Charles Pasley

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Walter E. Pidgeon, Illustration from The Eureka Stockade by Raffaello Carboni, Sunnybrook Press, 1942, offset print.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased 1994.


Charles Pasley was born on 14 November 1824 at Chatham, England. He was the eldest son of General Sir Charles William Pasley, a military engineer, and his second wife Martha Matilda (née Roberts). Pasley was educated at the King’s Grammar School, Rochester, and at the Woolwich Royal Military Academy in 1840, gaining a commission in the Royal Engineers on 20 December 1843. Pasley was posted to Canada in 1846 and then in Bermuda, returning owing to ill-health. He was on the staff of the Great Exhibition in 1851, and in April 1853 he was appointed colonial engineer of Victoria arriving in Melbourne on 17 September.[1]

The Warwickshire County Record Office, England, holds private records pertaining to Pasley. These include a letter dated 30 January 1861 containing an extract from a letter dated 27 June 1855 from Captain Charles Pasley on disturbances among the diggers at Ballarat and the intention of setting up an independent republic, and also the situation in New Zealand. [2]

He died on 11 November 1890 at Cheswick, England.[3]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

With the troubles at Eureka, Pasley headed to Ballarat and reached the camp on 28 November. He as one of the two officers and eight men of the 12th Regiment who were attacked by the diggers on their arrival at the Ballarat Diggings on 28 November 1854.[4]

Unknown maker (Australia), The flag of the Southern Cross (Eureka Flag), 1854, wool, cotton.
Art Gallery of Ballarat Collection. Gift of the King family, 2001

Pasley took part in the storming of the Eureka Stockade on the morning of 3 December, commanding the skirmishes in the centre. After the stockade was captured, he took an active role in restraining soldiers from taking reprisals in the camp.[5] The military were advised by Captain Pasley, of The Royal Engineers, to attack and surprise the miners. In a letter to his father Pasley describes the crisis as "a very grave one." The government "had given way to popular clamour more than once." A mob of diggers had threatened to "march up to the Government Camp, and take an equal number of Commissioners prisoners and keep them as hostages. If any resistance was offered, they would set fire to the Camp and kill everyone." Pasley thought that if the government gave in to the diggers' demands the "consequences would be very serious, and at the same time, if they resisted and were beaten in fight by the insurgents [Pasley] had no doubt that a general rebellion would ensue." With this in mind Pasley examined the military Camp. He found " a small force of about one hundred men in an exposed and defenceless Camp consisting of tents and light wooden buildings by no means musketproof." The timber slabs of which the buildings were comprised had great holes between them through which daylight could be seen. If the military were attacked in this position the musket balls would fly straight through the buildings. Injuries to military personnel would be inevitable. There was civilian housing "pressing close upon" the Camp. Pasley approached the townsfolk in tents near the camp and advised them to deposit all their valuables in the gold office as their tents would be fired and destroyed by the military if the Government Camp was attacked by the angry diggers. Pasley writes, " I explained to them that it was our duty to maintain our position at any cost, whether of life or property, but we thought it only fair to give them notice of what might very probably happen. ......... This was not a mere threat - it was fully intended to be carried out, and I had prepared fire balls to throw on the houses if necessary." [6]

Post 1854 Experiences

An official nominee for the Legislative Council from October 1854 until November 1855, Pasley was involved in major public works projects at Parliament House, Victoria Barracks, the Pentridge Prison and the lunatic asylum at Kew (Willsmere), as well as many other buildings. Having ‘missed’ the Crimean War, Pasley was keen on serving in the Maori Wars in New Zealand and was invalided to Australia in November 1860 after having been wounded in action in the previous month. He then returned to England and was promoted to Major-General just before his retirement. He lived at 7 Queen Anne’s Grove, Bedford Park, Chiswick, London, until his death on 11 November 1890. Some of Pasley’s papers are held at the National Library of Australia.[7]

In the News

Charles Pasley, Esq., Colonial-Engineer, has been nominated a member of the Legislative Council in the room of R W, Pohlman, Esq., who has resigned.[8]

