Sydney – 1790 – January: ‘Since the 13th of May, 1787, the day of our departure from Portsmouthwe had been entirely cut off…from the intelligence of our friends and connections… no communications whatever having passed with our native country’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. L.F. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1961 


‘Since we first arrived [January 1788] at this distant country all this while we have been as it were buried alive, never having the opportunity to hear from our friends…our hopes are now almost vanished’. Reverend Richard Johnson cited Jack Egan, Buried Alive, Eyewitness accounts of the making of a nation 1788-92, Allen and Unwin, Sydney 1999


‘The other great change came [June 1790] in the arrival with the Second Fleet of the first companies of the New South Wales Corps’. Nigel Rigby, Peter van der Merwse, Glyn Williams. Pacific Explorations, Voyages of Discovery from Captain Cook’s Endeavour to the Beagle, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles, London, 2018


‘Military and police raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. These raids had commenced by [14] December 1790’. Kercher, An Unruly Child. ibid.


‘A smokescreen of legal confusion and argument covered up a continuing pattern of killings at the frontiers of the Australian colonies’. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, History of Law In Australia, Allen & Unwin, 1995


1790 – 3 June:  Flags Up…a ship with London on her stern

Sydney – 1790 June: Six (6) months after ‘hope [had] almost vanished’ for the Robinson Cruses of the ‘First Fleet’ Lady Juliana, a convict transport with two hundred and twenty six (226) ‘useless’ women prisoners, broke the terrible isolation for English men, women and children marooned at Botany Bay since January 1788. See: Abandoned and Left to Starve @ Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790

Dubbed the ‘Brothel Ship’ Lady Juliana was first of four (4) vessels that made up the second fleet Britain’s Grim Armada’ . 

By the end of June 1790 Alexander, Scarborough Suprize the fleet’s death ships arrived with approximately one thousand (1000) men.

Distributed throughout were one hundred and fifteen (115) officers and other ranks, first contingent of the New South Wales Corps of Infantry, guarding the convicts.

London Gazette Extract

‘Military and police raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. These raids had commenced by [14] December 1790’. Kercher, An Unruly Child. ibid.


1790 – 1 June:  Justinian, the first supply ship with food from England was seen wallowing in heaving seas off Sydney Heads. Benjamin Maitland her master was driven out to sea by  a seasonal cyclonic east-coast low. He sailed north as far as present-day Stockton.

1790 – June 21:  Weeks passed  before rough seas abated sufficiently for a safe return to Sydney.

Unloading began immediately Justinian reached the landing stage at Circular Quay. But Governor Phillip  was in for a rude shock.

‘The distribution of provisions’ aside from those supplies designated specifically as Government stores, ‘rested entirely with the masters of [all] the merchantmen’. 

Maitland, as had the captains of Lady Juliana and Neptune, set up shop on the quay and sold their goods to the highest bidder.


Since January 1788 Governor Phillip had struggled to keep starvation at bay.  From day one the king’s ships Sirius and Supply trawled for fish ‘taking up…hundredweight[s] at a time’.

Convicts went bush to forage for figs and greens. Others combed the shore-line for shellfish.

The English harvested sarsaparilla to brew a sweet tea’  leaving little for local Aborigines who depended on the plant, high in Vitamin C, to keep their families healthy in winter.

Then there were official armed ‘excursions’ of marines and armed convicts who shot anything that moved or flew.  One such party set off for Botany bay on the 9th of December 1790.


Botany Bay – 1790 December: ‘On the 9th of the month, a serjeant of marines, with three [3] convicts among whom was  M’Entire, the governor’s gamekeeper, (the person of whom Banelon had, on former occasions, shewn much dread and hatred) went out on a shooting party [to Botany Bay]’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years,  ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1961 

10 December:  ‘About one o’clock, the sergeant was awakened by a rustling noise…….natives…one..launched his spear at M’Entire, and it lodged in his left side. The person…a young man, with a speck, or blemish, on his left eye… Tench. op.cit.

Phillip claimed the attack on McIntyre had been ‘unprovoked’. Yet he had firm intelligence to the contrary given him by Bennalong ‘taken by force’ a year earlier. See: Kidnapped – Manly What’s In a Name


Manly Beach:  ‘It was a cloudy day  [25 November 1789] with some  rain the temperature was in the high seventies and the wind mainly from the south.

Bradley wrote; ‘Governor Phillip, judging it necessary that a native should be taken by force… I was ordered on this service, having the master, two petty officers a a boat’s crew with me in one of the governor’s boats’. Lieutenant Bradley RN, cited Egan, Buried Alive

During Bennalong’s six (6) months imprisonment within British lines ‘His Excellency’ and Bennalong developed a working relationship. Phillip was fully aware Sydney’s Aboriginal community regarded McIntyre with ‘dread and hatred’.

‘From the aversion uniformly shown by all the natives to this unhappy man [McEntire] he had long been suspected of having, in his excursions, shot and injured them’. Professor G. A. Wood, Lieutenant William Dawes and Captain Watkin Tench, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal, Vol. 10, Part 1, 1924

According to legislation, the Hulks Act of 1776, a prisoner reprieved death on condition of transportation ‘from the realm[ their] service is for the state’.

‘The convicts being servants of the Crown till the time for which they are sentenced be expired, their [‘service’] labour is to be for the public.’ See: The Hulks Act – April Fools Day- 1776

So in December 1790 when Phillip needed a common enemy to take off the heat, McIntyre’s vulnerability – ‘service for the state’ – provided wriggle room.


13 December: Captain Tench was summoned to ‘Headquarters…Two [2] captains, two [2] subalterns, and forty [40] privates, with a proper number of non-commissioned officers. march at day-light to-morrow morning…to put to death ten[10] we were to cut off, and bring in the heads of the slain, for which purpose, hatchets and bags would be provided [and] if practicable, bring away two [2] natives as prisoners to execute.

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.’

Tench’s evident dismay at his orders served to have Phillip modify their scope. He agreed to Tench’s proposal; ‘bring in six [6]…out of this, part might be set aside for retaliation; and the rest at a proper time, liberated, after having seen the fate of their comrades.

This scheme, his excellency was pleased instantly to adopt, adding if six [6] cannot be taken let that number [6] be shot’.  Tench. ibid.

While friends and confreres, Captain Tench and fellow marine Lieutenant William Dawes, were well aware of how local Aborigines viewed McIntyre, they had very  different responses to Governor Phillip’s ‘kill’ orders.

Tench had been perfectly willing, after discussion with the Governor, to lead the expedition, and heartily enjoyed the humour of its adventures.

But Dawes, whose tour of duty it was to go out with that party, refused that duty by letter …and persisted in his refusal, even after the Governor had “taken great pains to point out the consequences of his being put under an arrest’. G.A. Wood. ibid.

See: Lieutenant William Dawes, The Shock of the New South Wales Corps & The Eternal Flame

Tench no doubt counselled Dawes his refusal to obey would have dire consequences.  If Marine Major Robert Ross his Commanding Officer was not now marooned on Norfolk Island Dawes would now be under close-arrest. See:Missing in Action – H MS Sirius & HMS Supply

Could Dawes have been shot or hanged, drawn and quartered. Marine Captain David Collins judge-advocate, although not a lawyer, was the settlement’s senior law man.

Collins may been unaware, in 1782 the barbarous ‘disembowelled while alive’, had been legislated out as punishment for military treason.

Lieutenant Dawes, the fleet’s principal scientific officer, persisted in his refusal. The garrison Adjutant Lieutenant Lowe instructed Dawes to put his objections in writing, which he did.

Nevertheless a troubled Dawes approached Reverend Richard Johnson the First Fleet Chaplain who counselled him on his  military obligation.

Dawes ‘informed Captain Campbell that the Rev. Mr. Johnson thought he might obey the order, and that he was ready to go out with the party, which he did’. Tench. ibid.


Botany Bay- December 14: At dawn with ‘three [3] days provisions, ropes to bind our prisoners, and hatchets and bags, to cut off and contain the heads of the slain’ Tench’s detachment of fifty (50) men, moved out for Botany Bay.

After three (3) days of intense heat, with provisions running low, on the 17th  of December, without heads or prisoners; ‘we bent our steps homeward; and after wading breast-high through two arms of the sea, as broad as the Thames at Westminster, were glad to find ourselves at Sydney, between one and two o’clock in the afternoon’. Tench. ibid.


The exhausted troops returned to a very different settlement from the one they had left three (3) days earlier. The heady smell of cooking filled the air and the landing stage was crammed with barrels and bales of stuff ‘purchased for the settlement’.

December – 17: At first light  Waaksamheyd chartered by Lieutenant Henry Ball at Jakarta sailed through Sydney Heads.

December 19: Lieutenant Dawes again wrote to Governor Phillip. This time through Marine Captain Campbell who replaced Major Ross when starvation forced Phillip evacuate 50% of ‘his people’ to Norfolk Island. See: Smallpox – A Lethal Weapon Boston 1775 Major Robert Ross and David Collins – Sydney 1789 

‘[Dawes] informed the Governor that he was sorry he had been persuaded to comply with the order [13th] and very clearly showed that he would not obey a similar order in future’. Tench. ibid

The necessity for Dawes to add the disclaimer ‘he would not obey a similar order in the future’  was no doubt prompted by Governor Phillip’s stated intention ‘my fixed determination to repeat it, whenever future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’.


Lieutenant Dawes had been down this road before in 1788.   See: To Kill a Mocking Bird – Thomas Barrett

‘When leaving, Botany Bay [25 January 1788] Phillip noticed two French ships in the offing’‘Hugh Edward Egerton, A Short History of British Colonial Policy, Methuen and co. Ltd London 8th ed. 1998

On the 24th of January 1788 four (4) days –  24 January – after the English fleet dropped anchor in Botany Bay, Comte Jean- Francois La Perouse at the helm of La Boussole,  L’Astrolabe astern, attempted to enter Botany Bay.

Sirius’ guns refused the French entry.

‘Phillip was alarmed…he 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 1786-1792, Queensland University Press 1986 


In 1788 the arrival of two (2) French ships in 1788 had brought the ‘First Fleeter’s hope of escape and freedom. Phillip responded with alarm. In an extraordinary move on the 14th of February he sent HMS Supply to Norfolk Island with Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN and a group of approximately twenty-four to occupy the island.

In December 1790 Waaksamheyd opened a Pandora’s Box of similar possibilities – escape and freedom. Indeed escape was realised with help from Deter Smidt Waaksamheyd’s captain.

In one of the world’s most extraordinary sea-sagas eleven (11) convict escapees stole Governor Phillip’s cutter and rowed to Coupang, West Timor.

The Botany Bay Escapees as they became known, travelled in stages and by various means Sydney to- Timor to Batavia, to Cape Town, to Portsmouth, to Newgate prison – to the dock of the Old Bailey where their transportation story began.

It was from the Old Bailey that James Boswell, celebrity diarist and lawyer, mounted a spirited defence on their behalf. See: Boswell Goes Into Bat for the Botany Bay Escapees 


Meanwhile at Sydney 1790, under threat from the salvaged  Sirius cannon, mounted now at Dawes Point, Phillip deftly averted the seizure of Waaksamheyd.

In 1788 and 1790 Governor Phillip’s response to the arrival of a foreign ship was eerily similar. He created a diversion .See: Terror in Three Acts. Act 1. From Here to Eternity

However in 1790 he rightly saw the seizure of Waaksamheyd , as a potential pathway to military insurrection, anarchy and the overthrow of Captain Phillip as Governor and Captain-General. See: Machiavellian Macarthur

He responded by ordering a second raid against the Bidjigal of Botany Bay. He gave the guys with the guns something to do.

1790 – December 22: ‘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.  A little before sunset on the evening of the 22d, we marched.

Lieutenant Abbot and ensign Prentice of the New South Wales Corps were the two [2] officers under my command, and with three [3] sergeants, three [3] corporals, and thirty [30] privates completed the detachments‘.

It must be emphasised both raids, due to prolonged semi-starvation, that he rank and file of the marines of 1788 dressed in ragged uniforms and without shoes, could hardly stand let alone march to Botany Bay.

The two (2) detachments would have been made up almost entirely of men from the recently arrived (June 1790) New South Wales Cops.


‘Differing in no respect from the last‘:  The orders did not change but Captain Tench’s resolve and tactics did. Both differed markedly from the enjoyable ‘adventure’ Professor Wood claimed for the first raid.

‘It was now determined, being full moon that our operations should be carried on in the night, both for the sake of secrecy, and for avoiding the extreme heat of the day.

I resolved to try once more to surprise the village beforementioned.  And in order to deceive the natives, and prevent them from again frustrating our design by promulgating it, we feigned that our preparations were directed against Broken Bay, and that the man [Willeemarin] who had wounded the governor [Manly – September 1790] was the object of the punishment’.

The ‘natives’ knew, as Tench knew, Pemulwuy ‘with a speck, or blemish, on his left eye’ had exacted retribution for the harm done to his people.

So who was Tench trying to kid?

No doubt exacerbated by Waaksamheyd’s arrival it is highly likely the Willeemarin deception was designed to dampen general unrest and growing dissension within the ranks of the newly arrived New South Wales Corps

When in June 1790 the infantry arrived they came without Major Francis Grose their commanding officer. The vacuum was filled by Lieutenant John Macarthur a junior officer who can best be described as Australia’s Machiavelli. See: John Macarthur – The Great Disrupter


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

‘Mischief’ evidence points to Macarthur dubbed ‘The Perturbator’ fermenting outrage amongst the rank and file at Phillip’s failure to retaliate his wounding by Willeemarin in September 1790.  See: The Switch 1790 – Context – War With France 1793-1815


‘New Holland is a blind, then, when we want to add to the military strength of India…I need not enlarge on the benefit of stationary a large body of troops in New South Wales…Should any disturbance happen in the East Indies’. Anon, Historical Records of New South Wales

There can be no ‘confusion’ over the clarity or the reasoning that drove Governor Phillip’s orders of December 1790. See: Proximity – Not Distance Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland

Governor Arthur Phillip RN was a man prepared to go to any lengths for ‘King and Country’.

His 1790  ‘rules of engagement’ putting no limit on brutality demonstrate clear intent.

‘Regardless of the legal status of these subjects…Neither the theory of settlement nor those of conquest and cession justified the imperial and colonial attitudes to Aborigines’. Kercher. op.cit.

‘Differing in no respect from the last’ Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples can, with laser accuracy, plot ‘a continuing pattern of killings’ that led to their near destruction. See: Arthur’s Algorithm

From 1788 to 1870 the only professional soldiers in Australia were members of the British Army.

‘Twenty five regiments of British infantry served in the colonies between 1790 and 17870…ensuring the literal survival of white settlement… who 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…war nasty and decidedly lacking in glory’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, Sydney, 1986.

Governor Phillip’s orders of December 1790 remained extant during the ensuing eighty (80) years. They served as a template when any perceived ‘future breach of good conduct’ was taken by the Aborigines against the invaders of their country.


Aside from Captain Cook, covered in 3rd grade primary , a vox pop of school-leavers reveal they know very little of white Australia’s early modern history and, apart from the hoary old chestnut -the ‘Unpromising Commander’ [of ] David Hill’s  Convict Colony, Chapter 2 pp. 18-45,  Allen & Unwin, Sydney 2019,  almost nothing of Captain Arthur Phillip RN.      


Physically and morally degraded survivors of the Second Fleet are not anonymous. Short biographies can be found in Michael Flynn’s The Second Fleet  Britain’s Grim Armada.

These stories lay bare their wretched background circumstances that led Australia to the nation of today –  divided by prejudice, colour, hue and brutal institutional injustice.


2020:  Talk is currently centred on Australia’s political and strategic position in the Indo-Pacific. The global context that drove Britain’s invasion of New Holland has come full circle. See: Britain + America + France + India + China + Peru + New Holland + New South Wales = European Australia



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply