Thursday, May 5, 2011
Kelly Gang Armor
To protect himself and his gang-mates Kelly created four suits of armor, which consisted of an iron helmet and iron back- and breast-plates. Joe Byrne's suit was the only one without an apron to protect the groin and thighs, as a result he died from a shot to the groin. Ned's suit was the only one to also have an apron at the back. The suits' separate parts were strapped together on the body while the helmet was separate and sat on the shoulders allowing it to be removed easily when the need arose. Padding is only known from Ned's armour and it is not clear if the other suits were similarly padded. Ned wore a padded skull cap and his helmet also had internal strapping so his head could take some of the weight. All the men wore dustcoats over the armour.
The Victorian Police had been told three times by informants of the existence of the armour and that it was capable of deflecting bullets but Police Superintendents Hare and Sadlier both dismissed the information as "nonsense" and "an impossibility". Until Ned fell the police questioned whether he was human, one or the other thinking they were against the Devil or a bunyip. Constable Gascoigne, who recognised Ned's voice, told Superintendent Sadlier he had "fired at him point blank and hit him straight in the body. But there is no use firing at Ned Kelly; he can't be hurt". Although aware of the information supplied by the informant prior to the siege, Sadlier later wrote that even after Gascoigne's comment "no thought of armour" had occurred to him.
Following the siege of Glenrowan the media reported the events and use of armour around the world. The gang were admired in military circles and Arthur Conan Doyle commented on the gang's imagination and recommended similar armour for use by British infantry.
After Ned Kelly's capture there was considerable debate over having the armour destroyed, all four disassembled suits of armour were eventually stored by Police Superintendent Hare in Melbourne. Hare gave Ned Kelly's armour to Sir William Clarke, and it was later donated to the State Library of Victoria. Joe Byrne's suit of armour was kept by Hare and now belongs to his descendants. Dan Kelly and Steve Hart's armour are still owned by the Victorian Police force