‘There were plans to use the corps in expeditions against Panama, Peru and the Philippines but nothing eventuated’. Dr. Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army In Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, Sydney, 1986


‘The British had long sought to penetrate Spain’s jealously guarded South American trade’. Nigel Rigby, Peter van der Merwe, Glyn Williams – Pacific Explorations, Voyages of Discovery from Captain Cook’s Endeavour to the Beagle, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles, London 2018. 


‘Without the direct intervention of Britain’s adversaries, France and Spain, on America’s side, the colonies could not hope to prevail against the superior British army and navy to win their independence outright’. Larrie. D. Ferreiro, Brothers at Arms, American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved it, First Vintage Books, 2017


‘When leaving Botany Bay [25 January 1788] Phillip noticed two French ships in the offing…there would seem…some justification for the saying that England won Australia by six days’. Edward Jenks, cited H.E Egerton, A Short History of British Colonial Policy, Methuen, London 1928


‘Our wealth and power in India is their [France’s] great and constant object of jealously; and they will never miss an opportunity of attempting to wrest it out of our [British] hands’. Sir James Harris cited, Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy, Hardie Grant Books, 2013


‘Phillip…had instructions to deal with the ‘natives’ with ‘amity and kindness’. Professor Larissa Behrendt, The Honest History Book, Invasion or Settlement, NewSouth Publishing, 2017


‘For a brief moment there was hope…within a matter of years violence had broken out on both sides and Phillip would now [1790] instruct raiding parties to bring back the severed heads of warriors’.  Stan Grant, Talking To My Country, Text Publishing, 2017


‘Another great change came in the arrival [June 1790] 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-owning elite’. Pacific Explorations. op.cit.


‘Flag’s Up…[3 June 1790] Lady Juliana with London on her stern. Letters, Letters was the cry…for the first time we heard  of the French Revolution of 1789, with all the attendant circumstances of that wonderful and unexpected event, succeeded to amaze us’. Tench. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. L.F. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961


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


‘His excellency pitched on me [Tench] to march tomorrow morning [14 December 1790] in order to “bring in six [6] of those natives who reside near the head of Botany Bay; or, if should be found impracticable, to put that number [6] to death…bring in the heads of the slain”. Governor Arthur Phillip RN, cited Tench. ibid



‘Within a generation the heads of Aborigines were shipped to Britain in glass cases to be studied as relics of a doomed race’. Grant. op. cit.

1788 Botany Bay – 24 January: Professor Larissa Behrendt in her ‘Honest History‘ essay  – Settlement or Invasion – identified as critical the arrival at Botany Bay of  Frenchman Jean-Francois  La Perouse with two (2) ships La Boussole and L’Astrolabe  three (3) days after the ‘First Fleet”.

‘Amity and kindness’ were the British Government’s  ‘weasel words’ of their day. Yet Stan Grant seems satisfied, given the times, Governor Phillip’s behaviour prior to 1790 demonstrate  ‘for a brief moment’ he took the concept seriously.

So what went wrong? Post the second fleet’s arrival France was no longer an immediate threat. That knowledge changed forever ‘the condition [and] prospects’ of Australia’s First Nations’ People.

The British had long sought to penetrate Spain’s jealously guarded South American trade’. Pacific Explorations. Op.Cit

Sydney – 1790 13, December: Six (6) months after the second fleet’s arrival in June 1790 Governor Phillip isolated without any naval support in the midst of a hostile soldiery, the newly arrived infamous New South Wales Corps, faced insurrection from within military ranks.See: Missing in Action HMS Sirius – wrecked  & HMS Supply  @ Jakarta

The mission of  ‘First Fleet’ was to establish a naval base to secure ocean routes in the Indian and Southern Oceans. Phillip’s absolute loyalty and determination to ‘do his utmost’  for king and country trumped amity and kindness’.

 Phillip, to stamp his authority in such an incendiary situation, chose to create a diversion. He ordered Marine Captain Watkin Tench march a detachment of troops to Botany Bay; ‘ to instil universal terror…kill ten [10] of those natives…. who reside near the head of Botany Bay and bring in the heads of the slain’.

His ‘my [Phillip’s ] fixed determination to repeat it, whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’ flipped the switch to ‘years of violence’.

‘The combination of French and Spanish naval power had proved fatal for Britain in the America War…as Lord Sandwich admitted frankly’. Lord Sandwich cited, R.J. King, The Secret History of the Convict Colony, Allen and Unwin, Sydney 1990

With the French fighting each other on the streets of Paris New Holland’s geographical position in the southern oceans combined with an unquenchable thirst for revenge and history, both distant and not so distant, drove Phillip ‘to do his utmost’ to secure access to Spain’s Pacific ‘treasure’ possessions.

Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples can, with laser accuracy trace their near destruction via the Black Lives Matter Movement to the Royal Navy’s Articles of War of the 1650s.




The British Admiralty’s dictum ‘England expects‘ dates from the court-martial of Admiral John Byng. On the 14th of March 1757 Admiral John Byng was shot by firing squad at Spithead Britain’s naval base ‘not for what he had done but  for what he had failed to do’.

Byng was not found guilty of ‘cowardice’ at the The Battle of Minorca,  the opening sea-battle of Seven Years’ War 1756-1763,  but of failing to ‘do his utmost‘.



Prior to Britain’s loss of her American colonies in the War of Independence (1775-1783) much of Britain’s trading wealth lay in human trafficking, the lucrative Atlantic ‘chattel slave trade’.

The West-Indian sugar trade, opium, textiles -cotton and muslins -sourced from her colonial holdings in India.

Aside from tin and copper,  some nearly spent silver deposits, the British Isles had no indigenous precious metals to speak of. Minerals such as coal and salt were reserved for home consumption.

Apart from African Guinea’s gold,  Britain’s extensive, expensive voyages of discovery and exploitation had, unlike those undertaken by her allay Portugal or enemy Spain, failed to yield the mother lode – silver and gold.

Sir Francis Drake – ‘kinsman of Captain Jack Hawkins’ -presented Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) with ‘wines from Chile and ingots of fine gold worth 37,000 ducats…the[n] Spaniards knew no respite from English pirates’. Concise Encyclopaedia of Exploration, English translation from French, Wm. Collins, Glasgow, 1969    

But nothing Drake showered on Elizabeth Tudor from the Golden Hind compared with the booty that dazzled London nearly two (2) centuries later in 1744.

London – 1774 – June 15: ‘The streets of London witnessed a triumph worthy of antiquity; 32 Chariots laden with enemy spoils, with  Anson leading the way, followed by survivors of his crew and a band of trumpets, tambourines (a Spanish touch) and fifes’.  Exploration Encyclopaedia. ibid.

Commodore George Anson in Centurion, flagship of an eight (8) ship squadron that for four (4) years, September 1740 to June 1744, sailed the seas circumnavigating the globe.

During this period Britain was engaged in a lengthy war with Spain that included the evocatively named ‘War of Jenkin’s Ear’.

Off Manilla In  June 1743 Anson’s ship Centurian’s ’90 minute’ fiery encounter with the Nuestra de Cavadonga  yielded, according to Anson’s published account, 1,313,843 pieces of eight and 35,682 oz of virgin silver’.

‘Anson was able to present [King] George II [1727-1760] with the treasure from a galleon [Cavadonga] seized off Manilla…silver, gold, objects stolen from [Peruvian churches], jewels, sumptuous garments and arms’.  Explorations. op.cit.

Triumph and Tragedy‘: Only 145 o f the squadron’s 1400 crew, that included 300 marines and a large number of broken-down  ‘invalids‘ departed Spithead naval base in September 1740, survived.

‘Fleets setting out for sea in the eighteenth century needed a nucleus of experienced topmen, but they were also accustomed to receiving their share of flotsam and jetsam, men with neither aptitude nor enthusiasm for a life at sea’ . Glynn Williams, The Prize of All the Dreams,  The Triumph and Tragedy of Anson’s Voyage Round The World, Harper Collins Publishers, London, 1999.

Commodore Anson’s ‘flotsam and jetsam….Chelsea out-pensioners’  worn-out veterans, the leftovers from previous ventures.

Centurian  the squadron’s sole surviving vessel returned to England manned by a skeleton crew.  Few of the original 1400 died in battle, some succumbed to yellow fever, the majority died from scurvy.


‘Soldiers: three hundred knowing their work thoroughly may be stronger than three thousand less sure of their game’. John Ruskin, The Cestus of Aglaia, 1866

England: A half- century would pass before another voyage of similar magnitude with a similar profile, one-half professionals, one-half ‘men with neither aptitude nor enthusiasm for a life at sea’ would depart England for the ‘South Seas’ on 13 May 1787.

1787 – 13 May, Portsmouth: The ‘First Fleet’ a large armed Royal Navy Expeditionary Force of eleven (11) ships with a complement of 1500 souls under command of Captain Arthur Phillip RN sailed from Portsmouth to invade the island continent of New Holland – now Australia.

