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


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


1787 – London, 25 April: ‘We have ordered about 600 male and 180 female convicts…to the port on the coast of New South Wales…called Botany  Bay. Heads Of a Plan [1786] for Botany Bay. Frank Murcott  Bladen, Historical Records of New South Wales. Vol. 1


‘In determining the daily ration no distinction was drawn between the marine and the [male] convicts…the standard adopted was that of troops serving in the West Indies’. Wilfrid Oldham, Britain’s Convicts to the Colonies, Library of Australian History, Sydney 1990


‘Four companies of marines landed with the first Europeans to settle Australia, and twenty-five regiments of British infantry served in the colonies between 1790 and 1870’. Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia. Kangaroo Press, 1986


‘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.


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’. Bladen. op.cit

1787 – Portsmouth, 13 May: 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, 1300 men – 221 women, sailed from Portsmouth England bound for Botany Bay, New Holland now Australia.

One-half were convicted criminal combatants – 570 men ‘rationed as troops serving in the West Indies‘, 193 women camp-followers, 31 marine wives and children of both. It is said twenty-two babies were born during the voyage.

Two hundred Royal Naval personnel crewed HMS Sirius (160) and HMS Supply (50).  See: A Riddle When is an invasion fleet not an invasion fleet? When it’s the First Fleet

Approximately four hundred and forty (440) merchant seamen crewed the fleet’s six (6) troop-ships and three (3) supply vessels.

1788 – Botany Bay, January Friday 18 – Sunday 20: After eight (8) months voyaging 15,000 (23,000 km) of ‘imperfectly explored oceans’ via Spanish Tenerife, Portuguese Rio and Dutch Cape Town, within thirty-six (36) hours the entire fleet rode 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’. He ordered three (3) small open cutters be loaded with supplies and set off to explore the surrounding countryside.

When land to the south offered little encouragement Phillip directed his men row north. After twenty (20) gruelling kilometres they spotted – towering sandstone headlands ‘Heaven’s Gate’ guarded a vast harbour.

Lieutenant James Cook RN in April 1770 had entered but named it Port Jackson.  ‘Here’  Phillip wrote ‘ a Thousand Sail of the Line may ride in the most perfect Security’.

Sydney Cove – 22 Tuesday:  After examining some of the harbour’s myriad inlets Phillip settled on a sheltered deep-water cove naming it for Lord Sydney.

Botany Bay – Wednesday, 23 January:  Stifling heat took a heavy toll on the men.Next afternoon as the exhausted rowers turned for Botany Bay, they were met by a fierce storm.

A ‘southerly buster’, whipped the seas into a frenzy nearly swamping their tiny craft. Local Gadigal Aborigines, having read the weather, had secured their canoes.

In amazed silence they watched these pale wretched strangers rowing through Sydney Heads into open waters, makingh their way back to wide-open Botany Bay with its hair-raising cross-currents.

‘The boats returned [Botany Bay] 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. L.F. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Roberson, 1961

Thursday – 24 January, Botany Bay: . ittle 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’.  

Cape Town: Earlier, 12 November 1787,  as the fleet was leaving Cape Town on the final leg to Botany Bay a ship flying ‘English Colours’ was sighted.

She turned out not be as expected a store-ship ‘for us’ but Kent a whaler. Kent did however have good news; more; ‘ships were being taken up for Botany Bay’.

Now Tench thought surely these two (2) ships must be supply ships the Navy Board assured Captain Phillip would ‘shortly follow’ with supplies and infantry.

But nothing could have been further from the truth. See: Abandoned and Left To Starve, Sydney Cove January 1788 to July 1790   


Through fog and sea-mist, Phillip instantly recognised La Boussole and L’Astrolabe. He knew these French ships and what they were after. In August 1785, hidden in shadow, Phillip had watched Comte Jean-Francois La Perouse lead them in a difficult exit from Brest Harbour to begin a voyage modelled on those of Captain James Cook RN.

Phillip the spy  would have known Boussole carried elaborately engraved copper plates with which France intended to press her claim for New Holland.

So, in Botany Bay 1788 HMS Sirius her gun-ports open, signalled battle stations. Comte Jean-Louis La Perouse was refused permission to enter the bay. La Perouse was forced out to sea to seek safety from Sirius’ guns and shelter from the howling winds.

‘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: Phillip ordered HMS Supply be made ready for sea for he feared La Perouse would do, what he himself had done, and make for Port Jackson.

If possible Phillip wanted to avoid bloodshed and prevent the slaughter of the French.   See: A Band of Brothers and Mortal Enemies

Port Jackson: By 10 am visibility had improved. Nevertheless Supply’s departure was held up until the  afternoon. Just on nightfall – 25 January Supply found the Heads and sailed up the long harbour to 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’.Tench. ibid.

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

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

Three (3) convict transports collided – Prince of Wales smacked into Friendship and tore away the jib-boom.

Her crew had great difficulty getting out of Charlotte’s wake.The two (2) vessels 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 to guide La Perouse and his men to safe anchorage in the area now known as Frenchmen’s Cove.

Port Jackson – 26 January: About half-past 6 o’clock the evening of the 26th, local Aboriginals were shocked as (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, 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 some 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’.

