Sydney Cove – 1790 June 1 : ‘We had now been [thirty-six] months from England in which long period …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.

Here on the summit of the hill, every morning from daylight until the sun sunk, did we sweep the horizon, in hope of seeing a sail…at every fleeting speck which arose from the bosom of the sea, the heart bounded’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. L.F. Fitzhardige, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1961


Sydney – 1790, June 3: ‘Great change came with the  Second Fleet of the first companies of the New South Wales Corps.[among them] Lieutenant John Macarthur  – a central figure in the military ‘mafia’ which quickly established itself as Australia’s first governing and property owning elite’. Nigel Rigby, Peter Van Der Merwe & Glyn Williams, National Maritime Museum Greenwich, Pacific Explorations, Voyages of Discovery from Captain Cook’s Endeavour to the Beagle, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles, 2018


Sydney Headquarters – 1790,  December 13:  ‘The governor pitched upon me [Tench] to execute the…command…those natives who reside  near the head of Botany Bay….put ten [10] to death…bring in the heads of the slain [and] two [2] prisoners to  execute in the most most public and exemplary manner;…my fixed determination to repeat it, whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’.  His Excellency Governor Arthur Phillip RN, General Orders to Marine Captain Watkin Tench

London Gazette Extract


‘British troops…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, 1986. ibid.

The infantry were sent from England to consolidate Britain’s invasion of New Holland and relieve Sydney’s ‘troubled’ marine garrison who, along with the English men women and children of the ‘First Fleet, had been marooned ‘on the shores of this vast ocean’ since January 1788.

Grossly under-resourced the second fleet –  Britain’s first true convict transportation fleet – sealed the fate of a free peoples, Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples. See: A Grim Armada – The Dead and the Living Dead

1790 – 3 June:  ‘Lady Juliana London on her stern’ first of the fleet’s four (4) vessels reached Sydney Cove at the beginning of June 1790. with twenty-six (226)  women prisoners, eight (8) free children, very little food and letters from home.

She brought an end to the unspeakable ‘misery and horror’ of prolonged semi-starvation, profound isolation and mind-bending uncertainty, for a thousand (1000) English men, women and children of the ‘First Fleet’ marooned since 1788. See: Abandoned and Left To Starve at Sydney Cove January 1788 – June 1790

‘The misery and horror of such a situation cannot be imparted, even by those who have suffered under it’. Tench. ibid.


By the end of June 1790 Neptune, Suprize and Scarborough, the second fleet’s death ships reached Sydney with over a thousand (1000) mainly male prisoners together with the first contingent of infantry who acted as guards to prevent mutiny.

‘Oh, if you had seen the shocking sight of the poor creatures who came out of these three [3] ships, it would make your heart bleed; they were almost dead; few could stand and they were obliged to sling them as you would goods, and hoist them out of the ship, they were so feeble’. Letter of a convict women, dated 24 July, 1790, cited Bank’s Papers, A 78, Mitchell Library, Sydney.

Whitehall: William Wyndham Grenville young and ambitious, a cousin of Prime Minister William Pitt, replaced Lord Sydney as Home  Secretary in mid 1789.

Grenville awarded contracts for the carriage of one thousand (1000) mainly male  prisoners in three (3) vessels Neptune, Scarborough and Suprize  to the lowest bidder.

Camden, Calvert and King,  a London firm of Atlantic slave traders were issued regular ‘slave contracts’ whereby contractors were paid per body boarded.

Deaths in transit were a bonus as ‘earlier in the  voyage they die[d] greater the profit.

One thousand and thirty-eighty ‘1038 [mainly male] convicts embarked at Plymouth; 237 died on the voyage, 486 landed sick, of these 124 died in hospital at Sydney Cove’. Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Brown, Son & Ferguson, Glasgow, 1959

Overcrowded,  locked below decks and fed reduced rations, prisoners were chained two (2) together by a short rigid bolt the length of A4 paper.

‘The irons used upon these unhappy wretches were barbarous. The contractors had been in the Guinea trade, and had put on board the same shackles used by them in that trade.

Prisoners] could not extend either leg from the other more than an inch or two at most; thus fettered, it was impossible for them to move but at the risk of both their legs being broken’. Captain William Hill, Sydney Cove, July 28, 1790, extract, letter to William Wilberforce, Historical Records of New South Wales.  

The death rate on the passage was reckoned at 25%. Of those convicts landed alive 15% died within weeks of disembarking.

‘They died ten [10] or twelve [12] [a day] when they first landed. She heard the Governor, standing by, say that to transport men and women like this was ‘murthering them’. Banks Papers. op.cit.

Captain Hill sailed in Suprize a ship ‘unfit…to be sent so great a distance…the most trifling gale…the convicts were considerably above their waists in water….the slave trade is merciful compared with what I have seen in this fleet.’

A close friend of Prime Minister Pitt Wilberforce, dubbed ‘God’s Politician’,  was England’s leading advocate in a growing anti-slavery movement.

Many brutalised survivors were permanently damaged in mind, body and spirit. Without doubt the coming of the second fleet increased distress in the settlement and, on many levels, exacerbated the woes that plagued Governor Phillip.

Well documented open hostility surfaced quickly between the old lags of the First Fleet’ and the new-comers. Phillip perceived danger in such widespread unrest.

