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On this day, 11 October 1738, Arthur Phillip - commander...

On this day, 11 October 1738, Arthur Phillip - commander of the First Fleet -was born.

After a humble upbringing and schooling, Phillip became a seafarer, working on a whaling ship. In 1755, he joined the Royal Navy, serving in the Seven Years’ War, and became promoted the rank of lieutenant in recognition of his service. In 1786, British politicians advocated the establishment of a colony in New South Wales, as such a colony would be of assistance to the British Navy. Phillip was appointed commodore of the fleet which was to transport convicts and soldiers who were to be the new settlers to Botany Bay. He was named Captain and Governor-designate of New South Wales.

Despite his recommendation that those with farming or building experiences be recruited, the First Fleet set sail with petty thieves and men in the Navy.

The 11 ships of the First Fleet set sail on 1787, carrying as much as possible to prepare for the new colony. The leading ship, HMS Supply reached Botany Bay setting up camp on the Kurnell Peninsula, in 1788. Phillip soon decided that this site, chosen on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks, who had accompanied James Cook in 1770, was not suitable, since it had poor soil, no secure anchorage and no reliable water source. After some exploration Phillip decided to go on to Port Jackson, and so the marines and convicts landed at Sydney Cove, which Phillip named after Lord Sydney.

Phillip did his best to keep order in the chaotic new colony, with convicts, marines, and the Indigenous people of the area, all adapting to changes. Even after a misunderstanding in which he was speared by the Eora people, he argued that no retaliation should be taken.

Eventually, his poor health and frustrations with running the colony prompted him to resign and return to England in 1792. His life was hardly over, returning to the sea after only four years, where he had much more to do, as in his younger years, and rose through the ranks to Admiral. He died in 1814.

Source: Cambridge Histories Online and Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

We hold many resources on Arthur Phillip, the First Fleet, the Eora people, and general Australian history in our collections.

Check out our Manuscripts, Oral History and Pictures catalogue for more pictures like the one above or papers relating to him, or learn some more about Phillip and the First Fleet in our Catalogue. We also have a number of eResources about this part of Australian history you can use from home, just by being a NSW resident with a State Library card.

Image: Unknown artist, Portrait of Captain Arthur Phillip, date unknown. Dixson Galleries, State Library of New South Wales. Digital order no. a5869001.