1790 – 11 December, Sydney Cove: ‘Put ten [10] to death…bring in the heads of the slain…bring away two [2] prisoners…I am resolved to execute the prisoners…in the most public and exemplary manner’. General Orders, Governor Arthur Phillip RN to Marine Captain Watkin Tench. Cited, Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

1889 – April 3, United Kingdom: Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; Lord Watson, Lord Fitzgerald, Lord Hobhouse, Lord MacNaghton, Sir William Grove, Cooper V Stuart [1889] 14 AC ruled; ‘it [New South Wales] was peacefully annexed to the British Dominion’.

1790 – December: ‘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, History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1995

Australia’s First Peoples can, with laser accuracy, plot their near annihilation from the raids of December 1790. ‘as if the invasion of their land would call for any other response but armed resistance’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, 1986

‘Twenty-five regiments of British infantry…fought in one of the most prolonged 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’. Stanley. op.cit.

1790 – December:  The General Orders issued by Captain-General Arthur Phillip RN to Marine Captain Watkin Tench initiated the punitive  raids of the 14 and 22 December 1790. Unless otherwise attributed Captain Tench’s First Four Years informs this narrative.

Phillip’s orders were never countermanded they served as a template and went on to govern all future confrontations between the First Nations’ Peoples and; ‘twenty-five [25] regiments of British infantry [who] participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent‘. Stanley. ibid.


The men who founded the second British Empire during the reign of George III renewed a policy which animated their predecessors in the age of the Tudors’. Vincent T. Harlow, Founding of the Second British Empire 1763-1793, Vol. 2, Longmans, 1964

1783, Paris: Post the formal signing of the Treaty of Paris on 3rd September 1783the international world the recognised a newly independent nation, the United States of America.

Britain had lost America her ’empire in the west’ the colonies of Connecticut, Carolina north and south, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia.

‘Once more the discoveries of Captain Cook were influencing the direction of Britain’s overseas expansion…During period 1763 and 1793 the character of the Second British Empire was being formed…the empire of commerce in the Indian and Pacific Oceans’. Harlow, ibid.

To achieve that aim New Holland was invaded, her peoples conquered and dispossessed of their lands.

‘I need not enlarge on the benefit of stationing a large body of troops in New South Wales…New Holland is a good blind, then, when we want to add to the military strength of India’. “W. Raleigh” to Home Office, Under-Secretary Evan Nepean, Historical Records of New South Wales.

Although long dead, Sir ‘Walter Raleigh’ sailor, mercenary, spy from ‘the age of the Tudors’, was able to assure London, with New Holland England had conquered territory; ‘which time will render much superior to that which their predecessors have lost in the west’.

In war and peace a permanent naval base and military presence Port Jackson secured Britain command of and control over strategic and trading routes to and from Africa, India, China and South America via the ‘Indian and Pacific Oeans’ and a blockade-breaker in time of conflict.


‘The Act of 1786 [Geo. 111. c.59] for the ‘Encouragement of the Southern Whale Fishery’ proved to be the foundation of an important industry…in the wake of the whalers other British traders would follow. The furtherance of this plan became one of the central objects of Lord Hawkesbury’s commercial policy.’ Harlow. ibid.

Britain would also gain a fortified land base to support a ship-based whale fishery.

1786 – 18 August, London: ‘His Majesty [George III] has thought it advisable to fix upon Botany Bay‘. Home Secretary Lord Sydney to Lords of Treasury’.

Captain Arthur Phillip RN was selected to lead the large armed expeditionary force across 13,000 miles (21,000 km) of the ‘imperfectly explored oceans’.

London -1786 -October, 12:  ‘We, reposing especial trust and confidence in your loyalty, and experience in military affairs, do, by these presents, constitute and appoint you to be said Governor of our territory called New South Wales…from the Northern extremity Cape York…to the Southern extremity…South Cape’. King George III to our trusted and well-loved Captain Arthur Phillip, 12 October 1786.

^^^^1787 HMS Sirius. Motherbank May 11: ‘The articles of war’ arrived on board. Arthur Phillip to Evan Nepean, Frank Murcott Bladen, Historical Records of New South Wales

1787 – Portsmouth, May 13: Fully funded by government, first administration of William Pitt the Younger (1783-1801), the squadron of eleven (11) ships, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’ commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN, sailed from Portsmouth at dawn on 13 May 1787 to invade the island continent of New Holland.

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

Britain, since the time of Oliver Cromwell (1600-1658 ) had an inherent fear of revolution and resisted a large peace-time standing army. In times of conflict naval numbers were boosted by ‘impressment’.

Able-bodied men were whipped off the streets, from under bridges and out of pubs while many male criminals, in lieu of prison-time, served their sentence as ‘impressed‘ sailors.

The ‘First Fleet’s complement, upwards of 1500 souls, was overwhelmingly male – 1300 men & 220 women. One-half, five hundred and eighty (580) were ‘impressed’ male criminals and one hundred and ninety-three (193) females most ‘camp-followers’.

The other half comprised twenty (20) officials, two hundred (200) Royal Naval personnel, officers and ratings crew of HMS Sirius and HMS Supply, two hundred and forty-five (245) garrison marine officers, non- commissioned and other ranks of the Sydney garrison, thirty-one (31) marine wives, approximately thirty (30) free children of marines and convicts.

‘From 1788 there had been continuous disputation between the civil power represented by the autocratic uniformed naval governors, and the military’. Not a Rum Rebellion but a Military Insurrection, Journal of Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 92, John Mc Mahon, 2006

Marine Major Robert Ross, the Sydney garrison commander, rigid unbending, he was quick to take offence especially where Governor Phillip was concerned.

Without doubt ‘no distinction in the daily ration’ intensified the well documented antagonism that, from the get go, existed between Major Ross and Governor Phillip, resulting in what can best be described as a dysfunctional command structure.

