During Lord Sydney’s time as secretary of state, the Home Office was a clearing house. Its jurisdiction included overseeing of naval officers involved in trade regulation, secret service and special projects.

As a result Sydney crossed paths with three men who left their mark on history – Horotio Nelson, William Bligh and Arthur Phillip. Lord Sydney [the life and times of Tommy Townshend] Andrew Tink, 2011.

2020:  It is time to kill the old chestnut – Captain Arthur Phillip RN was ‘plucked from obscurity’ to command the First Fleet’.

Like ‘amity and kindness’ Australia’s foundation myth – benign colonisation; ‘New South Wales…peacefully annexed’ U.K. Privy Council [11] Cooper V Stuart [1889]’ nothing could be further from the truth.

Brazil: Key to the success of the ‘First Fleet’ expedition had been laid nearly a decade earlier during Arthur Phillip’s three (3) year sojourn in Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro: Seconded to the Portuguese Navy Phillip, fluent in Portuguese, established good relations with Viceroy Lavradio. Based in Rio de Janeiro from there he reported directly to Lord Sandwich at the Admiralty.

In August 1787, the fleet en-route to Botany Bay put into Rio for supplies. Phillip found Lavradio’s successor Marquess Vasconcelos, Lavradio’s successor, held him in high regard.  Vasconcelos’s support in the race for New Holland proved vital to Britain’s victory over France. See: Britain By A Short Half-Head Arthur Phillip and Jean Francois La Perouse

‘The short term consequence [loss of America] were less dramatic than many expected. Though Britain’s eclipse as a world power was confidently predicted her economic recovery was swift and the colonial development of Australia, New Zealand, India and part of Africa went some way to compensating for the loss of the first British Empire’. J.A. Cannon, Emeritus Professor of Modern History, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, ed. Oxford Companion to British History.

New Holland – 1788: On the cusp of ‘the greatest event of the late eighteenth century’ – the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars – February 1793 to June 1815 – New Holland guaranteed Britain domination of alternate sea routes to and from India, China and, via the Southern Oceans Spanish South America.

‘In November [1784] Henry Dundas, possibly Pitt’s closest advisor, warned that ‘India is the first quarter to be attacked, we must never lose sight of keeping such a force there as well be sufficient to baffle or surprise’. Dundas, cited Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy, Hardie Grant Books, Victoria, 2013

‘His [Phillip’s ] failure to invite the French commander [La Perouse] there [Sydney Cove] reflect some fear that he might be known as a spy.’ Alan Frost, Arthur Phillip 1783-1814 His Voyaging

Arthur Phillip joined Britain’s Secret Service soon after divorcing his first wife. From then on Phillip, the spy who never came in from the cold, lived in a world of intrigue.

France:  The Admiralty urgently needed information on the disposition and ordnance of the French Navy. To that end Phillip spent all of 1773 in France spying reporting his observations to the Admiralty.

Whitehall: Arthur Phillip and Evan Nepean, a naval officer turned bureaucrat, had known each other since their navy days in the early 1770s.

Documents reveal a decade later – 1783 – after Britain had lost the American War (1775-83) and her ’empire in the west’ the thirteen (13) colonies; North and South Carolina, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia, Phillip’s ‘spy’ payments were being made through Nepean’s office.

‘The peace to which Phillip returned in April 1784 was brittle and precarious. Anglo-French relations continued to be marked by mutual distrust and the administration in Whitehall remained wary. The immediate cause for British concern was France’s apparent designs on India and the East’. Michael Pembroke. ibid.

The Treaty of Versailles that brought a formal end to the American War saw England, France, Spain and the Dutch jockeying for naval dominance. Once again intelligence assumed prime importance.


‘The interventions of the French navy in the Channel [1779], off Gibraltar, in the West Indies, off Yorktown [1781], had clearly played a considerable part in Britain’s failure to win the war in America’. Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery, 3rd ed. Fontana Press 1991

Britain’s defeat in the American war had been was in no small part due to France’s unstinting support of General George Washington’s Patriot home-spun militia.

Chesapeake – 1781: Particularly galling for the Admiralty was the French Admiral de Grasse’s trouncing of a Royal Navy squadron at Chesapeake, The Battle of Virginia Capes, in September 1781.

Yorktown – 1781: The French Navy’s success at Chesapeake led to the Siege of Yorktown. The eventual loss of Yorktown to a combined force of American and French troops in October 1781,  in turn guaranteed America’s independence.


