‘Its now about two years and three months since we first arrived at this distant country; 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, 9 April 1790‘. Jack Egan, Buried Alive, Eyewitness accounts of the making of a nation 1788-92, Allen and Unwin, Sydney 1999

Sydney: Two (2) months after the Rev. Johnson’s wrote of ‘hope now almost vanished’ – on the 3rd of June 1790 a cry rang out – ‘Flags Up…a ship with London on her stern’.

Lady Juliana, with two hundred and twenty-six ‘useless’ female convicts was first of four (4) vessels that made up Britain’s Grim Armada the second fleet.

‘The great change came in the arrival with the Second Fleet of the 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

By the end of June 1790 the fleet’s death ships Alexander, Scarborough and Suprize arrived with approximately one thousand (1000) men. Seven hundred and fifty (750) convicts and one hundred and fifteen (115) foot soldiers – infantry, first contingent of the New South Wales Corps.

Justinian a well-stocked store-ship from England was seen off the Heads but cyclonic weather, an east-coast low, forced her out to sea. Benjamin Maitland her master sailed north as far as present-day Stockton before the weather abated sufficiently for a return to Sydney where Justinian arrived on the 20th of June.

Governor Phillip was in for a rude shock; ‘the distribution of provisions rested entirely with the masters of [all] the merchantmen’. Maitland immediately opened a shop to sell his stock as did the master of the Lady Juliana.

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

From day one – January 1788 – Governor Phillip had struggled to keep starvation at bay. He authorised official hunting parties of marines and convicts .See: Abandoned and Left to Starve @ Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790

Some went into the bush to forage for food, others shot anything that moved. Sirius and Supply trawled for fish while the weakest gathered shellfish along the shoreline. See: A Plague of Locusts – the Englishmen of the First Fleet.

Botany Bay, 9 December 1790: John McIntyre, Phillip’s own convict game- keeper, was among a group sent on a kangaroo shoot to Botany Bay where Pemulway a young warrior speared him.

Sydney:  When Governor Phillip returned to Sydney from Rose Hill on the 13th he summoned Marine Captain Watkin Tench to ‘Headquarters’.

Botany Bay: Phillip ordered Tench to march there 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.

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’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

‘Two [2] captains, two [2] subalterns, and forty [40] privates, with a proper number of non-commissioned officers’ made up the Tench detachment.


‘From the aversion uniformly shown by all the natives to this unhappy man he [McEntire] 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

Now isolated in the midst of a hostile military Governor Phillip needed to take the heat off himself. He chose diversion – summon an enemy  common to both. See: Missing in Action – HMS Sirius & HMS Supply

Phillip claimed the attack on McIntyre was ‘unprovoked’.  Un-knowns and knowns; in light of what we know Phillip knew about McIntyre it does not take a military strategist to smell a rat.

And Phillip’s intelligence was firm. Bennalong was ‘taken by force’.

Manly Beach:  A year earlier; ‘It was a cloudy day with some  rain’ (Wednesday the 25th of November 1789)  ‘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 months of imprisonment within British lines Phillip and Bennalong developed a close relationship. Phillip was made fully aware Sydney’s Aboriginal community regarded McIntyre with ‘dread and hatred’. See: Kidnapped – Manly What’s In a Name

McIntyre’s inclusion, his ‘service is for the state’, was deliberate provocation. See: The Hulks Act – April Fools Day- 1776


Although John McIntyre had  been severely wounded he was still alive on the 13th of December 1790. So it is understandable Tench was dismayed when given his orders. As a result of Tench’s evident discomfort the scope of the initial orders was modified.

Phillip 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. 

Marine Captain Tench and Lieutenant William Dawes, friends and confreres, aware of how McIntyre was viewed, had very different responses to Governor Phillip’s ‘kill’ orders. See: Lieutenant William Dawes ‘The Eternal Flame’ & Universal Terror

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.

Norfolk Island: Tench no doubt counselled Dawes his refusal to obey would have dire consequences. If Marine Major Robert Ross his Commanding Officer had not been evacuated to Norfolk Island in March 1790, undoubtedly he would now be under close-arrest.

If found guilty at court-martial Dawes could be shot for gross dereliction of duty. And if charged as a traitor hanged, drawn and quartered while still alive.

Marine Captain David Collins judge-advocate, although not a lawyer, was the settlement’s senior law man. It is not known if Collins was aware, in 1782 the barbarous, ‘disembowelled while alive’, had been legislated out as punishment for military treason.

Still Lieutenant Dawes, the fleet’s principal scientific officer, persisted in his refusal. Adjutant Lieutenant Lowe instructed Dawes put his objections in writing, which he did.

Nevertheless a troubled Dawes approached Reverend Richard Johnson the First Fleet Chaplain who counselled the officer on his  military obligation.

Subsequently he ‘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.

At dawn on the 14th of December Tench’s detachment of fifty (50) men moved out for Botany Bay 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. ibid. 

The raid failed – no heads – no prisoners.

December 17: ‘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’.