Approximately four hundred and forty (440) merchant seamen, crewed six (6) chartered troop transports, Prince of Wales, Alexander, Scarborough, Friendship, LadyPenrhyn, Charlotte and the fleet’s three (3) stores ships Borrrowdale, Fishburn and Golden Grove

All vessels were under contract to discharge their human cargo and supplies as soon as possible and return to England some via China to buy tea for the chattering classes.

Botany Bay – 1788, January 18/20: After a passage of eight (8) months the convoy reached Botany Bay with 36 hours between 18-20 January 1788.

‘There…would seem to be “some justification for the saying that England won Australia by six days”. Edwards Jenks, History of Australian Colonies, Cited in British Colonial Policy, Hugh E. Egerton, Methuen, 1928

Port Jackson -21 January: ‘We had scarcely bid each other welcome when….his Excellency preceded in a boat to examine the opening, to which Mr.Cook had given the name of Port Jackson’.

Botany Bay – 23 January: ‘The boat returned on the evening of the 23rd , with such an account of the  harbour and advantages attending the place that it was determined the evacuation of Botany Bay should commence the next morning’.

24 January: But next morning at dawn…” the cry of another sail” struck my astonished ear’ two (2) French ships, L’Astrolabe and La Boussole, under command of Jean-Francois La Perouse, emerged from the gloom.

Sutherland: The Sirius guns and blustery off-shore winds forced the French sail south to safety and shelter at Point Sutherland.

25 January: In great haste Captain Phillip boarded HMS Supply and quit Botany Bay. He sailed nine (9) miles (14km) north to Port Jackson and dropped anchor in ‘snug’ Sydney Cove just on dark.

Sydney Cove-  snug arriving there just on dark  and safe anchorage in Sydney Cove, ordering his ships follow as soon as weather permitted.

1788 – 26 January, Botany Bay:  The fleet, battling wild winds and cross- currents running across Botany Bay’s wide open face, managed an albeit dangerous exit that damaged three (3) ships putting lives at risk .

1788 – 26 January, Botany Bay: Later that afternoon L’.Astrolabe and La Boussoule, guided by John Hunter captain of HMS Sirius, entered Botany Bay and dropped anchor in an area known now as Frenchmens Bay, La Perouse.

By mid afternoon 26th January 1788 all English ships, other than Sirius, were safely at anchor in Sydney Cove where Phillip two (2) days prior had raised ‘English Colours’ from a hastily erected flag-staff.

The men disembarked, the women remained afloat until some ground was cleared and tents erected. 

‘The evening was bright [but] it was found impossible to read the public commissions and take possession of the colony in form, until the 7th February’. Tench. ibid.

1788 – 6 February: During the hot sultry day all two hundred (200) women and their children disembarked.

1788 – 7 February, Sydney Cove: On that day the marine battalion [was] drawn up…music playing…colours flying…convicts were assembled.

His Majesty’s commission read appointing His Excellency Arthur Phillip…Governor and Captain-General in and over the territory of New South Wales and its dependencies. Three vollies were fired in honour of the occasion, and the battalion marched back to their parade, where they were reviewed by the Governor‘.

Sydney Cove: There the Robinson Crusoes of the ‘First Fleet’ stayed, marooned, callously left to starve; Tench wrote;  the misery and horror of such a situation cannot be imparted even by those who have suffered under it’. See Abandoned and Left to Starve at Sydney January 1788 to June 1790

                                   JANUARY 1788 TO JUNE 1790

‘The main battle was about having enough to eat’. Don Watson, The Story of Australia, Kangaroo Press, 1984

1788 – January, Sydney: Golden Grove, Borrowdale, Fishburn the First Fleet’s stores ships were unloaded; ‘every specie of provisions’ were found deficient both in quality and quantity.

Most sheep purchased from the Dutch at Cape Town, fed dry fodder on the long sixty-eight (68 ) day final leg to Sydney, when turned out to graze on fresh course grass, developed acidosis and died.

14 February 1788



1788 – February: A thorough inventory of provisions confirmed Governor Phillip’s worst fears, survival would depend on fish; ‘our customary method was to leave Sydney Cove about four[4] in the afternoon and go down in the harbour and fish all night’.

The constant use of Sirius and Supply’s trawling nets deprived Sydney’s Aboriginal families of fish their main source of protein and especially so as in winter fish leave harbour waters to breed.

1788 – March: ‘a deduction of 13 lb per 100 cwt. [hundredweight] of beef and 8 lbs in 100 cwt of pork‘ was made in the ration issue.

1788 – May:  Records record livestock; ‘7 horses 2 bulls 6 cows 29 sheep 19 goats 74 pigs 18 turkeys 29 geese 35 ducks 122 fowl, 87 chickens and 5 rabbits’.

1788 – 15 May: Breeding cattle had been purchased at Cape Town, however in the middle of May 1788 the two (2) bulls and 5 of 6 cows wandered off into the bush. Separated from the herd the lone cow went mad was shot and eaten.

1788 – June:  Winter, fish migrated to breeding grounds and Phillip noted; ‘they [Aborigines] seem very badly off for food, not having any fish’.

1788 – August: ‘Our stock of flour bore no proportion to the salt beef and pork…the fish caught were trifling…many salutary herbs that made a wholesome [sarsaparilla] drink and of great use to our sick.

Spinach, parsley, a sort of broad beans, several unknown vegetables…a sort of green berries that are pronounced a most excellent anti-scorbutic [anti-scurvy] are gathered in abundance and a specie of sorrell, all of a peculiar fine acid’.

There was no recognition what was ‘gathered in abundance’ robbed Aboriginal families of foods essential to their health and well-being.

We had long turned our eyes with impatience towards the sea [in] the hope of seeing supplies from England’ but none came. See: On The Rocks

1788 – September: By September 1788 it was do or die for the Sydney settlement. Semi-starvation forced Governor Phillip take a radical decision, he ordered Captain John Hunter RN prepare HMS Sirius for a voyage to Africa.

1788 – 2 October, to Africa: ‘But none arriving, on the 2nd of October the Sirius sailed for the Cape of Good Hope’.

