Captain Thunderbolt-Bushranger
(Frederick Wordsworth Ward)

Captain Thunderbolt's Statue Uralla

Copyright © 2000 Barry Sinclair,

Many books and stories have been written about Thunderbolt, with much of the truth about those days, the best of these "on the net" is written by Gary Dean. Some writers, however, let their imagination run riot.  I do not wish to write here, about what has already been written & well documented, however many articles and stories in books and on the net have obvious and provable mistakes & should be read or listened to with caution. One should always be aware that "history" can change as new facts or new findings become known.

One of the more recent book on Thunderbolt was written by Carol Baxter, an ajunct lecturer from Armidale University. If she had checked her work thoroughly it could have been one of the best books written on Thunderbolt. However because she did not check all the available material in Uralla it is a complete disaster, and I would not recomend anyone to purchase this book.

"Captain Thunderbolt & his Lady".

by Carol Baxter

Published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in 2011

On the cover of this book Carol has "The true story of bushrangers Frederick Ward & Mary Ann Bugg".

In fact her story on Mary Ann is the least accurate of any book or any research I have seen on the truth about the facts of the life of Mary Ann. If Carol had researched this book fully it could have been one of the best books written to date on "Captain Thunderbolt & his Lady". However as it is written, it is a total disaster and I would not recommend anyone to buy it as it is adds many more false myths to Frederick Ward and Mary Ann, recording a total abscence of facts.

For anyone writing a book about an Aboriginal Australian, to not consult with Mary Ann's Aboriginal tribes in Berrico & Gunnedah shows her total lack of accurate historical research & throws into question the accuracy of all her other books.

In the notes below I will mainly comment on parts of chapter 38, which commences on page 318. As you can see by my comments below, the entire chapter is historically false which can be proven with adequate research. Carol is an excellent "Mills & Boon novel writer" and this book is well written as a novel, however as a historical research writer her work leaves much to be desired, as so much of this book can be proven to be historically false.

On Carol's web page ( she claims she has used all the material available & yet, according to her own statement, she did not check in at the University of New England Heritage Centre, home of the University of New England & Regional Archives and the Museum of Education on the corner of Dangar and Kentucky Streets, Armidale which has the largest collection on Thunderbolt material available in any research centre or Museum in Australia.

While I have researched all of the material at the Newling Centre & have copied some of their information, in my own archives at home, I have well over double all the information that they have on their records. While they have seen much of my material the Newling Centre would like to copy it all to add to their files.

With relation to Carol's extensive use of Mary Anne Burrows (according to Mary Anne's son's birth certificate, the information, given by herself, shows her maiden name as Burgess) her age at her death in 1905 shows her as being 70 years old making her birth year as 1835. However according to her death certificate she had only lived in NSW for about 68 years having been born in the Bay of Islands New Zealand in 1835, meaning she arrived in NSW in approximately 1837 & we know Mary Ann Bugg was born in 1834. This is confirmed by her step mother, Charlotte Bugg's death certificate,which also shows she was born in 1834.

It is also easily proved that Mary Ann Bugg was born in 1834, from her daughter, Marina Emily's birth certificate in 1861 showing Mary Ann as being 27 years old, making it totally impossible for Mary Ann Bugg and Mary Anne Burgess to be the same person.

This makes a total mockery of Carol's entire research & all the the stories she has in her book. If I recorded all the mistakes that are provable in her book my review of her book would be larger than her book itself.


On page 322 2nd paragraph "Senior Constable Mulhall pushed his horse hard as he raced the four miles south to Uralla".

For anyone who has driven along the area it is less than three miles & it is south from Uralla not to Uralla.

Page 322 3rd paragraph "Young Michael Coughlan..." The correct spelling is James Coghlan. James lived on the next property to our family property near Bostobrick & when his wife died after childbirth his family moved into my Great grand-parents home & were reared by them.

Page 324 bottom paragraph 3rd sentence "Six or seven circuitous miles they had travelled........." For anyone who has walked the distance from Blanch's Inn to the spot where the person was shot by Walker, would know that the total distance is less than 2 miles.

Page 325 2nd paragraph "He followed the bushranger over a spur and saw a large waterhole in front of them, about 350 yards in length."

