What happened to the Eureka Jack?

 

When the first reports of the Battle of the Eureka Stockade began to appear the next day, readers of The Argus newspaper were told: “The flag of the diggers, 'The Southern Cross,' as well as the 'Union Jack,' which they had to hoist underneath, were captured by the foot police.” <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4801224>

 

 

 

Extract of Argus report 4 December 1854.

 

 

There is some debate as to whether this sole contemporaneous report of an otherwise unaccounted for Union Jack being flown over the Eureka Stockade as the clash between the miners and the authorities took place is accurate. In 2012 Peter FitzSimons in Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution would criticise the history recorded in the first journals of record in the following terms:

"In my opinion, this report of the Union Jack being on the same flagpole as the flag of the Southern Cross is not credible. There is no independent corroborating report in any other newspaper, letter, diary or book, and one would have expected Raffaello Carboni, for one, to have mentioned it had that been the case. The paintings of the flag ceremony and battle by Charles Doudiet, who was in Ballarat at the time, depicts no Union Jack. During the trial for High Treason, the flying of the Southern Cross was an enormous issue, yet no mention was ever made of the Union Jack flying beneath."

Private Hugh King of the 40th regiment who was present as part of the besieging forces, swore in a signed affidavit made at the time that he recalled:

"...three or four hundred yards a heavy fire from the stockade was opened on the troops and me. When the fire was opened on us we received orders to fire. I saw some of the 40th wounded lying on the ground but I cannot say that it was before the fire on both sides. I think some of the men in the stockade should - they had a flag flying in the stockade; it was a white cross of five stars on a blue ground. - flag was afterwards taken from one of the prisoners like a union jack – we fired and advanced on the stockade, when we jumped over, we were ordered to take all we could prisoners..."

<http://wiki.prov.vic.gov.au/index.php/Eureka_Stockade:Depositions_VPRS_5527/P_Unit_2,_Item_9>

 

 

Extract of affidavit by Hugh King 9 December 1854.

 

There was another report of two flags having been captured at the stockade which appeared in The Argus on 9 December 1854 following a committal hearing which stated:

“The great topic of interest to-day has been the proceedings in reference to the state prisoners now confined in the Camp. As the evidence of the witnesses in these cases is more reliable information than that afforded by most reports, I shall endeavor to give you an abstract of it.” Hugh King had been called upon to give further testimony live under oath in the matter of Timothy Hayes and in doing so went into more detail than in his affidavit, as it was reported the Union Jack like flag was found:

"...rollen up in the breast of a[n] [unidentified] prisoner. He [King] advanced with the rest, firing as they advanced ... several shots were fired on them after they entered [the stockade]. He observed the prisoner [Hayes] brought down from a tent in custody."

Gregory Blake, military historian and author of Eureka Stockade: A Ferocious and Bloody Battle, concedes two flags may have been flown on the day of the battle, as the miners were claiming to be defending their British rights. He leaves open the possibility that the flag taken from the prisoner may have been souvenired from the flag pole as they were on the retreat. And once secured by constable John King, the Eureka flag would be stored beneath his tunic, in the same fashion as the suspected Union Jack was discovered on the prisoner.

Ralph Kelly, fellow of the International Federation of Vexillological Associations, has proposed that the Union Jack like flag may have been a prototype of the Eureka flag. Although the description of the Eureka flag provided by private Hugh King was among the few that mentioned the design had stars and not just a cross, meaning he may have been chosen to give oral testimony at the committal hearings for the Eureka high treason trials because he was a competent witness who had the benefit of viewing both flags at close quarters.

Ray Wenban in his 1950's illustrated history series for students would show the rebels flying two battle flags during the siege. It may have also been the case that the British producers of a 1949 motion picture starring Chips Rafferty as Eureka leader Peter Lalor were attempting to remain faithful to the first reports of the fall of the Eureka Stockade with two battle flags appearing in the scenes where the oath is being administered to the rebel volunteers.

 

 

 

Battle scenes from Ray Wenban's 1958 The Revolt at Eureka (botttom and top left) and the oath sweating scene from the 1949 motion picture Eureka Stockade (top right).

 

As reported in the Ballarat Courier, 22 October 2013 edition, the Australian Flag Society has offered a $10,000 reward for the discovery of further information and materials in relation to the Eureka Jack mystery.