‘He [Dawes] was the scholar of the[First Fleet] expedition, man of letters and man of science, explorer, mapmaker, student of language of anthropology, teacher and philanthropist’. Professor G. Arnold Wood, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society Vol. X, 1924, Part 1

Aside from Daniel Rooke,  Kate Grenville’s star-struck cardboard cut-out hero of The Lieutenant, Australia knows very  little of Marine Lieutenant William Dawes and almost nothing of the ‘eternal flame’.

‘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

Warranne – 26 January 1788:  Given into Dawe’s care –  K I – a faithful replica of Harrison’s ‘sea-going pocket watch’ the H-4 fetched up at one particular ‘remote corner of the world’  – Sydney Cove – aboard HMS Supply one (1) of the First Fleet’s eleven (11) ships.

Harrison H-4 Chronometer

Australia knows nothing of Lieutenant Dawes pivotal role in revealing the why and wherefore of the ‘war nasty and decidedly lacking in glory’ Britain waged against Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples. See: The Big Switch

‘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 Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, A History of Law in Australia, Allen & Unwin, 1995.


Greewich Observatory – 1675: Acrimony over the best method of determining longitude when a ship at sea was beyond sight of land had played out more than a century earlier during John Flamsteed’s long tenure as Britain’s first Astronomer Royal at Greenwich Observatory, from the time of that Institution’s inception in 1675 during the reign of King Charles the Second.

Similarly the discord that attended H-4’s birth accompanied K-1 to New Holland but for very different reasons.

While the Reverend Flamsteed was Astronomer Royal (1675-1720) Edmond Halley of comet fame, with the connivance of Isaac Newton, purloined plagiarised and published ‘The Star Catalog’ – Flamsteed’s life’s work – without authority.

Halley and Newton’s antics paled however when compared to those of Reverend Nevil Maskelyne Britain’s fifth Astronomer Royal 1765 to 1811. See: Malicious Maskelyne

He waged a pitched battle against John Harrison and H-4  that, as Dava Sobel so poetically has it, ‘wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch’. See: Lotto and Longitude.

Maskelyne, before and during his Greenwich tenure not only persecuted Harrison, in 1768 he withheld l H-4 from Lieutenant James Cook RN. See: Cook, Harrison, Green – Three Yorkshire-men  Walked  into a Bar

Tahiti – 1769:  Cook with Joseph Banks set off in 1769 aboard HMS Endeavour on a dual mission. First to observe the Transit of Venus at Tahiti for the Royal Society and, afterwards for the Admiralty, search for the fabled Great South Land.

The absence of Harrison’s ‘precision time-keeper’ must be factored into the timing of Endeavour’s extended voyage. On the long voyage no crewman died of scurvy and for this Cook is rightly lauded.

But at Batavia, modern-day Jakarta on the homeward leg much to Cook’s sorrow, 50% of his men succumbed to malaria and dysentery.


Greenwich:  Two decades later, in 1787 Maskelyne, then Astronomer Royal, delivered K-1 into the care of Lieutenant William Dawes. This was the chronometer Cook took on his second  voyage (1772-1775) with Resolution, Adventure and the third (1776-1780) with Resolution, Discovery .

‘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

Hawaii – 1779:  K-1 it is said to have stopped at the time of Captain Cook’s death at Hawaii on the 14th of February 1779.

Dawes would also have been aware it was Maskelyne who denied Cook the H-4 on the Endeavour voyage. It would be hard to imagine the reverence with which Lieutenant Dawes received this iconic time-piece.


‘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’. Wood. op. cit.

‘Ought to have given’ –  what an extraordinary understatement given Lieutenant Dawes’ response to Governor Phillip’s orders  of December 1790 ‘ if six [natives] cannot be taken, let this number be shot’ .

Dawes whose tour of duty it was to go out with that party refused that duty by letter’. Wood. op.cit.

