During Lord Sydney’s time as secretary of state, the Home Office was a clearing house. Its jurisdiction included overseeing of naval officers involved in trade regulation, secret service and special projects. As a result, Sydney crossed paths with three men who left their mark on [Australia’s European] history – Horotio Nelson, William Bligh and Arthur Phillip. Andrew Tink, Life and Times of Tommy Townshend, 2001


‘The arrival [of the British] in January 1788 did not merely presage disasters that were to follow. It was the precise moment when the tragedy began relentlessly to unfold. And once the British claimed both the sovereignty and all the property, there was no turning back. The dark seeds of disaster had been sown’. Henry Reynolds, Truth-Telling, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney 2021


‘The whole claim of sovereignty and ownership on the basis of terra nullius was manifestly based on a misreading of Australian circumstance, not that prevented Phillip from hoisting the Union Jack in 1788 and expropriating the owners at Sydney Cove’. Stuart Mac Intyre,  A Concise History of Australia, Melbourne University Press, 2004


‘1992  The High Court hand[ed] down the Mabo case in which it recognis[ed] native title and reject]ed] the idea that Australia was terra nullius, or no man’s land at the time of British settlement. 1993 [Prime Minister] Keating legislat[ed] native title into law’. Megan Davis & George Williams, Everything You Need to Know About The Uluru Statement From the Heart, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney 2021


Macarthur’s haughty quarrelsome nature which manifested itself on the [second fleet] voyage was to provoke much more conflict after his arrival in New South Wales in June 1790′. Michael Flynn, The Second Fleet, Britain’s Grim Armada of 1790, Library of Australian History, Sydney 1993

Horatio Nelson, William Bligh, Arthur Phillip, each are linked to the suffering and degradation experienced by Australia’s First Peoples following Britain’s invasion of the island continent of New Holland, now Australia.

Lieutenant John Macarthur of the New South Infantry Corps who arrived with the second fleet in June 1790 can be added to the list of those who left an indelible ‘mark” on Australia’s modern history.

‘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 Merwe, Glyn Williams, Pacific Explorations, National Maritime Museum Greenwich, Adlard Coles. Bloomsbury,  2018  

In Governor Phillip’s eyes  ‘MacMafia’ Macarthur’s over-arching self interest threatened to bring to nought Britain’s ambitious plans for future ‘trade, secret service and special project[s]’ in the ‘South Seas’. See Proximity Not Distance Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland.

On the cusp of the 19th century New South Wales delivered Britain many and varied logistical advantages. It was the reason Phillip determined to ‘do his utmost’ to derail Macarthur?

‘The place New South Wales holds on our globe might give it a very commanding influence in the policy of Europe…and we might with a safe and expeditious voyage, make naval incursions on Java [Indonesia] and other Dutch settlements; and we might with equal facility invade the coast of Spanish America, and intercept the Manilla ships, laden with the treasure of the west’.   James  Maria Matra, [Joseph Bank’s] Plans for Botany Bay August 23rd 1783, Historical Records of New South Wales, Frank Murcott Bladen 18992. Nabu Public Domain Reprint

Its ‘place on the globe’ offered a ‘safe and expeditious’ sea-route from Port Jackson via the Southern Oceans. This delivered the Royal Navy a long- sought-opportunity to ‘intercept  the Manilla ships, laden with the treasure of the west’ looted by Spain from her Central and South American Pacific Ocean colonies.

Port Jackson – 1789:  By May 1789 Governor Phillip knew ‘might…invade the coast of Spanish America’ had been replaced by certainty. The need to retain New South Wales for the Crown became paramount.

‘The main battle was about having enough to eat’. Don Watson, The Story of Australia (a book for children)


Africa – 1788, 2 October: To save the starving Sydney settlement from disaster HMS Sirius departed Port Jackson to buy food and medicines from the Dutch at Cape Town.

Taking the charts of Captain Cook’s of the2nd voyage Captain John Hunter he plotted a course that took Sirius deep into the southern oceans. 





Falmouth:  Government called for expressions of interest for the carriage of 1038 predominately male convicts in three (3) of four (4) vessels of what became known as ‘the second fleet’.  See: G is for Genocide – Colonial Breeders

Regular ‘slave contracts’ were issued to Calvert, Camden and King ,a London firm prominent in the Atlantic slave trade. These contracts paid per body boarded , so the earlier a slave – prisoner – died the greater the profit. 

