Watkin Tench

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Watkin Tench
Watkin tench.jpg
Portrait of Watkin Tench
Born(1758-10-06)6 October 1758
Chester, Cheshire, England
Died7 May 1833(1833-05-07) (aged 74)
Devonport, England
Allegiance Great Britain (1776–1800)
United Kingdom (1800–1827)
Service/branch Royal Marines
Years of service1776–1815
Rank Lieutenant General
Battles/wars American Revolutionary War
French Revolutionary Wars
Napoleonic Wars
Other workWriter

Lieutenant General Watkin Tench (6 October 1758 – 7 May 1833) was a British marine officer who is best known for publishing two books describing his experiences in the First Fleet, which established the first settlement in Australia in 1788. His two accounts, Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay and Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson provide an account of the arrival and first four years of the colony. [1]

Lieutenant general, formerly more commonly lieutenant-general, is a senior rank in the British Army and the Royal Marines. It is the equivalent of a multinational three-star rank; some British lieutenant generals sometimes wear three-star insignia, in addition to their standard insignia, when on multinational operations.

First Fleet 11 ships that left Great Britain to found the penal colony in Australia

The First Fleet was the 11 ships that departed from Portsmouth, England, on 13 May 1787 to found the penal colony that became the first European settlement in Australia. The Fleet consisted of two Royal Navy vessels, three store ships and six convict transports, carrying between 1,000 and 1,500 convicts, marines, seamen, civil officers and free people, and a large quantity of stores. From England, the Fleet sailed southwest to Rio de Janeiro, then east to Cape Town and via the Great Southern Ocean to Botany Bay, arriving over the period of 18 to 20 January 1788, taking 250 to 252 days from departure to final arrival.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.


Early life and career

Tench was born on 6 October 1758 at Chester in the county of Cheshire, England, a son of Fisher Tench, a dancing master who ran a boarding school in the town and Margaritta Tarleton of the Liverpool Tarletons. [2] Watkin was an uncle to the politician Banastre Tarleton. His father appears to have named Watkin after a wealthy local landowner, Watkin Williams Wynn, whose family probably assisted in starting Tench's military career.

Chester city in Cheshire, England

Chester is a walled city in Cheshire, England, on the River Dee, close to the border with Wales. With a population of 118,200 in 2011, it is the most populous settlement of Cheshire West and Chester, which had a population of 332,200 in 2014. Chester was granted city status in 1541.

Cheshire County of England

Cheshire is a county in North West England, bordering Merseyside and Greater Manchester to the north, Derbyshire to the east, Staffordshire and Shropshire to the south and Flintshire, Wales and Wrexham county borough to the west. Cheshire's county town is the City of Chester (118,200); the largest town is Warrington (209,700). Other major towns include Crewe (71,722), Ellesmere Port (55,715), Macclesfield (52,044), Northwich (75,000), Runcorn (61,789), Widnes (61,464) and Winsford (32,610)

Banastre Tarleton British Army general

Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB was a British soldier and politician. Tarleton was eventually ranked as a general years after his service in the colonies during the American Revolutionary War, and afterwards did not lead troops into battle.

Tench joined His Majesty's Marine Forces, Plymouth division, as a second lieutenant on 25 January 1776, aged 17. He was promoted to first lieutenant on 25 January 1778 at the age of 19 years and 3 months. He fought against the American forces in their War of Independence, during which he was captured when HMS Mermaid was driven ashore on the Maryland coast at Assateague Island near the then extant Sinepuxent Inlet on the morning of 8 July 1778 by the French under Comte d'Estaing. Tench was in command of the Marine unit on board HMS Mermaid. He and the other officers were transported to Philadelphia, imprisoned and exchanged in October 1778.

Second lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces, comparable to NATO OF-1a rank.

American Revolutionary War War between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies, which won independence as the United States of America

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was an 18th-century war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence as the United States of America.

HMS <i>Mermaid</i> (1761)

HMS Mermaid was a Mermaid-class sixth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy. She was first commissioned in April 1761 under Captain George Watson.

Little more is known of him until he sailed as part of the First Fleet in 1787, although he records in Chapter 13 of the Account that he had spent time in the West Indies, [3] and his service record shows that he was promoted to captain lieutenant in September 1782 and went on half-pay in May 1786.

West Indies Island region in the Caribbean

The West Indies is a region of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean that includes the island countries and surrounding waters of three major archipelagos: the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles and the Lucayan Archipelago.

Captain lieutenant or captain-lieutenant is a military rank, used in a number of navies worldwide and formerly in the British Army. It is generally equivalent to the Commonwealth or US naval rank of lieutenant, and has the NATO rank code of OF-2, though this can vary.

Aboard the First Fleet

The retirement did not last long, as in October of that year the Admiralty called for volunteers for a three-year tour with the newly-forming New South Wales Marine Corps for service at Botany Bay. Tench's offer to re-enter the corps was accepted in December 1786, and he sailed on the transport ship Charlotte in May 1787.

