"I make the suggestion sincerely, in the belief that gold in large quantities in Central Australia is most likely".
L. G. Bridge, letter to John Bailey, 10/07/1931.
Bridge was a wealthy
Bridge wrote three letters to John Bailey, the Chairman of C.A.G.E., and they make heavy reading, several incidents and personalities mentioned in the letters have become part of the Lasseter legend and have been artfully incorporated into Lasseter's Last Ride. There are several repetitive themes throughout the correspondence; appeals to Bailey to use his influence with the Federal Government to secure favourable conditions for the Company, and frequent use of pathos to reinforce the Company's moral claims to Lasseter's Reef, "Lasseter gave his life to the venture" and the Company's debt, indeed the Country's obligation to Lasseter, "and, of equal importance, to the Lasseter dependants as well,". He believed the mantra of the times, almost a cargo cult, that Australia's desperate economic circumstances were, "in the greatest measure accounted for by our present shortage of gold", and that Lasseter's Reef and the certain discovery of large deposits of gold in Central Australia would relieve the country of its, "present tragic condition". Therefore the, "forthcoming Expedition should be regarded by them, (the Government) as being of National Importance", a common appeal by rouges and visionaries whose ambitions are bigger than their cheque books.
His first letter on the 8th of July, began with an
imperative, "Dear Mr. Bailey, As a matter of urgency, I would
like you to give instant attention to combating the rumours about outside
syndicates at present contemplating expeditions for the purpose of
"jumping" Lasseter's Gold Reef ". Bridge never stated
who those outside interests were, although one was apparently
This letter also mentions, the connection between Lasseter
and his Bush mate from Boulder City, Johannsen and his mate, who were
speared by the Aboriginals at Sladen Water. This incident, never more than a
rumour and possibly a deliberate fabrication, appeared in the Sydney Morning
Herald the previous day, and was used by Bridge to reinforce his
contention that several expeditions were on the way to Central Australia and
likely to jump Lasseter's reef. Ion Idriess turns the rumour to advantage in
his bestseller and explains why Lasseter and Johannsen failed to rendezvous
"Before concluding, I would like to place on record the suggestion that, in the event of the desired area being granted by the Commonwealth Government, it should be officially known as 'Lasseter's Reef'. If this were done, it would certainly place for all time the record of a brave and fearless man, and pay a suitable remembrance to his tragic end."
The following day the Public Trustee declared Lasseter intestate, clearing the way for the Baileys and Bridge to examine the 'secret documents' left by Lasseter for safekeeping at the Bank of Australia. One of the documents was written in invisible ink and gave vague and colourful directions to the reef, but without the all important reference point, making the document quite useless. From the scant information available, most of it Lasseter nonsense, Bridge and Bailey deduced, or perhaps fabricated, a map of the area to be reserved to the Company by the Government, "based upon the secret location document left by the late Mr. Lasseter under seal at the Bank of Australasia, and fully supported by the particulars contained in the letter found with his body by Mr. Buck and addressed to his wife". This letter, reproduced in Lasseter's Last Ride, opens with the oft quoted lines, "Dear Rene, Don't grieve for me. I've done my best and pegged the reef," Lasseter's statement that he had pegged his reef convinced Bridge that the Company had legal rights to Lasseter's Reef.
Bridge instructed Bailey to forward his letters and the
map, together with a covering letter, to Arthur Blakeley for his urgent and
favourable consideration. In
This restriction on access to the Reserve was conveniently interpreted by Bailey as a grant of Charter to the Company, and it was widely publicised that the Government had protected the Company's interests. These deliberate misstatements on Baileys part regarding the Governments involvement in the Lasseter affair, again caused Arthur Blakeley considerable embarrassment and he had to reassure the South Australian Government, and various Aboriginal protection societies, that no part of the South West Reserve had been excised for mining purposes.
Bridges last letter to Bailey dated the 20th July expressed
satisfaction that the Company has secured the "powerful
protection of the Federal Government and the Government of
Bridge wanted it made clear to any who joined the
expedition, that their safety and well being was assured as, "both Mr.
Buck (who will be leader of the Expedition) and Mr. Green are thoroughly
experienced bushmen, and both have practical and intimate knowledge of the
territory in which the Expedition will operate". This choice of
personnel was Bridges worst decision as Manager of C.A.G.E. Buck had some
limited experience in Lasseter Country, was not considered a practical
bushman, and certainly not a leader of men. Buck arrived in Sydney on the 3rd
of August and there is no record of the discussions between the Leader and
the Financier of the Second C.A.G.E. Expedition, all Buck had to say about
the meeting has become widely quoted, "He described his visit
to the Sydney home of the wealthy sponsor of the last search, saying: He
asked me into his drawing room. The carpet came up to me hocks. I didn't know
if to take off me hat or me boots". Frank Green, the prospector on the
Second Expedition, was an arch villain in the Lasseter saga, and involved
with the Baileys in several wild cat mining schemes, his bush experience was
limited to remote mining and railway camps and out of sight of the Law. A
couple of years later he married Lasseter's widow. Bridge concluded his
letter on an optimistic note, "It would indeed be a wonderful thing if,
through our Company's efforts, we really were able to unmistakeably start
Shortly after the Second C.A.G.E. Expedition disbanded at
various points between Alice Springs and
© R.Ross. 1999-2011 20110527
Central Australian Gold Exploration Company Ltd. Papers 1930-1932 Mitchell Library MLA3043. F. W. Albrecht. 1964, Letter to Lutheran Almanac. A. E. George. Korumburra Times, 12/09/1952. National Archives Australia. TITLE, Central Australian Gold Exploration Synd. Assistance to Prospect. SERIES A431. C/S 1948/1143. pages 34-62. Coote, Errol. Hell's Airport. 256. Ion Idriess, Lasseter's Last Ride. pg. 238.