Redcoat Settlers in Western Australia 1826-1869
God and the soldier we both adore
When at the brink of ruin, not before.
The danger over, both are alike requited,
God is forgiven, and the soldier slighted.
[A rhyme popular in the days of Marlborough]
The First Redcoats in Australia
The first British Redcoats to garrison in Australia wore red tunics and white trousers, but these were not the Army but the Marines who arrived with the First Fleet in 1788. The first red-coated soldiers to arrive, in 1790, were in the New South Wales Corps, formed in Britain, very soon after to be known as the Rum Corps. The first line regiment to arrive in Australia was the 73rd Regiment of Foot (1810) and, of course, its soldiers wore redcoats. However, this website is dedicated to Redcoats in Western Australia and the first of these came not from Britain, but from New South Wales.
The French are coming, the French are coming!
Due to the presence of French survey ships in the seas around the Colony of New South Wales, it was feared France may lay claim and settle the deserted West Coast of New Holland, motivating the British Government to consider establishing a settlement there to protect its interests. In a letter dated 11th March 1826 Earl Bathurst instructed Governor Darling that if found suitable, a settlement should be established at King George’s Sound as it was located on the shipping route between Britain and Port Jackson. Despite his reluctance Darling complied with Britain’s wishes and ordered an expedition to be dispatched.
The King George’s Sound Penal Settlement
Major Edmund Lockyer, 57th Regiment of Foot arrived in King George’s Sound on Christmas Day 1826 on the brig Amity. The original military post comprised Captain Joseph Wakefield, one sergeant, two corporals and 16 privates of the 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment; Ensign Edmund Morris Lockyer, 57th Regiment on detachment to 39th (Storekeeper); William and Thomas Wood, Royal Veterans Corps (Convict Overseers). A surgeon, a gardener and 23 convicts made up the balance of that first settlement. Major Lockyer was appointed Commandant. Over the next four years or so, there would be three other Commandants, all of the 39th Regiment: Captain Joseph Wakefield, Lieutenant George Sleeman and Captain Collett Barker. During their term in ‘Frederickstown’ (the name of the settlement declared by Lockyer on 21st January 1827), other Redcoats and civilians came and went; more convicts arrived from NSW and some escaped.
The Swan River Free Settlement
Meanwhile Captain James Stirling had arrived on Parmelia to proclaim the Swan River settlement a free Colony (free of convicts, that is). On 8th June 1829 Sulphur arrived in Fremantle with the 63rd (West Suffolk) Regiment of Foot comprising five officers, two sergeants, three corporals, one drummer and 46 privates. By the end of 1829 more ships, carrying Swan River settlers, further 63rd Regiment troops, and some 39th Regiment relieving troops bound for King George’s Sound, arrived in Fremantle.
Not only did the settlers of Swan River object to the presence of convicts within the Colony, but Captain James Stirling was unhappy about having a military outpost in the West under the command of the Governor of New South Wales. It is likely that even had the KGS settlement been successful, Stirling would have intervened.
The Redcoats are coming, the Redcoats are coming!
A new detachment of Redcoats of the 63rd Regiment had arrived in Frederickstown on Isabella on 19th March 1831. It was this ship that took the 39th Regiment detachment back to Sydney, along with the civilians and convicts who had settled there over the previous four years. The region was now declared to be under the control of the Swan River Colony. One convict was officially allowed to remain at his own request; others had escaped and not been captured; none of the 39th Regiment of soldiers took a discharge from the Army in the new Colony. But at least one of the original complement was left permanently on Frederickstown soil: Private William Banks who had died and was buried on 8th March 1827. On 1st January 1832, Frederickstown was renamed Albany.
Thus we begin the story of the Redcoats whom, after serving in many parts of Western Australia,
discharged from their various regiments and settled in this Colony/State.
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Website Author and Administrator
1st November 2021.