AN EVACUATION – SAVING LIEUTENANT WILLIAM COLLINS

‘It is probable the ships’ company will be on salt provisions for some months after they arrive on the coast of New South Wales, [I] will be glad of two hundred pounds [91kg]of portable soup in addition to fifty pounds [23kg] already supply’d. Arthur Phillip to Admiralty, 22nd March 1787, Historical Records of New South Wales.

‘Portable soup’ a dried concoction made from; ‘all the offals of oxen killed in London for the use of  the navy’ was capable of re-constitution.

1787 – 13 May, Portsmouth: Led by flagship HMS Sirius a large armed squadron of eleven (11) ships commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN with a complement of 1500 souls, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, sailed from England to Botany Bay on the south eastern coast of ‘New South Wales’ in mid May 1787.

1788 – 18/20 January, Botany Bay: After eight (8) months voyaging via Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town, within thirty-six (36) hours between 18-20 January, the entire English Fleet were riding at anchor inside Botany Bay.

1788 – 24 January, Botany Bay: La Boussole and L’Astrolabe, two (2) French ships commanded by Comte Jean- Francois La Perouse appeared in the entrance to the bay. The French battling high winds and rolling seas, sailed south to shelter from the storm and seek safety from Sirius’s guns. See: Eyes Wide Shut – A Military Campaign and Arthur Phillip

‘Phillip ordered a party to be sent [there] Point Sutherland to hoist 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

1788 – 25 January, Port Jackson: Captain Phillip aboard HMS Supply quit Botany Bay ordering the fleet follow when bad weather abated.

By 7 pm that night Supply anchored in Sydney Cove situated deep within Port Jackson. Guarded by towering headlands ‘here’ Phillip reported to London ‘a thousand Ship of Sail of the Line may ride in the most perfect Security’. Historical Records of New South Wales

1788 – 26 January, Sydney Cove: At first light –  26 January 1788 – Captain Phillip, some marines and convicts landed from Supply and ‘English Colours’ the Union Jack were hoisted from a hastily erected flagpole to signify that, in the race for New Holland England had beaten France her arch-enemy and shattered the long-standing ambition of the Bourbons to dominate the Indian and Southern Oceans. See: Britain by a Short Half-Head Captain Arthur Phillip & Comte Jean-Francoise La Perouse

‘When Phillip planted the flag at Sydney Cove in 1788 he was not claiming the land away from the aboriginal people but to make sure the French did not to make the claim first’. Professor Larissa Behrendt,The Honest History Book, ed. David Stephens & Alison Broinowski, New South Publishing, 2017

By night-fall – 26 January – the remaining English ships were anchored alongside HMS Supply.

1788 – 7 February, Sydney Cove: Nigh on two (2) weeks later – 7 February –  after back-breaking toil forced from the convicts, Governor Phillip with all the ‘pomp and circumstance of glorious war’ but without consent of its Peoples or entering into treaty with them as required by international law where territory was inhabited, claimed British sovereignty over New Holland in the name of His Majesty King George III of England.

The initial allocation of a meagre twenty-three (23) kg of portable soup to feed two hundred (200) Royal Naval, personnel of HMS Sirius and HMS Supply, is strong indication supplies were expected to arrive within a matter of months

1788 – February Sydney: It became clear as Fishburn, Golden Grove and Borrowdale, the fleet’s store-ships were unloaded, food reserves were perilously low, sufficient only to feed the European population adequately for a few months. Protein was especially scarce and a reduction in that ‘specie’ was made almost immediately.

Despite government assurances more Englishmen and supplies would ‘follow shortly’ the English men, women and children of  the ‘First Fleet’ waited not months but years – until June 1790 – before a morsel of food or a word was heard from England. See: On the Rocks

Abandoned; not until mid September 1789 was an attempt made to resupply the Robinson Cruscos marooned 13,000 miles (21.000 km) from their homeland and that attempt failed when off the coast of Africa the supply ship HMS Guardian struck an iceberg. See: Australia’s Titanic – HMS Guardian – The Missing Link

‘In determining the daily ration no distinction was drawn between the marines and the [male] convicts…the standard adopted was that of the troops serving in the West Indies’. Wilfrid Oldham, Britain’s Convicts to the Colonies, Library of Australian History, 1993

Steeped in deception the ‘First Fleet’ sold as a transport fleet was nothing of the sort, all 1300 males were available for combat. See: All the King’s Men – Arthur Phillip & The Criminals of the First Fleet 

1788 – May, Sydney: Transports Charlotte, Lady Penrhyn and Scarborough chartered from the British East India Company had, by the end of May 1788, departed Sydney for England via China.  

1788 – June, Sydney: Between January 1788 and the middle of that first year the English survived largely by supplementing their fast dwindling salted meats and dried tack with fish and crustacean, local Aborigines’ primary summer protein resource.

1788 – WINTER

1788 – July: In winter fish leave to spawn Governor Phillip wrote: ‘They [Aborigines] are now much distressed for food, few fish are caught & I am told that many of them appear on the Beach when the Boats go to haul the Seins [trawling nets], very weak & anxious to get the small fish, of which they made no account in the Summer.

Nor can we give them much assistance as very few fish are now caught, & we have many sick’. Governor Arthur Phillip to Joseph Banks, 2 July 1788 cited, Oxford Book of Australian Letters, ed. Brenda Niall and John Thompson, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1998

1788 – 14 July, Sydney: In mid July the store-ship Borrowdale with transports Alexander, Prince of Wales and Friendship, left Sydney for England.

Friendship carried a passenger Marine Lieutenant William Collins brother of Captain David Collins judge-advocate and Governor Phillip’s chief advisor. David, ten (10) years older than William, appears to have delighted in his younger brother who, it is said; ‘unfurled the first British Flag at Sidney Cove’.

Records show illness was given for his evacuation but as William Collins died in 1842 aged seventy-seven (77) years this explanation invites speculation.

His exit from famine ravaged Sydney could have been stage-managed by his influential brother anxious to circumvent William’s involvement, even by association, in a dishonourable act.

‘These people [Aborigines] last summer would neither eat shark nor stingray, but the scarcity of fish in the winter, I believe, obliges them to eat anything that affords the smallest nourishment’. Dispatch, Arthur Phillip to Lord Sydney, 28 September 1788. Historical Records of New South Wales.

1788 – 2 October, Africa: At Sydney the supply situation was so desperate, on Governor Phillip’s orders, HMS Sirius, with a crew weak from semi-starvation and suffering scurvy, departed Sydney for Cape Town to buy food and medicines from the Dutch. 

Captain John Hunter RN, an excellent navigator with an extensive knowledge of wind patterns and sea-currents plotted a course that took Sirius on a perilous route around Cape Horn directly into the path of; ‘treacherous westerlies…through floating islands of ice…reached the Cape [Good Hope] in three months instead of five’. The Sirius Letters of Newton Fowell 1786-1790, ed. Nancy Irvine, Fairfax Library, 1988

1789 – January, Sydney: In Sirius’s absence depression and desperation deepened. Two (2) hungry populations, one using traditional methods and HMS Supply with large trawling nets, competed without equity but increasing hostility for fish that, for millennia, had adequately sustained the Aboriginal peoples.

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

Captain David Collins and Major Robert Ross, commander of the Sydney marine garrison knew, from experience gained during the Siege of Boston (1775-76) while serving in the American War of Independence (1775-1783), there was a military solution to the supply-demand impasse at Sydney. See: A Lethal Weapon: Smallpox Boston 1775 – Sydney 1789

Major Robert Ross doubted Governor Phillip would implement that solution, perhaps David Collins feared Ross the disgruntled marine commander might. Either way when the killing began in April 1789 Lieutenant William Collins was on his way home to England. See: Asleep In The Deep – The Merchant Men of the First Fleet

1789 – April: ‘A smallpox epidemic struck the Aboriginal population around Sydney. Inexplicably, the epidemic did not affect the European population but Phillip estimated that it resulted in the death of 50% of the local Aboriginal community’. People of Australia, Macquarie Series, ed. Bryce Fraser, 1998 

1789 – 8 May: After an absence of six (6) months, HMS Sirius returned from Africa with 127,000 pounds weight of flour for the ships’ crew and what could be spared for the settlement.

By then one-half of Sydney Aborigines of all ages were dead, dying, some struggling to survive the smallpox virus yet; ‘not one case of the disorder occurred among the white people either afloat or on shore although there were several in the settlement’. Samuel Bennett, Australian Discovery and Colonisation, Vol. 1 to 1800, facsimile edition, 1981

Brazil: ‘But’ Bennett says ‘a North American Indian took the disease and died’.  Joseph Jefferies from New York’s Staten Island joined the crew of HMS Supply when, during August – September 1787, the fleet re-provisioned at Rio de Janeiro.

1789 – May, Sydney: The young adventurer lived ‘among the white people afloat and on shore’ diagnosed with smallpox he died in Sydney on or about 10th of May 1789 .See: Joseph Jefferies from New York to Rio and Old Sydney Town: One – Then There Was None.

EPILOGUE

1788 – January, England:It is true that our surgeons had brought variolous [smallpox] matter in bottles’. See: The Australian Mouse That Roared (pending) 

2018 – 4 March, Salisbury, UK:  Sergei Skripal, a former Soviet double-agent, and Yulia his daughter were targeted by a biological weapon – Novichok. Although hunting down the perpetrator may move the world to a precarious situation no stone will be left unturned to nail down its origin and reveal nationality of the attacker .See: Smallpox – Dead Aborigines Don’t Eat

2018 – Australia: Quadrant, January-February: ‘Illness was the principal cause in the [decline of the Aboriginal] population. The extent to which it came unintentionally from the white presence or from many other factors, including smallpox from visiting Indonesian fisherman, is debatable and historians tend to avoid the subject as too complicated’. Robert Murray, To The Land, Boys, We Live In, Quadrant, No. 543, Vol. LXII, Number 1-2, January-February, 2018 See: A very Convenient Theory – Smallpox 1789 – It was the Macassans Stupid  

 ‘too complicated’ !!!!!

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