The troops however returned to a very different Sydney from the settlement they left only three (3) days before. The air filled with the heady smell of cooking and a landing stage crammed with barrels of supplies and bales of stuff.


Jakarta: At first light that very morning Waaksamheyd a ‘Dutch Snow’ from Jakarta had sailed into Sydney Harbour loaded with the supplies Lieutenant Ball, captain of HMS Supply, had ‘purchased for the settlement’. See: Missing in Action – HMS Sirius & HMS Sirius’

After further thought Lieutenant Dawes again wrote to Governor Phillip on the 19th of December. This time through Marine Captain Campbell.

Norfolk Island: Campbell had replaced Major Ross as commander of the Sydney garrison when, in March 1790 to save the Sydney settlement for imminent starvation, Phillip was forced to 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 such a disclaimer may have been prompted by Governor Phillip’s initial order that specified;‘ my [Phillip’s] fixed determination to repeat it, whenever future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’.

Or there could have been a very different reason.

Waaksamheyd’s arrival – 17 December – opened a Pandora’s Box of possibilities. Among them escape or a take-over and capture of the Dutch vessel as a pathway to military insurrection, anarchy and the overthrow of Phillip as Governor and Captain-General. See: Machiavellian Macarthur

The first of these possibilities, escape with help from Deter Smidt Waaksamheyd’s captain, was realised. A group of convicts stole Phillip’s cutter escaped from Sydney. The escapees rowed to Coupang, West Timor in one of the world’s most extraordinary sea-sagas.

From Timor, The Botany Bay Escapees as they became known, by various means to Batavia, to Cape Town, to Portsmouth, to Newgate prison. Back to stand in the dock of the Old Bailey where James Boswell mounted a spirited defence on their behalf. See: Boswell Goes Into Bat for the Botany Bay Escapees 

Under threat from the Sirius’ cannon mounted at Dawes Point Phillip deftly averted the seizure of Waaksamheyd. And he negated a military rebellion.

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’.

Botany Bay: He gave the guys with the guns something to do; he ordered a second raid against the Bidjigal of Botany Bay.

‘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‘. Lieutenant William Dawes was not among them.

Governor Phillip’s general orders of the 22nd of December 1788 ‘differing in no respect from the last13th December 1788 confirmed his intent ‘infuse universal terror…kill 6…cut off…bring in the heads of the slain…two [2] prisoners to execute’. See: Terror – Arthur’s Algorithm


What did change was Captain Tench’s attitude and tactics. 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 [Willamarin] who had wounded the governor [at Manly – September 1790] was the object of the punishment.

‘We feigned’ the target. Who was Tench trying to kid?

The big switch – it is highly likely Tench’s deception – to go after Willamarin – was designed to dampen growing dissension within the ranks of the New South Wales Corps.

Deception aimed in particular at ‘certain officers‘ led by a ‘certain’ Lieutenant John Macarthur outraged by the Governor’s failure to retaliate his (Phillip’s) own spearing by Willeemarin. See: The Switch 1790 – Context – War With France 1793-1815


When the first contingent of infantry troops – The New South Wales Corps – arrived with the second fleet in June 1790 they came without Major Francis Grose their commanding office.

The power vacuum was filled by Lieutenant John Macarthur a junior officer who can best be described as Australia’s Machiavelli. We know, due to a convenient illness, a crafty Macarthur took no part in either raid.  See: John Macarthur – The Great Disrupter

It must be emphasised due to prolonged semi-starvation, other than Marine Captain Watkin Tench, the rank and file of the detachment assembled for both raids, in particular the second foray, would have been made up almost entirely of fresh troops – infantry-men of the New South Wales Corps.

‘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.


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

There can be no ‘confusion’ over the clarity of Governor Phillip’s orders. No ‘argument’ his ‘rules of engagement’ demonstrate clear intent.

What is ‘covered up’ Phillip’s orders put no limit on brutality and that they served as a template; ‘whenever a future breach of good conduct on their side shall render it necessary’. 

‘Differing in no respect from the last’ it is from this second raid – 19th December that Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples can, with laser accuracy, plot ‘a continuing pattern of killings’ that led to their near destruction. See: A Cracker Jack Opinion – No Sweat


‘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

Talk is currently centred on Australia’s position in the area of 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

 ‘A smokescreen’;  aside from Captain Cook, covered in primary 3rd grade, a vox pop of school-leavers working in local shops, fast food outlets and supermarkets, know nothing much of Australia’s early modern history and almost nothing of its context.

And nothing of Captain Arthur Phillip RN, apart from this old but ever-green chestnut – Chapter 2 pp. 18-45 – ‘An Unpromising Commander’, David Hill, Convict Colony,  Allen & Unwin, Sydney 2019 

1790 – December, Botany Bay: For the first two [2] it is simply don’t know don’t care. But for Governor Arthur Phillip RN, a man prepared to go to any lengths for ‘King and Country’ that is a deliberate a cover-up of the truth and of the consequences of December 1790 for Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples. See: Arthur’s Algorithm










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