Archive for May, 2017


Tuesday, May 30th, 2017


‘In writing of the recruitment of criminals into the armed forces, Stephen Conway observed, ‘It was still found necessary periodically to clear both the putrid and congested gaols and the equally overcrowded and insanitary hulks’. Conway, cited in Alan Frost, Botany Bay Mirages, Melbourne University Press, 1994.

Between January 1787 and mid-May 1787 a large squadron of eleven (11) ships, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, assembled at Portsmouth, England.

One-half of the complement, 1500 souls, were convicted criminals. Many of its 570 male convicted criminals wre taken from ‘overcrowded and insanitary hulks’.

‘In determining the daily ration no distinction was drawn between marines and [male] convicts…the standard adopted was that of troops serving in the West Indies’. Wilfrid Oldham, Britain’s Convicts to the Colonies, Library of Australian History, 1993

1787 – 13 May, England: The ‘First Fleet’ commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN sailed from Portsmouth on 13 May 1787, to invade the island continent of New Holland.  This combined military and naval expeditionary force was fully funded by the British Government.  See: Apollo 11 – Fly Me To The Moon: Portsmouth – Tenerife – Rio  – Cape Town – Botany Bay – Sydney Cove.

In stark contrast to their treatment on the hulks or in England’s ‘putrid gaols’, the convicts were well fed and exercised. Mortality on the ‘First Fleet’ was reckoned at 4%.

Britain’s move on New Holland followed closely on the loss of her ’empire in the west’. The thirteen (13) colonies – Connecticut North and South Carolina Delaware Georgia Maryland Massachusetts New York New Jersey New Hampshire Pennsylvania Rhode Island Virginia.

The Treaty Of Versailles signed in September 1783 brought an end to the War of American Independence (1775-83) and formal recognition of the United States of America.

There can be no doubt ‘the exact purpose[s] of the settlement’ was driven by the magnitude of the loss and Britain’s profound humiliation following her defeat at the hands of both French regulars, America’s Patriot militia.

Perhaps, though less widely appreciated, was Spain’s practical support for Washington’s men in terms of supplies especially warm clothing so essential for the eight (8) bitter winters of the conflict.

‘In November [1784] Henry Dundas, possibly Pitt’s closest advisor, warned that ‘India’ is the first quarter to be attacked, we must never lose sight of keeping such a force there as well be sufficient to baffle or surprise’. Dundas, cited Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy, Harper Grant Books, Victoria, 2013

The loss of her American colonies fuelled a fierce determination to reset the strategic, territorial and trade balance of power via dominance of secure safe alternate sea routes to and from India, China and Spain’s South American ‘treasure’ colonies.

When the ‘First Fleet’ left Portsmouth in May 1787 Captain Phillip carried secret instructions. It concerned a plan of attack with which he was very familial. It was his own strategic plan for an attack on Spain’s South American colonies Chile, Peru and Mexico.

The brain-child of Major John Dalrymple a member of the extremely influential Dalrymple Scots dynasty bent on revenge. Following the defeat of General Charles Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 Dalrymple submitted the idea to William Petty, Lord Shellburne the then Home Secretary.

But before Shellburne could take action in July 1782 Lord North resigned as Prime Minister and Shellburne took the position. In the revolving door of politics, a state of affairs we are now all too familiar with, Thomas Townshend  (later Lord Sydney) became Home Secretary.

Sydney having inherited Dalrymple’s plan and, almost certainly at Shellburne’s instigation, approached Arthur Phillip recently returned from the American war. Sydney approved the Phillip plan.

Under command of (Sir) Captain Richard Kingsmill RN four (4) ships of the line HMS Grafton 70 guns HMS Elizabeth 74 guns HMS Europa 64 guns and a frigate Iphigeia the expedition’s ‘eyes’ loaded with stores and munitions departed Portsmouth on 6 January 1783 to mount marauding raids against ‘Buenos Aires, Monte Video, Chile, Peru and Mexico’.

‘Shortly after sailing an armistice was concluded between Britain and Spain’. Alan Frost,

The expedition broke off and made to return to England but were overtaken in the Bay of Biscay by a hurricane. HMS Europa was severely damaged Lieutenant Arthur Phillip RN made for Brazil and repairs.

Rio, Brazil was a port Phillip knew very well indeed having spent four (4) years there seconded to the Portuguese Navy and spying for Lord Sandwich at the Admiralty.

‘It seems clear that only a few men in the inner circle of [William Pitt’s] government knew the exact purposes of the settlement’. Professor Geoffrey Blainey, Gotham City, The Founding of Australia. The argument about Australia’s origins. Ed. Ged Martin, Hale and Iremonger, 1978



Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

1790 – 1 June, Sydney Cove: ‘No communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th May 1787, the day of our departure from Portsmouth…from the intelligence of our friends and connections we had been entirely cut off…the misery and horror of such a situation cannot be imparted, even by those who have suffered under it’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

1790 – weekly ration; ‘without distinction…to every child of more than eighteen (18] months old and to every grown person two [2] pounds of pork, two and a half [2½] pounds of flour, two [2] pounds of rice, or a quart of pease, per week…To every child under eighteen [18] months old, the same quantity of rice and flour, and one [1] pound of pork.

When the age of this provision is recollected, its inadequacy will more strikingly appear. The pork…from England had been salted between three [3] and four [4] years… a daily morsel toast[ed] on a fork catching the drops on a slice of bread, or in a saucer of rice…every grain was a moving body from the inhabitants lodged within it…flour brought from the Cape by Sirius [May 1789] soldiers and convicts used to boil it up with greens’. Tench op.cit.



Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

 ‘In determining the daily ration no distinction was drawn between the marines and [male] convicts…the standard adopted was that of the troops serving in the West Indies’. Wilfrid Oldham, Britain’s Convicts to the Colonies, ed. E. Hugh Oldham, Library of Australian History, Sydney 1990

1787 – 13 May, Portsmouth: The ‘First Fleet’ an armed squadron of eleven (11) ships commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN sailed from England to invade the island continent of New Holland.

Of its overwhelmingly male complement, 1500 souls, seven hundred and fifty (750) were convicted criminals. Five hundred and eighty male (580) male convicts ‘fed as troops serving in the West Indies’ were available for combat. See: April Fools Day