Botany Bay – Lord Sydney, Arthur Phillip & ‘Hush Christopher Robin’ – Mark 2

‘It will be asked why, when we [Britain] have as great if not a greater, force than we ever had, the enemy are superior to us. To this it is to be answered that England till this time [1778-83] was never engaged in a sea war with the House of Bourbon [France and Spain] thoroughly united, their naval force unbroken, and resources, and having no other war or object to draw off their attentions and resources’. Lord Sandwich cited Robert .J. King, The Secret History of the Convict Colony, Sydney 1990 

 1775- America, Lexington: In April 1775 Britain went to war with her North American colonists. But not all of them. Loyalists, remained  faithful to the Crown and, alongside British soldiers, fought their rebellious Patriot-brothers.

Led by General George Washington, against all odds America’s  Patriots went on to win independence from Britain.

1778 – France: In February 1778 the French signed a formal alliance with the United States.

1778 – England: The following month, March 1778, Britain declared war on France.

‘Although Spain never officially allied with the United States its entry into the Revolutionary War alongside France turned a regional North American conflict into a global war and forced Britain to divert its vaunted Royal Navy to defend other  interests [including Gibraltar] around the world’.  The American Revolution – A World War, eds .notes, Spanish Naval Operations.  Ed. David K. Allison & Larrie D. Ferreiro, Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C. 2013

1779 – Spain:  In 779 Spain entered into alliance with France. Spain assisted with logistical support, woollen uniforms, foodstuffs and medicines.


Soon after Spain allied with France the British went on the offensive and made two (2) attempts to ‘annoy and distress the Spaniards….in their South American possessions.

1779 – Jamaica:  Firstly from Jamaica in February 1779. Major William Dalrymple sailed from Kingston Harbour to attack Omoa a Spanish fortress at Honduras on the Mosquito Coast of Central America.

1779 – Omoa: Although the Spanish vastly outnumbered the English in the area of attack Dalrymple’s raiders managed to take the Spanish by surprise. They captured the main fort at Omoa on the 16th of September 1779.

But diseases, dysentery, yellow fever and malaria, overtook them. The British managed to hold onto the fort  at Omoa until November 1779 when it was lost to a Spanish counter attack

However the expedition’s naval contingent of three (3) vessels did much better than those on land. They managed to seize two (2) treasure ships laden with loot. Mainly silver said to be the value of three million (3,000,000) Spanish dollars.

London: The ‘victory’ was overblown for home consumption. Medals were minted. Paintings, engravings, books, a plethora of print articles all screamed ‘treasure’.

Jamaica: So it was not difficult for Major William  Dalrymple who had survived Omoa to suggest another attack on Spain’s rich South American territories.

Jamaica – 1780: This time Dalrymple’s proposal involved the San Juan River area in present day Nicaragua.

‘The San Juan River…gave access to Granada…and Britain sought to take control of the area in order to reach the Pacific [Ocean]….According to Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, the San Juan Expedition was “among the most ambitious enterprises of the American Revolutionary War”. The American Revolution A World War, Eds. David K. Allison & Larrie D. Ferreiro,  Yale University, New Haven & London, 2013 

Britain also maintained settlements along that coast. These in the main were occupied by white overseers of slave labourers who felled the mighty giants to satisfy the United Kingdom’s rapacious thirst for mahogany to fill the fine dining, drawing and bedrooms of wealthy Georgians.

If successful Dalrymple’s expedition would split the Spanish Empire and establish access between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  It is little wonder the plan had the support of Lord George Germain, secretary of state for America, in far-off London.

San Juan also had the enthusiastic backing of General John Dalling, Governor of Jamaica. The enthusiasm however was not supported by careful preparations.

Haphazard planning spelt disaster.  Of approximately 1800 foot soldiers who sailed from Jamaica only 380 returned.

