‘ENGLAND EXPECTS’ – DECEMBER 1790 – BRING IN THE HEADS OF THE SLAIN – Governor Phillip’s barbarous path to secure Spain’s silver and gold for Britain

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Few personal documents relating to [Arthur] Phillip survive, his low personal profile and the secret work in which he was sometimes involved help make him one of the least-known founders of any modern state in his case – Australia’. Pacific Explorations, Voyages of Discovery from Captain Cook’s Endeavour to the Beagle. Nigel Rigby, Peter Van Der Merwe & Glyn Williams, Pacific Explorations,  Maritime Museum Greenwich, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles,  London, 2018 .


Sydney Cove – 1790, 13 December:Governor Captain Arthur Phillip, General Orders to Marine Captain Watkin Tench: ‘Since our arrival in this country [ 20 January 1788] no less than seventeen [17] of our people have either been killed or wounded by the natives [of] the north arm of Botany Bay.

His [excellency’s] motive for having so long delayed to use violent means…that in every former occasion of hostility they [the Bidjigal] had acted either from  having received injury or misapprehension.

14 December: ‘At four o’clock on the morning of the 14th we [detachment of 50] marched…to Botany Bay to capture six  [6] [Bidjigal] with ropes to bind our prisoners ..if six cannot be taken…let that number [6] be shot… hatchets and bags, to cut off and contain the heads of the slain’.  Governor Arthur Phillip, cited Marine Captain Watkin Tench,Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. L.F Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1961


‘The combination of French and Spanish naval power had proven fatal for Britain in the American War [1775-83] as Lord Sandwich admitted frankly’. Lord Sandwich cited, R.J. King, The Secret History of the Convict Colony,  Allen and Unwin, Sydney 1990


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


1788 – 25 January: ‘When leaving Botany Bay [for Sydney Cove] Phillip noticed two [2] French ships in the offing‘. Hugh Edward Egerton, A Short History of British Colonial Policy, Methuen, London 1928 


‘There would seem to be’ “some justification for saying that England won Australia by six [6] days”. Edward Jenks, cited Egerton. op.cit.


‘Actually, when Phillip planted the flag at Sydney Cove in 1788 he was not claiming the land for the British to take it away from the Aboriginal people but to make sure the French did not make the claim first’.  The Honest History Book, Larissa Behrendt, eds. David Stephens & Alison Brionowski, NewSouth Publishing, 2017


‘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. 

If a colony from Britain was established in a large tract of [that] country…The check which New South Wales would be in time of war…make it a very important object when we view it in the chart of the world with a political eye…and if we were at war with Holland or Spain, we might very powerfully annoy either State from our new settlement’.  James Matra, Plan for Botany Bay, August 23rd 1783, Frank Murcott Bladen,Historical Records of New South Wales  1892. Nabu Public Domain Reprint


‘Without the direct intervention of Britain’s adversaries, France and Spain, on America’s side, the colonies could not hope to prevail against the superior British army and navy to win their independence outright’.Larrie D. Ferreiro, Brothers at Arms, American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved it. First Vintage Books, 2017


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 [1784], cited Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy, Hardie Grant Books, 2013


Few personal documents relating to [Arthur]Phillip survive mak[ing] him one of the least-known founders of any modern state in his case – Australia’. Pacific Explorations. op.cit.

England’s King and his military men who ,five (5) years earlier had lost Britain’s American colonies were also the men who invaded Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples in 1788. See: Abandoned and Left To Starve – January 1788 – June 1790

1790 – Sydney Cove, New Years Day: ‘ Every morning from daylight until the sun sunk, did we sweep the horizon, in the hope of seeing a sail. No communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th of May, 1787, the day of our departure from Portsmouth.

In which long period no supplies…except what had been procured at the Cape of Good Hope by the Sirius [1789] had reached us. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, L.F. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, Sydney 1961

1790 – 3 June:  Another six (6) months passed before; ‘flag’s Up – Lady Juliana with London on her stern…Letters Letters was the cry…for the first time we heard of… the French Revolution of 1789, with all the attendant circumstances of that wonderful and unexpected event, succeeded to amaze us’. Tench. ibid.

An ‘unexpected event’ revolution, with the French fighting each other on the streets of Paris, India had been taken out of the immediate equation. Governor Phillip now swung full focus onto Spain’s South American ‘treasure’ colonies.


Earlier in 1782  Phillip had, at the behest of Lord Sydney the Home Secretary, drawn up plans  ‘to invade the coast of Spanish America’. 

