Killed in Action: Eureka
KILLED IN ACTION: EUREKA
Martin Diamond owned a store on the Eureka Diggings. By chance it was inside the flimsy barricade set up by disgruntled diggers after the Monster Meeting on Bakery Hill on 29 November 1854. Four days later troopers shot him inside his store and in front of his young wife. Alpheus Boynton wrote in his diary that ‘The conduct of the soldiers generally through the whole has been anything but that of men, and some have brought upon themselves everlasting disgrace, for what true solder would discharge his musket at an innocent and helpless female standing in front of her tent? And yet such was the case with some of the brutes clothed in uniform’. Diamond’s wife, Anne, applied for compensation from the government for property to the value of 600 pounds, destroyed by the military and police at the time of the attack. She stated in her application that her husband had been shot inside his store. 
Like others killed in action at Eureka, his death was not registered until 20 June 1855, at Ballarat. Deputy Registrar William Thomas Poole then registered 27 names in the Ballarat District Register. This was quite unusual with deaths usually being registered within a day or week of the person’s demise. The reason for the late registration seven months after the event is not clear. Martial Law was proclaimed in Ballarat and its environs after the attack on the Eureka Stockade. The government was in disarray. Tensions were high. Around 125 men were arrested, but most were released because of lack of evidence. Thirteen were accused of High Treason, charged and sent to Melbourne for trial.
There have been many lists (Lalor’s is one) about those who were killed or wounded at the Eureka Stockade battle. Many men, women and children fled to the surrounding bush and most likely a good many more died a lonely death or suffered the agony of their wounds, hidden from authorities for fear or repercussions.
The consecutively registered deaths found by sifting through the large registers of the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages are perhaps the only official listings of all those believed to have been killed at the Eureka riots. These were found while updating the cemetery records that only officially began in Ballarat in 1856 when the cemetery trust was formed.
At least five soldiers died of wounds inflicted in the affray. Private William Webb, aged 19 years died on 5 December from gunshot wounds. He had been in Victoria only one month. Webb was a member of the 12th Regiment that had arrived in Melbourne aboard the Empress Eugene on 6 November 1854. The troops had left for Ballarat on 27 November. Henry Christopher Wise, only 26 years old, born in Rome, and Captain of the 40th Regiment died 18 days after the event. He was interred first at a cemetery in Eureka Street, Ballarat East, and reinterred into the soldier’s enclosure at the Ballarat Old Cemetery. In eyewitness accounts he is portrayed as gallantly leading his command in the attack on the stockade and being shot in the leg, but it was thought, not dangerously. He continued his assault on the stockade and was then fatally wounded. Privates Joseph Wall, aged 20 years, from Westmore, Somerset, and Michael Roney aged 21 years, from Ireland were both in the 40th Regiment and ‘who gallantly fighting were killed on the same day’ that fateful 3 December 1854. Felix Boyle a private in the 12th Regiment aged 32 years from Monagh Ireland, died of gunshot wounds on 10 January 1855.
The remaining deaths are attributed to diggers who were either inside the stockade because that was where their tents were, or because they remained there on Saturday night when most other diggers returned home to their wives, or families in tents outside the acre of ground enclosed by the flimsy wooden posts and upturned carts.
The establishment was worried when the funeral procession for the diggers killed at Eureka wound its way to the Ballarat Cemetery. They would not allow it to pass near the Camp in Lydiard Street. However, the deaths of the diggers were treated with respect and it proceeded in an orderly fashion and was one of the largest funerals seen for its time. According to Boynton, a carter, who resided in Geelong, ‘A number of dray loads of dead bodies were taken to the burying ground about a mile on Sunday. Many have died since of their wounds, both diggers and soldiers. We were on our way to Ballarat and met coffins and men with broken limbs retuning to Geelong’.
Although the name Thaddeus Moore appears on the Eureka Monument in the Ballaarat Old Cemetery he was actually buried in Geelong on 4 December 1854. He was 21 years old and the informant on his death certificate was Patrick Smyth, the Roman Catholic priest from the St Alipius church on the Ballarat East goldfields. He was described as a miner, born in County Clare, Ireland.
Those killed at Eureka came from all over the world. Eleven came from Ireland, with others from Canada, England, Elberfeldt, Goulburn (NSW), Novia Scotia, Petersberg, Prussia, Rome, and Scotland. This mixture of humanity was ‘surprised by the government troops in the morning 3rd December and completely routed after a spirited fight of fifteen or twenty minutes. The number kill [sic] on both sides abot [sic] 30 - & many wounded – 130 prisoners were taken by the victors, who committed all the brutalities of the darker ages; numbers of innocent persons fell victims t their blood thirstiness. Marital law was proclaimed by the governor and the prisoners were to be tried by court maritial, but were subsequently examined all discharged but 11 [there were actually 13] who committed of treason. They were tried by jury and found ‘not guilty’ – a complete defeat of the government. This outbreak has produced good effects. It has opened the eyes of government shown that the people are not satisfied with the law on the diggings as it was continually represented, by its advisors and led to the appointment of a ’Committee of Investigation’ who visited the different gold fields and advised the abolition of the License Fee and the substitution of an export duty on gold, besides many more excellent reformations’.
- Alpheus Boynton, Journal 10 December 1854, ML, MSS 1058 CY 1531
- PROV, VPRS1189, Unit 240, Item 54/J14437
- Victorian Death Registration #3249, 1855
- On Lalor's list Martin is shown as John Diamond
- Eureka Monument, Ballarat Old Cemetery
- Australian National Library, Daniel Calwell and Davis Calwell, letter to parents, sister etc., from Ballarat dated 25 April 1855, ANL, MS 424.