Dawes put his life on the line yet Professor Wood has it ‘Dawes has given us so little about himself’. The why of Dawes refusal holds the key to Australia’s dark European history and the near destruction of our First Nations’ Peoples. 

England:  Born at Portsmouth in 1762 Dawes, like many First Fleet senior officers, Governor Phillip RN, Major Ross, Captain Hunter RN, Marine Captain David Collins,  Watkin Tench and chief medical officer John White among them, had seen active service during America’s Revolutionary War of Independence 1775-1783.

Chesapeake, Virginia – 1781:  At a pivotal point in that conflict – September 1781 – Dawes was wounded when his ship engaged in a fire-fight with French vessels off Chesapeake Bay, at the Battle of the Capes.

In that action France’s Admiral de Grasses’ victory over the Royal Navy denied the British reinforcements and heavy artillery.

Yorktown – 1781: The following month, October 1781, survivors of General Lord Charles Cornwallis’ large army  surrendered at Yorktown to a combined army of French – Marquis de Rochambeau’s Regulars – and General George Washington’s – Patriot militia.

‘By the time of the siege of Yorktown, in 1781, Britain was becoming overwhelmed by the effort of fighting five separate nation-states around the globe – France, Spain, the United States, the Dutch Republic, and the kingdom of Mysore, in India’. Larrie D. Ferreiro, Introduction, The American Revolution – A World War, David K. Allison, Larrie D. Ferreiro, Smithsonian, 2013

Although fighting continued ‘around the globe’ it is from Britain’s defeat at the Battle of Yorktown (1781) historians date America’s revolutionary victory.

‘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. In both the United States and India as well as throughout the developing world legacies of that distant war persist’.  Essays, The American Revolution – A World War,  Part 2,  British Global Ambitions and Indian Identity  David K. Allison, Larrie D. Ferreiro, Smithsonian, 2013 

‘New Holland is a good blind, then, when we want to add to the military strength of India’. Anon. to Evan Nepean, Historical Records of New South Wales

For The First Peoples the negative ‘legacies of that distant [Europe  – America – India] war persist’.


Botany Bay -13 December 1790:  Governor Phillip ordered a detachment of fifty (50) men under command of Marine Captain Watkin Tench, march to Botany Bay with orders toinstil universal terror...kill ten…bring in the heads of the slain’. 

Dawes  formal refusal to obey Phillip’s General Orders reveal an ignition point for Britain’s ‘nasty war’. The war that wrested New Holland from Australia’s First Nations’ and led to their near destruction.

Phillip recommended Dawes face court-martial on his return to England to answer for his courageous stance in the face of a series of moral dilemmas that presented during his deployment. See: Smallpox – A Lethal Weapon, Boston 1775 –  Sydney 1789


‘We, reposing especial trust and confidence in your loyalty, courage and experience in military affairs, do appoint you to be Governor of our territory called New South Wales…Cape York to…South Cape…all the islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean’.  His Majesty George III to Arthur Phillip, 12 October 1786. Historical Records of New South Wales Vol. 1

Governor Phillip’s ‘duty’ as commander of the Royal Navy Expeditionary Force was to invade New Holland and retain a foot-hold until reinforcements –  the infantry – arrived from England to prosecute the military campaign required for consolidation and subjugation of the country’s original inhabitants.

‘The troops sent to garrison the Australian colonies’ were a long time coming.  Not until June 1790 did a ship arrive from England.  The long lag-time forced Phillip to adopt the role of enforcer. See: Abandoned and Left to Starve Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790


Sydney  Cove – 1 January 1790:  ‘No communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th of May, 1787, the day of our departure from Portsmouth…From the intelligence our our friends and connections we had been entirely cut off.

Famine was approaching with gigantic strides...the misery and horror of such a situation cannot be imparted, even by those who have suffered under it’. Marine Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 19611790

South Head – 3 June 1790: Lady Juliana with ‘London on her stern’ – first of four (4) second fleet vessels – sailed through Sydney Heads with two hundred and twenty-six (226) women convicts and ‘Letters! Letters!

