, he returned to horse-stealing, and was again sentenced to Cockatoo Island. Conditions in the gaol were harsh, and he endured solitary confinement a number of times. On the night of 11 September 1863, he and another inmate escaped from the supposedly escape-proof prison by swimming to the mainland. After his escape, Ward embarked on a life of bushranging, under the name of Captain Thunderbolt. Much of his bushranging was done around the small NSW country town of Uralla. A rock originally known as “Split Rock” became known as “Thunderbolt’s Rock”. After a six-year reign as a “gentleman bushranger”, Thunderbolt was allegedly shot dead by Constable Alexander Walker on 25 May 1870. However, there remains some contention as to whether it was actually Thunderbolt who was killed, or his brother William, also known as ‘Harry’.

On this day ………… 26th February 1872

In the early 1870s, Australia was still in the grip of “gold fever”. Visitors to New Guinea had also sent back reports of gold being found on its southern coast, while geologists declared that New Guinea was prime prospecting country. With this in mind, the New Guinea Prospecting Association was formed in Sydney in 1871. Its purpose was to buy a ship to sail to New Guinea, settle along the coast and prospect their way to fortune. The brig ‘Maria’ was an ex coal-trading ship, old and possibly not suited to the purpose of such an extended journey as from Sydney to New Guinea. It departed Sydney Harbour on 25 January 1872 with many of the members of the Association on board. The ‘Maria’, which was found to leak, was unable to withstand a tropical storm which hit the brig off the coast of Queensland between February 17th and 25th. Pumps were insufficient to keep up with the water intake sustained by the vessel, and when the Barrier Reef was sighted, the captain made for it, knowing something of the bays and safe passages within. Despite his confidence, however, the ship ran aground on Bramble Reef on the morning of 26 February 1872. There were insufficient boats to carry the passengers ashore, especially after the captain deserted in one. Rafts were quickly constructed as it was evident the Maria was breaking up. Of the estimated 75 people on board, 35 people were killed, some by drowning and some by a hostile group of Aborigines. One of the survivors was Lawrence Hargrave, the Australian who would later become the inventor of the box kite.