Two days after the death of Thunderbolt, Walker reenacted the shooting for a photographer, Mr Cunningham of Armidale. "Mr A Cunningham has taken several excellent photographics to illustrate the end of Thunderbolt, and other matters connected with it. Of Ward's dead horse there are two views. There are three different views of the spot on which the final struggle took place, Mr. Walker being shown supposedly in the same dress and on the same horse as he had when he came upon the western side of the creek; the reality of the scene being added to by Mr. Smoker, of Uralla, representing, on the eastern side, Ward - each with a weapon levelled at his opponent. To secure a good view, Mr Cunningham took the trouble to cut down several trees. Then there are two portraits of Mr Walker, one being full length; while there are three of Thunderbolt when he was lying dead, after the post-mortem examination. One represents him with his hat off, another with his hat on, and the third is his profile."

This photo was published in the Armidale Express on the 3rd June, 1870.

Thunderbolt Death Scene taken 27th May 1870 courtesy Newling Research Centre Armidale

If the waterhole is 350 yards as Carol Baxter claims, then the two men must be at least 30 feet tall

Page 327 "1st three paragraphs "With a mighty splash the bushranger fell into the water and sank for a moment. Then he rose again with water pouring off him, ............He flung himself at the trooper, attempting to pull him off his horse and into the water.

Walker had fired his last bullet, so he smashed his revolver down onto the bushranger's forehead. The man sunk again. When next he surfaced he had blood oozing out of his mouth."


Report of Dr Oettle, Former Director of the Division of Forensic Medicine in the Department of Health of New South Wales - dated December 4th, 2003

As stated to you previously, Dr.Spasshatt has defined injuries clearly and refers to only two bullet wounds, the one on the front of the chest being the entry wound and that on the right side of the chest, being the exit. He mentions that both lungs were penetrated by the bullet, that the mouth contained blood which was consistent with blood rising from the lungs into the pharynx during the terminal attempts to breath. The blood flow to the rest of the body was diverted by that lost by the lungs injuries, to the chest cavities and the air passages.

I would expect him to loose both motor and cognative function within about ten seconds because of the blood being lost through the lung injuries and both lungs collapsing. This figure is bourne out both by my experience of similar circumstance and by others documented in the USA. On occasion life as evidenced by occasional deep breaths can extend for about 3 minutes depending on the severity of the injuries received, but, in any case, no motor function can be expected after about the shorter figure given above and this might be very much less depending on whether the great vessels at the base of the heart were involved in the injuries, let alone the heart. However, Dr. Spasshatt mentions only the lung injuries. Lung collapse together with the injuries would be more than enough to cause sudden death and rapid lack of motor function compounded by breathing in water if the account of the incident is correct. He also makes no mention of any head injury or any other gun shot injury.

I hope this answers your questions and I would be happy to hear from you should you wish to discuss it further.

Godfrey Oettle

The above letter from Dr. Godfrey Oettle is a final proof of the inaccuracies in this chapter as written by Carol Baxter.

Godfrey has agreed to go to court on my behalf if anyone legally disputes my research. He has never lost a case anywhere in the world over the years.


Just a further couple of points of mistakes in Carol's Book.

In her book Carol claims the prisoners escaped from Cockatoo Island to the north of the river to Woolwich & that Mary Ann was not there with them.

If you look at a map of Cockatoo Island and its surrounds. At low tide the Parramatta River on the north side is flowing at such a pace that it is nearly impossible to swim to Woolwich. (I have personally rowed a boat around the island) while on the South side of the Island at Fitzroy Dock, under which the 2 Fredericks, Ward & Britten, waited for Mary Ann to arrive before dawn from the area now known as Birchgrove. Mary Ann was working in a home near the river calling herself, by chance, Louisa Mason. (At this time Louisa Clarke had not married Bob Mason so using that name was a part coinsidance) With the flow of the river at low tide it was a very easy swim for the two Freds from Fitzroy Dock to the point at Birchgrove near where Mary Ann stayed. It was not called Birchgrove at that time but was part of Balmain. (I worked at the old power station in Balmain in 1952)

Cockatoo Island


The photo is the sight from the dock where the two Fred's hid while waiting for Mary Ann to rescue them and take them across the part of Parramatta River where she had been staying. You might also note that one of the streets on the point is called Louisa Rd. Mary Ann used the name "Louisa Mason" for the rescue of the two men.