Two  hundred (200) Royal Navy ‘topmen’ crewed HMS Sirius (160) HMS Supply (50).  Twenty (20) officials, including eight (8) physicians,  and four (4) companies two hundred and forty-five (245) marines commanded by Major Robert Ross.

The squadron’s nine (9) chartered vessels – six (6) transports Alexander, Charlotte, Prince of Wales, Friendship  Lady Penrhyn, Scarborough and three (3) supply ships Fishburn, Golden Grove and Borrowdale – crewed to a formula related to tonnage, would have numbered approximately four hundred and forty (440) merchant men.

‘In writing of the recruitment of criminals into the armed forces, Stephen Conway observed. ‘It was still found necessary periodically to clear both the putrid and congested goals and the equally overcrowded and insanitary hulks’. Conway, cited Alan Frost Botany Bay Mirages, Oxford University Press, Melbourne 1994

The fleet’s ‘flotsam and jetsum’  convicted criminals – 580 men and 193 women – reprieved death on condition of banishment ‘out of the realm’. See: April Fools’ Day The Hulks Act 1776

‘In determining the daily ration no distinction was drawn between marines and [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,1993



1788 – 18/20 January, Botany Bay: After eight (8) months voyaging 15,000 miles (23,000 km) of ‘imperfectly explored oceans’ the fleet reached Botany Bay in mid January 1788. See: Apollo 11 – Fly Me To The Moon: Portsmouth -Rio – Cape Town – Botany Bay – Sydney Cove. 

Phillip assessed wide-open Botany Bay difficult to defend, unsuitable for permanent settlement. The fleet relocated nine (9) miles (18 km) north, to ‘snug’ Sydney Cove deep with Port Jackson. See: Australia – Britain By A Short Half-Head

‘When leaving Botany Bay for [Sydney Cove 25 January 1788] Phillip noticed two French ships in the offing…there would seem to be ‘some justification for the saying that England won Australia by six days’. Edward Jenks , cited Hugh Egerton, A Short History of British Colonial History, Metheun, London 1928

The fleet moved to Port Jackson, a vast harbour guarded by towering sandstone headlands. Phillip wrote ‘ here a Thousand Sail of the Line may ride in the most perfect Security’.

Sydney Cove: There these Robinson Crusoe castaways stayed ‘cut off entirely‘ from the rest of the world  for nigh on three (3) years – June 1790.

‘The  misery and horror of such a situation cannot be imparted even by those who have suffered under it’. Tench. ibid.

The task of the ‘First Fleet’ was to establish and maintain a foot-hold until the infantry arrived to consolidate ‘effective occupation’.

Governor Phillip had been told reinforcements would ‘shortly follow’ but none arrived. See: On The Rocks

1788 – April: In winter fish move to warmer waters leaving both black and white populations hard pressed for food.

1788 – July:   By mid July all but one (1) of the fleet’s nine (9) chartered vessels had departed with crews; ‘in a distressed state when they sailed, both to sickness and want of provisions’.

1788 – August: Still no relief ships food stocks were now dangerously low. Especially flour ‘as very little of the English wheat had vegetated’  –no flour no-bread.

‘The beef and pork salted three or four years previously…brought with us from England’ . To make the meat more palatable parties went bush to gather ‘greens’.   These plants and herbs were essential for the health of Aboriginal families. See: A Plague of Locusts – The Englishmen of the First Fleet

Marine Captain David Collins reported; ‘having met some of the natives in a most deplorable situation for want of food in the winter months’.

Nevertheless Collins was surprised; ‘lately they have attacked almost every person who has met with them’. Cited Jack Egan, Buried Alive, Sydney 1788-1792, Allen & Unwin, 1999

1788 – September: Governor Phillip ordered Captain John Hunter RN prepare HMS Sirius for a lone perilous voyage to the Cape of Good Hope where he was to buy supplies from the Dutch.

Africa – 1788 – October: ‘Sirius’ departed for Cape Town on the 2nd of October 1788.

Lieutenant Ball in HMS Supply took some pressure off the starving Sydney settlement. As early as February 1788,  Phillip in a panic move to stymie La Perouse from occupying the island, had ordered Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN his trusted friend of long standing, establish an ‘out-post of Empire’ there.


He ferried numbers of convicts, marines and supplies to Norfolk Island.



At Sydney  ‘to extend life’  Phillip increased the numbers of official hunting parties. Armed convict ‘marksmen’ were sent out with a NCO, to shoot kangaroo and anything else  that moved or flew.

