Ratcliffe 1843 – troopship turned prison ship

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On 29th June 1843, 158 men embarked on two different ships on that same day. The NCOs and Other Ranks were paid to 15th November 1843 reckoning for 130 days at sea on voyages from London to Van Diemen’s Land. The two ships were Ratcliffe and Hydrabad. A further 61 men are named in the Musters & Pay Lists as embarking on a journey to NSW in the same period, but as yet I have been unable to identify the name of the third ship.

Ratcliffe Troopship Voyage 1843 (or is it?)

Ratcliffe was a difficult ship to research during her career as a troopship. Quite apart from difficulties encountered in the spelling of her name and her identification in Lloyds Register, her early journeys as a troopship did not have the benefit of a surgeon’s journal accorded the prison ships.

Newspaper Reports
Although the newspaper reports during the period under review consistently spell the name as Ratcliffe, later sightings choose to record Radcliffe (with a ‘d’). For example, during April/May 1849, the ship brought a detachment of the 99th Regiment from Hobart (via South Australia) to the Swan River Colony; she then took the departing 96th Regiment detachment to India.


Ratcliff Prison Ship Voyage 1848

Lloyds Register of Shipping
The ship Ratcliffe first appears in the July 1843 edition of the Register. She is described as a 289 ton Barque built in Flensburg (Germany); there is no build year recorded. Her owner is recorded as ‘Richardson’ with her registered port as London, destination London, Master is Akenhead. Under the main heading are a number of abbreviations, most of which are not described in the Lloyd’s key to abbreviations, but it seems she underwent some major repairs in 1843 and changed ownership to ‘Barrick’ (certainly a Whitby shipping celebrity), and her port as Whitby. By 1847 this unlikely little Barque of 289 tons disappeared from the register and was replaced by the 739 ton Ship named Ratcliff (without the ‘e’) built in Whitby in 1842; later she changed tonnage to 601. My scant knowledge of shipping terms precludes an explanation of any of these changes.


Troopship Voyage 1843
Ratcliffe left London for New South Wales on 4th July (leaving Plymouth on 21st July) and arrived in Sydney on 5th November. Out of the 51 men who embarked, only Private William Elverd was to settle in Western Australia (in 1847). The Master on the voyage was Captain Garrett.

Arrival (left): Sydney Morning Herald and Departure (right): Sydney Dispatch

Elverd and his comrades spent about a week in Sydney and then sailed on Waterlily for Hobart, arriving on 18th November. Elverd arrived in the Swan River Colony a year later on Champion with 16 ‘other rank and file’. Most of the 51st detachment had already been in the Colony for four years.

Assistant Surgeon George C Meikleham was attached to the 51st Regiment on the Hydrabads voyage (leaving Gravesend the same day as Ratcliffe), He rejoined the regiment in Hobart on 17th November 1843. He served in VDL for a year and then left for the Swan River Colony on Champion to serve in the 51st Detachment in Perth until the Regiment left for India in March 1847.

Prison Ship Voyages
Ratcliffe or Ratcliff undertook two voyages to Van Diemens Land as a prison ship.

In 1845 she left Dublin on 19th May and arrived in Hobart on 30th August with 215 male convicts on board. Then in 1848 she transported 250 male convicts from Spithead on 29th July, arriving in Hobart on 12th November; always assuming the two voyages were by the same ship!


Lloyd’s Registers 1843, 1848.
Tyne Built Ships Website
Free Settler or Felon website (Jen Willets).
Convict Records of Australia, State Library of Queensland.
Musters & Pay Lists WO12-6205-107 to 110, National Archives, Kew.
Sydney Morning Herald 18 Oct 1843.
Sydney Dispatch 18 Nov 1843.


© Diane Oldman 2020