In the introduction to one of the best books written on the life of Thunderbolt, Stephan William's "A Ghost called Thunderbolt." he quotes " Regarding Captain Thunderbolt only two things are not in dispute: the quality of the horses that he stole and rode, and the fact that he never killed or injured those whom he robbed or went in pursuit of him. Everything else is the subject of controversy".

I would like to add some of the family stories, and show some of the most recent research of original police and newspaper articles I have undertaken at the State Records at Kingswood in Western Sydney, the New South Wales State Library in Macquarie St, Sydney, at the Newling Research Centre of the UNE Armidale and at the Police Library in Sydney. I hope to be able to correct some of the myths and provable errors so often written in books and spoken about, in what is known as, " The Legend of Captain Thunderbolt."

Anyone claiming to have thoroughly researched "Thunderbolt" without having visited the Newling Heritage Centre at the southern end of Dangar St in Armidale and going through the totality of their research material, are wasting their time. They have by far the best collection of published and unpublished material available in reseach centres and library's in Australia at the present time. In May 2010 they received a copy of all of the records from the State Records at Kingswood in Western Sydney following our application through NSW Parliament for the records to be released to the public.

However currently, I have at least twice as much factual material in my own records at the present time, than is available at the Newling Heritage Centre, in Armidale. I can be contacted to review my records by appointment.

Follow this link for one of the better sites for students
researching articles on "The Australian Bushrangers".

The following are links to some of my research material on the life of Thunderbolt.

  • Barry Sinclair's personal credentials.
  • "The Legend of Captain Thunderbolt" by Arnold Goode, Uralla.
  • Michael Handley Thompson Ward-Thunderbolt's grandfather.
  • Thunderbolt's Birth and Parents.        
  • Fact sheet on the Death of Thunderbolt.        New information -22nd February, 2011
  • Inquest on the Death of Thunderbolt.
  • The life of Will Monckton.        New information -5th September, 2010
  • Sen. Constable John Mulhall.        New information -31st October, 2010
  • The story of the Thunderbolt Statue.
  • Answers to Uralla Historical Society Comments.        New information -1st November, 2010
  • 3 Thunderbolt Photos & story.
  • Significent Thunderbolt Dates.        New information -22nd February, 2011
  • Tocal version of Thunderbolt story.
  • Comments on Tocal's version of Thunderbolt story.        New information -4th February, 2011
  • McCrossin's Mill & Thunderbolt Gallery.
  • Comments on Pomroy's Paintings.        New information -30th January, 2011
  • Thunderbolt's Way
  • Graham Rodger - Singer/Songwriter "Thunderbolt Song".
  • Poems & Songs about Thunderbolt.        Updated -5th September, 2010
  • Captain Thunderbolt's Lady - Mary Ann Bugg.        
  • Review of Books on Thunderbolt's life.         Last updated on Thursday 14th April, 2011
  • Links to other stories on Bushrangers.         Last updated on Sunday 16th May, 2011
  • Links to other Australian Bushrangers Sites.
  • Captain Thunderbolt - ( Ward / Bugg) Family Tree.
  • This Rootsweb site currently contains 1520 family names updated Wednesday, 16th January, 2013.

    Back to Sinclair Family Home page

    If anyone has further facts or stories to add to this page please

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    or write to me at

    Barry Sinclair
    Unit 15, Valentine Cl
    Woodberry Village
    129 Lanhams Rd
    Winston Hills

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    Barry Sinclair's Personal Credentials|An alternative Thunderbolt Theory|Michael Ward|Thunderbolt's birth details|Thunderbolt's Death| Answers to the Uralla Historical Society|Inquest|The life of Will Monckton|Sen. Constable John Mulhall| Thunderbolt Statue|Significant Dates|3 Photos
    |Tocal version of Thunderbolt story|Comments on Tocal's version of Thunderbolt story.|McCrossin's Mill| Comments on Pomroy's Paintings.|Thunderbolts Way|Graham Rodger, Songwriter|Poems & Songs|Mary Ann Bugg|Bushranger Stories|Links to other Bushranger sites| Book Reviews| Ward Family Tree|

    Since September 5th, 2001

    Copyright © 2000 Barry Sinclair

    Last updated on Saturday, 9th March, 2013.

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