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

1787 – Portsmouth, May 13: The ‘First Fleet’ an armed squadron of eleven (11) ships, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN sailed from England to invade the island continent of New Holland, now Australia.

Of its overwhelmingly male complement, 1500 souls, seven hundred and fifty (750) were convicted criminals.

Five hundred and eighty male (580) male convicts rationed;  ‘as troops serving in the West Indies’ were available for combat. See: April Fools Day – Hulks Act 

1788 – Botany Bay. January: After eight (8) months voyaging across 13,000 miles (21,000 km) of ‘imperfectly explored oceans’ via Spanish Tenerife, Portuguese Rio, Dutch Cape Town the convoy reached its destination Botany Bay in mid January 1788 in urgent need of fresh water and food.

Scurvy appeared throughout the fleet during the lengthy last leg, sixty-eight (68) days Cape Town to Botany Bay. By mid January they were in urgent need of fresh food and water.

HMS Sirius and HMS Supply the fleet’s warships  immediately deployed their trawling nets.

‘While the seine was hauling some of them [Aborigines] were present…no sooner were the fish out of the water than they began to lay hold of them as if they had a right to them, or that they were their own’. Dr John White, Chief Medical Officer, Journal of A Voyage to New South Wales, Oxford University Press, 2011


‘The cultural arrogance of the British was evident even before the First Fleet sailed. There was no recognition that the Aborigines had their own notion of right, that from their point of view they were entitled to defend themselves from invasion’. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, A History of Law in Australian, Allen & Unwin, 1995.

1788 – 21 January: Phillip deemed Botany Bay difficult to defend. He set out with a scouting party in one (1) of three (3) ship’s long boats in search of  ‘Port Jackson‘ so marked by Captain James Cook in 1770.

22 January:  Next morning owing hard against a strong wind, (9) nautical miles north of Botany Bay, they came upon towering headlands guarding the wide entrance to a vast harbour.

Port Jackson: Of Captain Cook’s ‘Port Jackson’ Captain Phillip wrote it offered ‘perfect Security…for a thousand Sail of the Line’.

Botany Bay – 23 JanuaryThe boat[s] returned on the evening of the 23rd, with such an account of the harbour and advantages attending the place, that it was determined the evacuation of Botany Bay should commence the next morning’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. L.F. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

24 January:  At dawn the cry; ‘another sail’ rang out. Tench wrote ‘at first I only laughed.’

Two (2) French ships La Boussole and L’Astrolabe under command of Comte Jean-François La Perouse arrived at the entrance to Botany Bay.

They were no laughing matter for Captain Arthur Phillip RN, a veteran of America’s Revolutionary War of Independence 1775-1783 during which; ‘the French success at Chesapeake Capes [September 1781] was the first major French naval victory against Britain sine 1690’. Andrew Jackson Shaughanessy, The Men Who Lost America,  Yale University Press, New Haven, London 2013

Phillip ordered HMS Sirius open her gun-ports and force La Perouse back into ‘rolling’ seas.


‘The interventions of the French navy, in the Channel, off Gibralter, in the West Indies, off Yorktown, had clearly played a considerable part in Britain’s failure to win the war in America’. Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery, 3rd ed. Fontana Press, 1991

1781 – Chesapeake, September: The British Navy’s failure in September of 1781 to defeat the French Admiral De Grasse at Chesapeake Capes had been the prelude to the Siege of Yorktown.

The French victory had starved General, Earl Charles Cornwallis’ large land army, of reinforcements and heavy artillery pieces.

1781 – Yorktown, October: Defeated by General George Washington’s Continental army, a combined force of French Regulars and America’s Patriot militia, the British were forced to surrender.

Historians date Britain’s loss of her ‘New World Empire’ – the so called ‘thirteen (13) middle colonies’ – from the Battle for Yorktown.

‘Although the British were finished in the United States, their campaign in India was still under way. The conflict between Mysore and Britain simply had been put on hold’. The American Revolution A World War, ed. David Allison, Larrie D. Ferreiro, Smithsonian, Washington D.C. 2016 


‘New Holland is a good blind, then, when we want to add to the military strength of India’. Anon. Frank Murcott Bladen, Historical Record of New South Wales. Vols. 1 & 2

However although Phillip had landed and named Port Jackson on the 23rd of January he did not raise raise ‘English Colours’. If, as he now feared, La Perouse sailed north he would raise French ‘Colours’ and claim New Holland for France.

‘Actually when Phillip planted the flag at Sydney Cove in 1788 he was not claiming the land for the British to take it from the Aboriginal people but to make sure the French did not make the claim first’. Professor Larissa Beherandt, Invasion or Settlement, The Honest History Book. ed. David Stephens & Alison Broinowski, NewSouth Press, 2013

Botany Bay –  25 January: Supply was made ready to sail at first light but dense fog prevented Phillip’s departure until after mid-day.

Just as night fell Supply anchored in a ‘snug’ cove Phillip had named for Home Secretary Lord Sydney

Governor Phillip, in his mission accomplished letter to arch-intriguer Earl of Shelburne assured government; ‘here a Thousand sail of the Line may ride in the most perfect Security’.  Governor Phillip to William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, Marquis of Lansdowne, cited in Oxford Book of Australian Letters ed. Brenda Niall and John Thompson, 1998 

Sydney Cove – 26 January: Next morning at dawn Phillip with a party of marines rowed ashore. The first tree was felled, a flagstaff fashioned, the ‘Union Jack’ hoisted and victory over France declared.See: Australia – Britain By A Short Half-Head

By evening on the 26th January 1788 the remaining English vessels were riding alongside Supply.

Meanwhile at Botany Bay La Bousolle and L’ Astrolabe found safe anchorage in Frenchmens Cove. Each year in March their fleeting presence is commemorated at the Sydney suburb of La Perouse.


‘Owing to the multiplicity of pressing business necessary for be performed immediately after landing, it was found impossible to read the public commissions and take possession of the colony in form, until the 7th of February.

1788 – 6 February: Between ‘6am and 6 pm’ the fleet’s two hundred and thirty-one (231) women and approximately fifty (50) free children ‘were rowed ashore’. See: ? Aside from sea-gulls how many white birds where on land at Sydney Cove 26 January 1788 – None

1788 – 7 February 7‘The battalion was drawn up on parade…music playing…convicts assembled…His Majesty’s commission read…Nor have Government been backward in arming Mr. Phillip with a plenitude of power’. Tench. ibid.

1788 – Norfolk Island -14 February: A week later, to stymie the French from occupying this uninhabited island, and to seed a subsidiary white population, should the larger Sydney settlement fail, HMS Supply sailed to the island named by Captain Cook on his second voyage in HMS Resolution.

It proved a wise decision for, despite assurances that supplies and reinforcements would ‘follow shortly’, none came. See: On the Rocks

‘Every morning from daylight until the sun sunk, did we sweep the horizon in the hope of seeing a sail’. Tench. ibid.

The cast-a-ways of the ‘First Fleet’ had been left to starve. See: Abandoned and Left To Starve @ Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790


1790 – 1 January, Sydney: ‘No communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th of May, 1787, the day of our departure from Portsmouth..,we had been entirely cut off’. Tench

1790 – March: With ‘winter at hand’ government stores held; ‘salt meat until 2d July; flour 20th August; rice, or pease in lieu, 1 October. The pork and rice were brought with us from England; the pork had been salted between three and four years, and every grain of rice was a moving body, from the inhabitants lodged with it’. Tench. ibid. 

For Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples the callous abandonment of these English men, women and children of the ‘First Fleet’ had the direst  of consequences – 50% of the Gadigal People died. See: A Plague of Locusts

Sydney Cove: Why, the previous year (1789) smallpox suddenly struck local Eora families killing 50 % of their number. These deaths took pressure off the settlement’s food resources. See: Smallpox – Dead Aborigines Don’t Eat

1790 – March : Cooler weather was approaching. Soon fish would leave the harbour to spawn. Phillip drew on the ‘black deaths’ and ordered the evacuation of 50% of ‘his people’ to Norfolk Island.

Two 2) weeks sailing time away fish were plentiful there year round and vegetables thrived in the island’s fertile soil.

Norfolk Island – 6 March: HMS Sirius and HMS Supply departed Sydney with 50% of the white invaders.

Sirius was to sail onto China and arrange a rescue mission.

1790 – 19 March: Sirius landed her evacuees safely but, caught in a wind vortex,swung on her anchor, struck a submerged reef and sank.

HMS Supply, managed to take off the crew without loss of life. However one hundred and sixty (160) Royal Navy personnel, were now stranded on the island along wit the evacuees.

1790 -Sydney – 6 April: Supply returned to Sydney with terrifying news. No China rescue. Both black and white, must have been seized with panic.