‘Germain was to declare the expedition an entire failure in which “no public Benefit had been derived from the Loss of so many [2500] brave men”.  It not only failed but distracted from the British effort in North America’ . Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, The Men who Lost America, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2013

Under command of a not yet 21 years old Lieutenant Horatio Nelson RN in HMS Hinchenbrooke a thousand (1000) sailors manned a flotilla of ships that took the troops to Nicaragua. Of Hinchenbrooke’s crew of 200 only 10 survived.


‘The combination of French and Spanish naval power had proven fatal for Britain in the American War 1775-1783…as Lord Sandwich admitted frankly’. Lord Sandwich cited R.J. King, The Secret History of the Convict Colony, Sydney, 1990

1781 – Chesapeake, September: Defeat of the Royal Navy in the American theatre, at the Battle of the Capes by a French squadron led by Admiral de Grasse, starved General Lord Charles Cornwallis’ land forces at Yorktown of reinforcements. The lack of heavy artillery it is said tipped the scales in favour of Washington’s Continental Army.

1781 – Yorktown:   A month later – 19th October – 5000 survivors of General Cornwallis’ 8000 strong army surrendered to equal numbers of French regulars and American Patriot militia.

Although the war dragged on historians agree Cornwallis’ loss at Yorktown sounded the death-knell for in Britain’s campaign to save her ’empire in the west’.

Following the humiliation of San Juan and the loss of of Yorktown Britain’s fire to seek revenge, ‘harass’ the Spaniards’  burned ever brighter.

Before peace talks proper began another raid against Spain’s colonies, the so called Dalrymple Plan, was under discussion with William Petty, Earl Shelburne, the Home Secretary

1782 – London:  Lord Frederick North who held the post of Prime Minister since 1770 resigned in March 1782

1782 – July: Charles Watson-Wentworth – Lord Rockingham – succeeded North but died four (4) months later in July 1782.

1782 – July:  William Petty, Earl Shelburne relinquished his position as Home Secretary. He took over the Prime Ministership as Lord Lansdowne.

It appears Home Secretary Shelburne had not been impressed by the spin put on the Omoa expedition. He hesitated to approve Major  Dalrymple’s strategy until Sir John Dalrymple, a prominent member of the influential Scots ‘Dalrymple Dynasty’, took up his younger brother’s cause.

Paris: While treaty terms to settle the War of American Independence were still under negotiation at Versailles Shelburne approved the ‘Dalrymple Plan’.

In July 1782 Lord Sydney became Home Secretary and inherited the ‘Dalrymple’. Its aim to mount hit and run raids on Monte Video and Buenos Aires two (2) of Spain’s South American Atlantic colonial possessions.

map of south america

Lord Sydney hoped to salvage some honour after the ignominy of the Omoa and San Juan disasters. He tasked Captain Arthur Phillip RN to bring the now re-badged Monte Video Plan to life.

Phillip fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, German, French and Hebrew, had spent nigh four (4) years in Brazil spying. He reported directly to  Lord Sandwich, a fellow linguist, at the Admiralty. See: Monte Video – Lord Sydney, Arthur Phillip & ‘Hush Christopher Robin’ Mark 1


Portsmouth- 1783 :  On the 16th of January 1783, peace terms were advancing when Lieutenant Arthur Phillip RN captain of HMS Europa  with three (3) other ships under overall command of Sir Robert Kingsmill in HMS Elizabeth, HMS Grafton and HMS Iphiguria a supply vessel,  departed Portsmouth.

The plan was to rendezvous with a similar sized convoy sailing from the East Indies. However in May 1783 it became known, peace terms between Spain and Britain had been settled. The raid was abandoned.

In the Bay of Biscay the squadron was caught by a fierce hurricane.  Kingsmill in HMS Elizabeth along with Grafton and Iphiguria returned to England

Captain Phillip however made for India to repair Europa and await further orders. See: Arthur Phillip The Spy Who Never Came In From The Cold.