But it was Lady Juliana’s  news of Paris in flames,  of street barricades and rioting mobs storming the Bastille to free its prisoners, that rang the loudest bells – alarm for some, hope for others.

As for Governor Phillip and many ‘ First Fleet Officers, Hunter, King, White, Dawes among them, who fought in America’s Revolutionary War of Independence (1775-1783) an insurrection here could destroy the hard-won success Phillip had achieved in securing New Holland for Britain.

News of the French Revolution only made his success even more relevant both strategically and politically.


Lafayette Square, Washington DC

‘La Fayette’s role in the American Revolution was different from the way he portrayed it in his autobiographical Memoirs, it was more complex,  more intertwined with other characters, and more intriguing than either his book, or the standard histories have depicted’. Patrick Villiers, translation Larrie D. Ferreiro, Essays in the American Revolution – a World War, David K. Allison, Larrie D. Ferriro, Smithsonian , 2015

Britain’s loss of her thirteen (13) ‘New World’ colonies was due largely to the massive amount of support, both monetary and military,  France showered on George Washington’s Patriot home-spun rebels. Marquis La Fayette had been the driver of that support.

‘The final battles of the American Revolution were fought not in North America but in India, another theater where Britain and France were vying for political dominance.’ Essays – Eds. British Global Ambitions and Indian Identity. Op. cit {???} Which essay

Geographically, post the American War of Independence (1775-1783) New Holland beckoned. See: Proximity not Distance Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland

‘Britain rebuilt its economy and its navy. A new oceanic empire in Asia and the Pacific developed after the voyages of Captain James Cook which was sponsored by George III and Joseph Banks of the Royal Society.’ Andrew Lambert. Essays in the American Revolution. ibid. Ferreiro

1790 Governor Phillip’s part in securing Britain’s ‘new oceanic empire’  lay in fending off ‘certain officers’ of the New South Wales Corps.

With laser accuracy the near annihilation of Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples can be plotted from Governor Phillip’s General Orders of 13 December 1790.

I need not enlarge on the benefit of stationing a large body of troops in New South Wales. Should any disturbance (which God forbid) should happen in the East Indies, they might be transported tither before our enemies in Europe knew anything of the matter’. Anon. to Evan Nepean, Historical Records of New South Wales.


‘Phillip was authorised to see to the defence of the colony’. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1998

1790 – December: Six (6) months after the second fleet arrived Governor Phillip gave Captain Tench orders, ‘put ten [10 to death…bring in the heads of the slain’.

Can we know what drove Governor Arthur Phillip’s ferocity? Yes we can.

‘Mischief’‘certain officers’ of the New South Wales Corps, led by a junior officer Lieutenant John Macarthur, were circling the tents

‘The tremendous monster [a stranded whale] who had occasioned the unhappy catastrophe [Phillip’s wounding] just recorded was fated to be the cause of further mischief to us’. Tench. ibid.

Manly Beach – 1790:  In September 1790, just three (3) months after the second fleet arrived, Governor Phillip was speared by Willamarin an Aboriginal warrior from the Broken Bay area.

Phillip’s highly-charged orders put no limit on brutality. They were implemented in ‘a war ugly and decidedly lacking in glory’. The only war for which Australia has no stomach. See: Lieutenant William Dawes – The Shock of the New South Wales Corps and the ‘Eternal Flame’.

‘Twenty-five [25] regiments of British infantry participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent… one of the most prolonged frontier wars in the history of the British empire’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788 – 1870.


1816 – April 10, Sydney – Governor Macquarie: ‘I have this day ordered three [3] separate military detachments to march into the interior and remote parts of the colony, for the purpose of punishing hostile natives by clearing the country of them entirely, and drive them across the mountains.

In the event of the natives making the smallest show of resistance – or refusing to surrender when called upon so to do – the officers commanding the [three] military parties have been authorised to fire on them to compel them to surrender, hanging up on trees the bodies of such natives as may be killed on such occasions, in order to strike the greater terror into the survivors’. Governor Macquarie, Diary, 10 April, 1816

‘Drive them across the mountains’. Macquarie ordered three (3) predatory raids to ‘clear the country of them [Aborigines] entirely’  from their homelands on the Hawkeskbury, Nepean and Grose Rivers .

To achieve their mission Macquarie’s troops spent twenty-three (23) days in the field attacking, wounding, killing and beheading.

Liverpool – April 16:  Captain James Wallis was allocated an area around Appin. He set off from Liverpool with a detachment to attack a known men’s hunting camp.

In an unequal battle, fourteen (14) Dharawal men were killed. ‘To strike the greater terror’ three (3) warriors were beheaded, their  ‘bodies hang[ed] up on trees’.

Broughton Pass: Having murdered the tribe’s men,  the women, children and elders were ripe for annihilation. Captain Wallis ordered his section move onto the home camp at Broughton Pass arriving in the early hours of 17 April, 1816

1816 – Appin, April 17:  ‘A few of my men heard a child cry I [Wallis] formed line ranks…I regret to say some had been shot and others met their fate while rushing in despair over the precipice…In the end only five [5] of the Dharawal could be counted’. Captain Wallis, Journal, 1816, National Archives.

Appin Massacre Memorial plaque

Appin Massacre Memorial



Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.