‘English clockmaker John Harrison, a mechanical genius who pioneered the science of portable precision timekeeping…invented a clock that would carry the true time from the home port, like an eternal flame, to any remote corner of the world’. Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, 1998

1788 – 24 January, Warranne: When the ‘eternal flame’ arrived aboard HMS Supply at ‘a remote corner of the world’ – Sydney Cove now –  on 24 January, 1788 it was accompanied by the discord that attended its birth. See: Captain Cook, John Harrison, Charles Green – Three Yorkshire-men  Walked  into a Bar

Initially that discord was played out at Greenwich Observatory between John Flamsteed, Britain’s first Astronomer Royal and Edmond Halley, who would succeed Flamsteed.

During Flamsteed’s long tenure 1675-1720 Halley, with the connivance of Isaac Newton, purloined, plagiarised and published Flamsteed’s work without his permission.

Their antics however paled into insignificance when compared to those of Nevil Maskelyne fifth Astronomer Royal from 1765 to 1811, who fought a pitched battle against John Harrison and his invention the clock that ‘wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch’. Sobel. ibid.

Governor Arthur Phillip RN saw fit to continue that war. His target Marine Lieutenant William Dawes and his devotion to both God and the ‘pocket watch’. See: Malicious Maskelyne

‘The naval and marine force that proceeded to New South Wales was not chosen solely to preserve discipline on the voyage; a much smaller force could have done that; it was but incidental to the duty of establishing a new British settlement and it is probably that in their selection that fact received first consideration’. Wilfrid Oldham, Britain’s Convicts To The Colonies, Library of Australian History, 1990

Lieutenant William Dawes was an officer of that marine force. Born at Portsmouth in 1762 he saw service during the War of American Independence (1775-1783) and was wounded when his ship engaged in a fire-fight with a French vessel off Cheasapeake Bay.

But there much more to William Dawes than soldier. The Astronomer Royal, Nevil  Maskelyne in fact, had given K-I into his care. K-I was a perfect replica of John Harrison’s H-4 chronometer.

‘Of all the equipment put on board the Resolution the most notable and exciting was the Larcum Kendall K 1 which was a replica of the acclaimed H-4 the most advanced time-piece in the world for the calculation of longitude’. Rob Mundle, Cook, Harper Collins, Sydney, 2013

It would be hard to imagine the reverence with which Dawes received this iconic piece.

It had travelled with Captain James Cook RN in HMS Resolution on his second and third voyages of discovery. It is said K-I stopped ticking at the moment of Cook’s murder at Tahiti on 14 February 1779.

‘He [Dawes] was the scholar of the expedition, man of letters and man of science, explorer, mapmaker, student of language of anthropology, teacher and philanthropist. There is no man among the founders who ought to have given so much information about himself and his views as Lieutenant Dawes, and there is no man among them who has given us so little. Professor G. Arnold Wood, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society Vol. X, 1924, Part 1


He put his life on the line and took a stand against entrapment. In so doing Dawes gave clarity to the military campaign that wrested New Holland from Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples.

‘Four companies of Marines landed with the first Europeans to settle in Australia’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia, 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, Sydney, 1986

Phillip’s ‘duty’ was to invade New Holland ‘with four [4] companies of marines’ establish ‘a new British settlement’ and retain that foot-hold until reinforcements – the enforcers – arrived from England to prosecute the military campaign required for consolidation.

‘The troops sent to garrison the Australian colonies participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent. Twenty-five regiments of British infantry served in the colonies between 1790 and 1870’. Stanley. ibid.

However the first of the ‘troops sent to garrison the Australian colonies’ were a long time coming. See: Abandoned and Left to Starve

Unfortunately for Governor Phillip and the First Australians not until June 1790 did the first contingent of infantry troops, the New South Wales Corps, arrive with a second fleet – ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’.

Major Francis Grose their commanding officer, remained in England to recruit sufficient numbers to satisfy establishment requirements. Lieutenant John Macarthur, a clever ambitious but unscrupulous junior Corps Officer, stepped in to fill the power vacuum.

In Macarthur Governor Phillip recognised a loose-cannon, a serious challenge to his authority – at stake New Holland for the Empire. See: Machiavellian Macarthur

1790 – 13  December, Sydney: ‘Bring in six [6] of those natives who reside near the head of Botany Bay; or if that should be found impracticable, to put that number [6] to death …bring in the heads of the slain’. Governor Arthur Phillip, General Order to Marine Captain Tench. Sydney’s First Years, Marine Captain Watkin Tench, F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

Governor Phillip spelt out his rationale for the Botany Bay raid; ‘the natives will be made severe example of whenever any man is wounded by them’. Tench knew when an ailing Governor Phillip issued these orders he had his back to the wall.

Captain Tench and Lieutenant Dawes were well aware Governor Phillip had been down this road before. See: A Vicious Circle – The Hangman’s Noose

‘No one in the colony caused Phillip more trouble than Major Ross [and] the persistent antagonism, both covert and open, which Ross pursued against him’. John Moore, First Fleet Marines, Queensland University Press, 1987

Previously – on 27th February 1788 – one (1) month after landing in Sydney Cove, Governor Phillip faced restive and fearful convicts, a disgruntled military led by hostile Major Ross their commanding officer and felt compelled to assert his authority. See: Rules of Engagement (coming shortly)

On that occasion – February 1788 – he also chose terror and extra-judicial murder to shore up that authority.  See: From Here to Eternity

‘In reality it [Botany Bay raid] was an extravagant charade’. Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip, Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy, Hardie Grant Books (Australia-UK), 2013

Never under any circumstance would God-fearing William Dawes have put his life on the line for a ‘charade’. Dawes was unwilling to engage in a strategy that exposed a tethered goat to harm. See: A Tethered Goat – John Mc Entire – 10 December 1790




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