CATALYST ABC TV / ANSTO Investigation (Paul Willis - Reporter)
The big question
about the armour is 'how was it made?' The armour tested was the suit
that belonged to Joe Byrne (now owned by Rupert Hammond).
Was it made by a professional blacksmith or by the amateur Kelly gang
out in the bush? The key to finding out who made the armour lies in the
temperature that the metal was heated to. A professional blacksmith uses
a charcoal fire and bellows to heat the steel to yellow hot, that is over
1000 degrees celcius, before shaping it. A normal bush fire has a much
lower temperature and would only be able to get the metal to cherry red
or 750 degrees, at this temperature it's a lot harder to shape.
ANSTO (The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) is
the only place in Australia where all the tests can be done under one
roof. A number of analytical techniques and a large team of scientists
from ANSTO, the Australian National University and the National Museum
of Australia were involved. Gordon Throrogood a physicist from ANSTO explained
that the tests would examine the structure of the steel, what changes
to it have occurred, how it started out initially, so the scientific team
could determine how it was made.
- The helmet was tested
in the nuclear reactor. To understand the internal structure of the
metal the helmet was blasted with neutrons. Which did not damage the
armour in any way, but gave vital clues as to its composition.
Neutron diffraction: this process provides information on how the atoms
are deformed in the crystal lattice of the armour as a result of heat
treatment or being worked with a hammer or something similar.
This test confirmed that it's made of the same type of steel that would
have been available in the 1880's.
- The X-Ray department tested
one of the side plates. To determine what temperature the armour reached,
if any of the trace elements were changed, and what the starting material
X-ray fluorescence: x-rays from radioactive sources were used to generate
characteristic radiation from elements within the armour, confirming
the alloy content of the steel. Lead detected at some places indicated
where bullets had ricocheted off the armour.
X-ray diffraction: this process is similar to neutron diffraction. The
x-rays interact with the crystal structure near the surface, whereas
neutrons examine the bulk of the material.
These tests indicated that significantly it had only been heated until
it was 'cherry red'.
- The back and breast plates
were tested using metallography, to get information about the carbides
that indicates the actual temperature it's been to.
Metallography can find out exactly what temperature the metal was heated
to by looking at the individual metal crystals. To do this a small part
of the surface of the plates had to be ground down and etch it with
acid to reveal the individual metal crystals. Then looked at under the
Metallography: areas of the armour that had been scuffed bare while
on display were polished without mechanical deformation, the area etched
in acid and the revealed metal structure (which proved to be steel)
was replicated with cellulose acetate film
There was a great variety of results, differentiating the original areas
of the metal and those that had been changed when they fabricated them
into a suit of armour.
The heating of the metal was "very patchy". In some places
it hasn't been heated enough, and bent cold, and in other spots it's
been subjected to extended periods in a heat source of about 750 degrees.
After two and half days of
testing and examining, the team reassembles to put together what they've
The findings of the research according
to Gordon Throrogood were that the armour was probably likely to have
been made by a "bush forge" and not made by a blacksmith. He
said a bit more work needed to be done but the tests show the metal only
got to about 700, 750 degrees C. the sorts of temperatures that are consistent
with a fire that able to be built in the bush and kept fairly hot in order
to work the metal.
Extract from transcript:
Narration: So the burning question is
could it have been made
by the Kelly gang?
Gordon Throrogood: "Oh yeah definitely, definitely. It looks
like it's been made by people who haven't had the time to sit down and
work out how they're going to do it. It's been made in a hurry. If it
had been made by a blacksmith and people who weren't worried about being
watched and stuff the craftsmanship would be a lot better
definitely it was made by the Kelly Gang. Yeah there's no doubt."
It seems that the accepted view of how the armour
was made could be wrong
Full Program Transcript: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s929067.htm#top
ANSTO Site: http://www.ansto.gov.au/info/scienceweek/joebyrne.html
28/06/02 'Finally, Ned's
heavy metal gets it together' (Orietta Guerrera)
According to The Age
It has been immortalised in
art, film, literature and the popular imagination. But until yesterday,
we have not seen the original version of Ned Kelly's armour. In the 122
years since the Kelly gang's last stand at Glenrowan, the bits and pieces
of their steel armour - helmets, breastplates, backplates, shoulder pieces,
aprons - have changed hands countless times.
Along the way, the parts got
mixed up. Kelly's armour had been displayed with a backplate that was
actually the breastplate of one of his gang members, either Steve Hart
or Dan Kelly.
