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The Officers of the New South Wales Marine Corps commanded the first European military unit to be stationed on the Australian continent. Commissioned to guard convicts aboard the First Fleet to Botany Bay in 1788, they subsequently enforced discipline at penal colonies in Port Jackson and Norfolk Island. The New South Wales Marines were disbanded in 1791 and the majority of officers returned to equivalent roles in the British Marines.

Background[edit | edit source]

The New South Wales Marine Corps was an ad hoc volunteer unit created by the Royal Navy to guard the convicts aboard the First Fleet to Australia, and to preserve "subordination and regularity" in the penal colony in New South Wales.[1] The Corps was established on 31 August 1786 with assent from King George III for a force of Marines and accompanying officers to enforce "... subordination and obedience in the settlement [at Botany Bay], as well as for defence of that settlement against the incursions of the natives."[2] At full strength the New South Wales Marine Corps numbered 213 men.[3]

Volunteers for the NSW Marine Corps were required to have had a satisfactory prior record of service in the British Marines, to be at least 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) tall and under forty years of age. Both officers and men were entitled to an honourable discharge after three years of colonial service, as an alternative to the British Marine tradition of enlistment for life.[4] Rates of pay were in accordance with equivalent ranks in the British Marines including routine provision of a subsistence allowance worth two-thirds of daily pay. British Marines received the allowance when in the field (i.e., not serving on board a vessel); the New South Wales Marines received the allowance for the duration of their three-year enlistment, relieving the Admiralty or the government of the colony of the responsibility of providing messing facilities.[4]

Officers wore a red long-tailed doublet, white trousers, black shoes with gaiters, and a black headdress. They were authorised to carry swords and sidearms in addition to the Brown Bess musket available to all personnel.[3]

Marine Corps Officers[edit | edit source]