Captain John Hunter RN sailed HMS Sirius though Sydney’s towering headlands on the 2nd October 1788. His mission, purchase urgently need food and medicines from the Dutch at Cape Town.

Hunter an excellent navigator with an extensive knowledge of prevailing winds and behaviour of ocean currents set a southerly course headed south into icy waters on a lone perilous voyage to Africa via Cape Horn.

In so doing Captain Hunter pioneered a sea-route that validated Prime Minister Pitt’s decision to invade New Holland in the hope of securing a passage via the southern oceans that had potential to provide England with a blockade-breaker in time of war.

1788 – November, Sydney: With warmer water fish returned to the harbour in greater quantity. HMS Supply’s trawling nets were deployed constantly bringing the English some respite from gnawing hunger ‘unabated animosity continued to prevail between the natives and us’

1788 – 30 December: Phillip kidnapped Arabanoo, a young warrior and held him captive within English lines. His motive was to learn some local dialect and gain knowledge of what food resources might lay beyond the confines of the Sydney settlement.


1789 – 1 January:  New Year’s Day – Arabanoo lunched at Governor Phillip’s table he ate fish and roast pig but refused wine.

1789 – 10 January:  As desperation deepened crime increased. A convict Thomas Sanderson found guilty of stealing from government stores, was hanged.

Thieving was also punished at the cruel triangle. Men and women were flogged with the vicious cat-o-nine tails and tempers flared ‘you can kiss my arse’ earned 100 lashes.

1789 – 25 March:  Crime however was not confined to convicts. Seven (7) marines, over a considerable period using counterfeit keys, systematically robbed the government storehouse. Found guilty all were sentenced to death.

1789 – 27 March: One (1) marine, said to be the ringleader, ratted and turned ‘kings evidence…at 9 o’clock 6 marines were executed’.

                                 1789 – APRIL: SMALLPOX

‘The British strayed from their settlement in armed parties…initially the tribes of Port Jackson region met the settlers of the first fleet with almost unrelieved hostility.

Once smallpox entered the equation all this changed. Perhaps half of the [Aboriginal] population of the Port Jackson region died in a few months’. Jeffrey Grey, A Military History of Australia, The British Period 1788-1870, Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed. 2001

1789 – April: Smallpox ‘entered the [food] equation’ in April 1789 when nothing in storage was secure and an unknown number of counterfeit keys were still in circulation.

‘On inspection…pustules, similar to those occasioned by the small pox were thickly spread on the bodies…The body of the [Aboriginal] woman showed that famine, super-added to disease had occasioned her death’.

Tench admitted; ‘it is true our surgeons had brought out variolous [smallpox] matter in bottles but how disease to which our former observations had led us to suppose them strangers could at once have introduced itself and have spread so widely seemed inexplicable’ .


Smallpox confers life-long immunity on those who survive its ravages but survivors are left a tell-tale legacy disfiguring pock-marks.

Twenty (20) years earlier, in 1770, botanist Joseph Banks with Captain James Cook RN on HMS Endeavour’s voyage obsessed over the New Hollanders preference for nakedness.  Yet neither Banks or Cook, while remarking on ceremonial and ornamental scarring and scars of battles past and recent, made no mention of smallpox pitting.

1789 – Sydney: Nakedness gave ‘First Fleet’ physicians a clear field of observation yet in April 1789 none made mention of pitting on older Aborigines indicating no smallpox outbreak had occurred in the intervening twenty (20) years.

Smallpox was endemic in 18th century England and ‘First Fleet’ physicians familiar with the virus diagnosed smallpox. Currently  commentators, with no experience of smallpox, in 1980 declared eradicated by the World Health Organisation, challenge the veracity of their diagnosis.

‘ but how a disease…could at once have introduced itself, and have spread so widely, seemed inexplicable’.


‘Not one case of the disorder occurred among the white people either afloat or on shore although there were several children in the settlement….but a Northern  American Indian…took the disease and died’. ‘ Australian Discovery and Colonisation, Vol. 1 to 1810, Samuel Bennett, facsimile ed. 1981

Upwards of 60 malnourished English children, most without prior exposure to the smallpox virus therefore with no acquired immunity, lived in the Sydney settlement. They would have been as susceptible to smallpox as the Aboriginal community, yet none were infected.

If that was not enough of a conundrum; ‘a North American Indian…took the disease and died’.

1789 – May, Sydney: Joseph Jefferies born on New York’s Staten Island was that ‘Northern American Indian’. Two (2) years earlier, August 1787 when the ‘First Fleet’ put into Rio de Janeiro for supplies, the young adventurer joined as crew on HMS Supply.

In Sydney Joseph Jefferies lived ‘among the white people’ both on land and in cramped quarters aboard Supply. Diagnosed with smallpox the young American died at Sydney on or about the 9th May 1789. His death moves ‘inexplicable’ to statistical impossibility. See: From New York to Rio and Old Sydney Town:  One – Then There Was None

‘But how introduced ‘?

 Its origin is contested however given its cyclic habit and presentation in 1789; sudden onset, rapid rampant spread, pattern of distribution and mortality – no residual pock marks – yet old and young were afflicted, all indicate a ‘virgin’ outbreak.

To Australia’s shame no rigorous scientific investigation has been undertaken into a calamity that destroyed upwards of 50% of Sydney’s Eora families. Confined to one (1) of two (2) susceptible populations, strongly indicates a targeted origin.

  8 MAY 1789

1789 – 8 May, from Africa: HMS Sirius returned from Cape Town with rice, medicines and 127,000 lbs of flour meant primarily for the king’s ships Sirius and Supply and what could be spared for the settlement.

1789 – 18 May:  Arabanoo, Phillip’s captive warrior, died of smallpox on 18th May 1789. Of him Tench wrote; ‘a gentle and placable temper [who] knew he was in our power, but the independence of his mind never forsook him. If the slightest insult were offered to him, he would return it with interest’.

