Posts Tagged ‘starvation’


Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

‘The poor aborigines were quickly reduced to a state of starvation, and it is believed that many of them actually perished for want of food during the first few months of the occupation of their country’. Samuel Bennett, Australian Discovery and Colonisation, Vol 1 – 1800, facsimile ed. 1981

Documentary evidence supports the claim that Governor Phillip expected logistical support to reach him soon after the ‘First Fleet’ expeditionary force reached its destination but the expected ships never came.

1788 – July, Sydney:  ‘They [Aborigines] are now much distressed for food, few fish are caught & I am told that many of them appear on the Beach where the Boats  go to haul the Seins [trawling nets], very weak & anxious to get the small fish, of which they make no account in the Summer nor can we give them much assistance as very few fish are now caught, & we have many sick’. Arthur Phillip to Joseph Banks, 2 July 1788. Oxford Book of Australian Letters, ed. Brenda Niall, John Thompson, 1998   

The direst consequences of Britain’s callous abandonment of her country-men fell on the Aborigines of the Sydney area who; ‘were quickly reduced to a state of starvation’. See: Abandoned and Left to Starve Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790


1790 – I January: ‘From the intelligence of our friends and connections we had been entirely cut off no communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th of May, 1787, the day of our departure from Portsmouth. We had now been two years in the country and thirty-two months  in which long period no supplies had reached us from England. from Portsmouth. Famine besides was approaching with gigantic strides’. Tench. ibid.    

Britain’s abandonment of the ‘First Fleet’ amounted to treachery. What was devastating for the English was catastrophic for Australia’s First Peoples. See: Arthur Phillip – Hung Out to Dry



Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

‘A very tasty pea and ham soup washed down with tea from the leaves of the local sarsaparilla vine. In fact being British the colonists drank so much of the stuff that sarsaparilla remains almost extinct in the area around Sydney’. Tony Robinson’s History of Australia, Penguin 2011.

1788 – 18 January, Botany Bay: HMS Supply, the first of eleven (11) vessels making up the ‘First Fleet’ with a complement of 1500 hungry souls, reached Botany Bay, in the island continent of New Holland, now Australia on 18th January 1788, almost immediately Supply deployed her seine [trawling] nets.

‘No sooner were the fish out of the water than they [Aborigines] began to lay hold of them as if they had a right to them, or that they were their own; upon which the officer of the boat, I think very properly, restrained them giving, however, to each of them a part. They did not at first seem very well pleased with this mode of procedure, but on observing with what justice this fish was distributed they appeared content’. John White, Chief Medical Officer, First Fleet Journal



Sunday, March 25th, 2018

‘In war the trophy head is a mark of supremacy and respect’. Frances Larson, Severed, Granta, 2015

1790 – 13 December, Sydney Cove: ‘The author of this publication [Captain Watkin Tench] received a direction to attend the governor [Arthur Phillip] at head quarters immediately.

I went, and his excellency informed me, that he had pitched upon me to execute the foregoing command…infuse universal terror…convince them of our superiority… if practicable, to bring away two [2] natives as prisoners and to put to death ten [10]. That we were to cut off, and bring in the heads of the slain, for which purpose, hatchets and bags would be furnished.

We were to proceed to the north arm of the [Botany] bay…destroy all weapons of war: no hut was to be burned: that all women and children were to remain uninjured’.  Marine Captain Watkin, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhadinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

Can we know what drove Governor Phillip’s ferocity? Yes we can – simmering rebellion centred on ‘certain  officers’ of the newly arrived New South Wales Corps (June 1790)  in particular Lieutenant John Macarthur.



Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

‘From time to time throughout history, peoples and governments around the world have used micro-organisms as efficient and cost-effective weapons of mass destruction’. Professor Dorothy H. Crawford, The Invisible Enemy, Edinburgh University Press, 2000

Sydney Cove 1789:  While Indigenous Australians experienced viral ‘mass destruction’ in 1789 ‘inexplicably, the epidemic did not affect the European population’.  People of Australia, Macquarie Series, Ed. Bryce Fraser, 1998

‘It is true, that our surgeons had brought out variolous (smallpox) matter in bottles.’ Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1961

In April 1789 smallpox wiped out 50% of Aboriginal families in the Sydney area. In 1788 Governor Arthur Phillip estimated their number to be 1500. The First Fleet’s complement of 1500 doubled that number.