1783 – Paris, September: America’s Revolutionary War of Independence ended formally on 3 September 1783 with the signing of The Treaty of Paris at the Palace of Versailles.

Described as ‘brittle’ and ‘precarious’ it was a hiatus designed to create a breathing space allowing the various players to re-group.


Rio de Janeiro – 3 September 1787: ‘Dear Nepean, this is my last letter, as I hope to sail [for Botany Bay] tomorrow’.

For both Britain and France the invasion of New Holland was part of that forward strategy.

1787 – Brazil – September: As the First Fleet ‘bound for Botany Bay’ prepared to sail from Rio for New Holland via Cape Town, Captain Arthur Phillip RN ‘Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy’ was able to supply Evan Nepean, his long-time ‘handler’ at the Home Office, with vital up to date intelligence.

You know how much I was interested in the intended expedition against Monte Video [1783], and that it was said that the Spaniards had more troops than I supposed…obtained from a person who was there [Monte Video] all of the war and I am certain that the account…of the number of Spaniards exact’. Phillip to Evan Nepean Under Secretary to Home Secretary Lord Sydney 3 September 1787. Franck Murcott Bladen, Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 1, Parts 1 & 2,  1892, Nabu Public Domain Reprint

Skin in the game; Phillip regarded the Kingsmill group’s ‘failure to act’ against the Spanish in 1783 had robbed the Royal Navy of much needed ‘glory’. 

‘When you arrive on the Spanish Coast of the South Seas you are to do your best to annoy and distress the Spaniards… by sinking, burning or otherwise destroying all their ships and vessels that you shall meet’. Instructions to Commodore George Anson,  January 1740, cited Glyn Williams The Prize of All the Oceans,  Harper Collins, 2000

‘Failure to act’ rankled. Phillip determined to make amends.  The conquest of New Holland, now Australia situated  deep in the South Seas could restore that ‘lost glory’.

When I conversed with Lord Sydney….The place New South Wales holds on our globe might give it a very commanding influence in the polity of Europe. If a colony from Britain was established in a large tract of [that] country…the check which New South Wales would be in time of war…make it a very important object when we view it in the chart of the world with a political eye’.  James Matra, [Joseph Bank’s] Plan for Botany Bay, August 23rd 1783, Bladen, Historical Records of New South Wales

‘The check which New South Wales would be in time of war’ Banks and Matra had been  with Captain Cook on HMS Endeavour in 1770 at Botany Bay

Bother were aware the ‘commanding’place New South Wales [held] ‘in the polity of Europe’ lay in its geographical relationship to India, Asia and the Pacific Coast of Spain’s Central and South American ‘treasure colonies’.

London Gazette Extract 1789

‘Four [4] companies of Marines landed [in 1788] with the first Europeans…and twenty-five [25] regiments of British infantry served in the colonies between 1790 and 1870.

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.  

Strategically the conquest and dispossession of New Holland’s First Nations’ Peoples  was an essential ingredient in a century long period of global warfare that has been characterised as Britain’s Second Hundred Years’ War 1701 -1815.

The War of Spanish Succession 1701-14, War of Austrian Succession & War of Jenkin’s Ear 1739- 48, Seven Years’ War 1754-1763, War of American Independence 1775-1783, Invasion of New Holland 1788, French Revolutionary & Napoleonic Wars 1793- 1815, Australia’s  Frontier Wars without end.

‘Police and military raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries….These raids had began by December 1790’. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney 1995 

See: Apocalyptic Day – 26 January 1788


‘Hush hush whisper who dares’ why is sailor spy strategist mercenary, Governor Arthur Phillip RN, described quite rightly as ‘the least known founder of any modern state – in this case Australia’ ?  Nigel Rigby, Peter Van Der Merwe, Glyn Williams,  Pacific Exploration Voyages of Discovery from Captain Cook’s Endeavour to the Beagle, National Maritime Museum Greenwich, Adlard Coles  2018 

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