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Captain Thunderbolt

Bail up - surrender to Captain Thunderbolt

There are several theories on the origin of the name Thunderbolt. One is that the sound of him pounding on the walls of the tollbars* resembled thunder, another that he rode like a thunderbolt. These may be myths but, whatever the origin, the name stuck.

Thunderbolt on horse The name Thunderbolt was so feared that Fred Ward often faced little opposition from his victims. Some historians believe it was so useful to invoke this type of fear that several bushrangers may have adopted the name.

Two things that remained true throughout the career of Thunderbolt and support the theory that there was only one Thunderbolt are:

  • Thunderbolt always chose the best horses available, and
  • Thunderbolt didn't kill anyone.

Thunderbolt's career as a bushranger began in October 1863 and ended with his death in May 1870. He committed at least 62 offences during this time and up to 200 crimes have been attributed to him over his entire life. In these crimes many high quality horses were stolen and no-one died at his hands.

*Tollbars were the collection points for tolls (money) on roads. Ward's first tollbar robbery was at Rutherford, Maitland.


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]