‘The ability to shock bestows a kind of power’. Frances Larson, Severed, Granta, London, 2014

1790 – 13 December, Sydney Headquarters: Governor Arthur Phillip – General Orders to Marine Captain Watkin Tench: ‘Infuse universal terror…put ten [10] to death…cut off, and bring back the heads of the slain’. Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Year, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples can, with laser accuracy, plot their near annihilation from Governor Arthur Phillip’s orders of 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, History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1995

Where lay the threat to Governor Phillip in December 1790? Certainly not from the Bidgigal of Botany Bay. The previous year (1789) smallpox had killed 50% of Sydney Aborigines and left survivors struggling to regroup. See: Smallpox – A Lethal Weapon Boston 1775, Sydney 1789 – Robert Ross and David Collins

‘For the Sydney people to lose 50% or more of their military capability in a few weeks was a crushing blow’. Stephen Gapps, The Sydney Wars, NewSouth Books, 2018

1790 – 9  December, Botany Bay: ‘On the 9th of the month, a sergeant of marines, with three convicts…went out on a shooting party…to the north arm of Botany Bay…among them M’Entire, the governor’s game-keeper (the convict of whom Bannelon had, on former occasions, shewn so much dread and hatred)’. Tench. ibid. See: Manly – Location, Location, Location

1790 – 10 December, Botany Bay: At 1 am; ‘the serjeant was awakened by a rustling noise in the bushes’. Pemulway the Aboriginal warrior speared John M’Entire; ‘he expressed a longing desire not to be left to expire in the woods’. See: A Tethered Goat

1790 – 11 December, Sydney: Tench says the shooting party, with M’Entire in tow, reached Sydney in the early hours of 12 December 1790.

1790 – 13 December, Sydney: ‘I [Tench] received a direction to attend the governor at head quarters immediately’ where Governor Phillip issued his orders; ‘put to death ten cut off and bring back the heads of the slain…two 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…and my fixed determination to repeat it, whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’.

Pemulway’s spearing of M’Entire was a targeted attack by a known assailant; ‘put ten [10] to death’ was indiscriminate retaliation – destroying the innocent and the guilty.

Tench registered shock; ‘here the governor stopped, and addressed himself to me said, if I could propose any alternation of the orders under which I was to act’.

Tench proposed; ‘capture six [6]…a part should be set aside for retaliation; and the rest, at a proper time, liberated, after seeing the fate of their comrades. This scheme, his excellency was pleased instantly to adopt, adding, if six [6] cannot be taken, let this number [6] be shot’.

1790 – 13 December: Tench ordered his troops, fifty (50) men – two (2) officers with the regulation ratio of non-commissioned men to forty (40) private soldiers to ‘be ready to go out tomorrow morning at daylight [14th] with three [3] days provisions, ropes to bind our prisoners with and hatchets and bags, to cut off and contain the heads of the slain’.  See: A Hatchet Job – Heads Off The Bidgigal of Botany Bay

For Australia’s First Peoples the make-up of this detachment is of utmost importance. In December 1790 marines of the ‘troubled’ Sydney garrison were incapable of sustained effort.

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

Marooned since 1788, malnourished suffering profound lethargy from prolonged semi-starvation, most could barely stand let alone undertake a three (3) days march in full kit under a blazing December sun. See: Abandoned and Left To Starve at Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790

1790 – 14 December, Sydney: It is certain, when the section moved out for Botany Bay on the 14th of December 1790, the majority of its forty (40) rank and file would have been infantrymen of the New South Wales Corps who, in June 1790, arrived from England to relieve the beleaguered marines. See: Dark Matter

These newly arrived troops were first contingent of; ‘twenty-five regiments of British infantry they participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Austral1a 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, 1986 


 ‘The natives will be made severe examples of whenever any man is wounded by them….and my fixed determination to repeat it, whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’. Governor Phillip, cited Tench. ibid

Governor Phillip General Orders of 13th and repeated on 22 December 1790 ‘differing in no respect from the last‘ triggered an algorithm of ‘future terror’ that ‘lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth century’. Kercher. ibid.

2017: A map detailing ‘the better documented’ massacres of ‘dissenting Aboriginal’ Australians from the 1790s – to the 1920s was published in 2017

‘The warrior skilled at stirring the enemy proffers the bait’. Sun-Tzu, The Art of War, Penguin Books, 2009 

If not the Bidgigal of Botany Bay who was Phillip ‘enemy’?  See: A Clash of Giants – Arthur Phillip & John Macarthur – The Great Pretender












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