Sydney – 1790 January 1: ‘Since we first arrived at this distant country [January 1788] 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, 9 April 1790‘. Jack Egan, Buried Alive, Eyewitness accounts of the making of a nation 1788-92, Allen and Unwin, Sydney 1999

June 1790  Flags Up…a ship with London on her stern’.

On the 3rd of June 1790,  two (2) months after  ‘hope [had] now almost vanished’– the cry ‘Flags Up’ rang out.  Lady Juliana with two hundred and twenty six (226) ‘useless’ women prisoners broke the terrible isolation.

She 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.

One hundred and fifteen (115) officers and other ranks, first contingent of the New South Wales Corps of Infantry guarded the prisoners during the voyage.

London Gazette Extract

‘The great change came 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

Just six (6) months later; ‘military and police raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. These raids had commenced by December 1790’. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, A History of Law in Australia, Allen and Unwin, 1995


 Justinian,, the first supply ship from England,  earlier seen off Sydney Heads had been driven out to sea by a cyclonic east-coast low. The weather forced Benjamin Maitland her master sail north as far as present-day Stockton before rough seas abated sufficiently for a safe return to Sydney.

June 21: Elation  – unloading the first food from England began immediately Justinian reached the landing stage.  Governor Phillip however was in for a rude shock.

Apart from those supplies specifically designated Government stores ; ‘distribution of provisions rested entirely with the masters of [all] the merchantmen’.

Maitland along with the captains of Lady Juliana and Neptune  set up shop and sold their goods from the quay.


Governor Phillip from day one – January 1788 – Governor Phillip struggled to keep starvation at bay. Convicts foraged for figs and greens. They harvested sarsaparilla to brew a  ‘sweet tea’.

Local Aborigines depended on  this plant, rich in vitamin C, to keep their families healthy in winter. Sirius and Supply trawled for fish ‘taking up…hundredweight[s] at a time’. Prisoners combed the shore-line for shellfish.

Then there were official armed ‘excursions’ of marines and armed convicts who shot anything that moved or flew. See: Abandoned and Left to Starve @ Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 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.

Sydney-   December 13: Captain Tench was summoned to ‘Headquarters’; 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.’

The detachment; ‘two [2] captains, two [2] subalterns, and forty [40] privates, with a proper number of non-commissioned officers.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’.


Norfolk Island: When the second fleet arrived in June 1790 there were no English ships in Sydney harbour. In March 1790 HMS Sirius  hit a submerged reef and sank off Norfolk Island. Her crew one hundred and sixty (160) naval personnel were stranded on the island.

Jakarta:  In April 1790 HMS Supply, crew of fifty (50), sailed to Batavia present day Indonesia to buy tons of food medicines and charter a Dutch ship to bring them to Sydney. See: Missing in Action – HMS Sirius & HMS Supply

The absence of two hundred (200) Royal Navy personnel left Governor Phillip RN completely isolated in the midst of general unrest among the convicts and a hostile military.

He needed to take off the heat and chose diversion – summon a common enemy – McEntire.

‘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

Phillip claimed the attack on McIntyre had been ‘unprovoked’. Yet from Bennalong ‘taken by force’ a year earlier he had firm intelligence to the contrary.

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 close relationship. Phillip was fully aware Sydney’s Aboriginal community regarded McIntyre with ‘dread and hatred’. See: Kidnapped – Manly What’s In a Name

‘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

In McIntyre Phillip  had found wriggle room. 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’.

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.

Captain Tench and Lieutenant William Dawes, friends and confreres, were well aware of how local Aborigines viewed McIntyre. But Dawes and Tench had  very different responses to Governor Phillip’s ‘kill’ orders. See: Lieutenant William Dawes ‘The Eternal Flame’ & Universal Terror

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.

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 be under close-arrest.

If found guilty of dereliction of duty Dawes could be shot.; found a traitor, hanged drawn and quartered. Marine Captain David Collins judge-advocate was, although not a lawyer, the settlement’s senior law man.