They were produced, and torn open in trembling agitation. News burst upon us like meridian splendor on a blind man. We were overwhelmed with it, public, private, general and particular’. Tench. ibid.

‘News of the disaster which had befallen the Guardian’. See: Titanic – Australia’s Titanic – HMS Guardian

England:  News proclaiming; ‘Congratulations on the Recovery of your Majesty [King George 111] from that Severity of Disease [madness] to which it has been the Will of the Almighty….that your Royal Person should be lately subjected’. 

France:  News of ‘The French revolution of 1789 with all the attendant circumstances of that wonderful and unexpected event, succeeded to amaze us’. Tench

Paris: On the 14th of July 1789, starving French men and women stormed the Bastille Prison. Prisoners emerged from its dungeons to take revenge on the rich and famous.  In 1793 they would behead Louis XV1 their King and his Queen Antoinette.

London Gazette 17 October 1789


London Gazette Extract

Whitehall – 16 October 1789:War Office, Corps of Foot for New South Wales. Major Francis Gross, from the Half-pay of the late 96th Regiment, is appointed to be Major Commandant’. 

Plymouth – 17 January 1790:  In mid January one thousand (1000) male and seventy-eight (78) women convicts departed England for Botany Bay.

To guard against mutiny, distributed throughout three (3)ships of the second fleet, were one hundred and fifteen (115) infantry officers and men of ‘foot’ – the New South Wales Corps. See:  ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’ The Dead and the Living Dead 

Government issued ‘slave’ contracts to a London company prominent in the ‘Guinea slave trade’.

Camden, Calvert and King…were to preside over a great loss of life in a context of cruelty and suffering’. Michael Flynn, The Second Fleet, Britain’s Grim Armada, Library of Australian History, Sydney 1993

Sydney:  June 1790:  Before the end of June 1790 Neptune, Suprize, Scarborough the fleet’s death ships, laden with sick and dying convicts arrived placing severe strain on available food and medicines.


October: ‘We were joyfully suprised on the 20th of the month to see another sail enter the harbour. She proved to be the Justinian transport…laden entirely with provisions for our use. Full allowance and general congratulations immediately took place. Tench. ibid.

Neither ‘joy’ nor ‘full allowance’ lasted long.

‘Humanity shudders to think that of the nine hundred [900] male Convicts embark’d in this Fleet, Three hundred and seventy [370] are already dead & four hundred and fifty [450] are landed sick, and so emaciated and helpless, that very few, or any of them, can be saved by care or medicine.

I imagine the [Sydney] Medicine Chest to be nearly exhausted and Provisions are a scarce Article’. Captain William Hill to  Jonathan Watham Esqr. Bond Court, Walbrook London, Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, 25th July 1790, Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 1

In similar vein Captain Hill who sailed in Suprize wrote of the voyage to William Wilberforce a prominent English anti-slavery activist.

‘In the aftermath of the [American] conflict, when the London government was keen to restore its own image and even more keen to do the new republic [damage], and the religiously committed were keen to regain God’s favour, British commentators made much of the movement to abolish the slave trade…and readily drew a contrast with the United States where [chattel] slavery not only remained a vital institution but became enshrined in the new constitution eventually agreed in 1787’.  Stephen Conway, A Short History of the American Revolutionary War, Stephen Conway I.B. Tauris, , London, New York, reprint 2017

Since the Treaty Utrecht 1713-14 English ships transported African slaves to work Britain’s lucrative sugar plantations in the West Indies and her North American colonial cotton and tobacco fields. See: The Zong – Chattel Slavery – Britain’s  Economic Addiction (pending)

 ‘The slave trade is merciful compared to what I’ve seen in this fleet. The irons  [Guinea shackle] used upon these unhappy wretches were barbarous. Used in the Guinea trade…not more than three-quarters in length of a foot…thus fettered so that they could not extend either leg from the other it was impossible for them to move but at the risk of both legs being broken’. Captain Hill, Historical Records. op. cit.

