1788 – Wednesday 6 February, Sydney Cove: ‘The day the convict women disembarked…they landed by rowing boats between 6 am and 6 pm.’ John Moore, First Fleet Marines 1786-1792, Queensland University Press, 1986


1786 – 18 August, Westminster: Lord Sydney advised; ‘His Majesty has thought advisable to fix upon Botany Bay’.

1786 – 21 August, London: Admiralty informed Treasury; ‘orders had been issued for the transportation of 680 male convicts and 70 female convicts [amended] to New South Wales’.

1787 – 25 April, London: ‘We have ordered about 600 male and 180 female convicts…to the port on the coast of New South Wales…called Botany  Bay.

And whereas, from the great disproportion of female convicts to those of males..and without sufficient proportion of that [female] sex it is well known that it be impossible to preserve the settlement from gross irregularities and disorders…it appears advisable that a further number…should be introduced’. Heads Of a Plan for Botany Bay, Historical Records of New South Wales. Vol. 1

1787 – 13 May, Portsmouth: A large armed convoy of eleven (11) ships, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’ commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN, with a complement of 1500 souls one-half convicted criminals – 570 men ‘rationed as troops serving in the West Indies‘ and 193 women camp-followers – sailed from Portsmouth England bound for Botany Bay, New Holland now Australia.

 See: A Riddle When was an invasion fleet not an invasion fleet? When it is the First Fleet.

1788: January Friday 18, Saturday 19, Sunday 20, Botany Bay: After eight (8) months of voyaging 13,000 (21,000 km) of ‘imperfectly explored oceans’ via Spanish Teneriffe, Portuguese Rio and Dutch Cape Town, within thirty-six (36) hours the entire fleet was at anchor in Botany Bay.

Monday – 21 January: Phillip assessed Botany Bay ‘offered no Security for Large ships…timber only fit for firewood…Water scarce’ ordering three (3) small cutters be loaded with supplies he set off to explore the surrounding countryside.

When land to the south offered little encouragement Phillip directed his men row north. After fourteen (14) gruelling kilometers they spotted ‘Heaven’s Gate’ – towering sandstone headlands guarding a vast harbour.

Tuesday – 22 January, Port Jackson:  ‘Here’ Phillip wrote ‘a Thousand Sail of the Line may ride in the most perfect Security’. After examining some of its myriad inlets Phillip settled on a sheltered deep-water cove with a stream of fresh running water he named the Tank Stream.

Wednesday – 23 January, Sydney Cove:  Stifling heat took a heavy toll, when in the afternoon just as the exhausted rowers turned for Botany Bay, a fierce storm Sydney-siders call ‘a southerly buster’ whipped the seas into a frenzy and very nearly swamped their tiny craft.

Aborigines having read the weather had secured their canoes stood now shaking their heads in amazed silence watching these pale wretched strangers point into strong headwinds row out through the Heads into open waters to make their way back to wide open Botany Bay with its hair-raising cross-currents.

‘The boat[s] returned on the evening of the 23d, with such an account of the harbour and advantages attending the place, that it was determined the evacuation of Botany Bay should commence the next morning’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Roberson, 1961

Thursday – 24 January, Botany Bay: Great news the ‘First Fleet’ had found a home and we are told little sleep was had that night. At first light as Tench was dressing ‘a serjeant…ran down almost breathless to the cabin…a ship was seen off the harbour’s mouth…I flew upon deck when the cry of “another sail” struck my astonished ear’.  

Earlier, just as the fleet had left Cape Town on the final leg to Botany Bay a ship flying ‘English Colours’ was sighted but she turned out to be Kent a whaler and not a store-ship.

After that bitter disappointment, Tench thought surely these must be support ships the Navy Board had assured Captain Phillip would ‘shortly follow’ with supplies and more convicts.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In January 1790 Tench would greet the New Year with these words: ‘No communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th May 1787, the day of of departure from Portsmouth…from the intelligence of our friends and connections we had been entirely cut off…no supplies whatever…the  misery and horror of such a situation cannot be imparted, even by those who have suffered under it’. See: Abandoned and Left To Starve, Sydney Cove January 1788 to July 1790   

But Arthur Phillip despite fog and sea-mist instantly recognised them and knew what they were after.

In August 1785, hidden in shadow, Phillip had watched Comte Jean Francois La Perouse in La Boussole lead L’Astrolabe make a difficult exit from Brest Harbour to begin a voyage modelled on those of Captain James Cook RN.

Phillip knew Boussole carried elaborately engraved copper plates with which France intended to base her claim to New Holland.

Now at Botany Bay in 1788 HMS Sirius her gun-ports opened signalled battle stations. The howling winds of the 23rd had not yet abated, refused admission to enter the bay La Perouse was forced out to sea to seek safety from Sirius’ guns and shelter from the weather.