     1789 –  JUNE

1789 – June, mid-winterThe remainder of 1789 continued as before, dominated by hunger, uncertainty, desperation, thieving, punishment and; ‘finding bodies of the Indians in all the coves and inlets of the harbour’.

1789 – 25 June: Elizabeth Fowles stealing; ‘public flogging 50 lashes on 3 successive Thursdays to have her head shaved and to wear a canvas cap with thief on it’.

William Boggis stealing; ‘100 lashes on his bare breach…work with an iron on his leg’.

John Ferguson; ‘writing a scandalous and obscene paper, 100 lashes’.

1789 – 10 August: Governor Phillip sensed rebellion. In an effort to stem thieving and curb increasing unrest and violence, he decided to establish a ‘night-watch’ and approached Marine Major Robert Ross the recalcitrant garrison commander.

Ross, ever a thorn in Phillip’s side, refused to allow his soldiers act as policemen. Phillip made what, on the face of it was an outrageous decision and set a thief to catch a thief.

Headed by Herbert Keeling, an educated rakish one-eyed convict, Phillip’s ‘night-watch’ was made up entirely of convicted criminals.

‘A night watch of 12 persons, divided into four parties, and fully authorized to patrol all hours in the night [and] visit such places as may be deemed necessary for the discovery of any felony, trespass, or misdemeanour and for the apprehending and securing for examination any person or persons’.

As well as stalking, accosting and detaining convicts;  ‘any soldier or seaman found straggling after the beating of the taptoo; or may be found in a convicts’ hut, is to be detained; and information of him immediately given to the nearest guard’. 

The activities of the convict night-watch further inflamed animosity between Governor Phillip, Major Ross, his officers the garrison’s rank and file.

1789 – Spring:  Warmer weather brought more fish into the harbour;‘increasing animosity between the natives and us’. HMS Supply took up large hauls, so many that her nets broke the catch was divided among the Europeans increasing.  

1789 – September: ‘Butter being expended this was the first of the provisions brought from England which had wholly failed’.

1789 – October: The weekly ration stood at; ‘5 lbs 5 oz of flour…3 pounds 5 oz of pork, and 2 pints of [dried] pease.  Rats always troublesome destroyed the few vegetables grown by enterprising individuals.

Even more devastating, weevils joined the rats in attacking the store’s slender reserve of flour, the only food that may have retained a vestige of Vitamin B.

HMS Supply hoped to make up some short-fall in the ration. and sailed to Lord Howe Island for turtle meat but managed to capture only three (3)  animals.

1789 – November: Phillip, having lost Arabanoo to smallpox (May 1789), turned again to kidnapping. Two (2) Aboriginal men, Bennalong ‘robust and haughty’ Colbee ‘less sullen not so robustly framed’ were taken prisoner; ‘for the purpose of knowing whether or not the country possessed any resources, by which life might be prolonged‘.

1789 – December, Sydney Cove: Other than a small settlement at Rose Hill the Englishmen, fronting a vast ocean hemmed in at the rear by dense bush, were restricted largely to an area centred on a semi-circular cove within Port Jackson

In an effort to relieve pressure on already depleted resources Phillip sent a party;beyond Rose Hill towards the Carmarthen [now Blue] mountains but they found the country so rugged, and the difficulty of walking so excessive, that in three [3] days they were able to penetrate only fifteen [15] miles; and were therefore obliged to relinquish their object’.                                                           


1790 – January: Captain Tench greeted 1790 with intense trepidation: ‘Our impatience of news from Europe strongly marked the commencement of the year. We had now been two years in the country, and thirty-two months from England, in which long period no supplies, except what had been procured in the Cape of Good Hope by the Sirius, had reached us.

From the intelligence of our friends and connections we had been entirely cut off, no communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th May, 1787, the  day of our departure from Portsmouth’.

1790 – January, February: Summer saw an increase in supplies of fish, oysters and a wide variety of crustacean. But with winter in the offing an exhaustive inventory revealed it was crunch time.

The government storehouse contained; ‘salt meat sufficient to serve until 2d of July; flour until the 20th August; and rice, or pease in lieu of it, until the 1st October [1790]…Famine was approaching with gigantic strides, and gloom and dejection overspread every countenance’.

1790 – February: The previous year (1789) upwards of 50% of Sydney’s Aboriginal families died of smallpox and relieved pressure on bitterly contested resources.

Governor Phillip drew on that experience in deciding on a potential logistical nightmare. He would evacuate 50% of his people to Norfolk Island. Surrounded by reefs the island lay 1,600 km to the west, two (2) weeks sailing time from Sydney.

‘There would seem to be “some justification for the saying that England won Australia by six days”. Edwards Jenks, History of the Australian Colonies, cited in British Colonial Policy, Hugh E. Egerton, Metheun, 1982

When La Boussoule and L’Astrolabe, reached Botany Bay on 23rd January 1788 their presence seriously alarmed Governor Phillip who feared La Perouse, on leaving Botany Bay, would sail to Norfolk Island and claim the uninhabited island for France.

Phillip, in order to stymie La Perouse, in February 1788, had sent Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN to the island where King ‘raise[d] English Colours’ thereby establishing another outpost of the British Empire.

1790 – 6 March, Norfolk Island: HMS Sirius and HMS Supply, loaded with marines, convicts, flour and rice, the essential carbohydrates unavailable on the island, set sail for Norfolk Island where vegetables thrived in fertile soil and fish were available year round.

Sirius was to sail onto China and organise a rescue mission to save the Sydney settlement from complete disaster.

With Sirius went Captain John Hunter RN and one hundred and sixty (160) Royal Naval personnel.The exodus of Phillip’s naval brothers left the Governor isolated in the midst of an increasingly disaffected soldiery led now by Marine Captain James Campbell, Major Ross’s second in command and, like Ross, an extremely antagonistic marine officer.

Phillip’s health now in serious decline was in great need of support and who better than Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King a trusted fellow Royal Naval Officer and long-time friend.