High-profile Wilberforce, a close friend of Prime Minister William Pitt, was England’s leading Parliamentary abolitionist. His efforts to regain God’s favour’  by ending Britain’s economic dependence on chattel slavery earned him the title ‘God’s Politician’. 


  ‘The great change came in the arrival 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 elite’. Nigel Rigby, Peter van der Mere, Glyn Williams, National Maritime Museum Greenwich, Pacific Explorations, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles, London, 2018

Major Grose the Corps commander remained in London to recruit sufficient numbers to satisfy establishment requirements, some  ‘deserters [from] London’s Savoy Military Prison’.

Lieutenant John Macarthur, a clever ambitious junior officer took advantage of deep divisions that,  even before the ships left England, surfaced among the Corps’ senior officers

In Sydney Macarthur moved to fill the power vacuum created by the commander’s absence.

‘At the end of the American Revolutionary Wars [1775-1783] it had become clear that the upsurge in French shipbuilding activity had reached new heights and that the French and the Dutch were manoeuvring for advantage in India and the East’. Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip Sailor, Mercenary Governor Spy, Hardie Grant Books  (Australia – UK ) 2013

Governor Phillip was fully aware of what the Pitt Administration expected from the conquest and occupation of New Holland. He assessed the arrogant Macarthur’s evident overarching personal ambition posed a serious challenge to the ambitions of ‘King and Country’. See: Machiavellian Macarthur


‘I need not enlarge on the benefit of stationary a large  body of troops in New South Wales…when we want to add to the military strength of India……they may be transported thither… before our enemies in Europe knew anything of the matter’. Anon to Evan Nepean, Historical Record of New South Wales

Additionally a sea-route via the Southern Oceans, would expose the gold and silver of Spain’s Central and South American ‘treasure’ colonies to pincer attack from both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  See: Proximity not Distance Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland.

‘Famine was approaching with gigantic strides’ when news of the French Revolution reached Sydney in June 1790. There were no Royal Navy ships in the harbour. The naval Governor  Phillip was isolated in the midst of an increasingly hostile soldiery. See: Missing in Action – HMS Sirius & HMS Supply


Norfolk Island:   ‘Famine’ three months earlier, 19th of March 1790, while evacuating 50% of Sydney’s starving white population to Norfolk Island HMS Sirius, hit a submerged reef and sank.

China: Sirius was to have continued onto China and arrange a rescue mission. Now her crew, one hundred and sixty (160) Royal Navy personnel, were marooned on the island along with the evacuees.

Jakarta:  In mid April HMS Supply  departed Sydney for Batavia present day Jakarta.

Sydney – April – 1790:The following ration was decreed  to commence immediately…per week to every grown person, and to every child of more than eighteen months old, two pounds of pork, two pounds and a half pounds of rice, or a quart of pease’. Tench. ibid.

Batavia: Supply’s captain Lieutenant Henry Ball RN was to buy tons of urgently needed food and medicines from the Dutch and charter a large vessel to bring them to Sydney.

Sydney Cove – June 1790: The arrival of Lady Juliana,  on 3 June with two hundred and twenty- six (226) female convicts, first of four (4)  vessels of the second fleet,  broke the terrible silence. See: Abandoned and Left to Starve January 1788 to June 1790

The fleet’s three (3) death ships, laden with sick and dying men, arrived by the end of June exacerbating an already critical situation.

‘Some….died after the ships came into the harbour, before they could be taken on shore part of these had been thrown into the harbour and their dead bodies cast upon the shore, and were seen lying naked upon the rocks’. Reverend Richard Johnson, First Fleet Chaplain, cited Jack Egan, Buried Alive, Allen and Unwin, 1999

Starved, locked below docks throughout the voyage, treated with savage brutality, one-quarter (25%) of approximately one thousand (1000) male prisoners embarked on Neptune, Scarborough, Suprize died during the passage.