For many years, says historian Ian Jones, no one cared. There was
a "culture of institutional apathy" about Kelly relics.
"They were just relics of a criminal outbreak and they weren't
taken terribly seriously," he says. But as Kelly's stature as
a historical figure grew, so did interest in correctly piecing together
the gang's armour. In 1998, barrister and amateur historian Ken Oldis
completed a report that sourced Kelly's helmet and breastplate to the
State Library, his backplate to the Victoria Police Museum and a shoulder
piece to Scienceworks museum.
Yesterday, for the first time,
the State Library and the Victoria Police, owners of the armour of Ned,
his brother Dan and Hart, met for a historic swap meet. The exchange means
the library now has the most complete suit of Ned's armour, comprising
his breastplate, backplate, helmet and one shoulder piece. Mr Jones, Mr
Oldis and historian Keith McMenomy pieced together the armour by
studying sketches, police photographs and documents. Of particular help
was a sketch by Thomas Carrington, drawn early in the morning of Kelly's
capture. Oldis compared dents and bullet marks on Kelly's helmet and breastplate
with those in the sketch.
will go on display in a Kelly exhibition at the library next year.
The Museum of Victoria, which has the second shoulder plate, will contribute
it to the exhibition.
As for Dan's and Steve's suits,
police will use forensic science to try to detect any other mix-ups.
For full story go to: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/06/27/1023864632129.html
27/06/02 'Kelly gang armour
According to The Border Mail
The armour used by Ned Kelly
and his gang was matched up yesterday for the first time since the famous
showdown with police at Glenrowan. The pieces of the three suits of armour
held in public collections were rearranged to coincide with the anniversary
of the bushrangers' final shootout at the Glenrowan pub on June 28, 1880.
After the siege the four sets of armour were dispersed. Ned's suit, made
up of helmet, breastplate, backplate, apron and shoulder-plates, bolted
and strapped together using forged iron from ploughshares, was presented
in the Victorian Supreme Court as evidence in his trial. Suits fashioned
for Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne were also gathered by police.
In December, 1880, Joe Byrne's armour was souvenired by Supt Hare and
is now owned by a private collector.
The three other suits are owned by the Victoria Police Museum, State Library
of Victoria and Old Melbourne Jail. A century of being moved from place
to place for display in museums and exhibitions resulted in the suits
becoming mismatched. In recent years, researchers have identified the
correct pieces for each suit using photographs taken after the Glenrowan
siege, sketches made at the same time, police archival records, diaries
and forensic testing.
In a ceremony yesterday at
the Old Melbourne Jail, the police, State Library and the jail swapped
sections to restore the suits made for Ned, Dan and Steve Hart. Ned's
41kg suit is now complete at the State Library of Victoria.
On Saturday, June 27, 1880, the gang assembled at Glenrowan and commandeered
the hotel. When the police arrived, Ned took refuge in the bush and the
other three in the pub. Ned, in his armour, confronted the police but
was brought down with bullets in his legs. The pub was set alight and
the bodies of the other three gang members were found in the ashes.*
Ned was hanged on November 11, 1880.
*There were in fact only two bodies found
in the ashes, that of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart. (Joe Byrne's slightly
singed body was dragged from the Glenrowan Inn before the flames engulfed
27/06/02 'Kelly reunion at
Gaol' (Kate Jones)
According to The Herald Sun
Since the capture of the Kelly
Gang 122 years ago, their trademark iron suits of armour have been scattered
- souvenired by historians, seized by Police and hoarded by Glenrowan
Today, three suits of Armour - used by Ned and Dan Kelly and fellow outlaw
Steve Hart - will come together again. In a ceremony at the Old Melbourne
Gaol today, Victoria Police and The State Library will exchange suits
of armour to coincide with the 122nd anniversary of the Glenrowan Siege.
The exchange will also determine which pieces of armour each gang member
Since the 1880 siege the suits have been displayed at dozens of different
exhibitions, court hearings and libraries. Matching pieces of suits were
separated and mixed up. But a group of three keen Kelly historians were
able to piece the iron suits together using Police sketches, photos and
Despite wearing armour, everyone in the Kelly gang - except for leader
Ned - was killed at the Glenrowan shootout. Ned Kelly was convicted of
bank robberies and shootings and hanged at the Old Melbourne Gaol.
My thanks to the various sources who brought
to my attention some of the articles and information in the news sections.
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