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


Sydney – 1790 – 13 December:   ; ‘Infuse universal terror…put ten [10] to death…cut off, and bring back the heads of the slain….two [2] 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’.  General Orders, Governor Arthur Phillip RN to Marine Captain Watkin Tench. Cited Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. L.F. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961


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


‘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


  ‘And my [Phillip’s] fixed determination to repeat it, [General Orders] whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’.  Tench. op.cit.



Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples can, with laser accuracy, plot their ‘future’ near annihilation – from Governor Phillip’s Orders of the 13th of December 1790.

From where lay the threat to Governor Phillip in December 1790? Certainly not with the Bidjigal of Botany Bay.

The previous year, April 1789, an outbreak of smallpox killed 50% of Sydney’s Aborigines leaving its pock-marked 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

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


1790  – Botany Bay, December 9:  ‘On the 9th of the month [December] 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: Kidnapped – Manly What’s in a Name

10 December: At 1 am; ‘the serjeant was awakened by a rustling noise in the bushes’. 

An Aboriginal warrior identified as Pemulwuy speared the ‘hated’ Mc Intyre.

12 December, Sydney: Mc Intyre ‘expressed a longing desire not to be left to expire in the woods’. The shooting party reached Sydney in the early hours of 12 December 1790 with the wounded man and the spear in place.

13 December:‘I [Tench] received a direction to attend the governor at head quarters immediately’ where Governor Phillip issued Tench orders to march on the Bidjigal and ‘instil universal terror’.


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

Mc Intyre was (1) of three (3) convicts licensed to carry firearms. He was Governor Phillip’s own game-keeper and it was widely known local Aborigines hated Mc Intyre yet Governor Phillip claimed the attack  was ‘unprovoked’.

 London – 1787, April 25: ‘You [Arthur Phillip] are to endeavour by every means possible to open an intercourse with the natives…enjoining all our subject to live in amity and kindness with them. And if any of our subjects shall wantonly destroy them or give them an unnecessary  interruption in the exercise of their several occupations , it is our will and pleasure that you do cause such offenders to be brought to punishment according to the degree of the offence’.At St. James Palace 25 April 1787, King George 111 to Captain-General, Governor-in-Chief of Our territory New South Wales. Frank Murcott Bladen, Historical Records of New South Wales, Vols. 1,2

See: Mc Intyre – Death of a Sure Thing

Governor Phillip in accord with his ‘Draught of Instructions’ was justified in sacrificing Mc Intyre whose conduct had caused ‘the natives’ to view him with ‘dread and hatred’. See:  April Fool’s Day – The Hulks Act of 1776

‘The convicts being servants of the Crown till the time for which they are sentenced is expired, their… labour [service] is to be for the public’. Governor Phillip to Phillip Gidley King,  12 February 1788, cited Dr. John Cobley, Sydney Cove 1788.

Whereas; ‘put ten [10] to death’ destroying both innocent and guilty, according to the ‘rules and disciplines of war’, then as now indiscriminate punishment was unlawful.

On receiving these orders 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’.

13 December: Tench ordered his troops; ‘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 Bidjigal of Botany Bay

The detachment consisted of fifty (50) men – two (2) officers with the regulation ratio of non-commissioned to forty (40) private soldiers. For the future of Australia’s First Peoples the make-up of this detachment is of utmost importance.


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

Sydney Cove: By December 1790 ‘Phillip’s people’ had been marooned since 1788. Completely isolated from the outside world; ‘the misery and horror our situation’ Tench wrote ‘cannot be imparted even by those  who have suffered under it’.

The marines of the ‘troubled’ Sydney garrison suffered profound lethargy from excruciating uncertainty and prolonged semi-starvation. They were incapable of sustained effort.

Most could barely stand let alone undertake a three (3) days march over a rough track in full kit under a blazing December sun. See: Abandoned and Left To Starve at Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790.

Botany  Bay -December:  So 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 foot soldiers. Infantrymen of the New South Wales Corps who, in June 1790, arrived from England to relieve the beleaguered garrison marines. See: Dark Matter


Sydney – 17 December: Tench’s detachment returned to  Sydney on the 17th of December without heads or prisoners to execute.

21 December: Phillip ordered a second raid.  ‘The orders which I [Tench] was commanded to act differing in no respect from the last’. Phillip’s ordersrules of engagement – ‘ were specific’….convince them of our superiority’.

Twenty-five regiments of British infantry…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 Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, 1986

There is supporting evidence Governor Phillip’s General Orders of December 1790 ‘instil universal terror’ were never countermanded. Extant, Phillip’s orders served as a template from 1788 to 1870. They went onto govern all ‘future’ confrontations between Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples and ‘twenty-five regiments of British infantry’.


