Convict Transportation AUSTRALIA
The First Fleet set sail from Portsmouth on 13th May 1787 bound for New South Wales. The nine chartered vessels were accompanied by two naval vessels, the Sirius and the Supply, under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, RN.
Approximately 775 convicts were on board, 191 of them women. There were also 14 convicts' children and approximately 273 free settlers, mostly marines and their families.
Considering the tremendous undertaking of this voyage, the death rate was surprisingly low, approximately 2%.
The First Fleet
Eight convicts from Bedfordshire sailed with the second fleet, two of them women.
Elizabeth Hawkins from Woburn and Susan Carr were embarked on board the worst death ship, the Neptune, around 11th November 1789.
Both had been convicted at Bedford Assizes for perjury. Elizabeth in 1786 and Susan in 1787.
Elizabeth died 14 months after arriving in New South Wales.
The Second Fleet
It was the second fleet which had the highest death toll.
This fleet was tendered to private contractors and the convicts were kept in terrible conditions.
One ship, the Guardian, carrying supplies for the colony was lost in a disaster at Table Bay after a collision with an iceberg. Of the 25 convicts on board, specially selected for their farming skills, 4 were lost in the disaster, and 1 died at the Cape.
On board the other 3 ships, 267 convicts died, 11 of them women. Of these, 158 were on board the Neptune where the convicts were deliberately starved and kept in irons.
Thomas Bonnick from Leighton Buzzard was one of the men specially selected for their farming skills on board the Guardian. He had been sentenced to death at 6th March 1788 Bedford Assizes but this was commuted to transportation for life.
Thomas survived the Guardian tragedy and was tranferred to one of the other vessels, probably the Neptune as he died within days of landing at Sydney Cove.
Ann Cooper, aged 17, from Maulden
was sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing wearing apparel at the Epiphany Sessions at Bedford in 1841.
The Chairman of the Sessions later appealed to the Secretary of State stating that the object of the bench had been only to remove her from the bad example of her family, not to be sent out of the country. The appeal was rejected.
Ann Cook, aged 20, from Dunstable had been convicted for stealing frocks. She was sentenced to 10 years transportation. A petition was lodged by the Rector of Dunstable and signed by 29 men of standing in the parish for the sentence to be commuted to imprisonment in Millbank Penitentiary. It was made on the grounds that she did not steal the goods only did not prevent them being brought into her part of the house. The appeal was rejected. She had a baby of 1 year old.
On board the Garland Grove which sailed to Van Diemen's Land 14th June 1841 were two young girls from Bedfordshire.
You didn't have to steal much to get transported
Charles Maddocks from Dunstable found himself on board a convict ship bound for Van Diemen's Land after being convicted of stealing a book.
Being found armed at night was enough to get you a death sentence. John Merryweather, aged 26, from Broom was transported to Van Diemen's Land in 1836 after his sentence of death was commuted to transportation for life for being found armed in a wood by night.
From the sailing of the First Fleet to New South Wales in 1787 until the last sailing to Western Australia in 1867 over 162,000 convicts were transported. It is estimated that, of these, 26,000 were women, and between 15,000 and 20,000 were children (below 16 years).
Approximately 50,000 had been previously sent to the Americas prior to 1776.