Desperate for knowledge of additional resources Phillip ordered his men ‘seize and carry off some natives’.

1788 – 30 December, Manly: A party rowed across to Manly. ‘Our people rushed in’ on a group of hungry Aborigines digging for pippies.

They  scattered. Two (2) were ‘seized…so desperate were their struggles…only one of them was secured’. See: Kidnapped – Manly What’s In A Name

Their one (1) captive (Arabanoo) ‘now fastened by ropes to the thwarts of the boat’ the rowers pulled away under barrage of ‘spears, stones, fire-brands’.

The marines opened fire until out of range.

Tench says Phillip’s rationale for kidnapping was to gather information. Manly as Phillip named  ‘Arabanoo’  at first was ‘sullen , every blandishment was used to soothe him, and it ha[d] its effect’. 

Arabanoo dined at ‘a side-table in the governor’s residence’ .  He ate what was on offer but refused wine. Arabanoo spent quite a lot of time with Phillip and made friends with the staff. Nevertheless he remained very much the captive.

‘A convict was selected to sleep with him…a handcuff with a rope attached to it was fastened around his left wrist’.


1789 – 1 January, Sydney:To  convince his countrymen that he had received no injury from us, the governor took him in a boat down the harbour’.

His tribal friends, dismayed when he did not join them, Arabanoo ‘pointed to the fetter on his leg, by which he was bound’.

As the months passed the government store-house emptied and the ration issue  was steadily reduced. Crime increased but it was not always the work of convicts.

Seven (7) marines using counterfeit keys had, over a period,  systematically robbed the storehouse. They were discovered when a key broke-off  in the lock.

1789 – 25 March:  When ‘brought to trial’ one (1) Joseph Hunt, thought to be the instigator, ratted and was pardoned. The others were sentenced to death.

1789 – 27 March: ‘There was hardly a marine present but what shed tears, officers and men [when] ‘at 10 o’clock’  they were hanged close to the scene of the crime.

Tench echoed Private Easty’s sentiment; ‘Six marines, the flower of our battalion, were hanged by the public executioner’.

James Freeman a youthful convict, caught in Faustian bargain, was the ‘executioner’. See: From Here to Eternity – James Freeman


1789 – 15 April, Sydney:   ‘An extraordinary calamity was now observed among the natives…to which our former observations had led us to suppose them strangers…It is true that our surgeons had brought out variolous [smallpox] matter in bottles’. Tench. ibid.

Governor Phillip estimated the virus caused the death of 50% of local Aboriginal Eora families.  See: Dead Aborigines Don’t Eat

‘The epidemic not only killed a significant proportion of the indigenous population but also destabilised society…there is no easy answer to the fraught question of clan boundaries in Sydney, particularly because an epidemic in 1789 caused massive disruption of the indigenous people in the area’. Pauline Curby, Randwick A History, 2010

‘Inexplicably, the epidemic did not affect the European population’ .Even though upwards of fifty (50) vulnerable children, most without prior exposure therefore no acquired immunity, were present yet not one (1) case of smallpox ‘either on land or afloat’ surfaced in the European population.  Smallpox – A Lethal Weapon – Boston 1775 – Sydney 1789 – Robert Ross & David Collins

‘Variolous matter for use by inoculation was brought out from England in bottles with the First Fleet but it is no known whether the material was ever used. If it was, it may have been the source of the disastrous epidemic of smallpox amongst the Aborigines in 1789.

Except for an isolated case in a negro [Native American] seaman, the epidemic left the settlement unaffected in spite of the fact that European children visited one of the natives [Arabanoo] unsuccessfully treated in the settlement’. Dr. Bryan Gandevia, Tears Often Shed, Pergamon Press, 1978 See: Joseph Jefferies – From New York to Rio and Old Sydney Town – One Then There Was None.


1789 – 8 May, Sydney:  Heaven’s brightest star HMS Sirius‘  returned from the Cape of Good Hope; ‘she brought us…flour [127,000 lbs] and salt provisions…the day of famine was at least procrastinated’.

17 May:  Arabanoo, still a prisoner within British lines, died of smallpox. 

1789 – 6 June, Broken Bay: As  the previous winter fish left Sydney waters. Plants in the discrete Sydney area could not regenerate fast enough to feed black and white populations adequately, so Phillip turned his attention to Broken Bay.

‘We left Port Jackson at six o’clock in the morning…arrived three in the afternoon’ a week later they ‘found a great depth of water…we continued to row up the whole of this day’.

Phillip named the river (Deerubbun)  Hawkesbury later Lord Liverpool, a member of Prime Minister William Pitt’s ‘secretive inner circle of ministers’.