‘He [Phillip] ordered a party to be sent to Point Sutherland to hoist English colours. He also stipulated that the move to Port Jackson be kept secret, and that no one was to go on board the French ships’. John Moore, First Fleet Marines, Queensland University of Queensland Press, 1967

Friday- 25 January, Port Jackson: Phillip ordered HMS Supply be made ready for sea for he feared La Perouse would do, what he himself had done, make for Port Jackson. If possible Phillip wanted to avoid bloodshed and prevent the slaughter of the Frenchmen that would inevitably follow open hostilities.   See: A Band of Brothers and Mortal Enemies

By 10 am visibility had improved but blustery winds stymied Supply’s departure until well after midday so it was late afternoon before Supply found the Heads sailed up the long harbour and cast her anchor in Sydney Cove.

Saturday – 26 January, Sydney Cove: ‘At daylight a marine party from the Supply and everybody else who would be spared, began clearing a small area near the Tank Stream. A flagstaff was erected to its east from which the Union Jack was flown’.

By a whisker Captain Arthur Phillip RN had won the race for New Holland. See: Australia – Britain By A Short Half-Head Captain Arthur Phillip and Comte Jean Francois La Perouse

‘There would seem to be “some justification for the saying that England won Australia by six days”. Edward Jenks History of Australia Colonies, cited Hugh E. Egerton, A Short History of British Colonial Policy, Methuen, London, 1928

Saturday – 26 January, Botany Bay: Meanwhile at Botany Bay the day was fully taken up with managing the cross-currents and contrary wind shifts that made the fleet’s exit such a dangerous exercise; ‘tragedy almost struck’ .

Three (3) convict transports collided – Prince of Wales smacked into Friendship tore away the jib-boom so her crew had great difficulty getting out of Charlotte’s wake and both ships came perilously close to running onto the rocks. Eventually all ten (10) vessels made it to open water.

HMS Sirius the fleet flagship was last to leave Botany Bay. Captain John Hunter RN, a superb seaman and navigator, stayed behind to guide La Perouse and his men to safe anchorage in the area now Frenchmen’s Cove.

In the evening of the 26th, around half-past 6 o’clock, local Aboriginals were shocked when (6) troop transports Prince of Wales, Charlotte, Scarborough, Suprize, Lady Penrhyn and Friendship flags flying, strung out line astern of HMS Sirius, processed up the harbour.

Fishburn, Golden Grove and Borrowdale the fleet’s store-ships loaded with goats, sheep, chooks, some cattle, Phillip’s grey-hounds, cats, rats and a horse or two brought up the rear, the convoy came to anchor alongside HMS Supply at about 8 pm.

Sunday – 27 January , Sydney Cove: At first light a few marines were dropped ashore to survey the area and select a suitable place to erect tents. A little later about one hundred (100) prisoners were rowed ashore and set about cutting down trees on the ‘eastern and western sides of the Tank Stream’.

Moore tells us Marine Captain David Collins observed; on that bright sunny day the quiet stillness of the bush…..was now for the first time since creation , interrupted by the rude sound of the labourer’s axe…and its tranquillity was giving way to the voice of labour…and the busy hum of its new possessors’. See: A Cracker-Jack Opinion – No Sweat

Monday – 28 January :  ‘At 6 am the disembarkation of the male convicts began….Marine Lieutenant Ralph Clark [Lady Penrhyn and] ‘his men landed at 10 a.m. complete with wives [31] children [17] and personal effects’.

Tuesday – 29 January: ‘By the end of the second day, everyone had been landed except the sick male convicts, the female convicts, and presumably those marines needed on board to guard them’. Moore. op.cit.

Marines supervised the strongest convicts and set them to work felling more trees, levelling, grading the ground, digging latrines and a garden, while the weakest men laid duck-boards and put up tents.

Wednesday – 30 January: The intense heat took a heavy toll on both soldier and convict.

Thursday – 31 January: Moore tells the previous night; ‘a most outrageous storm…lightning, thunder and rain, struck the settlement’ the resulting high humidity made the work even more difficult.

Friday – 1 February: Then as now February is Sydney’s stickiest month – sleepless nights followed sweltering days.

Wednesday – 6 February: ‘The day the convict women disembarked’ a long tiring day ‘they landed by rowing boats between 6 am and 6 pm’. During the night another tropical storm ripped through the camp dumping torrential rain.

The lightning so fierce it split a tree six (6) sheep and a goat tethered beneath burned to death. Their dying shrieks mingled with sounds of ‘riot and debauchery…the men got to them [women] very soon after they landed’.

‘It was the custom in the eighteenth century for the authorities to consider the sex problems of convicts or others in similar positions’. Commentary, Historical Records of Australia, Vol. 1

In the opinion of Dr. Arthur Bowes-Smyth, the stitched-up physician still aboard Lady Penrhyn and similarly of the ultimately tragic obsessive love-sick marine Lieutenant Clark, arose the myth all convict women were ‘damn’d whores’.  See: The Clue of the Scarlet Cloth

‘The tender [HMS Supply] may be employed in convoying to the new settlement a further number of women from the Friendly island, New Caledonia etc…from whence any number may be procured without difficulty; and without a sufficient proportion of that sex it is well known that it be impossible to preserve the settlement from gross irregularities and disorders’. Heads of Plan for Botany Bay [1786], Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol 1.

