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Captain Thunderbolt: Wikis


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Frederick Ward

Frederick Wordsworth Ward (aka Captain Thunderbolt) (15 May 1833–25 May 1870) was an Australian bushranger renowned for escaping from Cockatoo Island with the help of his wife Mary Ann Bugg, and for committing over 200 crimes over six and a half years across the northern section of the state of New South Wales.



Frederick Ward was born at Wilberforce, New South Wales, in May 1833. His mother was Sarah Ward, daughter of Michael Ward, a convict. Frederick became a groom and horse breaker by the age of 20.

In 1856 Ward became involved in a scheme to sell 75 stolen horses at Windsor and was arrested, leading to a sentence of ten years with hard labour at Cockatoo Island.[1] He was released after four years and given a ticket of leave to his mother's property at Cooyal near Mudgee in 1860. After his release, he followed Mary Ann Bugg to Stroud where he married her in 1860 and settled down, until he arrived late for monthly muster at Mudgee a few days before his first child was born and was accused of stealing two shoes and the horse he rode in on. He was sent back to prison to finish his sentence, plus a further four years for horse stealing.

On 11 September 1863 he escaped with the help of Mary Ann Bugg, who had swum to Cockatoo Island, carrying with her tools to help Ward escape. Ward, Bugg and another prisoner, Fred Britten, made a daring swim for freedom and the couple soon became notorious bushrangers, committing crimes ranging from highway robbery to horse stealing and earning Ward the name Captain Thunderbolt. They operated widely across the Hunter Valley-Tamworth-New England region from 1864 to 1870. On one occasion they even rode as far west as Bourke. During this time, Ward and Mary Ann Bugg managed to have four children.

On 25 May 1870, it is alleged by some that Ward was shot and killed near Uralla by Constable Alexander Walker during a highway robbery. However, many Uralla locals claim that it was his uncle, William (Harry) Ward, who was killed at this time and not Fred Ward. It has been claimed that Fred Ward and his mother, Sarah, arrived in California late in 1870.


The legend of Thunderbolt is exhibited at McCrossin's Mill Museum in Uralla and includes the series of nine paintings by Phillip Pomroy of the events that led to Fred Ward's death.

Thunderbolts Way is a road that extends from Gloucester to Inverell, following much of his original route between the Hunter Valley and the North West slopes and plains. "Thunderbolt's Trail" is a 4WD fire trail located in the Barrington Tops State Forest which follows part of his original route.

A bullet hole in the wall of the Moonan Flat pub, made by the bushranger during a hold up, is proudly on display near Scone, New South Wales.


  1. ^ Uralla Shire Council, Welcome to Historic Uralla, Newey & Neath, Newcastle

See also

  • Bald Rock National Park which contains Thunderbolt's Hideout, believed to have been used by, and named after, Captain Thunderbolt.


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