Neptuneembarked 424 men and 78  women prisoners – 47 men and 11 females died during the passage, 269 convicts landed sick.

Suprize  – of 252 men, 42 died en-route, 121 landed sick.

Scarborough -of 256 men, died. 96 landed sick

Lieutenant John Macarthur with his pregnant wife Elizabeth and Edward, their toddler son sailed in Scarborough.

Overall mortality on the voyage was reckoned at 25%. As many as 15% of those who landed sick died within a month or so of landing. See: A Tale of Two Fleets

Australian historian Michael Flynn rightly named the second fleet ‘Britain’s Grim Armada  and John Macarthur ‘a man who made enemies’  especially so with fellow officers. Suffice to say the Macarthur family’s voyage was fraught


‘Parallel to, and dependent upon, the Anglo-French duel for command of the sea went their struggle for overseas bases and colonies; here too, the culminating point in a century-long race was reached, with Britain emerging in 1815 with a position so strengthened that she appeared to be the only real colonial power in the world’. Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery, Fontana Press, 3rd ed. London, 1976

The invasion of New Holland – now Australia – was all about global warfare -the ‘struggle for overseas bases and colonies’.

‘There would be ‘some justification for the saying that England won Australia by six days’. Edward Jenks, History of Australian Colonies, cited Hugh E. Egerton, British Colonial Policy, Metheun, 1928

In 1788, post Britain’s defeat in America’s Revolutionary War of Independence (1775-1783), Captain Arthur Phillip RN Britain’s master-mariner,  master-strategist, master-spy,  pulled off a very pressing ‘special project’ for the Home Office.

Botany Bay 1788.  By the 20th of January 1788 the eleven (11) ships of the ‘First Fleet’  with a complement of 1500 souls, after a voyage of eight (8) months voyaging 15,000 miles (21,000 km) of ‘imperfectly explored oceans’, anchored in Botany Bay. Mortality rate reckoned at 2%.

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


‘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’. The American Revolution – A World War, David k. Alliosn, Larrie. D. Ferreiro,  Smithsonian 2017

Britain knew French support, massive amounts of money men, munitions and military know-how, flowing to General George Washington’s home-spun militia,  had been largely to blame for her ignominious defeat in America’s Revolutionary War of Independence 1775-83.

Paris – 1783: The Treaty of Versailles signed in September 1783 brought a ceremonial end to the war. Via its terms  America’s independence from Britain was confirmed. The United States of America was formally recognised.

Britain lost herNew World’ empire, the colonies of Connecticut, North and South Carolina, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Virginia.


Post war France began up-grading, copper-sheathing and re-arming her fleet.  A humiliated Britain versus a triumphant resurgent France.  The race for supremacy was on.

France – 1785 August:  Arthur Phillip, in the pay of Britain’s Foreign Secret Service (present -day MI 6) had watched from the shadows as Comte Jean-Francois La Perouse in command of La Boussole with L’Astrolabe, sailed from Brest naval base in August 1785 on a wide-ranging expeditionary voyage that was to include New Holland. See: Arthur Phillip – The Spy Who Never Came In From The Cold

La Perouse’s voyage, modelled on those of Lieutenant James Cook doyen of Britain’s Royal Navy, was estimated to take three (3) years. It was the clear intention of the French King Louis XV1to usurp Britain’s claim to New Holland made in 1770 by Cook.

‘That the fighting against France in what was originally and essentially a European war should have spread so swiftly to the tropics was a result of many factors, most of them predictable’. Kennedy. op.cit


‘Predicable’; Britain was right to blame arch-enemy France for the loss of her American empire.  Therefore it is little wonder, within five (5) years – February 1793, Britain and France were at war once more.

The invasion of New Holland falls within the planning arc for that ‘European war’.  It morphed into twenty-five (25) years of global warfare – the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars 1793-1815 and a ‘triumphant’ Britain.

Brazil1786 Phillip was in Rio de Janeiro keeping track of La Perouse when recalled by the Admiralty to head-up Britain’s race for New Holland. 

 ‘To our trusty and well-beloved Captain Arthur Phillip, We, reposing especial trust and confidence in your loyalty, courage and experience in military affairs constitute and appoint you to be Governor our territory called New South Wales’. .Bladen, Historical Records of New South Wales

London – 25 April 1787: Six (6) months later with ‘pomp and ceremony of glorious war’ King George III sealed the future fate of Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples as a free people.

‘Under our Great Seal constituting and appointing you [Arthur Phillip] to be our Captain-General and Governor- in-Chief of our territory called New South Wales the entire eastern coast of New Holland…from Cape York in the northern most extremity… to South Cape’. Bladen, Historical Records. ibid.


‘The Way of War is A Way of Deception. When able, Feign inability; When deploying troops, Appear not to be’. Sun-Tzu, The Art of War,  551-496 BC, Translated John Minford. Penguin Books 2009 ed.

With New Holland Britain would gain secure alternate strategic and logistical sea-routes to and from India and Asia. In addition a military and naval presence there offered the potential of securing a long- sought- after route to the Pacific Coast of South and Central America, via notorious Drake Passage. See:  See: Proximity Not Distance Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland

1787 – Portsmouth: Captain Phillip RN in command of a large armed squadron of eleven (11) ships, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, sailed from England on the 13th of May 1787 to invade the island continent of New Holland.

Royal Navy personnel 200,  three (3) battalions – 213 marines, 20 officials, 580 male convicts rationed as ‘troops serving in the West Indies’, was a formidable force. See: All The King’s Men The Criminals of the First Fleet 

1788 – Botany Bay, 20 January: The convoy with a complement of 1500 souls – 1300 men and 200 women – reached Botany Bay within 36 hours between 18-20 January. See: G for Genocide- Colonial breeders

24 January: Three (3) days later in bad weather two (2) ships  L’Astrolabe and La Boussole – with Jean Francois La Perouse at the helm – arrived at the entrance to  Botany Bay.

Sirius  gun-ports open, cannon at the ready, forced them back out to sea.

‘He [Phillip] ordered a party to be  sent to Point Sutherland to raise English Colours. He also stipulated that the move to Port Jackson be kept secret’. John Moore, The First Fleet Marines 1786-1792, Queensland University Press, 1987

Port Jackson: Three (3) days earlier – 21 January – Governor Phillip had entered a vast harbour; marked ‘Port Jackson on Cook’s 1770 charts.

Sydney Cove:  From a myriad of bays and inlets he chose a ‘snug’ deep-water cove naming it for Lord Sydney the then Home Secretary.

But he did not raise ‘English Colours’. 

‘Raising the flag was one of the acts recognised as an assertion of a prior claim against other colonial powers eyeing off the same land’. Prof Larissa Berendt, The Honest History Book, Ed. David Stephens & Alison Broinowski, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney, 2017

If La Perouse,  who Phillip knew would have had Cook’s charts sailed north, happened upon and entered Port Jackson’s towering headlands, he would immediately raise ‘French Colours’ . Then ‘a state of war’ would exist between these arch enemies.

It was essential Phillip get back to Port Jackson. Although he had no  stomach for blowing the gallant La Perouse and his men out of the water, due to past experience, to do his utmost’ was burnt deep into his Royal Naval psyche.

There can be no doubt Phillip would go above and beyond to  prevent ‘a prior [French] claim’. See: Australia  – Britain By A Short Half-Head

 Sydney Cove -January 25:  Rough seas held up Supply’s departure until mid-day.  Just on sun-set Lieutenant Henry Ball RN dropped anchor in Sydney Cove.

January 26:   At first light Phillip landed  with a party of marines and raised the Union Jack of  Queen Anne.   By 8pm that night the rest of the English fleet, after a hazardous exit from Botany Bay that put both ships and lives at risk, were moored alongside Supply.


For ten (10) days, in the intense heat and humidity of a Sydney February, male convicts laboured under the lash to set up camp.

February 6:  Between 6 am and 6 pm the fleet’s female complement – one hundred and eighty-nine (189) female prisoners – thirty- one (31) marine wives upwards of  fifty (50) free children, Mary wife of the fleet Chaplain Rev. Johnson and the mysterious Mrs. Brooks, were rowed ashore from what had been home for the best part of a year.

A noisy ‘sexual orgy’  is said to have taken place that dark and stormy night. Two hundred (200) women – a heterosexual ‘orgy’ probably – 1300 men – homosexual ‘orgy’ certainly. See: Brokeback Mountain

February – 7:  Next day ‘Commander-in-Chief Captain Captain Arthur Phillip, Governor of our territory New South Wales’ as per instructions issued him at the Court of St. James on 25 April 1787, based on ‘terra nullius’ –   the lawyer Emer Vattel’s ‘ misreading of [the] Australian circumstance’  – proceeded to claim British sovereignty over; ‘the entire eastern coast of New Holland from Cape York…to South Cape’. See: A Cracker-Jack Opinion – no Sweat

‘Half a continent [was] declared Crown land in one of the most remarkable acts of plunder in modern times’. Reynolds, Truth Telling.ibid.

Not until 1992 did the Hight Court of Australia find New Holland – ‘terra nullius’–  a tract of territory practically unoccupied, without settled inhabitants or settled land’   – a no-man’s land -to be ‘legal fiction’.

As for France, the other contender for New Holland, a month later – 10th March 1788 – La Boussole and L’Astrolabe sailed for home. Sadly La Perouse and his men were never seen again. See: A Band of Brothers & Mortal Enemies


Governor Phillip had been assured before leaving England in May 1787 that more convicts and supplies would ‘shortly follow’.

And the first night out of Cape Town, 13 November 1787 on the last leg of the voyage to Botany Bay, HMS Sirius spotted a ship flying ‘English Colours…for us’.?

Disappointment, she turned out to be Kent a whaler. However the captain signalled Sirius more ships were ‘being taken up for Botany Bay’. But nothing could have been further from the truth.  See: Abandoned and left to starve at Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790 

Sydney Cove – 1788 July:  ‘The prevalence of disease among the troops and convicts, who on landing [January 1788] were tainted with scurvy…our situation, not having any fresh animal food, nor being able to make a change in the diet which has and must be salt meat, makes these things more necessary here than, perhaps, in any quarter of the globe’. Dr John White, Chief Medical Officer to Lord Sydney, July 1788, Historical Records of New South Wales See: An Evacuation – Saving Lieutenant William Collins

Dr White’s revealing dispatch was carried back to England in one (1) of three (3) chartered convict transports that departed Sydney in July 1788.

When, by the end of August 1788 no support vessels had arrived, Phillip ordered Captain John Hunter RN prepare Sirius for a  voyage to Africa where he was to buy food and medicines from the Dutch.

Cape Town – 2 October 1788:  Hunter took Captain’s Cook’s charts and, at the beginning of October, a leaky Sirius sailed away on a lone perilous passage to the Cape of Good Hope. Hunter chose the Southern Oceans.

 Dodging ‘islands of ice’ the ship faced ferocious seas in Drake Passage. She rounded stormy Cape Horn on Christmas Day and sighted Robbin Island off Cape Town on the last day of 1788.


Meantime at Sydney on the last day of 1788 Phillip needed; ‘to learn whether or not the country possessed any resources, by which life might be prolonged’.

Manly – 1788 December, 31: He turned to  kidnapping. Two (2) warriors ‘enticed by courteous behaviour’  were seized. . One (1) broke free and fled.

The other Arabanoo ‘fastened by ropes to the thwarts of the boat’ was rowed across to Sydney and held captive within British lines. See: Kidnapped – Manly – What’s in a Name


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

Sydney –  1789, April:  Smallpox struck local Aboriginal families killing at least 50% of their number. The dead included Arabanoo still living near the Governor. See: Smallpox -A Lethal Weapon Boston 1775 – Sydney 1789

‘Not one case of the disorder occurred among the white people either afloat or on shore although there were several children in the settlement; but a North American Indian…took the disease and died’. Samuel Bennett, Australian Discovery and Colonisation, Volume 1 to 1800, facsimile edition 1981 See: Joseph Jefferies – From New York to Rio and Old Sydney Town – One – Then There Was None

Sydney – 1789, May 8: Sirius returned from Africa with medicines and 127,000 pounds of flour. Intended for Supply and Sirius.  the amount, was described as ‘unflattering’ by Marine Captain David Collins. This meant little could be spared for the colony.

Manly –  1789, November 25: ‘Famine’ again Phillip  turned to kidnapping. Bennalong and Colbee, both heavily pockmarked, were seized from Manly beach.

After a week Colbee ‘still with a small iron ring round his leg’ escaped. Surveillance was stepped up on Bennalong. See: Manly – Location, Location, Location


Sydney – 1790 January 1:  ‘We have been entirely cut off, no communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th May, 1787 the day of our departure from Portsmouth…in which long period no supplies…had reached us.

Tench says a look-out was erected from‘[w]here on the summit of the hill [South Head] every morning from daylight until the sun sank did we sweep the horizon hope of seeing a sail’.

February:   ‘The governor, early in February [1790], ordered the Sirius to prepare for a voyage to China’. Tench. ibid.

Soon the weather would cool and by then it was known fish left the harbour to breed.  Phillip could wait no longer. He drew  on experience ‘black deaths’  .The previous year – ,April 1789 – 50% of local Aboriginal families contracted smallpox and died.

  XXXXXXXX   –  

Norfolk Island – 1790, March:  On the 6th of March 1790 HMS Sirius accompanied by HMS Supply evacuated 50% of Phillip’s people’ to Norfolk Island.

China: Sirius was to sail onto China and arrange rescueSupply would return to Sydney and continue trawling for fish.

Norfolk Island – 1790, March 19: But all did not go to plan. On the 19th of March after landing her evacuees Sirius, caught by shifting winds, swung on her anchor and hit a submerged reef.

Caught ‘in pounding surf’ she broke up over a number of days. The crew, one hundred and sixty (160) naval personnel, were taken off without loss. But were now marooned with the evacuees.

‘Flags Up’ – HMS Supply

Sydney – 1790,  April 5: ‘The flag on the South-head was hoisted…I [Tench] saw captain Ball make an extraordinary motion with his hand, which too plainly indicated that something disastrous had happened’.

There would be no China rescue. ‘Vigorous measures were become indispensable’. The ‘disaster‘ triggered an immediate reduction in the weekly ration.

1790 – April 6:  ‘To every child of more than eighteen [18] months old and to every grown person [ration] to commence immediately, two pounds of pork, two pounds and a half of flour, two pounds or rice, or a quart of [dried] pease, per week [and] bring your own bread…even to the governor’s table’. Tench. ibid.

Governor Phillip ordered HMS Supply to Batavia, modern-day Jakarta.  Her captain Lieutenant Henry Ball RN was to buy food and medicines and hire a Dutch ship to bring them to Sydney. See: Missing In Action – HMS Sirius & HMS Supply

Jakarta – 1790 April 17:Supply sailed for Batavia…and all our labour and attention were turned on one object – the procuring of food’. The distress of the lower classes for clothes were almost equal to their other wants’. Tench. ibid.


Sydney – 1790 May:  Bennalong who had been kidnapped from Many Beach in December 1789 managed to escape and return to his people. During his five (5) months in captivity, Phillip and the pock-marked  Bennalong learned a lot about and from each other.

From Bennalong Phillip gleaned an outstanding piece of intelligence. The ‘dread and hatred’ local Aborigines had for John McIntyre the Governor’s personal convict game-keeper. Knowledge that would shortly prove invaluable. See: Mc Intyre – Death of a Sure Thing

3 June 1790  – ‘Flag’s up – with London on her stern’

‘At length the clouds of misfortune began to separate and on the evening of the 3d of June, the joyful cry of “the flag’s up” resounded in every direction’. Tench. ibid.

Sydney – 1790 June:  The terrible isolation was broken by Lady Juliana , first of four (4) vessels of a second fleet, with two hundred and twenty-six (226) ‘useless female’ prisoners.

She brought the Robinson Cruscoe castaways ‘news‘ of family, lovers, friends, and the  ‘Madness of King George’.

‘The combination French and Spanish naval power had proven fatal for Britain in the American War [1775-1783]…as Lord Sandwich admitted frankly. Lord Sandwich cited R..J. King, The Secret History of the Convict Colony, Sydney, 1990

But it was news of revolution in France that made Phillip aware that further naval conflict between Britain and arch-enemy France centred on India was not now imminent.

With the French fighting each other on the streets of Paris and India out of the equation Phillip knew where his role lay. Had he not written of it to Evan Nepean at the Home Office the day before he sailed from Rio en-route to Botany Bay.

Brazil, 2nd September 1787:Dear Nepean, This is my last letter, as I hope to sail tomorrow [for Cape Town]. You know how much I was interested in the intended expedition against Monte Video, and that it was said the Spaniards had more troops than I supposed’. Bladen, Historical Records. ibid.

For Governor Phillip, since Captain John Hunter’s RN astonishing  ‘219 days’ navigation of the globe in HMS Sirius (2 October 1788 – 8  May 1789) via the Southern Oceans Spanish South America HAD became of prime importance.

‘When I conversed with Lord Sydney…The place New South Wales holds on our globe might give it a very commanding influence in the policy of Europe…We might, with a safe and expeditious voyage, make naval incursions on Java [Indonesia] and other Dutch settlements; and we might with equal facility invade the coast of Spanish America, and intercept the Manilla ships, laden with the treasure of the west’. James Matra. Historical Records of New South Wales, Bladen. ibid.


Lady Juliana dubbed the ‘Brothel Ship’ was first of four (4) ships of a second fleet ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’.

Lord Sydney had resigned as Home Secretary. The new man, William Wyndham Grenville, penny-pitching meant no doubt to impress his cousin Prime Minister Pitt, awarded ‘slave’ contracts for Neptune Scarborough and Suprize the fleet’s death ships, to Camden Calvert and King a firm of Guinea slave-traders working out of London. See: The Zong  (pending)

One-quarter ‘of 1038 [mainly male] convicts embarked at Plymouth; 237 died on the voyage, 486 landed sick, of these 124 died in hospital at Sydney’. Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Brown, Son & Ferguson, Glasgow, 1959 See: Convict Transportation – The Hulks Act and When the mindset of Slavery Came to Australia

To guard against riot and mutiny one hundred and fifteen (115) infantry troops, first contingent of the New South Wales Corps, were distributed throughout the three (3) ships.

They included Lieutenant John Macarthur the ‘man who made enemies‘ (Flynn). Macarthur’s overarching personal ambition created conflict between himself and Governor Phillip.

In time Macarthur’s obsession with his own ‘private benefit’ earned him a reputation ‘The Perturbator’. See: Macarthur The Great Disrupter

June 20:  Justinian the first relief store-ship from England arrived before the end of June 1790. But not before she was caught in the vicious grip of a typical east-coast low weather system and very nearly went the way of HMS Guardian. See: Titanic – HMS Guardian Australia’s Titanic

September 7 – Manly:  Just three (3) months later came a game-changer. On a warm spring morning a ‘monster’ whale beached itself at Manly.


‘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

The whale stranding caused great excitement in both camps. For local Aborigines whale, their totem, held deep cultural and spiritual significance, prefacing as it did the return of summer’s abundance.

For Phillip, whose salt-water career began hunting whale in the icy Arctic, its appearance sparked intense interest.

He was aware high on the list of various plans Prime Minister William Pitt and his ‘secretive inner circle’ of three (3) powerful politicians – Hawkesbury, Dundas and Mulgrave – had for New Holland was the establishment of a land base to support ship-based whaling and sealing industries.   See: Arthur Phillip – Trade and the Defence of Trade

Anxious to see if the ‘monster’ was a sperm whale much prized for the frictionless quality of its oil so essential for use in the textile trade, Phillip was rowed across to Manly where he met up again with Bennalong.  See: Kidnapped – Manly What’s in a Name


Manly – 1790, September 7: Tench sets the scene. After some hesitation on Bennalong’s part ‘they discoursed for some time, Baneelon expressing pleasure to see his old acquaintance…the governor… to try whether it [Bennalong’s love of wine] still subsisted, uncorked a bottle, and poured out a glass of it, which the other drank off with his former marks of relish and good humour, giving a toast, as he had been taught, ‘the King‘.

That done Phillip moved nearer the whale; ‘a native, [Wileemarin] with a spear in his hand came forward…His excellency held out his hand…advancing…the nearer, the governor approached, the greater became the terror and agitation of the Indian.

To remove his fear, governor Phillip threw down a dirk, he wore at his side…the other, alarmed at the rattle of the dirk and probably misconstruing the action, instantly fixed his lance, aimed his lance with force and dexterity striking the governor’s right shoulder, just above the collar bone’. Tench. ibid.

The spear could not be removed on the spot. Midshipman Waterhouse managed to break off its long shaft. Phillip bleeding profusely endured two (2)  hours of agony as he was rowed across seven (7) miles of choppy waters to Sydney.

William Balmain the senior surgeon extracted the lance . Phillip’ blood loss slowed recovery. But knowing  ‘throw[ing] down the dirk’  had contributed to Willeemrin’s attack he ordered there be no reprisals.


Sydney – 1790, October 17: Almost six (6) months to the day since her April departure Supply returned from Jakarta.  Many of her crew had died of malaria and dysentery so elation sadly was touched with grief.

Lieutenant Newton Fowell, the fleet’s young letter-writer who, a midshipman sailed with Captain Hunter in the Sirius on her epic voyage of circumnavigation to and from Africa,  had been buried at sea.

Lieutenant Ball had purchased tons of supplies and chartered a Dutch ship Waaksamheyd to bring them to Sydney. The settlement’s only hope for survival now lay in the untrustworthy hands of the Dutch.


‘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

Just as in June 1914 a shot fired on a Sarajevo street began the count-down to World War I, a spear thrown on Manly Beach in September 1790 began the count-down to a ‘nasty war that led to the near destruction of Australia’s First Peoples.

‘The tremendous monster who had occasioned the unhappy catastrophe just recorded [Phillip’s spearing] was fated to be the cause of further mischief’. Tench. ibid.

Governor Phillip’s ‘no retaliation’ response presented ‘certain officers’ with an opportunity for ‘mischief’insurrection. Phillip isolated as he was in a sea of hostile military, judged his position would prove too great an opportunity for Lieutenant Macarthur and his cronies to pass up .See: Machiavellian Macarthur


Since 1788 the English population, men women and children, had survived by living on the Aborigines’ food resources. They scoured the bush taking plants and vegetables.

Anything that moved or flew was shot . Each afternoon Supply and Sirius went fishing, their nets taking up as much as ‘four hundred-weight’ at a time.

‘To prolong existence’ as starvation deepened ‘the best marksmen of the marines and convicts…put under the command of a trusty serjeant, with directions to range the woods in search of kangaroos.

9 December 1790 : On the 9th of the month [December 1790], serjeant of marines, with three convicts, among whom was M’Entire, the governor’s game-keeper (the person of whom Baneelon had, on former occasions, shewn so much dread and hatred) went out on a shooting party [to Botany Bay]’. Tench. ibid.

10 December: Tench was told in the early hours; ‘one of them [Aborigines] launched his spear at M’Entire and lodged it in his left side. The person who committed this wanton act, was described as a young man, with a speck, or blemish, on his left eye’.

Pemulwuy the Bidjigal warrior was the ‘young man with a speck in the left eye’.

‘But in this business of M’Entire I [Phillip] am fully persuaded that they [Aborigines] were unprovoked, and the barbarity of their conduct admits of no extenuation’.

Phillip’s ‘but‘ referenced his ‘own spearing’ by Willmeerin at Manly Beach in September. Phillip’s reluctance to retaliate was seized upon   and created a perfect storm.

‘There were plans to use the [New South Wales] corps in expeditions against Panama, Peru and the Phillipines’. Professor Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, Sydney 1986

With ‘New Holland’ at stake Phillip was intent on saving the Sydney settlement from insurrection and anarchy.  He had only one arrow in his quiver – Bennalong’s intelligence ‘dread and hatred’..

To assert his authority over the enemy within – ‘certain [corps] officers’ – Phillip sacrificed McIntyre to create a diversion. His response to McIntyre’s spearing ‘infuse universal terror’ was that of a proven strategist whose loyalty to ‘do his utmost’ for  King and Country was non-negotiable.  See: John M’Entire – Death of a Sure Thing


13 December, Headquarters:His excellency pitched upon me [Tench]…be ready to march tomorrow morning at daylight to execute the…command…put ten (10) to death…bring in the heads of the slain…bring away two (2)prisoners…I [Phillip] am resolved to execute the prisoners…in the most public and exemplary manner, in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected’. Governor Phillip, General  Orders, to Marine Captain Watkin Tench.

14 December, Botany Bay:  ‘We marched’ at first light. After three (3) days thrashing about in the muddy flats of Cooks River the detachment turned for home with no ‘heads’ – no ‘prisoners’.

17 December, Sydney: ‘Between one and two o’clock in the afternoon…we were glad to find ourselves at Sydney’. Tench. ibid.

‘Glad’ is an understatement. At dawn that morning – 17 December 1790 – Waaksamheyd arrived from Jakarta. The air filled now with the heady smells of cooking and the landing stage already crammed with barrels and bales.

20 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. The orders under which I [Tench] was commanded to act differing in no respect from the last’.

‘Only after a severe struggle with his conscience’ had Marine Lieutenant William Dawes, the settlement’s chief scientific officer, participated in the first raid.

He flatly refused to go on the second raid.  See: Lieutenant William Dawes & The Eternal Flame


Why did Governor Phillip order another raid against the Bidjigal of Botany Bay?

Phillip recognised Waaksamheyd  was a double edged sword. As well as food she brought hope; an opportunity to seize the vessel or a chance  to escape – either or both.

The Sirius cannon now came into play.  They had been removed to lighten the load on her gallant run to Africa in 1788 and were now mounted at what is now Observatory Hill at Dawes Point.

In the hands of the few dependable naval men available to Phillip, Sirius’ cannon took the seizure of Waaksamheyd out of the equation. Escape however was realised. See: A Great Escape – The Botany Bay Escapees


‘Twenty-five regiments of British infantry served in the colonies between 1790 and 1870. 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 1790-1868, Kangaroo Press, Sydney 1986

Governor Phillip’s Orders placed no limit on brutality. ‘Infuse universal terror and my [Phillip] fixed determination to repeat it whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’.

They served as the ‘Rules of Engagement’ in the ‘frontier war’ Dr Stanley has characterised as ‘nasty and decidedly lacking in glory’.

‘You cannot overrate the solicitude of H.M. Government on the subject of the Aborigines of New Holland. It is impossible to contemplate the condition or the prospects of that unfortunate race without the deepest commiseration. Still it is impossible that H.M. government should forget that the original aggression was ours’. Lord John Russell to Sir George Gipps, 21 December 1838, Historical Records of Australia, Series 1. Vol.  XX

‘The cause of further mischief’. A migrating ‘monster’ whale and ‘a man who made enemies’ proved to be the catalyst that changed forever the ‘condition’ and ‘prospects’ of Australia’s First Peoples.


1806  – Sydney Cove, 6 August:    On a cold windy winter’s day Captain William ‘Bounty’ Bligh RN arrived to take up his commission as Britain’s fourth ‘autocratic naval governor’ of New South Wales.

1808Sydney Cove – 26 January:  Insurrection – at the instigation of John Macarthur by then a wealthy -ex-officer, on the 20th anniversary of the First Fleet’s landing at Sydney Cove, Major George  Johnson of the New South Wales Corps seized and imprisoned Governor William Bligh RN. See: Australia Day Rebellion 26 January 1808  



‘What is the most arresting thing in all these recordings is the way in which they perceive Aboriginal Australians on not exactly equal terms, but on terms of people who have a right to the occupancy of this land’. Dr Nicholas Brown, Australian National University and National Museum of Australia, on the inclusion of some ‘First Fleet’ Journals onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List. ABC – AM Programme, 15 October 2009


Yet when Donald Trial master of Neptune with the highest mortality rate appeared in the dock of London’s Old Bailey accused of dereliction of duty and the murder of two (2) of Neptune’s crew Trail walked from court a free man.

London – Horatio Nelson: Trail had served under Nelson. It is believed either, due to the great man’s presence in the court-room or, a favourable character reference from the hero of Trafalgar led to Trail’s acquital . See: Arthur Phillip – Christopher Robin Mark l

cccccccI need not enlarge on the benefit of stationing a large body of troops in New South Wales they might be transferred thither…East Indies… before our enemies in Europe knew anything of the matter’.  Anon. Bladen, Historical Records of New South Wales. Vol 1cccccc

Did Phillip’s ‘no reprisals’ decision supercharge a change in the perception that ‘Aboriginal Australians have a right to the occupancy of this land’?

See: A Tale of Two Fleets

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

London – 1786 August:   A failed attempt to assassinate King George III, fuelled no doubt by memory of the bloody Gordon Riots (1780), increased ‘fear of the unruly mob’ among England’s elite.

Chesapeake – September 1781: The Royal Navy’s humiliating defeat at the hands of the French navy at the Battle of Virginian Capes in September 1781 had been particularly galling.

Yorktown – October 1781: Admiral de Grasses’ victory at Chesapeake denied Lord Charles Cornwallis the heavy artillery essential for victory. It led directly to the Siege of Yorktown and subsequent surrender of the survivors of Cornwallis’ large army to a combined force of experienced French Regulars and Washington’s home-spun militia.


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