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Lieutenant-General Watkin Tench

Lieutenant-General Watkin Tench was born between 1758 or 1759 in Chester, England. In 1776, when he was 17 years old, Tench entered the Royal Navy as Second Lieutenant. During the American War of Independence, he served under the command of Admiral Samuel Barrington in HMS NONSUCH against the French in the West Indies. He then served as First Lieutenant in HMS MERMAID but was driven ashore on the Maryland coast at Assateague Island in July 1778. Tench was captured as a prisoner of war but was exchanged three months later, after which he served in HMS UNICORN between October 1778 and March 1779. After this service he was promoted to Captain-Lieutenant, however, with the war over he was placed on half-pay in May 1786.

In late 1786, Tench volunteered for service in the convict settlement about to be established in Botany Bay. He sailed with the First Fleet transport ship CHARLOTTE on 13 May 1787. He was served as Captain-Lieutenant under Major Robert Ross, and arrived in Botany Bay on 20 January 1788.

After being transferred to Port Jackson Tench, along with four other officers, was arrested for refusing to alter the sentence of a court martial of which he was president. However, he was released soon after. Aside from this incident, Tench developed a decent rapport with people in the settlement, especially with Lieutenant William Dawes, whom he held a common interest in the Aboriginal tribed. Tench conducted various expeditions to the west and south-west of the settlement, discovering the Nepean River and tracing it to the Hawkesbury. He described his observations in his ‘Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay’ which was published in 1789.

Tench sailed back to England in HMS GORGON in December 1791. War with France meant that he was soon at sea again this time with the rank of Brevet Major. In November 1794 his ship, HMS ALEXANDER, was captured by the French and Tench spent six months as a prisoner of war in Quimper, France. After he was released, Tench served in the Channel Fleet in HMS POLYPHEMUS and HMS PRINCESS ROYAL until the end of the war. After regular promotions in the early 1800s, he retired as Major-General on 1 January 1816. Three years later he returned as Commandant of the Plymouth Division, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant-General on 18 July 1821.

Although he and his wife had no children of their own, they adopted the four orphaned children. Tench died at Devonport on 7 May 1833.

In the end, Tench had published three books, ‘A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay: With an Account of New South Wales, its Productions, Inhabitants, &c. To which is subjoined, a list of the Civil and Military Establishments at Port Jackson', London, 1789 in three editions and translations into French, German and Dutch; 'A complete account of the settlement at Port Jackson, in New South Wales: including an accurate description of the situation of the colony; and of its natural productions, taken on the spot', London, 1793, with German and Swedish translations; and 'Letters written in France: to a friend in London, between the month of November 1794 and the month of May 1795', London, 1796.