From the 1863 New South Wales Police Gazette. Bushranger Ben Hall strikes again;
This tiny snippet was the only mention of the robbery at that time, and no-one was ever charged. In those days, travelling the country’s rural roads was a dangerous business and outlaws led the police on a merry old dance. It would be more than twenty years before the full story of the incident was revealed.
Charles Herbert Battye was better known to his friends and family as Bertie. The young surveyor was a local sportsman; a good shot, an athlete and a lover of horse-racing. Back in September 1863 he and a fellow surveyor were out on their horses near the central western town of Forbes when they were confronted by bushranger Ben Hall and his gang. Battye was the son of Captain Edward Battye, the well known police superintendent in the region, and thus considered a special ‘prize’.
The following story was related many years later by none other than John Vane himself. He was the only member of the gang to survive those violent years of shootouts between bushrangers and police.
By now retired, bushranger Vane joked to Bathhurst resident Mr H. Bayliss about Battye’s surprise response to their stick-up, and eventually it ended up in the press. Bayliss published a piece in The Bathurst Times in 1924 under the following headline;
Ben Hall and his cohorts were notorious for holding up stagecoaches, and thus were always in need of good, fresh horses. On this occasion they demanded that the unarmed Bertie and his mate Randolph ‘Dosh’ Machattie hand over their mounts. With guns at their temples they could hardly refuse. However. Bertie was so annoyed that in a rush of blood he declared he would take on any member of the gang in a fist fight.
HIS LIFE IN THEIR HANDS
One or two of the men wanted to answer his cheek with a bullet, but fortunately the others took it in good humour. They jokingly selected Vane’s good mate Mickey Burke as a suitable opponent. However, since Bertie was only a little fellow it was decided it would be beneath their ‘gentlemen of the road’ code of honour to beat him up. Along with Dosh Machattie, Bertie had to walk home; lacking his horse, his cash and his dignity, but at least with his life. His police officer father would not have been impressed!
A biography of bushranger Vane by Craig Bratby contained a bit more information;
The citizens of Bathurst lost a good deal of cash and goods thanks to Machattie’s and Battye’s jibes.
THE ULTIMATE FATE OF THOSE INVOLVED
Bertie Battye became a stock and station agent at Forbes, but went broke, leaving substantial debts and assets worth only five pounds. Subsequently he became an inspector with the Lands Department at Orange. He had his own brush with the law when he was convicted of bribery in 1896 and promptly sacked. He died in Sydney three years later, aged 55; impoverished and broken in health. Oddly enough his daughter Aimee would grow up to behave in a similar way to Ben Hall, although her choice of weapon was charm rather than a shotgun.
John Vale left Hall’s gang when his good mate Mickey Burke was shot dead during a raid on a homestead at Dunn’s Plains. However, he continued to live a life of crime and served two lengthy gaol terms. He died of natural causes in 1906
Bushranger Ben Hall was shot dead by police on May 5 1865, aged just 27.
Hall is buried in the Forbes cemetery.
FOR THE STORY OF BERTIE BATTYE’S DAUGHTER AIMEE EDOLS