                                                          1790 – JUNE  ‘FLAG’S UP WITH LONDON ON HER STERN’

 ‘We have been entirely cut off…No communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th May 1787, the day of [First Fleet’s] departure from Portsmouth’. Marine Captain Watkin, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961 See: Abandoned and Left To Starve @ Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790 

1790 – 3 June, Sydney: The Lady Juliana was the first ship to arrive from England. A convict transport with two hundred and twenty-six (226) ‘useless’ women and a number of free children. Her year long ‘pleasure’ voyage led Juliana to be dubbed ‘The Brothel Ship’.

Lady Juliana was first of four (4) ships of the second fleet. However, other than a small flock of sheep salvaged from HMS Guardian’s tangle with an iceberg, she brought no provisions. See: Titanic – HMS Guardian – Australia’s Titanic


London Gazette Extract 1789

London : In June 1789, a month before the storming of the Bastille, William Wyndham Grenville had replaced Lord Sydney as Home Secretary.

Young Grenville, a cousin of Prime Minister William Pitt, no doubt anxious to impress, put out to tender for the fit-out and supply three (3) ships.

The cheapest quote was submitted by Camden, Calvert and King a London firm of slave traders working the infamous ‘Atlantic Triangle’.

Grenville awarded them a regular slave contract whereby contractors were paid per body boarded. The earlier a prisoner died on the passage the greater the company profit. See:  Britain’s Grim Armada – The Dead and the Living Dead

Of one thousand (1000) mainly male convicts embarked at Plymouth on Neptune, Suprize, Scarborough – the 2nd fleet’s death ships – 25% died during the voyage. See: A Tale of Two Fleets

‘The extra mouths to feed, the hundreds who landed sick, [15% of those landed alive died] the fact that many of the newcomers were too old or infirm to work and the disruptions created by a fresh injection of criminal elements added to [Phillip’s] immediate problems’. Explorations, Rigby, Merwe, Williams. ibid.

With Revolution raging across the Channel and talk of imminent war with France, recruitment for service in a far-off penal colony proved difficult.

Major Francis Grose,  commanding officer of the New South Wales Corps who acted as prison guards on the voyage, remained in London to recruit numbers sufficient to satisfy establishment requirements.

1790 – Sydney Cove, June:. None of the thousand (1000) newcomers, soldier or criminal, fresh from London’s teeming streets, could comprehend their surroundings.

No spires or bridges, tents not houses,  no coffee-houses or classy clubs and horror, no gin palaces or grog-soaked taverns in dingy alley-ways.  But that at least, at the behest of John Macarthur, would soon change.

The marines, more skeleton than soldier, parading barefoot in tattered uniforms were regarded with contempt.

What  incentive then, with a French war looming, had been offered to men that induced them to accept deployment 15,000 miles (23,000 km) from England?

Land lots of land a heady brew for any greedy Englishman on the make and one in particular Lieutenant John Macarthur of the New South Wales Corps.

Governor Phillip soon had to deal with dangerous animosity that arose between the old-lags and the new-lads. Animosity that  centred on land.

We know this from the Historical Records. Captain William Hill who sailed in Suprize wrote of it to a London friend Mr. Wathen.‘ The gentleman to whom he writes was a friend of William Wilbeforce to whom the narrative first went.

In America the officers and settlers had grants of land in proportion to their rank; but those of the marines who are now here and have borne every hardship have no such thing neither is there an intention of giving each his portion.

In my humble opinion nothing could be more impolite….and I am well persuaded Britain will not thank our Governor for acting, not only on  a mean, but on an unstable plan, to the great disquiet of every individual in the colony, and the certainty of bringing in endless burthen on the mother country’. Frank Murcott Bladen, Historical Records of New South Wales

 ‘A mean…unstable plan’  but Captain Hill was entirely wrong to blame Governor Phillip.  This was the British Government’s plan and the  ‘endless burthen’ fell on our First  Peoples.

All their land, their country, was taken from them and ‘we fail to ask what if it was done to us’.

‘It is impossible to contemplate the condition or the prospects of that unfortunate race…without the deepest commiseration. You cannot overrate the solicitude of H.M. Government on the subject of the Aborigines of New Holland. Lord John Russell to Sir George Gipps, Governor of New South Wales, 21 December, 1838, Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Vol. XX.

See: ‘England Expects’ – ‘Bring in The Heads of the Slain’- Governor Phillip’s Barbarous Path to Spain’s Silver and Gold











Leave a Reply