The Eureka Anniversary. It went without much in tile way of celebration, but the 3rd December was one of the historic anniversaries of the colony. The following abbreviated account of the storming of the Eureka Stockade, on the 3rd December, 1854 - one of the best yet published-is taken from "The Early Days of Victoria" in the current number of the "Australian Journal." After describing the events of the week previous and the reasons why Captain Thomas of the 40th, then in command, resolved to attack the stockade early on Sunday morning, the writer goes on to say : in pursuance of this determination Captain Thomas, who was ably assisted by Captain Pasley, R.E., and Captain Wise, had the whole force at his disposal under arms by 2 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, 3rd December. Mr Commissioner Amos, who was intimately acquainted with the locality, acted as guide, and led the troops to within a quarter of a mile of the Stockade. The force consisted of 30 picked men of the 40th Regiment; mounted, under the command of Lieutenants Hall and Gardyne; 87 men of the same regiment, under Captain Wise and Lieutenants Bowdler and Richards; 65 men of the 12th Regiment, under Captain Queade and Lieutenant Paul; 70 mounted police, under Sub-inspectors Furnell, Langley, Chomley and Lieutenant Cossack; 24 foot police, under Sub-Inspector Carter. Total, 100 mounted and 176 foot. The troops reached the ground just as the morning began to dawn, and when about 300 yards from the Stockade the detachments of the 12th and 40th Regiments ex tended in skirmishing order. The mounted men moved to the left, and threatened the flank and rear of the insurgents. As the advance in this order was being made, a sentry within the Stockade gave the alarm by firing his piece. Upon hearing the shot Captain Thomas said "We are seen. Forward, and steady, men ! Don't fire ; let 'the insurgents fire first. You wait for the sound of the bugle." Within the Stockade were about 150 men, and when the soldiers had approached to the distance of about 150 yards they fired a volley, which wounded Captain Wise, Lieutenant Paul, and three men of the 12th Regiment, and killed two and wounded one man of the 40th. Then the bugle sounded the order to fire, and a general discharge brought down all the insurgents who were visible above the enclosure; nine were killed by this volley. Then the order, "On, 40th! Forward!" was heard, and the soldiers cheered, and notwithstanding scattered shots fired at them, rushed at the enclosure with fixed bayonets, followed by the foot police. The hastily arranged face of the enclosure did not impede the troops an instant, and, breaking through it, a series of combats ensued between brave diggers armed with pikes for their ammunition was spent and the soldiers, who had loaded muskets and bayonets fixed. Some, as the swarm of police joined the soldiers, took refuge in the shallow holes and smithy, and, as one of the military officers wrote, many were put to death in the first heat of the conflict, either by bullet or bayonet thrusts." In less than ten minutes the resistance and slaughter were over. Nine soldiers were wounded, one fatally, in the hand-to-hand combats within the Stockade. Vern, with a number of his companions, did not wait to exchange blows with the troops, but escaped by the rear of the Stockade. Lalor, when the troops fired their first volley, was standing upon the top of a logged-up hole close to the barricade, and was shot in the left shoulder as he was in the act of signing to the defenders to retire to the rifle pits. When wounded he fell under a stack of slabs, some of which, in falling, partially covered him, and when the soldiers charged by the spot he was left for dead. While, the soldiers were busy among the tents making prisoners, three non-combatants, whose curiosity brought them to the spot, saw him, and carried him a short distance down the Eureka Lead to a hollow pile of slabs, into which they lifted him. When the resistance was over, fifteen of the diggers lay dead, sight were fatally wounded,and thirty to forty others were more or less severely wounded, some of whom subsequently died. The Southern Cross flag had been torn down by one of the police at an early stage of the combat, and was carried off to the camp. The troops set fire to all the tents In the enclosure and the immediate vicinity, and collecting all the prisoners, to the number of 125, marched back to the camp. Captain Wise died of his wounds before the week ended. [9]


The death is announced of Major. General Charles Pasley, C. B., formerly: of the Royal Engineers and an Ex-minister of Victoria.[10]
DEATH OF MAJOR-GENERAL PASLEY. LONDON, Nov. 13. - The death is announced of Major Goneral Charles Pasley, C. B., late of the Royal Engineers, and formerly Commissioner of Public Works, Victoria.
The following is a record of Major General Pasley's services as given in the Colonial Office List -"Employed in 1830 at Bermuda in deepening and improving the entrance to St George, a Harbour by the colonial Government, in 1851 appointed colonial engineer of Victoria, and in 1854 was nominated a member of the Legislative Council, was despatched by Governor Sir Charles Hotham on a special mission to Ballarat during the outbreak in the same year, on the proclamation of the new constitution in 1855 he joined Mr Haines' Cabinet as Commissioner of Public Works, and was returned to the Assembly for the district of South Bourke; resigned with Mr Haines in 1857, and on the reconstruction of his Cabinet in the same year served as professional head of the department of Public Works till 1860 when, on the outbreak of the New Zealand war, he volunteered to serve in that colony on the staff of Major General Pratt, was severely wounded at the capture of the Kaihihi Pah in October, was mentioned in despatches, and promoted to brevet major for his services there , returned to England in 1861, and was special agent in that country for the Government of Victoria from 1804 to 1868, superintended, on behalf of the colony, the equipment of the Nelson, and the design, construction, armament, and despatch of the Cerberus , was director of works of the navy from 1873 to 1882; was acting Agent-General for Victoria between the years 1880 and 1882. [11]

See also


Further Reading

Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  2. Warwickshire County Record Office, CR 114A/533/8
  3. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  4. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  5. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  6. Wickham, Dorothy, "Deaths at Eureka", 1996.
  7. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  8. Sydney Empire, 23 October 1854.
  9. Oakleigh Leader, 15 December 1894.
  10. Perth Inquirer & Commercial News, Wednesday 19 November 1890.
  11. The Argus, 15 November 1890.

External links