Admiralty British Government ministry responsible for the Royal Navy until 1964

The Admiralty, originally known as the Office of the Admiralty and Marine Affairs, was the government department responsible for the command of the Royal Navy first in the Kingdom of England, later in the Kingdom of Great Britain, and from 1801 to 1964, the United Kingdom and former British Empire. Originally exercised by a single person, the Lord High Admiral (1385–1628), the Admiralty was, from the early 18th century onwards, almost invariably put "in commission" and exercised by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, who sat on the Board of Admiralty.

New South Wales Marine Corps

The New South Wales Marine Corps (1786–1791) was an ad hoc volunteer unit that the British Royal Navy created to guard the convicts aboard the First Fleet to Australia, and to preserve "subordination and regularity" in the penal colony in New South Wales.

Botany Bay bay in Sydney

Botany Bay, an open oceanic embayment, is located in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 13 km (8 mi) south of the Sydney central business district. Its source is the confluence of the Georges River at Taren Point and the Cooks River at Kyeemagh, which flows 10 km (6 mi) to the east before meeting its mouth at the Tasman Sea, midpoint between La Perouse and Kurnell.

Before sailing with the fleet, Tench arranged with the London publishing firm of Debrett's to write a book describing his experience of the journey and the first few months of the colony. His manuscript was taken back in July 1788 by John Shortland and published as the Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay by Debrett's in 1789. It ran to three editions and was quickly translated into French, German, Dutch and Swedish. [4]

Debretts British publisher

Debrett's is a professional coaching company, publisher and authority on etiquette and behaviour, founded in 1769 with the publication of the first edition of The New Peerage. The title is named after John Debrett.

John Shortland Royal Navy officer born 1769

John Shortland (1769–1810) was a naval officer, the eldest son of John Shortland. Shortland joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman and went to Quebec in a transport commanded by his father. From 1783 to 1787 he served in the West Indies. In 1787 he was master's mate in the Sirius when the First Fleet sailed for Australia. Shortland spent nearly five years in Australia including time on Norfolk Island where Sirius was wrecked in 1790. In 1792 he returned to England.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

In October 1788, Robert Ross made a list of marines who wanted to stay in Australia either as soldiers or settlers. Tench headed the list as "a soldier for one tour more of three years." Among his achievements in the fledgling colony of New South Wales Tench was the first European to encounter the Nepean River. Tench's accounts were influenced by the liberalism of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the idea of the noble savage. He ridicules Rousseau's notion of the noble savage and details the brutal treatment of Aboriginal women. His writings include much information about the Aborigines of Sydney, the Gadigal and Cammeraygal (whom he referred to as "Indians"). He was friendly with Bennelong, Barangaroo and several others. He stayed in Sydney until December 1791 when he sailed home on HMS Gorgon, arriving in Plymouth in July 1792.

Back in England

In October 1792, Tench married Anna Maria Sargent, who was the daughter of Robert Sargent, a Devonport surgeon. [5] The following year he published his Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, which was as well-received as his first book. He joined HMS Alexander as a brevet major, serving under Admiral Richard Rodney Bligh in the Channel fleet's blockade of Brest.

Napoleonic Wars

In November 1794, Bligh surrendered HMS Alexander after the Action of 6 November 1794, a hard-fought battle with three French ships. The crew were initially imprisoned on ships in Brest harbour, but later Tench and Bligh were moved to Quimper and imprisoned on parole (Bligh kept Tench close by because Tench was fluent in French). During this time, Tench wrote (but probably did not send) the letters that formed the basis of his third book, Letters written in France to a Friend in London. He was exchanged in May 1795 after being held prisoner for six months.

After returning to service, Tench served four years on HMS Polyphemus escorting convoy ships in the Atlantic and the Channel. He rejoined the Channel blockade fleet in 1801 on HMS Princess Royal and remained there until his career afloat ended in 1802. After this, he appears to have taken shore posts at Chatham, Plymouth and Woolwich until he retired with the rank of major general at the end of 1815.

Later years and death

Tench was reactivated as Commandant in the Plymouth division in October 1819 at the age of 61. Although he and his wife had no children of their own, in 1821 they took responsibility for three nephews and a niece when the four children were orphaned; at the time, Watkin Tench was 63 and his wife was 56. Watkin Tench resided in Chapel Street, Penzance (in the house constructed by Richard Oxnam's grandfather). He lived there from 1818 until 1828.

Tench retired with the rank of lieutenant general in July 1827 and died in Devonport (near Plymouth), Devon, England on 7 May 1833, aged 74. [5]

Tench Reserve in Penrith, New South Wales is named after him, as is Watkin Tench Parade in Pemulwuy, New South Wales.

See also

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  1. Flannery, T. (ed.), 1788 Watkin Tench, The Text Publishing Co., 1996, ISBN   1-875847-27-8
  2. Parish Register of Saint Mary on the Hill, Chester.
  3. https://www.gutenberg.org/etext/3534 A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson by Watkin Tench.
  4. A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany-Bay by Watkin Tench
  5. 1 2 Fitzhardinge, L. F. "Tench, Watkin (1758–1833)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 15 October 2011.