Name Born NSW Marine Corps Service NSW Rank NSW Duties Subsequent service Death
Ross, RobertRobert Ross
1740
October 1786November 1792
brevet Major
  • Commander, New South Wales Marines
  • Lieutenant Governor, Colony of New South Wales
  • Brevet rank not confirmed, and relegated to captain-lieutenant, Chatham Division
  • Marine Recruiting Officer, St Albans and Ipswich, 17921794
1794 of natural causes, Brompton, England
Campbell, JamesJames Campbell
c.1740
May 1787December 1791
Captain
  • Company Commander
  • Promoted to Major of Marines, 1794
1795
Shea, JohnJohn Shea
c.1755
December 1786February 1789
Captain
  • Company Commander
  • None
1789 of tuberculosis, Port Jackson, NSW
Meredith, JamesJames Meredith
1753
May 1787December 1791
Captain-lieutenant
  • Company Commander
  • Promoted to Major-general of Marines, 1811
  • Promoted to Lieutenant-general, 1821
  • Promoted to General, 1838
1841 of natural causes, Monmouth England
Tench, WatkinWatkin Tench
1758
December 1786December 1791
Captain-lieutenant
  • Company Commander
  • Promoted to Major of Marines, 1792
  • French prisoner-of-war, 18011802* Promoted Major-general 1816
  • Commandant, Plymouth Division, 18191827
1833 of natural causes, Devonport England
Johnston, GeorgeGeorge Johnston
1764
November 1786June 1791
First Lieutenant
  • Promoted to captain-lieutenant, 1789
  • Aide-de-camp to Governor Arthur Phillip, 1788—1791
1823 of natural causes, Lake Illawarra, NSW
Creswell, JohnJohn Creswell
unknown
May 1787December 1791
Second Lieutenant
  • Promoted to captain, 1792
  • Injured in action, Battle of the Nile, 1798
  • Promoted to Major, 1802
1804
Davey, ThomasThomas Davey
unknown
November 1786December 1791
First Lieutenant
  • Promoted to captain, 1795
  • Promoted to brevet Major, 1808
  • Appointed Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania, 1812
1823 of natural causes, London England
Furzer, JamesJames Furzer
unknown
December 1786December 1791
First Lieutenant
  • Quartermaster
  • Not promoted on return to England
  • Served aboard HMS Carnatic, 1794—1795
1799, West Indies
Maxwell, JamesJames Maxwell
unknown
May 1787July 1788
First Lieutenant
  • Incapacitated by dysentery and an unspecified eye disease on arrival in NSW
  • Invalided to England, 1788
  • None
1792 of disease, Plymouth England
Kellow, RobertRobert Kellow
unknown
May 1787December 1791
First Lieutenant
  • Transferred to Norfolk Island, March 1790
  • Suspended on charges of improper conduct and endangering a fellow officer, July 1790
  • Reinstated after apology for misconduct, October 1791
  • Not promoted on return to England
  • Last listed as a Marines officer in 1815
unknown
Poulden, JohnJohn Poulden
unknown
December 1786December 1791
First Lieutenant
  • Promoted to captain, 1794
  • Last listed as a Marines officer in 1814
unknown
Johnson, JohnJohn Johnson
unknown
November 1786December 1791
First Lieutenant
  • Promoted several times, ultimately to Lieutenant-Colonel
unknown
Faddy, WilliamWilliam Faddy
unknown
December 1786December 1791
Second Lieutenant
* Promoted to captain-lieutenant, 1797
1798, killed in action aboard HMS Vanguard, Egypt
Long, JohnJohn Long
unknown
December 1786December 1791
Second Lieutenant
  • Adjutant, NSW Marine Corps 1786—1791
  • promoted to brevet Major, 1808
  • Transferred to British Army and promoted to lieutenant colonel, 1814
  • Last listed as an Army officer in 1825
unknown
Timins, ThomasThomas Timins
unknown
December 1786June 1792
Second Lieutenant
  • Promoted to captain-lieutenant, 1795
  • Promoted to captain, 1796
  • Served aboard HMS Dreadnought, Battle of Trafalgar, 1805
  • Promoted to major, 1810
  • Promoted to lieutenant colonel, 1823
1828 of natural causes, Southsea England
Shairp, JamesJames Shairp
unknown
December 1786December 1791
First Lieutenant
  • Named second-in-command to Captain Campbell at Rose Hill, 1788
  • Promoted to captain, 1795
1796 of disease, Chatham England
Clark, RalphRalph Clark
1755
December 1786December 1791
Second Lieutenant
  • Superintendent of Works, Norfolk Island, 1790—1791
1794, killed in action, Haiti
Dawes, WilliamWilliam Dawes
1762
1787December 1791
Second Lieutenant
  • Artillery Officer, NSW Marine Corps, 1787—1791
1836, Antigua
Ross, AlexanderAlexander Ross
unknown
July 1788December 1791
Second Lieutenant (local rank)
  • Son of Major Robert Ross, appointed Second Lieutenant on departure of James Maxwell, 1788
  • Second Lieutenant's rank formalised, 1792
  • Appointed Adjutant, Plymouth Marines, 1799
1801, Brentford England

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Correspondence from Lord Sydney to the Lords Commissioners of Treasury, 18 August 1786. Cited in Britton 1978, p. 14.
  2. Correspondence, The Lords of the Admiralty to His Majesty the King, 21 November 1786. Cited in Bladen (ed.) 1978, pp. 372–373
  3. 3.0 3.1 First Fleet Fellowship – Marines,[1] – accessed 1 July 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Moore 1989, p.8

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Bladen, F. M., ed (1978). Historical records of New South Wales. Vol. 2. Grose and Paterson, 1793–1795.. Lansdown Slattery & Co.. ISBN 0868330035. 
  • Britton, Alex R., ed (1978). Historical records of New South Wales. Vol. 1, part 2. Phillip, 1783–1792.. Lansdown Slattery & Co.. p. 56. OCLC 219911274. 
  • Moore, John (1989). The First Fleet Marines. University of Queensland Press. ISBN 0702220655. 

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