‘Any number may be procured without difficulty’ – that never happened and someone needs to do the maths – Sydney 1788 – 1300 men and 190 women, ‘it is well known’ situational homosexuality is common in isolated segregated populations.

Hypocrisy: The invasion and conquest of Aboriginal Australia was unique in so far as the first generations, military and criminal, were almost exclusively male. Yet at no time during the recent divisive same-sex marriage debate was mention made of the sanctioned ‘gross irregularities and disorders’ so clearly flagged in Westminster’s Heads of a Plan for Botany Bay.

The other side of the gender-disparity coin has yet to be addressed. Of one hundred and sixty-three thousand (163,000) convicts transported between 1788 and 1868 only 25,000 were women and of these 12,500 went directly to Tasmania.

In the decade 1858-68 West Australia received zero women and 10,000 male convicts. They swamped a tiny English community and ravished the Aboriginal population. See: G is for Gender

In 1788 Britain established an overwhelmingly male colony resulting in the introduction of a colour-based caste system where none had existed previously.

Across Australia The First Nations’ women ‘comfort’ for both conqueror and convict, with no avenue for protection or legal redress, bore the brutality of a gross imbalance of the sexes.

During the ‘colonising’ phase we white Australians stole their land, made their children and then, valuing only whiteness, we stole their paler children. See: G is for Genocide

‘The troops sent to garrison the Australian colonies participated in the great struggle of the heart of the European conquest of this continent…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, 1986

What began in 1786 as fear of the French after their spectacular success over Britain in the War of American Independence (17875-1783) and at home political unrest and ‘fear of the mob’ led to the invasion of New Holland.

‘Mark said he chose history because we have no chance of understanding the present without understanding the past. That’s the sort of irritating cliché people come out with at interviews, but he may have believed it. Actually, of course, the reverse is true, we interpret the past though our knowledge of the present’. P. D. James, An Unsuitable Job for a Women, Faber & Faber, London, 2000

History it is said is written by the victors. Can there be a more blatant example of that maxim than Australia’s celebration of an invasion? The winners, we who benefited from that invasion ‘and from all the lands on earth we come’, live in a nation made up of all too visible, quantifiable parallel universes – the differences are undeniable they are writ large in the census statistics.


Why New Holland? In the 18th century it’s geographical position gave England a valuable strategic advantage as a jumping off point to India and Asia when the inevitable next big bang came along. In 1793 Britain and France were again at war.

Just as importantly the far southern coast of New Holland offered Britain an opportunity to succeed in a venture that, since the time of  Elizabeth Tudor, Francis Drake and a host of buccaneers, had been marked by failure; the chance to seize by force of arms the untold riches on which Spain had built her Empire.

Yes – there is evidence supported by both English and French sources and in our own Historical Records.

1900 – 9 July, London: The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900, a statute of British Parliament, received Queen Victoria’s assent on 9 July 1900.

‘The provisions of this Act referring to the Queen [Victoria] shall extend to Her Majesty’s heirs and successors in the sovereignty of the United Kingdom’.

Section 127 of the Act: ‘In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a state or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted’. 

1967 – May, Australia: Not until 1967 was Section 127 repealed when by Referendum Australians voted overwhelmingly to include The First Nations’ Peoples in the census.

1999 – November, Australia: In Referendum Australia voted to remain a Constitutional Monarchy accepting Queen Victoria’s ‘heirs and successors’ – residing as they do in the United Kingdom 13,000 miles (21,000 km) away on the other side of the planet – as Australia’s Head of State.


2019 – Brexit: In the remain V leave debate Boris Johnson, in what appears to be a personal concern of Biblical proportions, has accused the remain-ers of treating Brexit as ‘a scourge…a plague of boils’. It seems the spectre of Puritan Oliver Cromwell is again stalking the Halls of Westminster albeit with his head tucked under his arm.

The peoples of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the outrider – Republic of Ireland – were all part of Australia’s settler-mix and part of the disaster visited on Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples.

Justice demands as a matter of urgency, as Great Britain moves ever closer to fragmentation, The Union must step up show up and take its place alongside Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia at a Truth and Reconciliation Conference.

In view of Australia’s 1999 Referendum – whomsoever wears the Crown of the United Kingdom is Australia’s Head of State.  What role might Australia be expected to play if The Union implodes under the weight of its own disaffection?

The question is prescient for succession cannot be far from the minds of ‘Her Majesty’s heirs and successors’ or the minds of the Mandarins of Whitehall.

There – Europe, is drenched in the blood of countless Wars of Succession as factions choose sides and fight for their royal favourite.

Here – Australia, is unfinished business that  ‘A Canopy of Trees’ just won’t cover. See: A Continuing Connection – When the Bough Breaks































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