A TETHERED GOAT – JOHN McENTIRE- 10 DECEMBER 1790

‘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

1790 – 13 December, Sydney: Governor Phillip summoned Marine Captain Watkin Tench to ‘Headquarters’ on 13 December 1790.

Tench was ordered to march to Botany Bay 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

1790 – 14 December, Botany Bay: Tench’s detachment consisted of; ‘two [2] captains, two [2] subalterns, and forty [40] privates, with a proper number of non-commissioned officers’.

The raid was in response to Pemulway’s spearing of convict John McEntire. Governor Phillip’s own game- keeper had, a few days prior (9 December) had been sent to Botany Bay on an official kangaroo hunt. .

‘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

M’Entire was known to be hated by local Aborigines. In light of this evidence, Phillip’s claim the attack on M’Entire was ‘unprovoked’ is spurious.

It does not take a military strategist to smell a rat. Phillip to take off the heat and create a common enemy chose diversion and gave the hungry, angry, scared, bored guys with the guns something to do. See: Machiavellian Macarthur

At Sydney Cove the summer heat was intense. From day one – 26 January 1788 – Governor Phillip struggled to keep starvation at bay. To do so he authorised official hunting parties of marines and convicts. While some went into the bush to forage for food, others shot anything that moved, others trawled for fish and the weakest gathered shellfish along the shoreline. See: Abandoned and Left to Starve @ Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790

1790 – 10 December, Botany Bay: John M’Entire a ‘marksman’ was one (1) of three (3) armed convicts sent with a marine NCO to Botany Bay to kill kangaroo.

Phillip’s intelligence was firm so there is little doubt McEntire’s inclusion was deliberate provocation. The kidnapped Bennalong had told Phillip of the ‘hatred and dread’ local Aborigines felt for M’Entire. See: Kidnapped – Manly What’s In a Name

When given his orders Tench showed dismay and the scope of the initial Orders was modified.

Phillip 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 both friend and confrere, had very different responses to Governor Phillip’s 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 if his being put under an arrest’. G.A. Wood. ibid.

Tench no doubt counselled Dawes that his refusal to obey would have dire consequences and, if Marine Major Robert Ross his Commanding Officer had not been evacuated to Norfolk Island in March 1790, he would now be under arrest. If found guilty at court-martial he could be shot for gross dereliction of duty or hanged as a traitor.

It is not known if Marine Captain David Collins judge-advocate the settlement’s senior law man, although not a lawyer, knew Dawes should be spared drawing and quartering while still alive. In 1782 that barbarity had been legislated out as punishment for military treason.

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

Subsequently Lieutenant 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.

1790 – December 14: 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.

1790 – 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’ where they found the  air was filled with the heady smell of cooking.

The troops returned to a very different settlement from the Sydney they left only three (3) days before; the landing stage was crammed with bales of stuff and barrels of supplies.

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

1790 – December 19: ‘[Dawes] informed the Governor that he was sorry he had been persuaded to comply with the order and very clearly showed that he would not obey a similar order in future’. Tench. ibid

Lieutenant Dawes again wrote to Governor Phillip this time through Captain Campbell who, in March 1789, had replaced Major Ross as commander of the Sydney garrison when imminent starvation had forced Phillip evacuate 50% of ‘his people’ to Norfolk Island.

The necessity for such a letter 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 may have been a very different reason.

Waaksamheyd’s arrival had opened a Pandora’s Box of possibilities; among them escape, capture of the Dutch vessel with its armaments, thereby enhancing a pathway to insurrection and anarchy – the overthrow of Phillip as Governor and Captain-General.

The first of these possibilities was realised when a group of convicts stole Phillip’s cutter escaped from Sydney and rowed to Coupang, West Timor in one of the world’s most extraordinary sea-sagas.

From Timor, then by various means to Batavia, to Cape Town, to Portsmouth, to Newgate gaol and back to 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 

Phillip deftly averted the second scenario, capture of Waaksamheyd, and the third – rebellion – by ordering a second raid against the Bidjigal of 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 was commanded to act differing in no respect from the last’.

Lieutenant William Dawes was not among them when ‘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’. See: William Dawes & ‘The Eternal Flame’

Tench says his orders ‘differing in no respect from the lastreiterated Governor Phillip’s stated intent ‘infuse universal terror…kill…cut off…bring in the heads of the slain…two [2] prisoners to execute’. See: Terror – Arthur’s Algorithm

But what had changed however was Captain Tench’s attitude and his tactics. They differed markedly from the enjoyable ‘adventure’ Professor Wood claimed for the first raid.

Tench wrote; ‘I resolved to try once more to suprise 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 [September 1790 at Manly] was the object of the punishment.

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’.

This was deliberate deception ‘we feigned’ – who was the target – who was Tench trying to kid?

The big switch – it is highly likely Tench’s ‘preparations’ were designed to dampen dissatisfaction within the ranks of the New South Wales Corps. See: The Switch 1790 – Context – War With France 1793-1815

In particular to deceive ‘certain officers‘ outraged by Phillip’s refusal to retaliate following his own spearing by the warrior Willeemarin. See: Manly Location, Location Location

In June 1790 the first contingent of infantry troops – The New South Wales Corps -had arrived with the second fleet. But 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.  See: John Macarthur – The Great Disrupter

‘Twenty five regiments of British infantry served in the colonies between 1790 and 17870…ensuring the literal survival of white settlement…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.

It must be emphasised, 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 infantry-men from the New South Wales Corps ‘who fought in one of the most prolonged frontier wars in the history of the British empire‘. Stanley. ibid.

EPILOGUE

‘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’ when it comes to Governor Phillip’s orders. His ‘rules of engagement’ demonstrate clear intent and put no limit on brutality. They served as a template; ‘whenever a future breach of good conduct on their side shall render it necessary’..  

1790 – December: ‘Differing in no respect from the last’ it is from this second raid 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

2019: ‘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

Aside from Captain Cook covered in primary 3rd grade, a vox pop of recent school-leavers working at any local supermarket, reveals very little is known of Australia’s modern history and nothing of its context.

Britain’s invasion of New Holland created a divided nation. It is time to address – the smokescreen of legal confusion’ and don’t know  don’t care, shatter the cover-up.

Talk is now centred on Australia’s position in the Indo-Pacific. The context of Britain’s invasion of New Holland has come full circle.

 

 

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