Phillip ordered Major Ross replace Gidley King as Lieutenant-Governor of Norfolk Island and requested King return to Sydney in HMS Supply. Young , capable and trustworthy, Lieutenant King would act as Governor Phillip’s confidant and adviser.

1790 – 19 March, Norfolk Island: Phillip knew landing people and supplies on Norfolk, surrounded by uncharted  reefs, was always going to be tricky business and so it proved.

1790 – 23 March, Norfolk Island: HMS Sirius, had successfully discharged her evacuees and most cargo, when she ran aground. Stuck fast in ‘pounding surf on every side’ Sirius broke up over a number of days; ‘happily, however captain Hunter and every other person belonging to her were saved’.

‘Dismay was painted on every countenance, when the tidings were proclaimed at Sydney’. 

1790 – 5 April, Sydney Cove: HMS Supply returned to Sydney in early April 1790 bringing Lieutenant Gidley King and devastating news; Sirius was at the bottom of the sea and all hope of a China rescue gone.

‘The governor directed that the provisions should in future be served daily without distinctionit became necessary to put the colony upon still shorter ration of provisions…for a week 4lb four, 2 & one-half pound salted pork, and 1 & one-half lbs of rice’.

Tench’s comment on the ration issue adds additional perspective.

‘When the age of this provision is recollected its inadequacy will more readily appear. The pork and rice were brought with us from England, pork salted between three and four years, and every grain of rice was a moving body from the inhabitants lodged within it’.

Living for such an extended period on poor quality foods, devoid of nutrient with little or no vitamin content and significantly; ‘our stock of flour bore no proportion to the salt beef and pork’ convict and soldier alike became physically weak and mentally depressed.

Work hours were reduced. Up at sunrise, work to begin on the  drum-beat, a short break for breakfast, work until 1 pm; ‘the afternoons allowed the people to receive their provisions and work in their gardens’. 

1790 – 6 April: The night after Supply’s return from Norfolk Island ; ‘at  six o’clock in the evening, all officers of the garrison, both civil and  military, were summoned to meet the governor in council’. Governor Phillip ordered; ‘the immediate departure of the Supply for Batavia‘ – modern day Jakarta.

At Jakarta Lieutenant Ball RN her captain was to buy provisions and charter a Dutch vessel to transport them to Sydney.  Governor Phillip relinquished Lieutenant Phillip Gidley KIng’s support.

King was to sail to Jakarta with Supply, from there obtain passage on a trading vessel, return to England and deliver Governor Phillip’s dispatches to Whitehall.

At Sydney meanwhile Phillip ordered an increase in the number of hunting parties using; ‘the best marksmen of the marine and convicts’.

During the month Supply was absent sailing to and from Norfolk Island, no large-scale trawling had been possible. Now her nets were urgently deployed; ‘about four hundred-weight of fish being  brought up, it was issued’ to very hungry Englishmen.

1790 –  mid April, Sydney: The weekly ration was again reduced; ‘to every child of more than eighteen months old and to every grown person, two & one-half pounds of pork, two & one-half pounds of flour, two pounds of rice, or a quart of pease per week, under eighteenth months old, same quantity of rice and flour, and one pound of pork’.

1790 – 17 April, Sydney to Batavia: Lieutenant Ball and HMS Supply departed Sydney on 17th of April bound for Jakarta. With Supply went large scale trawling, all hope of escape and any means of communicating with the outside world.

As Supply sailed out through the Heads Tench turned to Virgil; ‘In te omnis domus inclinata recumbit’ – ‘thou the support of all [t]his tottering house’.

So precarious was the position at Sydney Governor Phillip felt compelled to  relinquish Lieutenant Gidley King’s support. He entrusted his friend with official dispatches and a covert letter of great significance.

Addressed to Evan Nepean at the Home Office this letter confirmed the strategic and economic advantages Britain sought to gain by invading New Holland in 1788 had effectively foiled French ambitions for control of the southern seas and he confirmed New Holland’s strategic position in time of war.

‘ I need not enlarge on the benefit of stationing a large body of troops in New South Wales…New Holland is a good blind, then, when we want to add to the military  strength of India’.

William Pitt’s foresight in securing supremacy over alternate sea routes to and from Africa, India, China and South America had, in the  opinion of long dead Sir Walter Raleigh far exceeded Prime Minister William Pitt’s expectations.

Captain Arthur Phillip, fluent in German, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish was an exceptionally effective spy. He lived  in a world of intrigue and thrived in the heady world of  international  rivalry.

During the long years Phillip served as an agent of Britain’s Secret Service his salary was paid through Home Office Under-Secretary Evan Nepean. Georgian Phillip, like Tudor Raleigh, saw himself an empire builder.

‘ I have taken this method because to be unknown and give my honor not a hint of it shall ever transpire, “W. Raleigh”.

Not a hint’ not quite, convincing clues flag the author.

Britain’s invasion of New Holland in 1788 was remarkably prescient. In 1793, within five (5) years of invading and conquering New Holland, Britain and France were at war and that war was no suprize.



The French Revolutionary Wars 1793-1815 were preceded by two hundred (200) years of on and off conflict with continual trading tugs-of-war between merchants and mercenaries  of the British East Company 1600, Dutch East India company 1602 and the French East India Company 1644

In 1793 Britain embarked on a generation, twenty-five (25) years of global warfare. Firstly with France then Spain, the Dutch and in 1812 the United States of America. The conflict ended in June 1815 with the Duke of Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo.


1790 – Mid July, Jakarta: After three (3) months at sea, Supply reached Jakarta. Her captain Lieutenant Ball RN requested William Alting, the Dutch Governor, permit immediate negotiations with the Dutch East India Company to purchase of food and medicines.

In the time it took Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King wrangle a passage home to England he used his knowledge of languages to assist Lieutenant Ball deal with an edgy Dutch bureaucracy.

King was especially helpful in managing the difficult task of securing Waaksamheyd a Dutch vessel to transport large quantities of supplies to Sydney and as soon as possible.