His ship HMS Europa  hparticipated in a raid on Monte Video. Due in part to a fierce storm that overtook the squadron in the Bay of Biscay the ‘expedition’ was called off in mid-ocean. See: Hush Christopher Robin ‘Whisper Who Dares’  Monte Video ,Mark 1

In 1787, from Brazil en-route to Botany Bay, Phillip brought Evan Nepean his ‘handler’ at the Home Office up to date on Monte Video.

Rio de Janeiro, 2 September 1787: ‘Dear Nepean, This is my last letter, as I hope to sail [for Cape Town] tomorrow. 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.

The following account I have from a person who was there all the war [American Independence] and I am certain that the account is exact’. Governor Phillip to Evan Nepean, Bladen, Historical Records. ibid. 

Phillip went on to supply Nepean with an ‘exact account’ of Spain’s troop strength. At Sydney Phillip’s plans for the Monte Video raid were under lock and key in his desk in Government House.


‘As the western empire disintegrated in the Americas, the British were consolidating an eastern empire in India [including] a successful blockade of the Malabar Coast.

In 1782 Admiral Edward Hughes fought a series of five [5] naval battles against the French which successfully preserved the British possessions in India’. Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy The Men who Lost America, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2017

1790- Sydney, June:  The arrival of ‘ Britain’s Grim Armada’  -the Second Fleet – with news of he French Revolution changed the fate of a free Peoples, Australia’s First Nations.

With India on the back-burner,‘we might with equal facility invade the coast of Spanish America, and intercept the Manilla ships, [galleons] laden with the treasure of the west’. Matra, Plan for Botany Bay. ibid.

Africa – Cape Town: On the 2nd of October 1788 Captain John Hunter RN, departed Sydney in HMS Sirius on a perilous lone voyage via the  Southern Oceans to the Cape of Good Hope.

There he was to buy supplies from the Dutch in an attempt to save the starving Sydney settlement from starvation.

However with Spain’s ‘treasure’ colonies in mind Hunter chose to sail the sea-route  taken by Captain James Cook RN on his second voyage.

Sydney: Against great odds  HMS Sirius  returned safely to Sydney on the 8th of May 1789 having spent ‘219 days at sea’.

In circumnavigating the globe Hunter had taken Sirius  with a scurry affected crew though Drake Passage, around Cape Horn and onto the Cape Town where he purchased medicines and ‘127,000 pounds of flour’.

The Sirius voyage demonstrated what James Matra, the American Loyalist who, in 1770 had sailed with Cook in HMS Endeavour on Cook’s first voyage , predicted in his plan.

Matra’s  plan for Botany  Bay had the enthusiastic  support of Sir Joseph Bank’s, soon to be appointed President of the prestigious Royal Society and also a veteran of  the Endeavour  voyage.

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


1790 –  March, Sydney: On the 6th of March 1790, in a now refitted HMS Sirius  three [3] months before the arrival of the second fleet, Captain Hunter and crew rested as best could be managed, departed Sydney for England.

Hunter’s mission? Advise the Admiralty that, with the benefit of Captain Cook’s charts, a Royal Naval squadron sailing south from Port Jackson, was perfectly positioned to attack Spain’s Pacific Coast ‘treasure’ colonies [and] intercept the Manilla ships, [Spanish galleons] laden with the treasure of the west’ on their way to Spain from Peru and Chile. See: Peru – Silver and Gold

Map with possible route to Peru and Chile

Norfolk Island: But  disaster awaited. On the 19th of March 1790 HMS Sirius struck a submerged reef off Norfolk Island and sank.

The crew were saved but now were stranded on the island along with 50% of the Sydney settlement who Phillip had sent there to save them from starving.


‘The other great change came in the arrival of the Second Fleet of the first companies of the New South Wales Corps…to relieve [Major Robert] Ross’s Marines’.  Pacific Explorations. ibid.

Neptune, Suprize, Scarborough, reached Sydney by the end of June 1790. While government had contracted William Richards to fit-out and supply the Lady Juliana with women prisoners  they called for tenders and chose Camden, Calvert and King  a firm of ‘notorious’ London slave traders for the the 2nd fleets ‘death ships’.

‘Humanity shudders to think that of nine hundred male Convicts embark’d in this Fleet, three hundred and seventy [370] are already Dead, & four hundred & fifty [450] are sick, and so emaciated and helpless, that very few, or any them, can be saved by care or medicine; so that as soon as it pleases God to remove them, the Better it will be for this Colony, which is not in a situation to bear any Burthen; as I imagine the Medicine Chest to be nearly exhausted and Provisions are a scarce Article’. Captain William Hill, Bladen, Historical Records. ibid.

Of 1000 mainly male prisoners embarked at Plymouth one-quarter (25%) perished during the voyage from starvation and ill-treatment.

One hundred and fifteen (115) officers and men, first contingent of infantry the New South Corps functioned as guards to prevent mutiny, were quartered throughout the fleet.

At Sydney many ‘helpless’ convicts had to be carried off the ships on the backs of others. A futher15% of those who landed alive died within weeks of landing. See A Tale of Two Fleets


Captain  William Hill, who sailed in Suprize, wrote of its horrors to friends in London; ‘the gentleman to whom he writes [Wathen] was a friend of William Wilberforce to whom the narrative first went’. Bladen,  Historical Records. ibid.

Hill also exposed the cause of bitter divisions that ignited almost immediately between the old-lags of 1788 and these Johnny-come-latelys.

‘In America the [serving] officers…had land grants in proportion to their rank; but those of the marines who are here now, and have borne every hardship, have no such thing, neither is there an intention of giving each their portion’. Wm. Hill, Bladen, Historical Records.

It did not take Governor Arthur Phillip, ‘Sailor Mercenary Governor Spy’,  who filled all four (4) roles with shrewd penetration, long to identify ‘certain officers’  as a dangerous enemy within.  See: Arthur Phillip and John Macarthur ‘A Man Who Made Enemies’

‘John Macarthur, a central figure in the military ‘mafia’ which quickly established itself as Australia’s first governing and property elite’. Pacific Explorations. ibid.

Within six (6) months of Lieutenant Macarthur’s arrival, to save the settlement from simmering ‘insurrection’, an isolated Governor Phillip, with Spain and its ‘treasure galleons’  in mind and mandated on pain of death ‘to do his utmost’ for King and Country, created a diversion.

Phillip …instruct[ed] ….raiding parties to bring back the severed heads of the local warriors’. Stan Grant, Talking To My country. ibid.See: John McIntyre –  Death of a Sure Thing 

1790 – December, Sydney Headquarters:  On the 13th of December Governor Phillip ordered Marine Captain Watkin Tench; ‘Bring in ten [10] of those natives who reside near the head of Botany Bay; or if that should be found impracticable, to put that number to death…bring in the heads of the slain…for which hatchets and bags…provided… two [2] prisoners  I [Phillip] am resolved to execute the prisoners in the most exemplary way’. Tench. ibid.

Phillip went on to explain his reasons for; ‘such severity…since our arrival in this country no less than seventeen [17] of our people had either been killed or wounded by the Bid-ee-gal [Botany Bay] natives’.

Then he addressed his previous inaction; ‘in every former instance of hostility, they [Bidjigal] had acted from having received injury’.

Tench registered disquiet. Invited to ‘propose any alteration’ he offered a detailed, less punitive alternative; ‘instead of destroying ten [10] persons the capture of six [6]…a part set aside for retaliation’.

This his excellency was pleased instantly to a adopt’.  Tench took care to cover himself from personal accountability; [Phillip] add[ed] if six [6] cannot be taken, let this number be shot”.  See: Marine Lieutenant William Dawes and the Eternal Flame

What lay behind Arthur Phillip’s orders.? ‘England Demands’

The fate of Admiral [John] Byng, shot in [March] 1757 for failing to attack Spanish forces at Minorca with sufficient vigour was untypically harsh, but Voltaire was right in thinking it encouraged the others’. Stephen Pope, Hornblower’s Navy, Life At Sea In The Age of Nelson, Orion, U.K.

There is no shortage of evidence Captain Arthur Phillip RN and Admiral Horotia Nelson his ‘reckless’ confrere and close friend, were numbered among ‘the others’  who pursued the enemy with ‘utmost…vigour’.





From 1588, Tudor Elizabeth, the Spanish Armada, Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, it was said the British Navy ‘remained little more than a peripheral fly in Spain’s imperial ointment’. Pope. ibid.

All that changed with the opening sea-battle of the European theatre of the Seven Years’ War 1756-1763 – the Battle for Minorca.

Admiral John Byng’s execution a ‘shameful end for an admiral with an unblemished career’ both transformed and divided the Royal Navy.

Byng was executed by firing squad on the quarter-deck of HMS Monarch   for failing to do his utmost’ in the face of a far superior French naval force besieging  the British garrison at Minorca.

Following Byng’s death: ‘The Royal Navy  was the only maritime force that actively sought combat…British naval units went to sea under instructions to fight the enemy wherever and whenever possible on pain of court-martial’. Pope. ibid.


‘No pardon for Admiral [John] Byng. The MoD don’t want to encourage any others’. Stephen Bates, theguardian.com

‘Last night [15 March 2007] a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said Byng could not receive the sort of pardon that ministers granted last year [2006] to men shot at dawn during the first world war [1914-18] basically because there is no one alive who remembers him’. Guardian, UK News, Stephen Bates and Richard Norton-Taylor, 16 March 2007

Bring in the heads of the slain’ .Governor Phillip like  Admiral John Byng RN is best forgotten. It is time to interrogate what motivated Governor Arthur Phillip ‘the least-known founder of any modern state’  to issue orders that set no limit on brutality. See: Arthur’s Algorithm


‘In most histories of the American Revolution …the paucity of studies is particularly remarkable’. Introduction, Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, The Men who Lost America, Andrew Jackson  Yale University Press, New Haven & London 2019

Likewise in Australia the ‘paucity of studies’ into Britain’s invasion of New Holland is ‘particularly remarkable’. 

Australian historians ignore the enormity of Britain’s loss of her ’empire in the west‘ – Connecticut, North and South Carolina, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia.

Australia scores a single sentence in Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy’s work. He positions modern Australia where it belongs in ‘the era of the American War of Independence’.

‘The final voyage of Captain James Cook to Australia and New Zealand took place during the era of the American War of Independence and the convicts formally transported to America became the first settlers of Australia’. O’Shaughnessy.ibid.

White Australia makes much of convict transportation. Convicts to the exclusion of any other  perspective – its convicts all the way from shame to fame. See: From Stain to Fame

Yet no interest is shown in the genocidal gender imbalance that came close to destroying the future biological integrity of Australia’s First Nations.

‘The administration gave no consideration to the date of expiry of sentences, and several of the First Fleet [young males] had been tried as early as 1781 and 1782’. John Cobley,Crimes of the First Fleet, Vol. 1. Angus and Robertson, 1984

Between 1788 and 1868 Britain transported 163,000 criminals to Australia. Only 25,000 were women. Of these 12,500 went directly to Tasmania. West Australia received zero women and 10,000 men. See: G is for Genocide- Colonial Breeders 

‘England expects that every man will do his duty’. The result an introduced caste-system based on colour where none existed previously.

The overwhelmingly British male ‘settler’ population was deliberately designed for breeding purposes. First Nations’ women were ‘comfort women’ for both criminal and conqueror.

James Lavell, born in 1788, was the first named Anglo- Aboriginal child. His mother’s name is unknown. Henry his convict father returned to England. See: A Vicious Circle – The Hangman’s Noose 


‘No personal papers of Phillip’s were thought to exist until the discovery in 1998 of three [3] letters written to his [second] wife [Isabella]’.

The letters are held to be;unmistakeably in his handwriting’  .Forensic analysis of their contents can assist to retrieve Governor Phillip from the dust-bin of history.

Bristol, England:  Then at Bridgwater the of statute Edward Coulston, a known 18th century slave trader,as part of the Black Lives Matter Movement, was knocked from its plinth and thrown into the nearby river.

The action unexpectedly opened up a crack through which light poured in and revealed a Governor Phillip torn between right ‘amity and kindness’ and wrong- ‘if six cannot be taken let than number be shot’.



‘if six cannot be taken let than number be shot’.

Cracks let in light.  Light reveals to Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal Australians alike, why news of the French Revolution drove Phillip to order


‘if six cannot be taken let than number be shot’.


‘For if America should grow into a separate empire it must of course cause….a revolution in the political system of the world’. Speech  [Prime Minister] Lord North, November, 1778. Cited  O’Shaughnessy, Part 1 – The View from London, British Leadership, The American Revolution and the Fate of Empire.

At Waterloo in 1815 Britain emerged triumphant from twenty-five (25) years of war to rule over a vast racist ‘separate empire’ upon which it was said the ‘sun never set.’

2021: In Truth- Telling  historian Henry Reynolds, poses many questions among them; ‘why continue to commemorate a day that takes the nation back to where it all began?

‘Convicts…wrenched from homeland, community and family’ . We ask what if it had been done to us?

Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples were caught in the eye of a raging storm;‘a revolution in the political system of the world’.

Phillip would instruct ….raiding parties to bring back the severed heads of the local warriors’. Stan Grant, Talking To My Country. 


‘Why is the profound injustice visited upon the First Nations not treated with the appropriate gravity’? 

‘We fail to ask what if it was done to us’. Paul Keating, Redfern Speech., 10 December 1992 

‘Twenty- [25] regiments of British infantry served in the colonies between 1790 and 1870… [they] participated in the great struggle at the heart of the European conquest of this continent.

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, Kangaroo Press, Sydney 1964


‘if six cannot be taken let than number be shot’. Then in 2019 – Black Lives Matter – and light flooded in.



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