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Captain Thunderbolt

Sentenced to hard labour

Fred Ward spent four years of his 10-year sentence on Cockatoo Island. During this time he behaved well. His only punishment was three days solitary confinement in the cells for falling asleep on the job while working as a night wardsman. He was released in 1860 on a ticket-of-leave for the Mudgee District.

This freedom was short lived, as in 1861 Ward was late to report for the compulsory muster of ticket-of-leave holders and his ticket was revoked. He was also charged with receiving a stolen horse. He was sentenced to serve the remainder of his original sentence as well as three years for this offence.

photo of Cockatoo Island

Ward was returned to Cockatoo Island. He absconded on 11 September 1863 and swam to freedom a few nights later, probably swimming north to Woolwich.

view from the troopers barracks

A reward of 25 pounds was posted for Ward's capture. This was subsequently increased to 400 pounds in 1868.

Following his escape Fred Ward soon abandoned an attempt at an ordinary life and embarked on his colourful career as Thunderbolt.

Photos: Top - Ship docks on Cockatoo Island. In the foreground is Sutherland Dock, and in the background the original Fitzroy Dock on which Fred Ward laboured from mid 1856 to 1860.

Bottom - View from the troopers' barracks on Cockatoo Island to the north side of Sydney Harbour.


1. For recent research on Thunderbolt, including new sources of information, see Carol Baxter's website www.thunderboltbushranger.com.au.

2.Further information is also available in the book Captain Thunderbolt - Horsebreaker to Bushranger which you can buy from Tocal [details]