1790 – 4 August, Jakarta: Gidley King bid farewell to Captain Hunter and HMS Supply in early August to board Snelheyd. A Dutch vessel she proved a ‘fever-ship’, many crew died on her four (4) months passage.

1790 – December, England: Somehow Lieutenant King survived his perilous voyage to reach England in December 1790.


1790 – May, Sydney: ‘The distress of the lower classes for clothes was almost equal to their other wants…the stores had been long exhausted, and winter was at hand’.

Similarly marines in tattered uniforms paraded barefoot. Tench echoed Othello; ‘Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war were no more’.

Work hours were further reduced and severity of punishments increased. A convict stole potatoes; ‘300 lashes immediately, to be chained for six months to two other criminals and have his allowance of flour stopped for six months’.


1790 – 3 June, Sydney: Lady Juliana; ‘with two hundred and twenty-five [225] of our countrywomen, whom crime or misfortune had condemned to exile’ appeared in the entrance to Sydney Harbour.

Lady Juliana, dubbed ‘The Brothel Ship’, was first of four (4) vessels aptly named ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’ dropped anchor in Sydney Cove empty of British sail.

William Wyndham  Grenvllle, a young cousin of Prime Minister Pitt, replaced Lord Sydney as Home Secretary in June 1789. Grenville contracted convict transportation to Camden, Calvert and King a London firm ‘prominent in the Atlantic slave trade’. 

1790 – June: Suprize, Scarborough and Neptune, the second fleet’s death ships, reached Sydney at the of June 1790. Their arrival did not bring salvation to the settlement, although this view is widely held by Australian historians.

Rather ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’ catapulted Governor Phillip into open warfare with the First Australians. A war characterised by Dr Peter Stanley in The Remote Garrison, ‘war, nasty and decidedly lacking in glory’.

Excited onlookers crowding Sydney’s quayside gasped in  horror as gaunt skeletons of naked men covered in vomit and faeces emerged from the stinking holds of Neptune, Scarborough and Suprize.

Of 1038 mainly male criminals embarked at Plymouth, 25% – 273 – died during the voyage. Of 486 prisoners landed alive but sick, 15% – 124 – died within weeks of arrival. The immense task of caring for the sick and dying fell to ‘First Fleet’ physicians whose medicine chest was all but  empty.

‘The contractors had been in the Guinea trade, and had put on board the same shackles used by them in that trade’. Extract, Letter from Captain William Hill to William Wilberforce, Sydney Cove, 18 July 1790, Historical Records of Australia.

Unable to stand, tethered two (2) together by short rigid bolts, the infamous ‘Guinea slave shackle[s]’ many prisoners were carried ashore.

Captain William Hill of the first contingent New South Wales Corps, an infantry regiment raised to replace the garrison marines, sailed in Suprize. Hill wrote at length to William Wilberforce, England’s leading anti-slavery advocate, of the horror voyage.

‘The irons used upon these unhappy wretches were barbarous. Thus fettered it was impossible for them to move but at the risk of both their legs being broken. The slave trade is merciful compared with what I have seen in this fleet [in] the most trifling gale the convicts were considerably above their waists in water’. Ibid.

1790 – June, Sydney: What traumatised survivors of ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’ saw, or rather didn’t see, on arriving in Sydney, filled them with dread.

Barely six (6) months from England’s hustle and bustle, most from London’s teeming streets, nothing was familiar. No one, soldier or criminal, man or woman, could comprehend their surroundings.

No houses, no cobbled streets, no horses or carriages, no spires or bridges, no crowded taverns or coffee houses, no dingy rag-fairs or dark alleyways and no gin or pockets worth picking.

Panicked at the prospect of staying in such a desolate place some, Tench tells; ‘all came out on the last fleet, simply walked north hoping to reach China; with a view of asserting their freedom’.

Governor Phillip, a wily experienced commander, perceived danger in such widespread unrest. It is well documented intense animosity had surfaced between ‘his people’, both military and criminal, and the newcomers of June 1790.

Phillip knew such a dynamic, if not contained, could destroy Britain’s chance of maintaining her strategic advantage in the southern oceans and retain control of profits Phillip knew must surely flow from Britain’s ’empire in the south’.

Known for his insight Phillip could not have failed to recognise in Lieutenant John Macarthur of the New South Wales Corps, a loose cannon, a dangerous enemy. In this Phillip proved prophet.

‘From 1788 there had been continuous disputation between the civil power represented by the autocratic uniformed naval governors, and the military’. John Mc Mahon, Not a Rum Rebellion but a Military Insurrection, Journal of Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 92, 2006

John Macarthur was the teetotaller who would put ‘rum’ into the  New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps. His malicious undermining went on to destroy Phillip’s immediate successors, the naval governors Captain John Hunter and Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King, both  recalled to England.

Later (1808) Macarthur instigated the ‘Rum Rebellion’ that saw a cabal of corrupt officers seize and imprison Governor William Bligh RN of HMS Bounty fame or infamy. Later still he lent a willing hand to the character assassination of Governor Lachlan  Macquarie who succeeded Bligh.

1790 – July:  Governor Phillip, despite the arrival of Justinian a stores-ship with the first supplies from England, faced myriad problems.

Food was still not plentiful with, as normal in winter, fresh protein  especially scarce. So Phillip scaled up numbers of ‘the best marksmen of the marines and convicts’ to form hunting parties. Since 1788 officially organised hunting and fishing sorties had been essential for European survival.

1790 – 17 August:  The execution of convict Hugh Lowe in mid August 1790 was a stark demonstration to all of what fate awaited the desperate. Lowe had stolen a sheep. Ironically both man and animal had survived the wreck of HMS Guardian – Australia’s Titanic while en-route to Sydney with supplies.

1790 – 19 October, Sydney: ‘Joy sparkled in every countenance’ Tench wrote in mid-October ‘to see our old friend Supply enter the harbour from  Batavia. We had witnessed her departure with tears: we hailed her return with transport’.

Batavia at that time was considered the ‘fever-capital of the East’. Those in Sydney celebrating Supply’s safe return could not know eleven (11) of a party, left in Jakarta under Midshipman Ormsby to supervise the loading of supplies, were already dead.