England: Post war the Home Office was charged with finding a place of exile for approximately 10,000 criminals. Held over during the eight (8) years of conflict those criminals reprieved death ‘for transportation to America’ filled England’s gaols and prisons hulks.

Hulks, decommissioned ‘insanitary and overcrowded’ ships, were moored along the Thames close to the heart of London. Not only were they a source of deadly diseases, should prisoners mutiny and escape they would present a massive menace to law and order in the teeming metropolis.

Parliament: Edmund  Burke’s passionate representations in the House of Commons finally put an end to the drip-feed of convicts transported to West Africa. See:  Africa: In and Out of Africa

‘According to the accounts given by the late Captain Cook His Majesty has thought it advisable [18 August 1786] to fix on Botany Bay situated on the coast of New South Wales’. Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 1

Government then, primarily on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks the eminent botanist who had accompanied the now dead Captain James Cook on the Endeavour voyage in 1770, decided far-off New Holland, now Australia, an ‘ideal’ site for permanent exile.


India: Post war, England’s arch-enemy France, still had a substantial military presence in India. The Admiralty was determined to get to New Holland before the French.

Why? Intelligence. ‘Should any disturbance happen in the East Indies, they might be transported tither before our enemies in Europe knew anything of the matter‘.

Naval dominance relied on intelligence. ‘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 stationing a large body of troops in New South Wales’. Anon, Historical Records of New South Wales.


Brazil: Phillip when informed of his selection to command a large expeditionary force of eleven (11) vessels into the Pacific and Southern Oceans was ‘in the Brazils’ keeping track of Jean-Francois La Perouse, already on the high seas in command of La Boussole and  L’Astrolabe, and making for New Holland.

‘We reposing especial trust and confidence in your loyalty, courage 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 of the coast called Cape York…to the Southern extremity…South Cape.

And you are to observe and follow such orders and directions from time to time as you shall receive from us, or any other your superior officer according to the rules and disciplines of war’. Instructions, King George III to Captain Arthur Phillip RN, 12 October 1786.

All ‘First Fleet’ males, convict and soldier alike, were ‘rationed as troops serving in the West Indies’.

‘Later in the [American] war special army companies composed entirely of convicts were sent to West Africa’. Roger Knight, First Fleet Studies from Terra Australis to Australia, ed. John Hardy and Alan Frost, 1989

For the invasion of New Holland government implemented a traditional blend – criminals ‘too evil to remain within the kingdom’ – as soldiers.

‘In writing of the recruitment of criminals into armed forces, Stephen Conway observed. ‘It was still found necessary periodically to clear both the putrid and congested gaols and the equally overcrowded and insanitary hulks’. Conway, cited, Alan Frost, Botany Bay Mirages, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1994


London: Phillip returned from Brazil to receive a multitude of formal instructions relating to the invasion of New Holland. 

The first of these, issued ‘according to the rules and disciplines of war’ on 12 October 1786, laid out the Crown’s ‘secret’ intentions regarding the island continent of New Holland, now Australia.

‘It seems clear that only a few men in the inner circle of government knew the exact purposes of the settlement…Since Sir George Young, an admiral who was intensely interested in the proposal to send the first fleet to New South Wales, did not know even in 1788 that Norfolk Island was part of the design…Eden [William Eden – later Lord Auckland] was probably not in that secretive circle. Professor Geoffrey Blainey, Gotham City, The Founding of Australia, The argument about Australia’s origins, ed. Jed Martin, 1978.

Phillip’s secret pre-emptive mission; gain territory to secure Britain’s strategic supremacy over the Indian, South Pacific and Southern oceans, was known to very few government officials.

The ‘exact purposes of the settlement‘ remained with Dundas, Hawkesbury and Mulgrave, the powerful politicians of Prime Minister Pitt’s  ‘secretive inner circle of government’ – the cabinet. See: Botany Bay – Lord Sydney, Arthur Phillip & ‘Hush’ Christopher Robin Mark 2

‘In British eyes it [First Fleet] has been seen, if it has been noticed at all, as a small, peacetime convoy, which founded a colony; it is overshadowed by greater events of the late eighteenth century’. Roger Knight. ibid.


‘It is generally appeared when we have been involved in a war with France, that Spain and Holland have engaged in hostilities against us’. John Hunter, An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island, original ed.1793. Bibliobazaar ed. 2008

‘If noticed at all – Arthur Phillip the spy and his ‘handler‘ Evan Nepean began a remarkably successful subterfuge. To this day the full scope of Phillip’s ‘parallel’ mission – the invasion of New Holland – goes un-remarked ‘whisper who dares’.

‘There were plans to use the [New South Wales] corps in expeditions against Panama, Peru and the Philippines, but nothing eventuated and the corps’ first experience of war came in January 1794 on the Hawkeskbury River north -west of Sydney’. Dr. Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, Sydney 1986  

London: Yet the invasion of New Holland was seen by government and the Admiralty as simply a means to an end; ‘overseas bases and colonies’.


‘Parallel to and dependent upon, the Anglo-French duel for command of the sea went their struggle for overseas bases and colonies; here too, the culminating point in a century-long race was reached, with Britain emerging in 1815 with a position so strengthened that she appeared to be the only real colonial power in the world’. Paul Kennedy, the Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery, Fontanta Press, 3rd ed. London, 1976

Africa:  Captain John Hunter RN in HMS Sirius departed Port Jackson on 2 October 1788 for a perilous voyage to Cape Town via treacherous Cape Horn. He was to buy food and medicines from the Dutch to save the starving English men, women and children of the ‘First Fleet’. See: Abandoned and Left to Starve Sydney – January 1788 to mid-June 1790

Port Jackson- May 1789: ‘after an absence of 219 days – 51 of which we lay in Table Bay Cape of Good Hope, so that, although during the  voyage we had fairly gone around the world, we had only seen 168 days in describing that circle…makes it [Port Jackson] an important Post, should it ever be necessary to carry..war in those those seas…the [Pacific] coast of Chile and Peru’. Hunter Historical Journal. op.cit,


Mission accomplished. Phillip and Evan Nepean, who can best be described as Phillip’s handler, had chosen a code name to future-proof the authenticity of any communication between them.

‘I have taken this method because I wish to be unknown no person…shall ever know whence this proceeds, and I give my honor not a hint of it shall ever transpire’. Anon to Evan Nepean. Historical Records of New South Wales

Port Jackson: After the Sirius voyage Phillip was able, through Evan Nepean, to inform Home Secretary Sydney; ‘It is much to the credit of those in office [Pitt administration] that an empire has been founded in the south, which time will render much superior to that which their predecessors [Prime Minister North] have lost in the west [America]’. Anon. ibid.

Nepean and Phillip’s subterfuge reflected the ambitions of another master-mariner, master-spy of another monarch, of another era and served to cover Nepean’s identity.


‘The Way of War is A Way of Deception.  When deploying troops, appear not to be’. Sun-Tzu, The Art of War,  Penguin ed. 2002

Three (3) battalions: 200 Royal Naval personnel – HMS Sirius and HMS Supply, 245 marines, 570 male convicts all ‘rationed as troops serving in the West Indies’ distributed between Alexander, Friendship, Prince of Wales, Charlotte, Scarborough and Lady Penrhyn the fleet’s  six (6) troop transports and three (3) supply vessels – Fishburn, Golden Grove, Borrowdale, represent a formidable invasion force.

Captain-General Governor Arthur Phillip RN Commander the ‘First Fleet’ succeeded ‘according to the rules and disciplines of war’. Yet in Australia and Britain the ‘First Fleet’ continues to be sold; ‘as a small, peacetime convoy’. See: A Riddle ? When Is an Invasion Fleet not an Invasion fleet – When it was the First Fleet.

1788: New Holland’s place in British history sits ‘[with]in a century- long race for command of the sea[s]’. The prescient invasion in 1788 perfectly positioned Britain for The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars 1793-1815.

Firstly the Seven Years’ War 1756-63, European historians regard it the first global war. Then came the American War of Independence 1775-83. Next a ‘brittle and precarious peace’ followed by ‘Heads of a Plan’ to invade New Holland 1786.

Despite a ‘Continuing Constitutional Connection’ with theCrown’ as yet there has been no acknowledgement and no treaty.

Why? ‘U.K. Privy Council, Cooper V Stuart, [1889]  – ruled no case to answer – ‘New South Wales was peacefully annexed to the Dominions’.

Brexit – 31 January, 2020:  In the United Kingdom the near destruction of Australia’s Sovereign First Nations is ignored. See:  Brexit The Crown and Continuing Connection

The invasion of New Holland ‘IF…NOTICED AT ALL’ is scorned by most of white Australia. But ‘what’ to echo Paul Keating in his Redfern Speech ‘if it had been done to us’. See Why New Holland + Britain + India + France + Spanish South America = European Australia






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