‘The main battle was about having enough to eat’. The Story of Australia, Don Watson 1984



Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

‘How might the desolation and separation from loved ones, the lack of recourse from arbitrary decision and the sheer hopelessness of fate be tallied?…Gaoler and gaoled communicated across a gulf of mutual antagonism: against the formally declared and forcibly imposed authority’. Stuart Macintyre, 2004 A Concise History of Australia, 2004

It is risky to compare the heroes of one society with the cast-offs of another. Especially so when the comparison made is between Britain’s convict-soldiers, transported to Australia at the end of the 18th century and Australian soldiers, prisoners of the Japanese, in the middle of the 20th century.

‘Historians, like scientists have had only one comprehensive source of information on the subject of starvation. In Prisoners of the Japanese Gaven Daws compared the hunger of the men in the Minnesota [Experiment] to the privations suffered by Allied prisoners in the Pacific Theater. Todd Tucker,The Great Starvation Experiment, 2006

1944-45, America: A unique experiment conducted by Dr. Ancel Keys during World War II permits such comparison. The Minnesota Starvation Experiment with thirty-six (36) white American male conscientious objectors, all volunteers aged between twenty-three (23) and thirty-six (36) years, took place between November 1944 and December 1945.


‘The administration gave no consideration to the date of expiry of sentences and several of the First Fleet had been tried as early as 1781 and 1782. As seven years transportation was the most common sentence, many had already served five-sevenths of their time on embarkation and six-sevenths on disembarkation at Sydney Cove’. Dr. John Cobley, Crimes of the First fleet, Angus and Robertson, Sydney

No matter how offensive the comparison may appear, Australia’s heroes and England’s cast-offs have much in common. Each group suffered and died under ‘forcibly imposed authority’. (more…)


Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

‘The ability to shock bestows a kind of power’. Frances Larson, Severed, Granta, London, 2014

1790 – 13 December, Sydney Headquarters: Governor Arthur Phillip – General Orders to Marine Captain Watkin Tench: ‘Infuse universal terror…put ten [10] to death…cut off, and bring back the heads of the slain’. Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Year, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples can, with laser accuracy, plot their near annihilation from Governor Arthur Phillip’s orders of December 1790.

‘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, History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1995

Where lay the threat to Governor Phillip in December 1790? Certainly not with the Bidjigal at Botany Bay cut down by smallpox. If not the Bidjigal who was Phillip ‘enemy’? See: A Clash of Giants – Arthur Phillip & John Macarthur – The Great Pretender

‘For the Sydney people to lose 50% or more of their military capability in a few weeks was a crushing blow’. Stephen Gapps, The Sydney Wars, NewSouth Books, 2018

The previous year (1789) smallpox had killed 50% of Sydney Aborigines leaving the survivors struggling to regroup. See: Smallpox – A Lethal Weapon Boston 1775, Sydney 1789 – Robert Ross and David Collins

1790 – 9  December, Botany Bay: ‘On the 9th of the month, a sergeant of marines, with three convicts…went out on a shooting party…to the north arm of Botany Bay…among them M’Entire, the governor’s game-keeper (the convict of whom Bannelon had, on former occasions, shewn so much dread and hatred)’. Tench. ibid. See: Manly – Location, Location, Location

1790 – 10 December, Botany Bay: At 1 am; ‘the serjeant was awakened by a rustling noise in the bushes’. Pemulwuy the Aboriginal warrior speared John M’Entire; ‘he expressed a longing desire not to be left to expire in the woods’. See: A Tethered Goat

1790 – 11 December, Sydney: Tench says the shooting party, with M’Entire in tow, reached Sydney in the early hours of 12 December 1790.

1790 – 13 December, Sydney: ‘I [Tench] received a direction to attend the governor at head quarters immediately’ where Governor Phillip issued his General Orders:

‘Put to death ten cut off and bring back the heads of the slain…two prisoners I [Phillip] am resolved to execute the prisoners who may be brought in, in the most public and exemplary manner, in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected…and my fixed determination to repeat it, whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’.

Pemulwuy’s spearing of M’Entire was a targeted attack by a known assailant; ‘put ten [10] to death’ was indiscriminate retaliation – destroying the innocent as well as the guilty.

Tench registered shock; ‘here the governor stopped, and addressed himself to me said, if I could propose any alternation of the orders under which I was to act’.

Tench proposed; ‘capture six [6]…a part should be set aside for retaliation; and the rest, at a proper time, liberated, after seeing the fate of their comrades. This scheme, his excellency was pleased instantly to adopt, adding, if six [6] cannot be taken, let this number [6] be shot’.

1790 – 13 December: Tench ordered his troops, fifty (50) men – two (2) officers with the regulation ratio of non-commissioned to forty (40) private soldiers; ‘be ready to go out tomorrow morning at daylight [14th] with three [3] days provisions, ropes to bind our prisoners with and hatchets and bags, to cut off and contain the heads of the slain’.  See: A Hatchet Job – Heads Off The Bidgigal of Botany Bay

For Australia’s First Peoples the make-up of this detachment is of utmost importance. By December 1790 marines of the ‘troubled’ Sydney garrison were incapable of sustained effort.

‘The main battle was about having enough to eat’. Don Watson, Story of Australia, 1984

All of ‘Phillip’s people’ had been marooned since 1788. The marines suffered profound lethargy from prolonged semi-starvation, most could barely stand let alone undertake a three (3) days march in full kit under a blazing December sun. See: Abandoned and Left To Starve at Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790

1790 – 14 December, Sydney:  So it is certain, when the section moved out for Botany Bay on the 14th of December 1790, the majority of its forty (40) rank and file would have been infantrymen of the New South Wales Corps who, in June 1790, arrived from England to relieve the beleaguered marines. See: Dark Matter

The newly arrived foot troops were first contingent of; ‘twenty-five regiments of British infantry they participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, 1986

‘There are two kinds of error; those of commission, doing something that should not be done, and those of omission, not doing something that should be done, the latter are much more serious than the former’. Kenneth Hoper and William Hopper, The Puritan Gift, Forward, Russell Lincoln Ackoff, I.B. Tauris, 2009.

1792 –  12 December, Sydney: Governor Phillip sailed for home in mid December 1792. Tragically for the First Australians London failed to commission a successor. Captain John Hunter RN, the second governor, would not reach Sydney until September 1795.

‘For the length of the interregnum [1792-1795] the British government was greatly at fault’. J.J. Achmuty, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Governor John Hunter.

‘Omission’ by default the immense power invested in Arthur Phillip as Governor of New South Wales, said to be unique in Britain’s long history of empire building, devolved to the military.

‘Convince them of our superiority’; there is no evidence Governor Phillip’s orders of December 1790 were ever countermanded. Extant, they served as a template that went onto govern all future confrontations between the British invaders and Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples.

1792 – 13 December: The day following Phillip’s departure Major Francis Grose commanding officer of the New South Wales Corps took control of the colony. He dismissed the civil magistrates appointed by Governor Phillip as required by official Letters Patent.

‘The traffic in spirits was commenced by the officers and was destined to be the chief factor which savaged the undercurrent of public life for twenty-five years after the departure of Governor Phillip’. Commentary, Historical Records of Australia.

Grose, wounded in the American War of Independence 1775-1783, proved a lackadaisical commander. He appointed Lieutenant John Macarthur paymaster.

‘The control of labour was largely vested in his new regimental pay-master, Lieutenant John Macarthur – a central figure in the military mafia which quickly established itself as Australia’s first governing and property-owing elite’. Arthur Phillip, Gentleman, Scholar and Seaman, Dr. Nigel Rigby, Maritime Museum, Greenwich, Dr. Pieter Van der Merwe, British National Maritime Museum, Prof. Emeritius History, Queen Mary, University of London, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles, London, 2018

For the next twenty-five (25) years ‘frontier war, nasty and decidedly lacking in glorycentred on Aboriginal river lands, the Deerrubin – Hawkesbury, Nepean and Grose River systems.

When Major Grose returned to England at the of 1794 Captain William Paterson, another physically and emotionally damaged ‘three bottles a day’ veteran of the American Revolutionary War succeeded him.

By 1794 over four hundred (400) settlers were farming Dharug; ‘thirty miles along the banks on both sides of the [Hawkesbury] River it has been estimated that between 1794 and 1800 at least twenty-six [26] Whites and up to two hundred [200] Aborigines were killed’. Stanley. ibid.

1795 – June, Hawkesbury:  Governor Hunter was still on the high seas when Paterson; ‘sent a detachment of two [2] subalterns and sixty [60] privates of the New South Wales to the river…to destroy as many as they could…a well to drive the natives to a distance, as for the protections of the settlers.

It gives me concern to have been forced to destroy any of these people, particularly as I have no doubt of their having been cruelly treated by some of the settlers who went out there’. Captain William Paterson to Right Hon. Henry Dundas, 15 June 1795, Historical Records of Australia. See: A Worm Hole – Richard Atkins Diary

The troops Paterson deployed to the Hawkesbury saw limited skirmishes escalate to ‘open warfare’ accelerating destruction of the Dharug whose spears, guts, and guile could not match the increased fire-power.

1795 – September: Governor John Hunter RN reached Sydney in late September 1795. Despite John Macarthur’s spirited antagonism directed at him the new governor managed to restore what passed for ‘English civil law’ in New South Wales.

1799 – March, Sydney: Four (4) years later Governor Hunter ordered ‘five [5] European] men changed with the murder of two [2] native boys’.

Lieutenant Neil MacKellar, in command at the Hawkesbury from 1797 to 1799, was called to give evidence in court.

‘Under questioning he stated that the orders issued [1795] for the destruction of Aboriginals whenever encountered, after they had committed outrages, had not been countermanded during his command at the Hawkesbury nor to his knowledge since’. Neill Mackellar, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Brigadier M. Austin

1799 – London: While the trial was in progress Hunter was informed of his recall to England. The reasons given were twofold. He had failed to stop the importation of ‘fiery Indian rum’ imported from Bengal and he did not to get along with the military thugs of the New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps.

‘The traffic in spirits was commenced by the officers and was destined to be the chief factor which savaged the undercurrent of public life for twenty-five years after the departure of Governor Phillip’. Commentary, Records. ibid.

Teetotaller John Macarthur was prime mover in the importation of rum from Bengal. Rum bought cheaply and, sold at an exorbitant mark-up, generated immense profits for certain officers of the ‘Rum’ Corps and their cronies.

When the ex-convicts who bought their rum went broke the officers who sold it to them were on hand to buy up their farms.

From 1788 there had been continuous disputation between the civil power represented by the autocratic uniformed naval governors and the military’. John McMahon, Not a Rum Rebellion but a Military Insurrection, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 92, 2006

Lieutenant John ‘McMafia’ Macarthur was the common denominator in the recall to London of Governor Phillip’s immediate successors, the naval Governors, John Hunter, Phillip Gidley King and William Bligh.

And when he returned from a lengthy forced exile in England Macarthur was just in time to add a practised hand in the character assassination of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the first British Governor recruited from military ranks.

1800 – Sydney: Governor Hunter was replaced by Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King, who like Hunter was another First Fleeter returning ‘home’ to Australia. See: Down the Rabbit Hole with Hunter

1800-1806: See: The Irish & the English King in Australia.

1806 – August 1806: Governor William Bligh RN arrived in Sydney orders for Governor Phillip Gidley King’s recall. See: Down The Rabbit Hole with King

1808 – 26 January, Sydney: When ‘Bounty’ Bligh made strenuous effort to stem the tsunami of grog he too found himself under attack from Macarthur. On the 20th anniversary of Captain Arthur Phillip’s raising of the Union Jack Governor Bligh was taken arrested by the New South Wales Corps. See: Australia Day Rebellion – Australia Day 1808


 ‘The natives will be made severe examples of whenever any man is wounded by them….and my fixed determination to repeat it, whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’. Governor Phillip, cited Tench. ibid

Governor Phillip General Orders of 13th and ‘differing in no respect from the last‘ were repeated on 22 December 1790. The second raid triggered an algorithm for ‘future terror’ that ‘lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth century’. Kercher. ibid.


A map detailing ‘the better documented’ massacres of ‘dissenting Aboriginal’ Australians from the 1790s – to the 1920s was published in 2017


1816 – April, Appin: The first to meet the criteria of fourteen (14) known killed occurred in Macarthur country at Broughton Pass in April 1816. Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s orders of 10 April are eerily similar to those of Governor Arthur Phillip in December lock-step with


The ‘The warrior skilled at stirring the enemy proffers the bait’. Sun-Tzu, The Art of War, Penguin Books, 2009 

See: Mc Intyre – Death of a Sure Thing


1816: Appin:













Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

It is natural to infer that Government understands it is simply landing these people in Africa, to let them shift for themselves, and get their Board in the best manner they can’. Richard Miles, Cape Coast Castle to Home Office, London.

1782 – 6 November, England: Government chartered the Den Keyser to transport forty (40) or so criminals reprieved death from England to Senegal on Africa’s west coast.

They were to serve sentences of seven (7), fourteen (14) years or life at the fort settlements of Goree and Cape Coast Castle.

In 1644 the English established a permanent foot-hold on West Africa when its  forces captured Cape Coast Castle, the main Dutch base in West Africa,captured from the Dutch during the third Anglo-Dutch War.

Convicts Samuel Woodham and John Rugless were destined for a life-time of military service. Civilian prisoners like Thomas Limpus; reprieved to be ‘banished from this realm’ were to be dumped and left to ‘shift for themselves’.



Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

1790 – 1 June, Sydney Cove: ‘No communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th May 1787, the day of our departure from Portsmouth…from the intelligence of our friends and connections we had been entirely cut off…the misery and horror of such a situation cannot be imparted, even by those who have suffered under it’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

1790 – the weekly ration; ‘without distinction…to every child of more than eighteen (18] months old and to every grown person two [2] pounds of pork, two and a half [2½] pounds of flour, two [2] pounds of rice, or a quart of pease, per week…To every child under eighteen [18] months old, the same quantity of rice and flour, and one [1] pound of pork.

When the age of this provision is recollected, its inadequacy will more strikingly appear. The pork…from England had been salted between three [3] and four [4] years… a daily morsel toast[ed] on a fork catching the drops on a slice of bread, or in a saucer of rice…every grain was a moving body from the inhabitants lodged within it…flour brought from the Cape by Sirius [May 1789] soldiers and convicts used to boil it up with greens’. Tench op.cit.



Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

‘Dismay was painted on every countenance, when the tidings were proclaimed at Sydney’. Marine Captain Watkin, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L, Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

1790 – March 19, Sydney: ‘the tidings’; loss of HMS Sirius the ‘First Fleet’s flagship and ‘dismay’ gone all hope of a China rescue.

Norfolk Island: Sirius was at the bottom of the sea off Norfolk Island. Her crew, one hundred and sixty naval (160) personnel, were  stranded along with 50% of the white population evacuated from Sydney to the island to save them from starvation. See: Abandoned and Left to Starve @ Sydney Cove, January 1788 to June 1790



Monday, January 25th, 2016

Sydney Cove – July, 1788: ‘Yesterday twenty [20] of the natives came down to the beach, each armed with a number of spears, and seized on a good part of the fish caught in the seine [trawling nets]…several stood at a small distance with their spears poised ready to throw them if any resistance was made’. Arthur Phillip to Under-Secretary Evan Nepean, July 10, 1788 See: Abandoned and Left to Starve at Sydney Cove from January 1788 to July 1790

1787 – 13 May, England: The ‘First Fleet’ – a large armed squadron of  eleven (11) British ships sailed from Portsmouth in mid May 1787 charged with the invasion and conquest of New Holland, now Australia.

Up to 1,500 Macassans a year would reach [northern] Australia and they did influence the Aborigines by trading iron axes, tobacco, cloth, knives and glass. They taught the Aboriginal of those parts how to make dug-out canoes, more substantial than the simple [Sydney] water-craft of stringy-bark’. Stewart Harris, Treaty, It’s Coming Yet, 1979  

When 1500 Englishmen of the ‘First Fleet’ arrived at Botany Bay in January 1788 they did not find the local Eora Peoples familiar with iron axes, knives, tobacco, cloth or glass. When introduced the locals valued them highly – especially the hatchet.

By a strange coincidence, smallpox reached Port Jackson at about the same time as the First Fleet’. Cassandra Pybus, Black Founders, UNSW Press, 2006