1790 – October: To add to his many worries Phillip had serious doubts Dutch merchants could be trusted when engaged in business dealings with needy Englishmen. Governor Phillip’s fear of duplicity was well-founded.

His misgiving stemmed from dubious transactions he himself had had over price and quality of supplies and the poor condition of breeding livestock purchased from the Dutch at Cape Town when en-route to Botany Bay.

But if all did go well a chartered Dutch vessel Waaksamheyd would, sometime in the future, arrive from Jakarta loaded with tons of provisions. Meantime Phillip increased numbers of officially sanctioned hunting and fishing parties.

1790  – Thursday, 9 December: ‘A serjeant of marines with three [3] 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’.

Was Phillip’s inclusion of John McIntyre, a man known for his cruelty to local Aborigines deliberate provocation?

The shooting party set off from Sydney at dawn on 9th December 1790 to walk a well-trodden path to Botany Bay to hunt kangaroo. They planned to sleep overnight in; ‘a small hut formed of boughs which had lately been erected on the peninsula’ to be ready at first light to shoot grazing kangaroos.

1790 – Friday, 10 December, Botany Bay: ‘About 1 AM the sergeant was awakened by a rustling noise in the bushes supposing it to proceed from a kangaroo…two [2] natives with spears one [Pim-el-wi] launched his spear at M’Entire, and lodged it in his left side’.

1790 – Saturday 11 December, Sydney: The shooting party returned to Sydney with the mortally wounded McIntyre who lingered, dying in mid-January 1791.

‘The troops sent to garrison the Australian colonies…fought in one of the most prolonged frontier wars in the history of the British empire bedsides that of southern Africa…that nasty war and decidedly lacking in glory’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788 – 1870, Kangaroo Press, 1986

1790 – Saturday 11 December:  ‘That nasty war’ was launched on 11th December 1790. Ostensibly, to avenge McIntyre’s wounding, Captain-General Governor Arthur Phillip  RN ordered Marine Captain Watkin Tench lead an assault on; ‘the natives of Botany Bay’.

Governor Arthur Phillip, General Orders:’ Put ten [10] to death cut off and bring back the heads of the slain…bring away two [2] prisoners…I am resolved to execute…in the most public and exemplary manner in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected. Cited in Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, Angus and Robertson, 1961. 

Once more it fell to Watkin Tench, ever present witness caught in the eye of the storm, to bed down the beginning of ; ‘one of the most prolonged frontier wars in the history of the British empire’. Stanley, The Remote Garrison. Ibid.

The assault on McIntyre, a targeted attack by a known assailant – Pemulway – put ‘ten to death’ innocent and guilty was indiscriminate retribution.

Tench’s dismay on receiving these orders gave Governor Phillip pause, he sought Tench’s input. Tench had some success, Phillip’s General Orders were amended.

1790 – Monday 13 December: ‘Bring away six [6] of those natives who reside near the head of Botany Bay, or if that should be found impractical put that number [6] to death’. Extract, General Orders, Governor Arthur Phillip to Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Historical Records of New South Wales.

To that end Tench assembled a detachment of fifty (50) troops: ‘consisting of two [2] captains, two [2] subalterns, and forty [40] privates, with a proper number of non-commissioned officer, from the garrison and three [3] days provisions, etc.

March to-morrow morning [14th] at daylight, in order to  bring in six [6] of those natives who reside near the head of Botany Bay; or if that should be found impracticable, to put that number to death’.

For Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples the make-up of detachments assembled for the assaults of 14th and 22nd of December are of utmost importance as; ‘from 1790 Australia was to be garrisoned by the army’.

‘forty privates’ most would have been soldiers drawn from the ranks of the New South Wales Corps who had arrived with the second fleet in June 1790.


The Marines, members of the Royal Navy…prey to starvation, lethargy and  despair remained in New South Wales only as long as they had to, and from 1790 Australia was to be garrisoned by the army’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia, 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press,  Sydney 1986

Dr Stanley’s picture of starving lethargic despairing marines, the Robinson Cruscos of the ‘First Fleet’ marooned since 1788, aligns with Captain Tench’s earlier assessment of his men.

‘The insufficiency of our ration soon diminished our execution of labour. Both soldiers and convicts pleaded such loss of strength, as to find themselves unable to perform their accustomed tasks’.

Therefore it is safe to assert the bulk of fifty (50) troops that ‘made up this terrific procession’ were infantry-men of the New South Wales Corps.

1790 – Tuesday, 14 December, to Botany Bay: At first light the detachment moved out; ‘by 9 o’clock [they had] reached the peninsula, at the head of Botany Bay, after having walked in various directions until four o’clock, without seeing a native, we halted for the night’.

1790 – Wednesday, 15 December: Daylight, they spotted their quarry, ‘five [5] Indians on the beach’, only to find sloppy map-reading had led them astray.

‘Instead of finding ourselves on the south-west arm, we came suddenly upon the sea shore, at the head of the peninsula, about midway between the two [2] arms…before we came near enough to effect our purpose [they] ran off’.

In stifling heat a frustrating day spent bogged in muddy quagmire was followed by; ‘a night of restless inquietude, where weariness is denied repose by swarms of musquitoes and sand-flies, which bite and sting the traveller, without measure or intermission’.

1790 – Thursday, 16 December, to Sydney: Tench, low on provisions, abandoned his mission; ‘we bent our steps homeward and after wading breast-high through two [2] 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 hunting party [14 December] in reality it was an extravagant charade…only…a melodramatic show of force’. Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip, Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy, Hardie Grant Books, Sydney, Melbourne 2013  

‘ An extravagant charade‘ – nothing could be further from the truth. Most certainly Captain Watkin Tench did not regard his operational orders ‘a charade’. Nor did Marine Lieutenant William Dawes.

Dawes was the First Fleet’s chief scientific officer. His initial  mutinous refusal to take part in the first assault of 14th of December, raised Governor Phillip’s ire. Dawes’ principled stance damaged a promising career.

