AN UGLY WAR – BRITAIN VERSUS THE OTHER

‘Phillip was authorised to see to the defence of the colony’. Professor Bruce Kercher, History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1995

2016 – September, Manly Beach:  FAKE NEWSROAD RAGE – cars were caught in giant grid-lock and violence broke out on both the Harbour and Spit Bridges as crowds of Sydney-siders rushed to Manly where a whale – as big as a bus – was beached on the sand.

1790 – September, Manly Beach: Real news – excited Aborigines and Englishmen rushed to Manly to marvel at,  ‘a tremendous monster’ whale washed up at Manly. It proved a tipping point in the near annihilation of a free people, Australia’s First Peoples.

1790 – 7 September, Manly Beach: Governor Phillip, whose naval career began in Arctic waters harpooning whales and now, armed with a bottle or two of fine French reds and a dagger, was rowed across to Manly for a viewing. See: Manly Location, Location, Location

‘[The governor] uncorked a bottle, and poured out a glass of it, which the other [Bennelong] drank off with his former marks of relish and good humour, giving for a toast, as he had been taught “the King”. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961 

Meanwhile a group of ‘the other’Aborigines – stood a little way off watching this strange pantomime. Tench sets the scene.

‘A native [Wileemarin] ‘with a spear in his hand came forward. His excellency held out his hand…advancing towards him…the nearer, the governor approached, the greater became the terror and agitation of the Indian. 

To remove his fear, governor Phillip threw down a dirk, he wore at this side…the other alarmed at the rattle of the dirk…and probably misconstruing the action, instantly fixed his lance, aimed [it] with such force and dexterity striking the governor’s right shoulder, just above the collar bone’. See: Kidnapped – Manly What’s In A Name

Wileemarin’s spear could not be extracted on the spot. Phillip endured two (2) agonising hours as he was rowed across choppy seas to Sydney where surgeon William Balmain removed it. Phillip had lost a great deal of blood so recovery was slow.

Enter the lists Lieutenant John Macarthur who had arrived three (3) months earlier in ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’ with the first contingent of infantry, the New South Wales Corps. See: A Tale of Two Fleets

1790 – January 20, London: ‘I am commanded to signify to you the King’s pleasure that directions be immediately given for the embarkation of the corps raised for service in New South Wales and commanded by Major Grose’. Right Hon.W.W. Grenville, to the Secretary of War

Major Francis Grose remained in London to recruit sufficient numbers to satisfy establishment requirements some ‘derelicts and delinquents’ he sourced from London’s Savoy military prison.

Macarthur, a ruthless opportunist whose personal ambition knew no bounds, was quick to take advantage of Grose’s absence.

‘Macarthur’s haughty quarrelsome nature which manifested itself on the voyage was to provoke much more conflict after his arrival in New South Wales in June 1790’. Michael Flynn, The Second Fleet, Britain’s Grim Armada of 1790, Library of Australian History, Sydney, 1993

THE BACK STORY

Phillip knew, in throwing ‘down the dirk’, he contributed to the attack and ordered there be no reprisals.

But Macarthur and ‘certain Corps’ officers’ interpreted ‘no retaliation’ as weakness and honed in on the ailing Governor who was now completely isolated in the midst of hostile soldiery with no naval support. See: Missing in Action – HMS Sirius, HMS Supply

Phillip, known for his insight, could not have failed to recognise a dangerous enemy and assessed, an already palpable threat to his position as Supreme Commander, had escalated from ‘at risk’ to imminent and; ‘Phillip was authorised to see to the defence of the colony’. Kercher. ibid.

Phillip knew, if not contained, such a dynamic could destroy Britain’s strategic plan to ‘station a large body of troops in New South Wales…New Holland is a good blind, then, when we want to add to military strength of India’. Historical Records of New South Wales. Anon

Global warfare shaped the destiny of this nation. Britain’s occupation of New Holland during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars 1793 – 1815 assured her control of alternate strategic and logistical sea-routes to and from India and Asia.

The ‘defence of the colony’ applied when ever, from where ever, from whom ever such threat arose. Phillip a proven strategist, intent on saving the Sydney settlement from insurrection and anarchy, moved to assert his authority with the only arrow in his quiver – intelligence – and that intelligence came from Bennelong. See: John Macarthur The Great Pretender & Treasure Island

Phillip had kidnapped Bennelong in November 1789, he spent six (6) months a captive within British lines. He often dined with the Governor and spoke of the local Aborigines’ hatred and contempt for convict John M’Entire.

Phillip used the information to set a trap; diversion – take off the heat – emphasise a common enemy – ‘the other’.

Since 1788 official hunting parties of; ‘the best marksmen of marines and convicts’ had been essential to survival. On the 9 December 1790 such an armed party set off for Botany Bay to shoot kangaroo ‘among them was M’Entire’.

1790 – December 9, Botany Bay: ‘At dawn a serjeant of marines with three convicts, among them was M’Entire the governor’s game-keeper (the person of whom Bennalong had on former occasions, shewn so much dread and hatred) went out on a shooting party’.

1790 – December 10, Botany Bay: ‘About 1 am the serjeant was awakened by a rustling noise in the bushes supposing it to proceed from a kangaroo…two natives with spears one [Pemulway] launched is spear at M’Entire and lodged it in his side’. ‘Tench. ibid.

SNAP

1790 – December 11, Sydney: The hunters returned to Sydney with the mortally wounded game-keeper. See: M’Entire – Death of a Sure Thing

1790 – December 12: ‘ I[Tench] received a direction to attend the governor at head quarters immediately…his excellency informed me…that we were, to put to death ten [10] cut off, and bring in the heads of the slain, for which purpose hatchets and bags would be furnished. 

If practicable, to bring away two [2] natives as prisoners..’I [Phillip] am resolved to execute the prisoners in the most public and exemplary manner’. Tench. ibid. See: Arthur’s Algorithm- ‘infuse universal terror’

EPILOGUE

2017 – 16 September, Port Macquarie: A whale estimated to weigh 20 tonne washed up at Nobbey’s Beach on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.

An attempt to tow the ‘tremendous monster’ out to sea failed. In a decision ‘not taken lightly’ the animal was euthanased and buried. The locals however were deeply divided and after a good deal of argy-bargy the whale was dug up, cut up and disposed of by staff of the National Parks and Wildlife Service at cost of $50,000 to the New South Wales Government.

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