‘There are two kinds of error; those of commission, doing something that should not be done, and those of omission, not doing something that should be done, the latter are much more serious than the former’. Kenneth Hoper and William Hopper, The Puritan Gift, Forward, Russell Lincoln Ackoff, I.B. Tauris, 2009.

1792 -December: Governor Phillip departed Sydney for home in mid December 1792. Tragically for the First Australians London failed to commission a successor. Captain John Hunter RN, the second naval governor, would not reach Sydney until September 1795.

‘For the length of the interregnum [1792-1795] the British government was greatly at fault’. J.J. Achmuty, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Governor John Hunter.

‘Omission’ by default the immense power vested in Captain Arthur Phillip as Naval Governor of New South Wales, said to be unique in Britain’s long history of empire building, devolved to the military.

On Phillip’s departure; ‘the traffic in spirits was commenced by the officers [New South Wales Corps] and was destined to be the chief factor which savaged the undercurrent of public life for twenty-five years after the departure of Governor Phillip’. Commentary, Historical Records of Australia.


1792 – Sydney, 13 December: The day following Phillip’s departure Major Francis Grose, the Corps’ commanding officer, took absolute military control of the infant colony.

Grose dismissed all civil magistrates appointed by Governor Phillip in accord with the official Letters Patent.

Carrying wounds from the American War of Independence 1775-1783, Grose proved a lackadaisical commander. Almost immediately he made a critical appointment.

He appointed Lieutenant John Macarthur ‘a central figure in the military mafia’ the regimental paymaster.

‘The control of labour was largely vested in his [Grose’s] new regimental pay-master, Lieutenant John Macarthur – a central figure in the military mafia which quickly established itself as Australia’s first governing and property-owing elite’. Arthur Phillip, Gentleman, Scholar and Seaman, Dr. Nigel Rigby, Maritime Museum, Greenwich, Dr. Pieter Van der Merwe, British National Maritime Museum, Prof. Emeritius History, Queen Mary, University of London, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles, London, 2018

For the next twenty-five (25) years a ‘frontier war, nasty and decidedly lacking in glory‘ was centred on the Aboriginal’s river lands, the Deerrubin – Hawkesbury, and Macarthur ‘country’ – along the Nepean and Grose River systems.


England  -1794: Major Grose returned to England at the end of 1794. He was succeeded by Captain William Paterson, yet another physically and emotionally damaged ‘three bottles a day’ veteran of America’s Revolutionary War.

Hawkesbury River:  By then – 1794 – over four hundred (400) ex-convict settlers had fenced off their allocated land grants and were farming Dharug land. See: Cape York to South Cape – Your Land is My Land

‘Thirty miles along the banks on both sides of the [Hawkesbury] River it has been estimated that between 1794 and 1800 at least twenty-six [26] Whites and up to two hundred [200] Aborigines were killed’. Stanley. ibid.

Hawkesbury – 1795:  In June 1795 while Governor Hunter was still on the high seas Paterson; ‘sent a detachment of two [2] subalterns and sixty [60] privates of the New South Wales [Corps] to the river…to destroy as many as they could…as well to drive the natives to a distance, as for the protections of the settlers.

‘It gives me concern’ Paterson wrote in dispatches ‘to have been forced to destroy any of these people, particularly as I have no doubt of their having been cruelly treated by some of the settlers who went out there’. Captain William Paterson to Right Hon. Henry Dundas, 15 June 1795, Historical Records of Australia. See: A Worm Hole – Richard Atkins Diary

The troops Paterson deployed to the Hawkesbury saw limited skirmishes escalate to ‘open warfare’ accelerating destruction of the Dharug whose spears, guts, and guile could not match for the increased fire-power.

Sydney – 1795, September: Governor John Hunter RN reached Sydney in late September 1795. Despite spirited antagonism directed at him by Lieutenant Macarthur, Hunter managed to restore what passed for ‘English civil law’ in New South Wales.


Sydney – 1799: Four (4) years later, March 1799, Hunter ordered ‘five [5] European] men changed with the murder of two [2] native boys’. Lieutenant Neil MacKellar, in command at the Hawkesbury from 1797 to 1799, was called to give evidence.

‘Under questioning he stated that the orders issued [1795] for the destruction of Aboriginals whenever encountered, after they had committed outrages, had not been countermanded during his command at the Hawkesbury nor to his knowledge since’. Neill Mackellar, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Brigadier M. Austin

Whitehall – 1799:  While the trial of the five (5) men was in progress in Sydney Hunter was informed of his recall to England. The reasons given were twofold.