‘A vigorous exertion  to prolong existence,[steal whatever grew, flew, moved] or the chance of relief, being all now left to us’. Tench. ibid.


‘As we have already noticed , no distinction was drawn between the convicts and their guards in respect of their rationing…the standard [ration] adopted was that of the troops serving in the West Indies.

[1788] 7 pounds of bread or 7 pounds of flour, 7 pounds of [salted] beef or 4 pounds of [salted] pork, 3 pints of [dried] pease, 6 ounces of butter, 1 pound of flour or ½f pound of rice, ¾ ounce of cheese, ½ pint of vinegar’. Oldham. ibid.

The stark difference between the 1788 ration and that of 1790 highlights the problem.

1790 – April, Sydney: Weekly ‘to every child of more than eighteen months old and every grown person, two [2] pounds of pork, two pounds  and a half [2½] of flour, two [2] pounds of rice, or a quart of pease, per week, and to every child under eighteen [18] months old, the same quantity of rice and flour, and one [1] pound of pork’. Tench. ibid.

Rebellion born of fear and desperation was electric.

‘The attitude of the faction hostile to the Governor is reflected in the comment of an anonymous officer: “In our present alarming situation the Governor thought proper to summon us all to council, a step he never thought it expedient to take before; and I will  venture to affirm that he would not now have thought it worth his while to submit himself to the opinion of anyone but that dire necessity, and a want of sufficiency in himself pointed out to him the propriety of such a salutary measure”. Bladen, Commentary, Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 2 

Jakarta17 April:  Although the settlement would be completely isolated from the outside world and there could be no more trawling for fish the ‘council’ agreed Supply  should sail to Batavia, modern day Jakarta.

Lieutenant Henry Ball RN was to buy tons of food and charter a Dutch ship to bring them to Sydney as soon as possible.

As Supply disappeared through Sydney Heads Tench invoked Virgil’s Aeneid; ‘thou the support of all (t)his tottering house’.


1790 – 3 June, Sydney:  ‘Flag’s up  ‘A Ship with London on her stern’.

The ship was Lady Juliana a female convict transport  with two hundred and twenty-six (226) prisoners. First of four (4) vessels of a second fleet, Juliana broke the terrible isolation and mind-bending uncertainty.

But she brought little food aside from some sheep that survived HMS Guardian’s tussle with an iceberg on Christmas Day 1789. See: Titanic – HMS Guardian – Australia’s Titanic

Sydney- 1790, June:  At the end of June 1790 Neptune, Scarborough and Suprize the second fleet’s death ships arrived.

Government had contracted these three (3) vessels to Camden, Calvert and King a London firm of ‘Guinea’ slave traders.

Starved and treated with savage brutality of one thousand (1000) mainly male convicts embarked in Plymouth 25% died during the brutal passage.

A further 15% of the survivors died within weeks of landing in Sydney.

The aptly named ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’ presented Governor Arthur Phillip RN with a myriad problems including a contingent of infantry and John Macarthur ‘the man who made enemies’.

‘The great change came in the arrival 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 elite’. 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

The New Wales Corps was raised specifically to repatriate the ‘First Fleet’ marines and consolidate the conquest of New Holland.

With HMS Supply at Jakarta and HMS Sirius at the bottom of the sea Phillip was now completely isolated in the midst of an extremely ‘hostile’ military garrison. See: Missing In Action Supply @ Jakarta – Sirius shipwrecked.

All too soon Lieutenant Macarthur would seize the opportunity to open up a second front forcing the ailing Governor to dig deep in for King and Country in ‘defence of the colony’ .

‘In November 1784 Henry Dundas, probably [Prime Minister] PItt’s closest advisor [had] warned that India is the first quarter to be attacked’. Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip Sailor Mercenary, Governor Spy, Hardie Grant Books, 2013

Phillip was aware ‘certain officers’, led by Macarthur, were circling the tents. This at a time when he had not fully recovered from his spearing by Willeramin an Aboriginal warrior on Manly Beach in September 1790. See: Manly – Location, Location, Location

With HMS Sirius and HMS Supply missing in action Governor Phillip was forced to pull a rabbit out of an empty hat. See:  A Tethered goat – John McIntyre


See: Dark Matter – McMafia’ Macarthur & ‘Fiery Indian Rum’ A Teetotaller’s Drug of Ruin



















‘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 hands’. Sir James Harris, cited Pembroke,


,,, ‘were entitled to defend themselves from invasion’.

……….’Phillip was authorised to see to the defence of the colony…{kercher]



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