Sydney – 1790 – January: ‘Since the 13th of May, 1787, the day of our departure from Portsmouthwe had been entirely cut off…from the intelligence of our friends and connections… no communications whatever having passed with our native country’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. L.F. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1961 


‘Since we first arrived  at this distant country [January 1788] all this while we have been as it were buried alive, never having the opportunity to hear from our friends…our hopes are now almost vanished’. Reverend Richard Johnson First Fleet Chaplain cited Jack Egan, Buried Alive, Eyewitness accounts of the making of a nation 1788-92, Allen and Unwin, Sydney 1999


‘The other great change came [June 1790] in the arrival with the Second Fleet of the first companies of the New South Wales Corps’. Nigel Rigby, Peter van der Merwse, Glyn Williams. Pacific Explorations, Voyages of Discovery from Captain Cook’s Endeavour to the Beagle, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles, London, 2018


‘Military and police raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. These raids had commenced by [14] December 1790’. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, History of Law In Australia, Allen & Unwin, 1995


‘A smokescreen of legal confusion and argument covered up a continuing pattern of killings at the frontiers of the Australian colonies’. Kercher, An Unruly Child. ibid.

Since the 13th of May, 1787, the day of our departure from Portsmouthwe had been entirely cut off…from the intelligence of our friends and connections…in which long period no supplies except for what had been procured for us at the Cape of Good Hope by the Sirius had reached us in [May 1789]’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. L.F. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1961 


1790 – Sydney, 1 June:  Six (6) months after ‘hope [had] almost vanished’ for the stranded Robinson Crusoes Justinian, the first hip from England,  was seen wallowing in heaving seas off Sydney Heads.

A cyclonic east-coast low weather system stopped Benjamin Maitland her master from entering the harbour. He sailed Justinian north as far as present-day Stockton.

1790 – 3 June: ‘On the eve of the 3rd of June the joyful cry of “the flags up” resounded in every direction….A ship with London on her stern’.

The Lady Juliana a convict transport dubbed ‘The Brothel Ship’ with two hundred and twenty six (226) ‘useless’ women prisoners, broke the terrible isolation for English men, women and children marooned since January 1788.See: Abandoned and Left to Starve @ Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790

She brought little food other than a small flock of sheep salvaged from HMS Guardian’s disastrous collision with an iceberg. See Australia’s Titanic HMS Guardian     

Lady Juliana was first of four (4) vessels that made up Britain’s Grim Armada’ the second fleet. By the end of June 1790 Alexander, Scarborough Suprize the fleet’s ‘death’ ships reached Sydney with approximately one thousand (1000) men.

Distributed throughout these vessels were one hundred and fifteen (115) officers and other ranks, first contingent of the New South Wales Corps of Infantry, to replace the marines of 1788.

London Gazette

1790 – June 21:Meanwhile the seas abated sufficiently and Justinian had returned to Sydney. Immediately she reached the landing stage at Circular Quay unloading began.

But Governor Phillip who, since January 1788, had struggled daily to keep starvation at bay, was in for a rude shock.

Aside from those supplies designated specifically as Government stores,‘the distribution of provisions rested entirely with the masters of [all] the merchantmen’. 

Maitland, as did the other ‘masters’ set up shop on the quay and sold their goods to the highest bidder.


London Gazette Extract


The arrival of the second fleet with an additional thousand 1000 empty stomachs to fill precipitated a crisis.

Daily, since the First Fleet’s arrival in Botany Bay (18-20 January 1788) Sirius and Supply  the king’s ships had trawled for fish ‘taking up…hundredweight[s] at a time’.

But that came to an end in March 1790 when HMS Sirius hit a submerged reef and sank off Norfolk Island.

In a desperate move, in April 1790, HMS Supply sailed for Jakarta to buy food and charter a Dutch ship to bring tonnes of food and medicines to Sydney. See: Missing in Action, Sirius wrecked, Supply @ Jakarta

‘The misery and horror of our situation cannot be imparted even by those who have suffered under it.’ Tench. ibid.

The whites continued to comb the shore-line for shellfish. O others increased their forays into the bush to forage for vegetables and fruits.  The women brewed a ‘sweet tea’ from the harvested sarsaparilla leaving little for local Aborigines who depended on the plant, high in Vitamin C, to keep their families healthy during the winter months.

Armed marines went out each day on rowdy ‘excursions’ to shoot anything that moved or flew. On one (1) of these outings the dog of a Gadigal man was shot dead.

While it may never be known there is reason to speculate this may have been Bennalong’s dog.


Botany Bay – 1790 December: ‘On the 9th of the month, a serjeant of marines, with three [3] convicts among whom was  M’Entire, the governor’s gamekeeper, (the person of whom Banelon had, on former occasions, shewn much dread and hatred) went out on a shooting party [to Botany Bay]’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years,  ed. LF. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1961 

10 December:  ‘About one o’clock, the sergeant was awakened by a rustling noise…natives…one…a young man, with a speck, or blemish, on his left eye…launched his spear at M’Entire, and it lodged in his left side’. Tench. op.cit.

Even though Phillip had reliable intelligence to the contrary he claimed the attack on McIntyre had been ‘unprovoked’.

But a year earlier Bennalong had been ‘taken by force’ and held prisoner within English lines. See: Kidnapped – Manly What’s In a Name


Manly Beach:  ‘It was a cloudy day  [25 November 1789] with some  rain the temperature was in the high seventies and the wind mainly from the south.

Bradley wrote; ‘Governor Phillip, judging it necessary that a native should be taken by force… I was ordered on this service, having the master, two petty officers a a boat’s crew with me in one of the governor’s boats’. Lieutenant Bradley RN, cited Egan, Buried Alive

During Bennalong’s six (6) months imprisonment ‘His Excellency’ and Bennalong developed a good working relationship. Phillip was fully aware Sydney’s Aboriginal community regarded McIntyre with ‘dread and hatred’.

‘From the aversion uniformly shown by all the natives to this unhappy man [McEntire] he had long been suspected of having, in his excursions, shot and injured them’. Professor G. A. Wood, Lieutenant William Dawes and Captain Watkin Tench, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal, Vol. 10, Part 1, 1924

According to English legislation, the Hulks Act of 1776, a prisoner reprieved death on condition of transportation ‘from the realm[ their] service is for the state’.

‘The convicts being servants of the Crown till the time for which they are sentenced be expired, their [‘service’] labour is to be for the public.’ See: The Hulks Act – April Fools Day- 1776

So in December 1790 when Phillip needed a diversion, create a common enemy to take off the heat, McIntyre’s ‘service for the state’  provided Phillip wriggle room.


‘Military and police raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. These raids had commenced by [14] December 1790’. Kercher, An Unruly Child. ibid.

13 December: Captain Tench was summoned to ‘Headquarters…Two [2] captains, two [2] subalterns, and forty [40] privates, with a proper number of non-commissioned officers… march at day-light to-morrow morning…to put to death ten[10] we were to cut off, and bring in the heads of the slain, for which purpose, hatchets and bags would be provided [and] if practicable, bring away two [2] natives as prisoners to execute.

I [Phillip] am resolved to execute the prisoners who may be brought in, in the most public and exemplary manner, in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected.’

Tench’s evident dismay at his orders served to have Phillip modify their scope. He invited and agreed to Tench’s proposal; ‘bring in six [6]…out of this, part might be set aside for retaliation; and the rest at a proper time, liberated, after having seen the fate of their comrades.

This scheme, his excellency was pleased instantly to adopt, adding if six [6] cannot be taken let that number [6] be shot’.  Tench. ibid.

Captain Tench and fellow marine Lieutenant William Dawes, were well aware of how local Aborigines viewed McIntyre but had very different responses to Governor Phillip’s ‘catch and kill’ orders.

Tench had been perfectly willing, after discussion with the Governor, to lead the expedition, and heartily enjoyed the humour of its adventures.

But Dawes, whose tour of duty it was to go out with that party, refused that duty by letter…and persisted in his refusal, even after the Governor had “taken great pains to point out the consequences of his being put under an arrest’. G.A. Wood. ibid.

See: Lieutenant William Dawes, The Shock of the New South Wales Corps & The Eternal Flame

Tench no doubt counselled Dawes his refusal to obey would have dire consequences.  And if Marine Major Robert Ross his Commanding Officer was not now marooned on Norfolk Island Dawes would now be under close-arrest. See:Missing in Action – H MS Sirius & HMS Supply

Dawes could have been shot or hanged, drawn and quartered. It is not known if the settlement’s senior law-man Marine Captain David Collins judge-advocate, not a lawyer, knew that in 1782 the barbarous ‘disembowelled while alive’, had been legislated out as punishment for military treason?

Nevertheless Lieutenant Dawes, the fleet’s principal scientific officer, persisted in his refusal. The garrison Adjutant Lieutenant Lowe instructed Dawes his present objections in writing, which he did.

However on advice the troubled Dawes approached Reverend Richard Johnson the First Fleet Chaplain who counselled him on his military obligation after which Dawes ‘informed Captain Campbell that the Rev. Mr. Johnson thought he might obey the order, and that he was ready to go out with the party, which he did’. Tench. ibid.


Botany Bay- December 14: At dawn with ‘three [3] days provisions, ropes to bind our prisoners, and hatchets and bags, to cut off and contain the heads of the slain’ Tench’s detachment of fifty (50) men, moved out for Botany Bay.

December – 17: After three (3) days of intense heat, with provisions running low Tench called a halt. ‘We bent our steps homeward; and after wading breast-high through two arms of the sea, as broad as the Thames at Westminster, were glad to find ourselves at Sydney, between one and two o’clock in the afternoon’ without heads or prisoners. Tench. ibid.


The exhausted troops returned to a very different settlement from the one they had left three (3) days earlier. The heady smell of cooking filled the air and the landing stage was crammed with barrels and bales of stuff ‘purchased for the settlement’.

At first light that very morning Waaksamheyd the Dutch ship chartered at Jakarta by Lieutenant Henry Ball, had sailed through Sydney Heads.

December 19: Lieutenant Dawes again wrote to Governor Phillip. This time through Marine Captain James Campbell, who had replaced Major Ross when starvation forced Phillip evacuate 50% of ‘his people’ to Norfolk Island. See: Smallpox – A Lethal Weapon Boston 1775 Major Robert Ross and David Collins – Sydney 1789 

‘[Dawes] informed the Governor that he was sorry he had been persuaded to comply with the order [13th] and very clearly showed that he would not obey a similar order in future’. Tench. ibid

The necessity for Dawes to add the disclaimer ‘he would not obey a similar order in the future’  was no doubt prompted by Governor Phillip’s stated intention ‘my [Phillip’s] fixed determination to repeat it, whenever a future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’.


Lieutenant Dawes had been down this road before in 1788. See: To Kill a Mocking Bird – Thomas Barrett

‘When leaving, Botany Bay [25 January 1788] Phillip noticed two French ships in the offing’‘Hugh Edward Egerton, A Short History of British Colonial Policy, Methuen and co. Ltd London 8th ed. 1998

On the 24th of January 1788 four (4) days after the English fleet dropped anchor in Botany Bay, Comte Jean- Francois La Perouse at the helm of La Boussole with  L’Astrolabe astern, attempted to enter Botany Bay.

Sirius’ cannon refused the French entry.

‘Phillip was alarmed…he ordered a party to be sent to Point Sutherland to hoist English colours. He also stipulated that the move to Port Jackson be kept secret, and that no one was to go on board the French ships’. John Moore, First Fleet Marines 1786-1792, Queensland University Press 1986 


In 1788 the arrival of two (2) French ships brought the ‘First Fleeter’s hope of escape and freedom. Phillip responded with alarm. In an extraordinary move on the 14th of February 1788 he ordered HMS Supply to Norfolk Island with Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN and a group of approximately twenty-four to occupy and populate the island. See: Gender Imbalance – White Mischief

Now, once again in December 1790, a foreign ship Waaksamheyd opened a Pandora’s Box of similar possibilities – escape and freedom.

Indeed,with help from Deter Smidt Waaksamheyd’s captain, an escape was realised.

In one of the world’s most extraordinary sea-sagas eleven (11) convicts stole Governor Phillip’s cutter and rowed to Coupang, in West Timor.

The Botany Bay Escapees as they became known, travelled in stages and by various means from Sydney to Timor to Batavia, to Cape Town, to Portsmouth, to Newgate prison – to the dock of the Old Bailey where their transportation story had began.

James Boswell the celebrity diarist and lawyer, from the floor of the Old Bailey, mounted a spirited defence on their behalf. See: Boswell Goes Into Bat for the Botany Bay Escapees 


Meanwhile at Sydney 1790, under threat from the Sirius cannon, removed before the Cape of Good Hope voyage, now mounted at Dawes Point, Phillip deftly averted the seizure of Waaksamheyd.

In 1788 and 1790 Governor Phillip’s response to the arrival of a foreign ship was similar. In both he created a diversion. He gave the guys with the guns something to do. See: Terror in Three Acts. Act 1. From Here to Eternity

However in 1790 Phillip he rightly saw the seizure of Waaksamheyd , as a potential pathway to military insurrection, anarchy and as a consequence of his ‘failure to do his utmost’ the loss of of New South Wales. See: Machiavellian Macarthur

Governor Phillip RN ordered a second raid against the Bidjigal at Botany Bay.


1790 – December 22: ‘Our first expedition having so totally failed, the governor resolved to try the fate of a second; and the ‘painful pre-eminence’ again devolved on me.

The orders under which I [Tench] was commanded to act differing in no respect from the last.  A little before sunset on the evening of the 22d, we marched.

Lieutenant Abbot and ensign Prentice of the New South Wales Corps were the two [2] officers under my command, and with three [3] sergeants, three [3] corporals, and thirty [30] privates completed the detachments‘.