It is not known if Collins was aware, in 1782 the barbarous, ‘disembowelled while alive’, had been legislated out as punishment for military treason.

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

After three (3) days of intense heat their provisions running low and, on the 17th  with no 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 however returned to a very different settlement from the one they left three (3) days earlier. The heady smell of cooking filled the air and the landing stage crammed with barrels and bales of stuff ‘purchased for the settlement’.

December – 17:  At first light the chartered  Dutch Snow Waaksamheyd  from Jakarta sailed through Sydney Heads.

December 19: Lieutenant Dawes again wrote to Governor Phillip. This time through Marine Captain Campbell who had 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 His Excellency’s  ‘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 January 1788 and the circumstances were eerily similar.  See: To Kill a Mocking Bird – Thomas Barrett

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

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

‘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 


Just as the French in 1788 had brought hope of escape and freedom, Waaksamheyd opened a Pandora’s Box of possibilities. Among them seizure of Waaksamheyd as a pathway to military insurrection, anarchy and the overthrow of Phillip as Governor and Captain-General. See: Machiavellian Macarthur

The first of these possibilities, escape with help from Deter Smidt Waaksamheyd’s captain, was realised.  Convicts stole Phillip’s cutter and escaped from Sydney.  In one of the world’s most extraordinary sea-sagas the eleven (11) escapees rowed to Coupang, West Timor.

The Botany Bay Escapees as they became known, travelled from Coupang to London in stages and by various means.

Timor to Batavia, to Cape Town, to Portsmouth, to Newgate prison, to the dock of the Old Bailey – where celebrity diarist and lawyer James Boswell mounted a spirited defence on their behalf. See: Boswell Goes Into Bat for the Botany Bay Escapees 

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

He then ordered a second raid against the Bidjigal of Botany Bay.


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, due to prolonged semi-starvation, the rank and file of the detachment assembled for both raids and, in particular the second foray, would have been made up almost entirely of fresh Corps infantry-men.

‘Differing in no respect from the last‘:  The orders did not change but Captain Tench’s resolve and tactics did. They 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.

Phillip and Tench knew Pemulwuy ‘with a speck, or blemish, on his left eye’ had exacted retribution for the harm done to his people by McIntyre in a targeted attack yet they feigned…Willeemarin’.

So who was Tench trying to kid?  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’ no doubt led by Macarthur dubbed ‘The Perturbator’ who, true to the form, fermented outrage amongst the rank and file at Phillip’s failure to retaliate his spearing by Willeemarin in September 1790.  See: The Switch 1790 – Context – War With France 1793-1815


‘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.

There can be no ‘confusion’ over the clarity of Governor Phillip’s orders of December 1790. His ‘rules of engagement’ demonstrate clear intent.

They put no limit on brutality and served as a template; ‘whenever a future breach of good conduct on their side shall render it necessary’. 

‘Differing in no respect from the last’. It is from this second raid that 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

‘A smokescreen of legal confusion and argument covered up a continuing pattern of killings at the frontiers of the Australian colonies’. Kercher. ibid. 


‘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

Governor Arthur Phillip RN, was a man prepared to go to any lengths for ‘King and Country’.  From 1788 to 1870 the only professional soldiers in Australia were members of the British Army. See: Proximity – Not Distance Drove Britain’s Invasion of New Holland

Governor Phillip’s orders of December 1790 remained extant during the ensuing eighty (80) years. They served as a template when any perceived ‘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  or its context and nothing of Captain Arthur Phillip RN, apart from that hoary old chestnut. David Hill, Convict Colony, An Unpromising Commander’ Chapter 2 pp. 18-45,  Allen & Unwin, Sydney 2019 


Second Fleet survivors are not anonymous. Short biographies can be found in Michael Flynn’s The Second Fleet  Britain’s Grim Armada. These lay bare many of the circumstances that led Australia to the nation of today –  divided by colour, hue and institutional injustice.


Talk is currently centred on Australia’s geographical 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





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