Life in the Australian outback has never been easy, it was even worse during the gold rush era where thousands of people flocked to New South Wales to seek their fortune in gold. Not everyone who came out hoping to find a nugget or two actually found one and then again there were those who wanted to get riches by any means necessary. Safety and security was a big issue for gold buyers and everywhere else in Australia. In 1862, eight Bushrangers hatched a plot to rob a gold escort transporting gold from Forbes to Orange in New South Wales. It was a route that was often taken by heavily armed escorts transporting gold from the mines. Forbes was the main town servicing the gold fields, it was also the economic hub in the central western part of New South Wales.
The gang’s leader, Frank Gardiner had spent many Sunday’s watching boxes of gold being loaded into a wagon to be transported to Sydney. Like everyone else Gardiner had dreams of making it big but he became really good at stealing cattle and then selling the meat to locals. He might have been known as the local butcher but Gardiner was so much more. Not only was Gardiner ambitious but he was intelligent too and so he hatched a plan to pull off the heist of the century.
The bushranger managed to get a couple of young men into his plan to rob the gold escort. Amongst them was Ben Hall, the most infamous bushranger in Australia. The gang had everything planned out. They had the maps for the gold route and identified spots where they could easily execute the robbery. There were only four officers guarding the wagon and the gold with guns. The odds were definitely in the gang’s favour: four armed guards against eight, well armed outlaws in a 400-kilometre stretch of bushland and the Blue Mountains.
It would have been an easy robbery, one that the gang planned to execute without hurting any of the guards. Four members of the gang would hide in a gully known as Eugowra Rocks whilst the other half hid in a nearby creek. They expected the officers to surrender the gold and not try to fight back, however things didn’t work out as they planned. The officers were not willing to let the gold go without putting up fight. And so there was a shootout and one officer got shot in the testicles.
The gang had expected 10 kilograms of gold at least but were shocked to find 77 kilos of gold and bags of cash. with that much gold and that much money stolen, the gang soon became the most wanted outlaws in New South Wales and the entire British empire. This caper would go down in history as the biggest gold heist in Australia. Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall, Alexander Fordyce, John Bow, Henry Mann, John Gilbert, John O’Meally, Dan Charters and John McQuire were romanticised in the papers. They became infamous folk heroes who would go on to pay for their crimes by either languishing in jail, dangling from a hangman’s noose, shot or exiled.
The love for gold has inspired many similar capers. These days it would be harder to pull off a heist like that. This is because a lot of gold buyers have high tech security on their premises. Ordinary people who have a sizeable amount of gold worth a lot of money in their homes usually store these in a safe or keep them in a bank safety deposit box. The best thing to do when you have gold that you aren’t using anymore is to sell it to a gold buyer, this way you never have to worry about thefts.