‘Every exertion was made to get up the portable hospital but, although we  were informed that it had been put up in London in a very few hours, we did not complete it until the 7th [July], when it was instantly filled with patients. Marine Captain David Collins, First Fleet Journal

A further 15% died within weeks of landing.

Review Botany Bay 1788

                                    1788 – January 24: ‘Phillip noticed two [2] French ships in the offing‘.

Four (4) days after the ‘First Fleet’ dropped anchor in Botany Bay, Comte Jean-Francois La Perouse at the helm of La Boussole with La Astrolabe astern, appeared in the entrance to Botany Bay and was refused entry.  See: Australia – Britain By A Short Half-Head

‘Alarmed’ Captain Phillip quit Botany Bay on the 25th of January1788. He sailed to Sydney Cove ‘to hoist English colours’ .

‘He ordered a party be sent to Point Sutherland to hoist English colours. He also stipulated that no one was to go on board the French ships’. John Moore, The First Fleet Marines 1786-1792, Queensland University Press, 1987  

‘He [Phillip] thought it wise’, should the French again try to enter Botany Bay, ‘to delay the fleet’s departure till the following day’. 

‘The following day’  26th January – after the English fleet departed  La Boussole and L’Astrolabe entered and anchored in Frenchmen’s Cove.

Norfolk Island Australia South Pacific Map

Norfolk Island – 14 February:  Phillip uncertain of La Perouse’s immediate intentions but ,knowing France’s ambitions for expanding her colonial interests in India and securing a Pacific Ocean base,  in great haste ordered Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN to the island with six (6) months of supplies to support marines, a doctor, nine (9) male and six (6) female convicts.

Sydney Cove:  Consider castaways twenty-one thousand (21,000) kilometres from home squeezed between by sea and bush, struggling to make sense of their surroundings filled with fear of what lay ahead,  the urge to flee must have been overwhelming.

Phillip, with La Boussole and L’Astrolabe close by, felt compelled to assert authority over ‘his people’.  With few options he chose diversion.

image of charlotte medal

1788 – 27 February:  A matter of days after convict Thomas Barrett finished engraving the Botany Bay Medallion, Governor Phillip signed his death warrant. See:  Terror in Three Acts – From Here to Eternity 27th, Blind Man’s Bluff 28th, Catch 22 – 29th February 1788

The million dollar (AUD $1000, 000) Botany Bay Medallion, purchased for nation in 2008, is on permanent display at Australia’s Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, Sydney.

A plaque on the corner of Harrington and Essex Street Sydney marks Thomas Barrett’s fleeting presence in Australia.


(Deéjà vu) September 1790

‘The Act of 1786 [Geo.III. c.59] for the Encouragement of the Southern Whale Fishery proved to be the foundation of an important industry…in the wake of whalers other British traders would follow. The furtherance of this plan became one of the central objects of Lord Hawkesbury’s commercial policy’. Vincent T. Harlow, Founding of the Second British Empire 1763-1793, Longmans, London, 1964

Manly Beach – September:  A land base to support ship-based whaling and sealing industries was high on the list of Britain’s ambitions for New Holland. In early September a ‘monster’ whale on its way to Antarctica beached on the sand at Manly.

The stranding caused great excitement in both camps.  Whale,  totem of the Eora Peoples, drew them to Manly to marvel at its grandeur among them Bennalong a young warrior.

Governor Phillip, whose salt-water career began hunting whale in Arctic waters, was rowed across the harbour to see what species it might be.

