Sunday 1 February 2015

The Great Silver Bullet Scandal!

Over the years many writers and private detectives have followed up the intriguing police report from August 1879 concerning the case of the ‘Great Silver Bullet Scandal’ and most have tried to link Captain Edward Darling to it. No one has so far been able to definitively resolve this mysterious case or bring to light conclusive evidence that the good Captain was involved in any way…

Tuesday morning August 18 the Adelaide East End Market found one particular hawker of goods doing extremely good business. He was a shabby looking fellow in a tired suit, his stance was slightly stooped, he had a bushy beard, glasses and a workers cap pulled down low over his brow. Before him and of great interest to a large crowd of customers including many militiamen he had an open travelling trunk its exterior was covered with travel stickers from all over the world and his name was clearly displayed on a brass plate, Dr W. Van Der Groot. Within the trunks worn stripped lining were literally hundreds of cartridges to fit a variety of weapons but most were for the famed Martini Henry rifle. Now none of this looked too out of the ordinary but on close inspection these cartridges were special and the crudely hand written sign wedged in the open trunk lid pronounced to buyers in large letters ‘Silver Bullets!’ with the following in a smaller scrawl below it ‘For the purpose of killing Cossacks!’.

The arrival of the Russian invasion force at Henley Beach the previous Sunday and the spreading of a rumour over the ensuing days to the effect, ‘that the Cossacks are beasts that can only be felled with the use of silver bullets’ made Dr. Van Der Groots presence at the market with a trunk of bullets with silver projectiles a god send to the defenders of the Colony of South Australia! Not surprisingly the Doctors business was brisk; his trunk was empty and his pockets full well before noon. As soon as he had sold out of cartridges he packed up his trunk and to the entreaties of those still queuing up to buy his wares as to when he would be back with more stock he replied in a guttural South African accent, “I am Groot…”

Next morning at the very spot of the Adelaide East End Market where the Doctor was peddling his wares a large crowd of men were asking all and sunder where Van Der Groot could be found. Some of them wanted to buy his miracle silver bullets others were ready to string him up from the nearest tree as they had found to their dismay the previous night when they eagerly polished their new silver bullets for use against the next devilish Cossack they crossed paths with that the projectiles were merely lead coated with silver paint! The whole business was a swindle!

The local Constabulary was immediately informed of the misdemeanor and an investigation was begun in earnest but no sign of Dr. Van Der Groot was ever found nor was any record of such a man ever located.

Lieutenant-Colonel Downes on hearing of this outrage issued an instruction to all officers to impress upon the rank and file that the malicious rumour stating ‘that the Cossacks are beasts and can only be felled with the use of silver bullets’ was completely false and no credence should be placed in it. An order was issued that the men of the Colony’s defence force were forbidden to buy cartridges for their weapons and were to only use munitions supplied through official channels!

An odd story indeed but you may ask how Captain Darling could be linked with this shameful activity in any way well…

Local Detectives investigating the case of the ‘Great Silver Bullet Scandal’ were supplied with some interesting ‘anecdotes’ during the extensive interviews the conducted. There was never enough evidence to arrest anyone over the fraud. They pieced together the below ‘facts’ which they believed related Captain Darling to the case:
  • The rumour regarding the Cossacks and silver bullets was found to have originated in an east end bordello that was often frequented by Captain Darling
  • Captain Darling owned a trunk that in all but the name plate ‘Dr W. Van Der Groot’ matched the perpetrators one
  • Captain Darling had easy access to munitions from the defence forces stores
  • Captain was a master of disguise a trait he pick up on the Dark Continent
  • Captain Darling had travelled extensively and would be fluent speaking with a Boer accent
  • Captain Darling was known to be artistic and had a penchant for painting crude female nudes so had ample supplies of painting equipment
  • Captain Darling was sighted gambling during the evening of Tuesday August 18 in the cities East End at a licenced drinking establishment brandishing a large wad of notes
No witnesses however linked the police sketch of Captain Darling with the bearded, bespectacled and capped Dr Van Der Groot and he also had an alibi of sorts, he was on a lone top secret mission for Lieutenant-Colonel Downes scouting the positions of the invading Russian army at the time! This meant of course he had no actual witnesses but his sketches of the enemy’s dispositions meant the scouting had been carried out at the same time as Van Der Groot was committing his unscrupulous offence! Many believe Darling’s reconnaissance was carried out overnight allowing him time to be at the East End Markets during the period of Van Der Groot’s presence but that could never be proved and others seriously believed after hearing tales of his enigmatic adventures on the Dark Continent he could have achieve both activities at once, this Dear Reader I’ll leave for you to decide!

Next time back to the 28mm Scale Campaign Game!

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