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: Cape York to South Cape – Your Land is My Land

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 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 setting them to work felling trees, levelling, grading the ground, digging latrines and preparing a garden. The weakest laid duck-boards and put up tents.

Wednesday – 30 January:  Intense heat took a heavy toll on soldier and convict. That night Moore tells; ‘a most outrageous storm…lightning, thunder and rain, struck the settlement’.

Friday – 1 February: Then as now February is Sydney’s stickiest month, high humidity made work even more difficult.

Wednesday – 6 February: ‘The day the convict women disembarked’ was a long tiring day ‘they landed by rowing boats between 6 am and 6 pm’.

During the night yet another tropical storm ripped through the camp dumping torrential rain. Lightning split a tree setting it alight. 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’. Frank Murcott Bladen, Commentary, Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 1& 2

Nevertheless, in the opinion of Dr. Arthur Bowes-Smyth, the stitched-up physician still aboard Lady Penrhyn and similarly of the obsessive love-sick, ultimately tragic Marine Lieutenant Ralph Clark, arose the condemnation of all convict women as ‘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.

The invasion and conquest of Aboriginal Australia was unique in so far as the first generations, civil, military and criminal, were almost exclusively male.

Of one hundred and sixty-three thousand (163,000) convicts transported to Australia between 1788 and 1868 only 25,000 were women. 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 white community whose men ravished the Aboriginal population. See: G is for Gender

‘Wave after wave of Europeans…destroyed the natives or pushed them back behind ever-receding pales of settlement and repopulated the land with their own people’.

Across Australia The First Nations’ women were used as ‘comfort’ for both conqueror and criminal. With no avenue for protection or legal redress, they bore the brutality of a gross imbalance of the sexes.

In 1788 Britain established an overwhelmingly male colony resulting in the introduction of ‘caste’.  Colour-coding where none had existed previously.

When [Governor ] Macquarie [1810-21] sent out military parties on punitive raids he also asked them to capture more children, specifying ‘fine healthy, good-looking children’. Cited Insites, Historic Houses Trust, Spring, Issue 64.

‘Wave after wave’ we stole their land, made their children, then valuing only whiteness, stole the pale child. See: G is for Genocide- Colonial Breeders

‘A further number [females] from The Friendly Islands, New Caledonia may be procured without difficulty’ – that never happened.

Hypocrisy, there is another side to the  gross gender imbalance. Situational homosexuality is common in isolated segregated populations. Someone needs to do the maths – Sydney 1788 – 1300 men 190 women.

State sanctioned, deliberately introduced homosexuality, has yet to be addressed. See: Brokeback Mountain


‘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 1784 as fear of the French after their spectacular success over Britain in the War of American Independence (17875-1783) and, at home, political unrest, the Gorden Riots(1780) 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

The winners, we who benefited from invasion ‘and from all the lands on earth we come’, live in a nation of quantifiable parallel universes. The differences writ large in ‘present knowledge’Australia’s census statistics.


Why did Britain invade New Holland? The administration of the 24 year-old Prime Minister William Pitt was under no illusion about the pretensions of its enemies’. Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy, Hardie Grant Books, 2013

In 1793 Britain and France were again at war. New Holland’s geographical position gave Britain a valuable strategic advantage as a jumping off point to India, Asia and Spain’s South American empire.

‘As Sir Harris, the foremost diplomat of the age and then British ambassador at The Hague, put it: ‘Our wealth and power in India is their [France’s] great and constant object of jealousy; and they will never miss an opportunity of attempting to wrest it out of our hands’. Cited, Pembroke.

Just as importantly a secure naval base in the southern oceans offered Britain an opportunity to succeed in a venture that, since the time of  Elizabeth Tudor had driven Jack Hawkins, Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh and a host of English pirates.

‘The idea of a British settlement in the Pacific goes back, probably, to the notable voyage undertaken by Admiral George Anson in 1740-44. See: Chariots of Fire (Pending) 

From New Holland the untold riches of Spain’s Central and South American colonial Empire would be vulnerable to attack from an increasingly powerful British Navy based at Port Jackson.

‘There were plans to use the corps in expeditions against Panama, Peru and the Philippines but nothing eventuated’. Stanley. ibid.

What did ‘eventuate…the [New South Wales] corps’ first experience of war came in January 1795 on the Hawkesbury river, north west of Sydney’. Stanley. op.cit.

A ‘nasty’ war Stanley tells ‘decidedly lacking in glory’.

‘If six [6] cannot be taken, let this number be shot…cut off and bring in the heads of the slain’. General Orders, Governor Arthur Phillip RN to Marine Captain Watkin Tench, 13 December 1790. Historical Records of New South Wales.

What drove Governor Phillip?

‘By 1784, [post American  War of Independence 1775-83], in the months after Phillip returned to England [from France], it became clear that the upsurge in French shipbuilding activity had reached new heights and that the French and Dutch were manoeuvring for advantage in India and the East. Pembroke. op.cit.

Australia’s modern European history, tied up neatly with a convict bow, lacks a great deal of knowledge including its European context.


In January 1790 Tench greeted the New Year: ‘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’.

























































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