Posts Tagged ‘First Fleet’


Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

1788 – 18 January, Botany Bay: At 2.15pm on 18 January 1788 HMS Supply, one (1) of a large armed convoy of eleven (11) ships known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’ with a complement of 1500 souls (one-half convicted criminals) anchored in the entrance to Botany Bay, New Holland now Australia.

‘The main battle was about having enough to eat’. The Story of Australia, Don, 1984.

See: Abandoned and Left To Starve Sydney January 1788 to June 1790

When no supply ships came from England it became clear survival would depend on appropriating fish and crustacean, the local Aborigines’ primary source of protein.

During Sydney’s summer months fish was plentiful, HMS Sirius and Supply’s trawling nets were deployed daily, as much as ‘400 hundred weight of fish being taken up…’

Weeks passed to months and still no ships. Winter came fish was scarce, two (2) populations – one indigenous one introduced – competed with increasing hostility for the same resources.

1789 – April: ‘A smallpox epidemic struck the Aboriginal population round 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.

‘It is true, that our surgeons had brought out variolous (smallpox) matter in bottles’. Tench ibid.



Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

‘This book is book is about the history of Britain…To write about this country without saying something about the West Indies and India, about Australia and Argentina is unreal’. Eric Hobsbawn, Industry and Empire, Vol. 3, 1750 to the Present Day, 1982

Just as unreal would be to write about modern Australian history without saying something about Britain.

1786 – 12 October, London: ‘And you [Phillip] are to observe and follow such orders and directions from time to time as you shall receive from us, or any other your superior officer according to the rules and disciplines of war.

We reposing especial trust and confidence in your loyalty, and experience in military affairs, do, by these presents, constitute and appoint you to be said governor of our territory called New South Wales…from the Northern extremity of the coast called Cape York…to the Southern extremity…South Cape’. Instructions: King George III to Captain Arthur Phillip RN, Historical Records of New South Wales.

‘Amity and kindness’ our nation’s founding myth – benign colonisation – Monty Python’s ‘all things bright and beautiful’ is just that – myth.


‘The troops sent to garrison the Australian colonies 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 South Africa’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Sydney, 1986

1787 – May 13, Portsmouth: An armed convoy of eleven (11) ships with a complement of 1500 souls, one half convicted criminals 750 men – 193 women, commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN, known in Britain and Australia as the ‘First Fleet’, sailed from Portsmouth England for Botany Bay New Holland, now Australia.

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

1788 – January, 18/20 Botany Bay: The fleet arrived at Botany Bay within thirty-six (36) hours between 18-20 January 1788.

1788 – January, 24, Botany Bay: Two (2) French ships – La Boussole – Captain La Perouse and L’Astrolabe – Captain Clonard – appeared in the entrance to Botany Bay.

1788 – 25 January, Port Jackson: Captain Phillip aboard HMS Supply quit Botany Bay and sailed nine (9) miles (14km) north to Sydney Cove a safe anchorage deep within Port Jackson. There Phillip raised the Union Jack from a hastily erected flagstaff thereby claiming Britain had beaten France to the punch. See: Australia – Britain By A Short Half-Head  

1788 – 7 February, Sydney: ‘We have come today to take possession of this fifth great continental division of the earth on behalf of the British people. I do not doubt that this country will prove the most valuable acquisition Great Britain ever made’. Governor Arthur Phillip, Historical Records of New South Wales. 

On the 7th of February with all the ‘pomp and circumstance of glorious war’ Governor Arthur Phillip, as per instructions, claimed British sovereignty over ‘our territory called New South Wales…from the Northern extremity of the coast called Cape York…to the Southern extremity…South Cape‘.



Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

‘The tender [HMS Supply] …may be employed in conveying to the new settlement a further number of women from the Friendly islands, New Caledonia etc…from whence any number may be procured without difficulty; and without a sufficient proportion of that sex it is well known that it would be impossible to preserve the settlement from gross irregularities and disorders’. 1786 – Heads of a Plan for Botany Bay

1788-1813: While other European nations included convicts in their settler-mix Britain’s occupation of Australia was unique, in so far as, the first generation 1788-1813 was almost exclusively male.

‘The fact itself of causing the existence of a human being is one of the most responsible actions in the range of human life. To bestow a life which may either be a curse or a blessing, unless the being on whom it is bestowed will have at least the ordinary chances of a desirable existence, is a crime against that being’. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty.



Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

‘Dear Jack…I value Death nothing but it is in leaving you my dear behind and no one to look after you’. Denis Prendergast, Oxford Book of Australian Letters, ed. Brenda Niall and John Thompson, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1998

1788 – 1868: Of 163,000 convicted criminals transported from the British Isles to Australia between 1788 and 1868 only 25,000 were women. Of these 12,500 went directly to Tasmania and none (zero) to West Australia. See: G is for Genocide

‘The tender [Supply] may be employed in conveying to the new settlement a further number of women from the Friendly Islands, New Caledonia etc. from whence any number may be procured without difficulty; and without a sufficient proportion of that sex it is well known that it would be impossible to preserve the settlement from gross irregularities and disorders’. London, Heads of a Plan for Botany Bay, 1786



Saturday, February 17th, 2018

‘After delivering my message to him, he [La Perouse] returned his thanks to Governor Phillip, and made similar offers to those he had received’. Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN, First Fleet Journal, February 1788

Arthur Phillip and Jean-Francois La Perouse never met. On opposing sides in peace and war yet as seafarers they shared a strong bond.

Phillip knew a great deal about La Perouse and it is impossible to believe he did not admire the gallant Frenchman who had a deserved reputation for compassion.



Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

‘On 1 April 1776 [‘whereas the transportation of convicts to H.M. Colonies in America is found to be attended with various inconveniences’] Lord North moved to bring in a Bill to authorise for a limited time punishment, by hard labour, of offenders who were liable to transportation’. Wilfrid Oldham, Britain’s Convicts to the Colonies, Library of Australian History, Sydney, 1993

1775- April, America: Conflict between England and her American colonies – the War of Independence (1775-1783) – brought a sudden halt to convict transportation to America.

‘Convict transportation in its original manifestation was a uniquely American phenomenon.’ Anthony Vaver Bound With An Iron Chain, The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 convicts to Colonial America, Pickpocket Publishing, 2011

England’s convicted criminals, reprieved death and commuted ‘for transportation to America’ were held over in England’s gaols. These prisons, previously short-term holding pens, were quickly overwhelmed.



Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

1788 – 7 February, Port Jackson: ‘We have come today to take possession of this fifth great continental division of the earth on behalf of the British people. I do not doubt that this country will prove the most valuable acquisition Great Britain ever made.

How grand a prospect which lies before this youthful nation’. Governor Arthur Phillip RN, Historical Records of New South Wales.

How ‘grand a prospect’ lay before The First Peoples of this ancient land?

1838 – 21 December, London: ‘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 the government should forget that the original aggression was ours’ Lord John Russell to [Governor] Sir George Gipps, 21 December 1838, Historical Records of Australia, Series 1. Vol. XX



Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

‘How might the desolation and separation from loved ones, the lack of recourse from arbitrary decision and the sheer hopelessness of fate be tallied?…Gaoler and gaoled communicated across a gulf of mutual antagonism: against the formally declared and forcibly imposed authority’. Stuart Macintyre, 2004 A Concise History of Australia, 2004

It is risky to compare the heroes of one society with the cast-offs of another. Especially so when the comparison made is between Britain’s convict-soldiers, transported to Australia at the end of the 18th century and Australian soldiers, prisoners of the Japanese, in the middle of the 20th century.

‘Historians, like scientists have had only one comprehensive source of information on the subject of starvation. In Prisoners of the Japanese Gaven Daws compared the hunger of the men in the Minnesota [Experiment] to the privations suffered by Allied prisoners in the Pacific Theater. Todd Tucker,The Great Starvation Experiment, 2006

1944-45, America: A unique experiment conducted by Dr. Ancel Keys during World War II permits such comparison. The Minnesota Starvation Experiment with thirty-six (36) white American male conscientious objectors, all volunteers aged between twenty-three (23) and thirty-six (36) years, took place between November 1944 and December 1945.


‘The administration gave no consideration to the date of expiry of sentences and several of the First Fleet had been tried as early as 1781 and 1782. As seven years transportation was the most common sentence, many had already served five-sevenths of their time on embarkation and six-sevenths on disembarkation at Sydney Cove’. Dr. John Cobley, Crimes of the First fleet, Angus and Robertson, Sydney

No matter how offensive the comparison may appear, Australia’s heroes and England’s cast-offs have much in common. Each group suffered and died under ‘forcibly imposed authority’. (more…)


Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

‘The Old Privy Council decision in Cooper V Stuart [1889] was based on the factual errors that Australia was peacefully settled and that Aborigines were never in possession of the land’. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, A History of Law in Australia, 1994

1889 – 3 April, London: Lord Watson, Lord Fitzgerald, Lord Hobhouse, Lord MacNaghton, Sir William Grove, in Cooper V Stuart [1889] 14 AC, Privy Council of the United Kingdom, ruled: [13] ‘There was no land law existing in the Colony (New South Wales) at the time of its [peaceful] annexation to the Crown’.

1790 – 13 December: ‘Bring in six [6] of those natives who reside near the head of Botany Bay, or if that should be found impractical, to put that number to  death…cut off and bring in the heads of the slain’. Extract: General Orders, Governor Arthur Phillip to Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney, 13 December 1790, Historical Records of New South Wales.



Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

‘The bloody raw power of decapitation…the eternal tension between drama and control…lies at the heart of the death penalty’. Frances Larson, Severed, Granta Books, 2015

 1790 – 13 December, Sydney Headquarters: Governor Arthur Phillip – General Orders to Marine Captain Watkin Tench: ‘Infuse universal terror…put ten [10] to death…cut off, and bring back the heads of the slain…bring away two [2] prisoners to execute in the most public and exemplary manner, in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected’. Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Year, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples can, with laser accuracy, plot their near annihilation from Governor Arthur Phillip’s of the 13th, and repeated without alteration on the 22nd December 1790.

The natives will be made severe examples of whenever any man is wounded by them….and my fixed determination to repeat it, whenever any future breach of good conduct on their side, shall render it necessary’. Governor Phillip, cited Tench. op.cit.