Months earlier Phillip had ordered the capture of two (2) Aboriginal men. Colbee and Bennalong were kidnapped (December 1789)  from Manly Beach. See: Kidnapped – Manly – What’s In A Name

Colbee aged  about thirty  (30)  ‘lightly framed’ Tench says ‘better fitted for purposes of activity’ escaped. Bennalong, a year or so younger, was caught in the act.  Despite increased surveillance he escaped in May 1790 and returned to his people.

Manly: September on the sand Phillip and Bennalong met up again. Tench says  ‘they discoursed for some time…Baneelon express[ed] pleasure to see his old acquaintance’.

Phillip then turned his attention on the whale; ‘a native with a spear in his hand came forward…the nearer, the governor approached, the greater became the terror and agitation of [Wileemarin] the Indian.

To remove his fear, governor Phillip threw down a dirk, he wore at his side…the other…instantly fixed his lance …with force and dexterity striking the governor’s right shoulder just above the collar bone’. Tench. op.cit

The spear exited Phillip’s back so could not be removed.  It took two (2) hours of furious rowing to get him back to Sydney during which time the wound  ‘bled a great deal’.

Prior to its successful extraction William Balmain, the fleet’s senior surgeon, sought advise from local Aboriginals as to the spear’s idiosyncrasies.

Phillip recovered slowly. He attributed Wileemarin’s  attack to ‘misapprehension’ and gave orders there be no reprisals.


‘From so unfavourable an omen as I have related [Phillip’s spearing] who could prognosticate that an [amicable] intercourse with the natives was about to commence’! Tench

Clearly the aftermath of the attack was the opposite of what was expected. Instead of ‘bloodshed and horror’ came friendly dialogue.

An outcome even more surprising as; ‘the natives  expressed great dissatisfaction at the number of white men who had settled at Rose Hill…200 acres…of land was under cultivation…the main street already began…will make Pall-Mall and Portland Place to “hide their diminished heads”…. the detachment at Rose Hill was reinforced’. Tench. ibid.

There was however another side to the ‘great dissatisfaction‘ equation. It was not limited to ‘the natives’.

‘In America the officers and settlers had grants of land in proportion to their rank, but those [First Fleet officers] who have borne every hardship have no such thing, neither is there an intention of giving each their portion’. Captain Hill, to William Waltham, London 26 July 1790, cited Jack Egan,Buried Alive, Sydney 1788-1792, Allen and Unwin, 1999

Then Hill got it wrong ; ‘I am persuaded Britain will not thank our governor for ‘a mean…unstable plan’, to the great disquiet of every individual in the colony’. Hill. op. cit.

As with Rio Tinto 2020 the ‘mean…unstable’ plan emanated, not from Government House  Sydney Town but from the ‘London Board of Directors’ -the British Government.

With the natives we [the old hands] are now hand in glove’Tench

It is clear local Aborigines changed tactics immediately they saw they were dealing with two (2) ‘unstable‘ groups of white people very much at each other’s throat.


October 1790:  ‘Butter from England…’expended‘.  Four (4) months without rain,  no cows, milk or butter. ‘Without distinction‘ the weekly ration for all males,  soldier and convict alike,  was a bone of contention among the newcomers.

19 October 1790:  HMS Supply ‘we witnessed her departure [April] with tears’ arrived from Jakarta ‘we hailed her return with transport’.

Their joy was tempered by sadness. ‘While at Batavia [she] had lost many of her people by sickness, and left several others in the general hospital at that place’. Tench. ibid.

Lieutenant Ball gave Governor Phillip an account of his somewhat difficult dealings with the Dutch.  Nevertheless tons of food and medicines  were purchased and a vessel Waaksamheyd chartered to bring them to Sydney.

Phillip with memories of extortionate prices demanded of him by the Dutch colonial administration at Cape Town  (1787) on the final leg of the First Fleet’s voyage was apprehensive – would the Waaksamheyd turn up?

November 1790Justinian’s supplies were  dwindling.  ‘The natives throng the camp, every day…God knows we have little enough for ourselves.

If the Dutch Snow does not arrive arrive soon it [ration] must be shortened, as the casks in the storehouse, I observed yesterday are woefully decreased’.  Tench.

December 9:  ‘Everyone was hungry’ still no Dutch shipThree ( 3) armed convicts,  Patrick Burn, John Randall and John McEntire ‘the person of whom Baneelon, had on former occasions, shewn so much dread and hatred’ with a marine NCO were sent to Botany Bay on a kangaroo shoot.

December 10:  At 1 am a single assailant, Pemulwuy a Bidjigal warrior, identified clearly by ‘a speck in his left eye’, speared and severely wounded Mc Intyre.

December 13: The Governor called Captain Tench to Headquarters; ..instil universal terror…tomorrow…march to Botany Bay…[kill ten] cut off, and bring in the heads of the slain, for which purpose, hatchets and bags would be furnished’. Tench. ibid.


‘His Excellency was now pleased to enter into the reasons which induced him to adopt measures of such severity….The barbarity of their conduct admits no extenuation’ . Tench. op.cit.

Governor Phillip spelt out his rationale. ‘Since our arrival in the country no less than seventeen [17] of our people had either been killed or wounded by the natives.

In every former instance of hostility, they had acted either from having received injury or from misapprehension…”to the latter of these causes” added he “I attribute my own wound”. But in this business with McEntire I [Phillip] am fully persuaded that they were unprovoked’.                                                                                                               

Here it must be asked had Bennlong who ‘on former occasions [had] shewn so much dread and hatred’  taken a U-turn on McEntire? Emphatically no.

In late October 1790 Bennalong visited Government House to enquire on Phillip’s progress. There were no hard feelings and they  ‘ceremoniously’ exchanged gifts.

Bennalong then went from ‘room to room’ greeting members of the household with ‘great affection‘.  He kissed Phillip’s French cook and the ‘orderly serjeant.

‘But the game-keeper McEntire he continued to hold in abhorrence, and would not suffer his approach’. Tench.


Putting aside ‘unprovoked’ what was ‘them – their – the natives all about.- the innocent as well as the guilty;  single known assailant. Disproportionate  collective, indiscriminate punishment was, then and now, contrary to the ‘rules and disciplines of war’.

In the face of general unrest was the raid of the 14th of December 1790 a set-up to serve as a tactical diversion.?

Phillip had been down that road  before with Thomas Barrett’s execution (February 1788) and the gruesome pantomime of Blind Man’s Bluff and Catch 22  that had served as a tactical diversion.

Create a common enemy and take off the heat.

Or was it as Michael Pembroke’s Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy has it  ‘an extravagant charade…served only as a melodramatic show of force’?

‘Dawes, whose tour of duty it was to go out with that [December 14th] party, refused that duty by letter…even after the Governor had taken great pains to point out the consequences of his being put under an arrest’. Professor G.A. Wood, Lieutenant William Dawes and Captain Watkin Tench, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal, Vol. 19, Part 1, 1924

Not under any circumstance would God-fearing William Dawes have put his life, or the lives  of others – black or white on  the line, for a ‘charade’ a bit of fun. See: John McIntyre – Death of a Sure Thing

In 1788 Dawes had supplied the technical details Thomas Barrett expertly engraved on the Botany Bay Medallion and not many days after its completion he  witnessed  as Barrett  strangled slowly hanging from a gallows-tree. See: From Here to Eternity

Dawes laid his moral dilemma – a known assailant – ‘punishing guilty and innocent’ before Rev. Richard Johnson, Chaplain of the ‘First Fleet’ who counselled Dawes on his military obligation.

Following that conversation Dawes; ‘informed Captain Campbell that the Rev. Mr. Johnson thought he might obey the order, and that he was ready to go out with the party, which he did’. Tench. ibid.

Tench too showed unease. Governor Phillip subsequently amended his  General Orders [initially] from ‘ten’ to ‘bring in six 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.

Captain Tench and Lieutenant Dawes knew, when Governor Phillip issued these orders, his position as Captain-General, isolated as he was in the midst of a hostile military, was precarious in the extreme.

‘Certain officers’ of the newly arrived (June 1790) New South Wales Corps , impatient winners in the land lottery, were circling the tents.

Botany Bay –  1790  December 14:  At dawn on the 14 December Tench’s detachment of fifty (50) men moved out for Botany Bay with; ‘three [3] days provisions, ropes to bind our prisoners, and hatchets and bags, to cut off and contain the heads of the slain’. Tench. ibid.  

Sydney: Three (3) days later the exhausted troops returned to Sydney empty-handed with no prisoners or heads. But they returned to a very different settlement.

Jakarta – 17 December: At dawn Waaksamheyd arrived from Jakarta loaded with food and medicines.

Sydney – 19 December: Lieutenant Dawes wrote  to Governor Phillip via Company Adjacent Lowe repeating his initial reservations:

With regard to my declaration of the 13th December 1790…by which I do not by any means wish to have forgotten…I feel at this instant no reason to alter the sentiments I then entertained…inform[ing] the Governor that he was sorry he had been persuaded to comply with the order [13th] and very clearly showed that he would not obey a similar order in future’. Historical Records of New South Wales. ibid.

Dawe’s failure to ‘comply’ – dereliction of duty – was a capital offence.  Phillip could have had him shot or hanged as a traitor. He did neither but recommended Dawes face court-martial and a possible death sentence on his return to England.

‘I should gladly have reconciled with this officer to a proper sense of his duty; but as he returns to England and thinks his conduct justifiable it become necessary to inform you Lordship on what grounds I was displeased with Lieutenant Dawes who, from being an officer of His Majesty’s Marine Forces, was not amenable to a general court-martial in this country. Governor Phillip to Lord Grenville, Historical Records of New South Wales 

Correspondence between Lieutenant Dawes, Governor Phillip and Lord Grenville, who replaced  Lord Sydney as Home Secretary,  reveal Phillip denied Lieutenant Dawes’ fervent request to be allowed to remain in Sydney.


1791 – Sydney: Three (3) months later (15 March 1791) HMS Gorgan, a converted warship of 911 tons packed to the gunnels with relief supplies and more troops arrived from England.

Captain John Parker RN her commander was under orders to discharge his cargo and return to England with marines of the Sydney  Garrison who were overdue for repatriation. 

England: HMS Gorgan sailed for England on the 19th of December 1791 with Tench, Dawes and almost the entire marine battalion, including twenty-one (21) marine wives and forty-six (46) children.

Because of the extremes of heat and cold, many children did not survive the challenging voyage home.

Captain Parker set a course for England by way of Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope. On the long, difficult passage, Parker relied on both Lieutenant Dawes and Lieutenant Ball, who had taken K-1 with him to Jakarta, provide ‘true time’. See: HMS Gorgan and the Botany Bay Escapees

1792 – Portsmouth: Almost immediately Gorgan docked at Portsmouth on 18th June 1792 Dawes hired a carriage and set off for Greenwich Observatory to return ‘the eternal flame’ and other astronomical instruments supplied him by Astronomer Royal Rev. Nevil Maskelyne. See: Lotto and Longitude

2020 – Greenwich: Royal Observatory – ‘H-4 hibernates, un-moving and untouchable mated for life with K-1 in the sea-through cave they share’. Sobel. ibid


Botany Bay – 22 December: Our first expedition having so totally failed, the governor resolved to try the fate of a second; and the ‘painful pre-eminence’ again devolved on me [Tench].

The orders under which I am commanded to act differing in no respect from the last. A little before sun-set on the the evening of the 22d we marched’.  See: Arthur Phillip & John Macarthur ‘A Man Who Made Enemies’.







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