‘Only a melodramatic show of force’. All evidence is to the contrary.  As Michael Pembroke has rightly demonstrated there was no legitimate military imperative for mounting punitive raids against the ‘natives of Botany Bay’.

Rather its exciting cause lay in simmering rebellion festering within the English population, both criminal and military. Phillip’s move against ‘the natives of Botany Bay’ was a pre-emptive strike, a diversionary tactic designed to distract ‘his people’.


Governor Arthur Phillip RN and Marine Major Robert Ross, from different arms of the Royal Navy, were always been at odds. The command structure of the ‘First Fleet’ was dysfunctional and from day one the chain of command at Sydney compromised.

1790 – December: Phillip, ailing and beleaguered, found himself isolated among an increasingly hostile military garrison. Aware certain New South Wales Corps’ Officers were circling the tents, Phillip knew his position as supreme commander could be in jeopardy.

The absence of one hundred and sixty (160 ) Royal Naval personnel, crew of HMS Sirius stranded on Norfolk Island since March 1790, further exacerbated Phillip’s situation.

HMS Supply, after an absence of six (6) months, returned from Jakarta In October 1790. But, against such overwhelming odds, those who survived her lengthy voyage would have been unable to mount a successful defense of Phillip their Commanding Officer.

With limited options Governor Phillip adopted diversion, an age-old, simple but effective strategy. His orders of the 13th of December 1790 were aimed to direct animosity onto a common enemy – the Aboriginal.

1790 – 17  December: When Tench’s weary troops straggled into Sydney Town on the 17th December with no heads or prisoners to; ‘execute in the  most public and exemplary manner’ they found circumstances had changed.

Waaksamheyd rode at anchor, the air filled with the heady smell of cooking. Her master Deter Smit, having handed bills of lading to Governor Phillip, the unloading of crates, barrels and bulging jute bags was well underway.


Waaksamheyd’s arrival from Jakarta with tons of food and medicines assured immediate survival. But this Dutch ship introduced a whole new set of variables. Phillip, certain of a move against him, again focused on diverting a small but determined band of perfectly placed usurpers from achieving their aim.

He ‘resolved to try the fate of a second’ ordering Captain Tench undertake another assault; ‘differing in no respect from the last’.

‘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’.

1790 – Tuesday 22 December: The second raid; ‘Lieutenant Abbot, and ensign Prentice of the New South Wales Corps, were two [2] officers under my [Tench] command with three [3] serjeants, three [3] corporals, and thirty [30] privates, completed the detachment’.

‘ A little before sun-set on the evening of the 22nd we marched...knapsacks burdened by…ropes to bind our prisoners, hatchets [to] cut off heads bags to contain heads’.

Slapping sand-flies swatting mosquitoes, Tench’s troops spent a hot sweaty moon-lit night of ‘restless inquietude’ .

1790 – Wednesday, 23 December: Dawn they broke camp, the ‘Christmas‘ tidal surge flooded in; ‘we were suddenly stopped by a creek, about sixty yards wide, which [before] appeared dry from the tide being out. We were immersed, nearly to the waist in mud, so thick and tenacious.

I am sinking resounded on every side. Our distress would have terminated fatally, had not a soldier called out to those on shore to cut boughs off trees and throw them to us; a lucky thought, which certainly saved many of us from perishing miserably. Our march ended at sun-set, without our seeing a single native’.

Having escaped what Captain Tench described ‘a Serbian Bog’  with guns ‘rendered unserviceable by the mud’ his exhausted troops spent another sleepless night under stars.

 1790 – Thursday 24 December: ‘Our final effort [to]…effect our purpose…bring in six [6] natives; or if that should be found impracticable put that number [6] to death…was made at half-past one next morning…after four hours toil, ended as those preceding it had done, in disappointment vexation’.

1790 – Christmas Eve, Sydney: ‘we returned to Sydney to report our fruitless peregrination’.


‘A continuing pattern of killings…unofficial and official massacres of Aboriginal family groups…[had]commenced by December 1790′. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1995.


1790 – December, Sydney: ‘But if we could not retaliate on the murderer of M’Entire, we found no difficulty in punishing offences committed within our own observation. Two [2] natives about this time were seen robbing a potatoe garden.

A serjeant and a party of soldiers [sent] in pursuit. It was dark when they overtook them, with some women at a fire; and the ardour of the soldiers transported them so far, that instead of capturing the offenders, they fired in among them. The women were taken, two [2] wounded men escaped one Ban-g -ai  [next day] was found dead’.

1790 – December, Sydney: Captain-General Governor Phillip’s emphatic rules of engagement to be implemented; ‘whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary left no room for interpretation.

The First Australians mounted armed resistance as, from south to north, east to  west occupation and dispossession snaked slowly across their lands ‘as if’ Dr Stanley asserts ‘the invasion of their land would call for any other response but armed resistance’.

Governor Phillip’s orders determined the ‘future’ treatment of our First Nations’ Peoples by; ‘twenty-five regiments of British infantry…sent to garrison the Australian colonies’.

[They] 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’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia, 1788 – 1870, Kangaroo Press, Sydney 1986.


Either – Governor Phillip as a serving Officer of the Crown, selected for his; ‘loyalty, courage, and experience in military affairs’ acted in defense of His Majesty King George 111s demesne; ‘the territory called New South Wales extending from the northern cape or extremity of the coast called Cape York…to the southern extremity of New South Wales or South Cape’.    

Or –  if according to a ruling of the Privy Council, Cooper V Stuart [1889] Lord Watson; ‘it [New South Wales]…was peacefully annexed to the British Dominion’ Arthur Phillip’s orders of the 13th of December 1790, reiterated with clear intent to destroy on the 22nd of December, were those of a murdering mercenary.


1790 – December: Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples can, with laser accuracy, plot their near annihilation from Captain-General,  Governor Arthur Phillip RN and his General Orders of December, 1790.



Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply