Ned Kelly granted life, but on
by Jeff Provine
says: we're very pleased to present a new story from Jeff Provine's
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Day in Alternate History. Please note that the opinions expressed in
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November 11th 1880,
on this day Ned Kelly (pictured) was granted life, but on a condition.
Throughout his early life, the Australian state of Victoria was plagued
by bushranger Edward "Ned" Kelly. He was the son of an Irish ex-convict
who had been sent to Van Diemen's Land on charges of thievery, though many
argued he was a patriot who had stood a little too tall. The senior
Kelly's vigor-beyond-legality passed on to his son, and Ned was notorious
for cunning, while questionable, activities. At age 14, he was arrested
for assault (claiming he was defending his sister's honor); at 15, he was
again arrested for assault (on a man who had borrowed a horse without
permission) and harassing his wife. Kelly himself would be accused of
horse-thievery, and, in the resulting altercation with one Constable Hall,
he beat Hall and reportedly rode him like a horse. Kelly grew and
eventually assumed a career in cattle-rustling.
to comment on Reddit.In what may or may not have been police
harassment, Kelly was accused of shooting an officer in the wrist, and so
a warrant was put out for his arrest. The Kellies' version of the story
was that the constable, Alexander Fitzpatrick, had come asking about Dan
Kelly while Ned was gone to New South Wales, made an inappropriate advance
on Kate Kelly, and was hit with a coal shovel by the mother, Ellen.
Fitzpatrick's doctor noted the smell of alcohol, but Judge Redmond Barry
found Ned guilty on scant evidence, prompting a 15-year sentence if he
were to be found. Instead, Ned and his brother Dan fled into the bush,
later joined by Steve Hart and Joe Byrne.
The Kelly gang was pursued, and a shootout at Stringybark Creek left two
officers dead, meaning that Kelly would now be wanted for more than
assault. Knowing his life hung on a thread no matter what he did, Kelly
turned to daring bank robberies. In Euroa, the gang stole some two
thousand pounds while entertaining hostages with horsemanship theatrics.
The police scurried to arrest known Kelly sympathizers, but his legend
only grew as the government pressed harder. In Jerilderie, they
impersonated police officers with uniforms stolen from the local police
station, bought hostages drinks, stole another ?2000, and burned the
mortgage papers of everyone in the town.
On June 27, 1880, the gang, dressed in long, gray cotton coats and large
hats, raided Glenrowan. Beneath their clothes, unbeknownst to the police,
was armor constructed out of plowshares that weighed nearly 100 pounds and
was thick enough to deflect bullets. When police arrived and the shootout
began, bullets bounced off Kelly and terrified police. They cried that he
was the Devil or a bunyip. Constable Gascoigne hit Kelly point blank, but
the man did not fall, and Gascoigne called out that he could not be hurt.
Eventually, the volleys caught Kelly in the foot and hand, and he was
brought down and arrested.
The rest of his gang had died, Byrne dying from blood loss while Dan Kelly
and Steve Hart reportedly committed suicide. Kelly stood before Judge
Redmond Barry, the same who had promised to give him 15 years in the
original harassment that had sent Kelly into the bush two years before.
Barry sentenced Kelly to hang, but at the last moment 30,000 signatures
for a stay of sentence were met with an enterprising lieutenant with an
idea. In exchange for life imprisonment, Kelly would join in the designs
of mass producing his armor for infantry.
Given into permanent custody of Her Majesty's Army, Kelly was taken to
London where he and several military engineers reproduced his armor. The
original suits had been made on a bush forge, but were of incredible
quality, accidentally using the lower temperature and spotty nature of the
rough forge to create uneven, more bullet-resistant metal. The armor
designs would be put to use in the Boer War, where they would prove useful
only in aggressive forward raids. Primarily, the armor was declared
useless, though Kelly was maintained in military prison. He spent his time
dictating and writing letters from his prison, denouncing the Australian
government and arguing for the rights of Irish Catholics throughout the
When the First World War began, trench warfare turned advances into
slaughter until Kelly's armor was reintroduced in 1916. At the Battle of
the Somme, armor-clad British soldiers stormed across No Man's Land. While
many were cut down in the legs by machine gun fire and others simply fell
over and were unable to get up, the pushing force overwhelmed German
troops and started the general retreat from France that would end the war
As Europe breathed between the wars, the Kaiser began a new arms race,
developing motorized Panzer that would be emulated by other nations. In
1936, the Second World War would begin due to Germany's move into Austria
during socialist riots. The new war would be nothing like the stalemate of
the first and spread the deadness of No Man's Land across much of the
continent. Kelly would not live to see the massive destruction his idea
had caused, having died in prison in 1928, still writing in criticism of
says in reality Ned Kelly was hanged for murder despite the petition.
His mother reminded him to "die like a Kelly," and Kelly replied to Judge
Barry's remark "May God have mercy on your soul", with "I will go a little
further than that, and say I will see you there when I go". Poetically,
Kelly's last words were reported to be, "Such is life". To this day, Kelly's
legendary invulnerability adds another level to his places as a folk hero or
a vicious killer. To view guest historian's comments on this post please
Today in Alternate History web site.
Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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