Here it must be emphasised in both raids, due to prolonged semi-starvation, the rank and file of the marines of 1788 dressed in ragged uniforms and without shoes, could hardly stand let alone march to Botany Bay.

In the height of a Sydney summer the two (2) detachments would have been made up almost entirely of men from the recently arrived (June 1790) New South Wales Infantry Corps.

‘Differing in no respect from the last‘:  The orders did not change. However Captain Tench’s resolve and tactics did. Both differed markedly from the enjoyable ‘adventure’ Professor Wood claimed for the first raid.

‘It was now determined, being full moon that our operations should be carried on in the night, both for the sake of secrecy, and for avoiding the extreme heat of the day.

I resolved to try once more to surprise the village beforementioned.  And in order to deceive the natives, and prevent them from again frustrating our design by promulgating it, we feigned that our preparations were directed against Broken Bay, and that the man [Willeemarin] who had wounded the governor [@ Manly – September 1790] was the object of the punishment’.

So who was Tench trying to kid? When in June 1790 the infantry arrived they came without Major Francis Grose their commanding officer. The vacuum was filled by Lieutenant John Macarthur a junior officer who can best be described as Australia’s Machiavelli. See: John Macarthur – The Great Disrupter

‘The tremendous monster [whale], who had occasioned the the unhappy catastrophe just recorded [Phillip’s spearing by Willeemrin ]was fated to be the cause of farther mischief to us’.  Tench. ibid.


‘ Mischief’ the ‘natives’ knew, as Tench knew, Pemulwuy ‘the person with a speck, or blemish, on his left eye’ had exacted retribution for the harm done to his people by McIntyre.

There can be little the Willeemarin deception was designed to dampen general unrest and growing dissension between Phillip’s ‘people’ ,the old lags of 1788 who were going home empty handed, while the newly arrived officers of New South Wales Corps were to be given generous land grants.


‘Mischief’ evidence points to Macarthur dubbed ‘The Perturbator’ fermenting outrage amongst the rank and file at Phillip’s failure to retaliate his wounding by Willeemarin in September 1790.  See: Manly – Location, Location, Location


‘New Holland is a blind, then, when we want to add to the military strength of India…I need not enlarge on the benefit of stationary a large body of troops in New South Wales…Should any disturbance happen in the East Indies’. Anon, Historical Records of New South Wales

There can be no ‘confusion’ over the clarity or the reasoning that drove Governor Phillip’s orders of December 1790. See: Proximity – Not Distance Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland

Governor Arthur Phillip RN was a man under obligation and on pain of death to ‘do his utmost’ for ‘King and Country’.

Phillip’s 1790  ‘rules of engagement’ putting no limit on brutality. They demonstrate clear intent.

‘Regardless of the legal status of these subjects…Neither the theory of settlement nor those of conquest and cession justified the imperial and colonial attitudes to Aborigines’. Kercher. op.cit.

‘Differing in no respect from the last’ Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples can, with laser accuracy, plot ‘a continuing pattern of killings’ that led to their near destruction. See: Arthur’s Algorithm

From 1788 to 1870 the only professional soldiers in Australia were members of the British Army.

‘Twenty five regiments of British infantry served in the colonies between 1790 and 17870…ensuring the literal survival of white settlement… who fought in one of the most prolonged frontier wars in the history of the British empire…and for the first half of their stay were probably more frequently in action than the garrison of any other colony besides that of southern Africa…war nasty and decidedly lacking in glory’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, Sydney, 1986.

Governor Phillip’s orders of December 1790 remained extant during the ensuing eighty (80) years. They served as a template when any perceived ‘future breach of good conduct’ was taken by the Aborigines against the invaders of their country.


Aside from Captain Cook, covered in 3rd grade primary , a vox pop of school-leavers reveal they know very little of white Australia’s early modern history and, apart from the hoary old chestnut -the ‘Unpromising Commander’ [of ] David Hill’s  Convict Colony, Chapter 2 pp. 18-45,  Allen & Unwin, Sydney 2019,  almost nothing of Captain Arthur Phillip RN.      


Physically and morally degraded survivors of the Second Fleet are not anonymous. Short biographies can be found in Michael Flynn’s The Second Fleet  Britain’s Grim Armada.

These stories lay bare their wretched background circumstances that led Australia to the nation of today. A nation divided by prejudice, colour, hue and brutal institutional injustice.


2022:  Talk is currently centred on Australia’s political and strategic position in the Indo-Pacific. The global context that drove Britain’s invasion of New Holland has come full circle. See: Britain + America + France + India + China + Peru + New Holland + New South Wales = European Australia



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