Firstly because he had failed to stop the importation of ‘fiery Indian rum’ from Bengal. See: Down the Rabbit Hole with Hunter

‘The traffic in spirits was commenced by the [infantry] officers and was destined to be the chief factor which savaged the undercurrent of public life for twenty-five years after the departure of Governor Phillip’. Commentary, Historical Records. ibid.

Secondly Captain John Hunter, hero of the ‘First Fleet’ was disgusted with the military thugs of the New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps.  See: Proximity Not Distance Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland.

Teetotaller John Macarthur was the prime mover in the importation of rum from Bengal. Rum bought cheaply, sold at an exorbitant mark-up, generated immense profits for ‘certain officers’ of the ‘Rum’ Corps and their cronies.

When the ex-cons who drank the rum went broke, officers of the ‘military mafia’ were on hand to buy them up and turf them out.


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

Lieutenant John Macarthur was the common denominator in the recall to London of Governor Phillip’s immediate successors, the naval Governors, Captain John Hunter, Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King and Captain William ‘Bounty’ Bligh.

1800 – 1806:  Governor Hunter was replaced by Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN who, like Hunter, was a ‘First Fleeter’ returning ‘home’ to Australia. See: The Irish & the English King in Australia.

1806 – August: Governor William Bligh RN arrived in Sydney with orders for Governor King’s recall to England. See: Down The Rabbit Hole with King

And when ‘Bounty’ Bligh made strenuous effort to stem the tsunami of grog he too found himself under vicious attack from John Macarthur.

1808 – Sydney – 26 January: On the 20th anniversary of Captain Arthur Phillip’s raising the Union Jack in Sydney Cove Governor Bligh was seized and imprisoned by officers of the New South Wales Corps. See: Australia Day Rebellion – Australia Day 1808


1790:  ‘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

Sydney – 22 December, 1790: When on the 22nd of December1790 Governor Phillip’s General Orders;‘differing in no respect from the last‘ on 13th December 1790 they triggered an algorithm of ‘terror’ that ‘lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth century’. Kercher. ibid.

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


Appin – April 1816: The first of these acknowledged to meet the criteria, fourteen (14) ‘dissenting Aboriginals’ known to be killed in one (1) action, occurred on Dhrawal land – at Broughton Pass, ‘Macarthur country’, in April 1816.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s ‘rules of engagement’ issued to Captain Wallis -10 April 1816 – echo those of Governor Arthur Phillip’s General Orders to Marine Watkin Captain Tench – December 13th and 22nd of December 1790.

‘two prisoners I [Phillip] am resolved to execute…in the most public and exemplary manner, in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected’.

As with Phillip 1790 [Macquarie’s] ‘rules of engagement were specific,  if grown up men [killed they] to be hanged up on Trees in Conspicuous Situations to Strike Survivors with the greater terror. John Connor, The Australian Frontier Wars 1788-1838, UNSW Press, 2002

1816 -April: Captain Wallis’s plan of attack was eerily similar to those of Tench’s approach in the second raid of the 22nd of December 1790 which were markedly different from those of Watkin Tench planned for the day-light raid of the14th of December 1790.

‘A little before sun-set on the evening of the 22d. we marched…In order to deceive the natives, and prevent them from again frustrating our design by promulgating it, we feigned that our preparations were directed against Broken Bay; and that the man who had wounded the governor [Willeemarin] was the object of punishment.

It was now also determined being full moon, that our operations should be carried on in the night, both for the sake of secrecy and for avoiding the extreme of the day’. Tench.ibid


1816 – Appin: ‘The only way British troops could get close to Aboriginal groups was to look for their campfires at night and surprise them in their sleep.  In these circumstances it was very difficult for soldiers to differentiate between, women and children’.

And the same cant; ‘you will use every possible precaution to save the lives of the Native Women and Children’. John Connor. ibid.

Like Tench ‘Wallis recognised the impossibility of carrying out the Governor’s orders to surrender. The only way to get close to them was in a pre-dawn raid in which the soldiers were unable to distinguish men from women and children.


[Wallis] ordered Lieutenant Parker to hand the corpses of Cannabaygal and Dunell on a prominent hill near Lachlan Vale’. Connor, cited The First Frontier, The Occupation of the Sydney Region 1788 to 1816, Peter Turbett, Rosenberg Publishing, 2011 

‘Some time later the skulls of Cannabaygal, Dunell and an unnamed woman were cut from their bodies…and ended up in the Anatomy Department of the University of Edinburgh’. Dr. Michael Pickering, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Program and Repatriation Program. National Museum of Australia cited Turbett. ibid.

Peter Turbett goes on to say at the time of publishing First Frontier  (2011) the skulls of three (3) Aborigines murdered at Appin had been brought home to Australia.

See: Reel 6045 National Archives, St. Marys, Western Sydney.















Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply