The Manchester Regiment Forum

The Early Years => 63rd Regiment 1758 - 1881 => Topic started by: wombat on June 30, 2012, 06:54:49 AM

Post by: wombat on June 30, 2012, 06:54:49 AM
Tasmania is one of those mysterious islands that most people know little about, despite the fact that it holds a significant history. I think most people are aware of Australia’s convict history, but not that Tasmania was one of Australia’s biggest penal colonies.  Not all convicts were what we would call criminals, in fact there was a high number of children transported, and crimes could be as little as stealing a loaf of bread to survive.

Being an island, Tasmania, or Van Diemen’s Land as it was then known, was considered the most suitable destination for the trouble makers and hardened criminals, and due to its natural barriers, repeat escapees were often sent to the island. The surrounding sea was an obvious barrier when it came to thoughts of escape, but many thought if they could make it into the interior of the island, it would be almost impossible to be re-captured, and they could survive in the wilderness, but they didn’t realise that the next stop from Tasmania is Antarctica, and starvation, hypothermia or an un-timely end at the hands of the Aboriginal population living in these areas, was all that awaited them.

Being a penal colony there was of course a need for guards, and the 63rd Foot found themselves on Tasmanian soil.  I can only imagine that to endure such a hazardous voyage, and then be expected to survive in the primitive conditions that existed when they arrived in Tasmania, must have resulted in men of an extraordinary calibre.  In fact I am sure that some of them must have been just as much a villain or ruffian as those they found themselves guarding.

I had never given this part of the Manchester’s history much thought, until about ten years ago.  I was passing through the small village of Westbury near where I live, and decided to stop and have a look around.  I was surprised to find a commemorative plaque on the wall of a house that stands facing the village green.  The plaque was to commemorate Captain Lonsdale, who served with the 63rd when they were garrisoned at Westbury. It was a strange feeling to know I was on the other side of the world, and standing on the same ground that had been trodden by Manchester feet all those years ago.

I will begin the journey of how the 63rd reached Tasmania, by starting this brief look into their history on the 20th June 1820, when the regiment embarked at Liverpool bound for Ireland. On arrival; it was dispersed for garrison duty, and it was during this time that local recruitment brought the regiment up to full strength.

On 25th May 1825 following the death of the Earl of Balcarres, the regiment received a new Colonel.  Lieutenant-General William Dyott, and the following February the 63rd received warning that it was soon to proceed to New South Wales (Australia).

In April 1826 they left Ireland, sailing for England on the Transport Ships Hope and Diadem.  It was intended that the regiment, on arrival, should proceed to Cheshire, where the natives had been getting a little restless ;D! Instead they ended up on duty at Windsor. But in August of that same year, an absolutist revolution broke out in Portugal, and as Britain was bound by treaty to defend Portugal, once again the good old 63rd found themselves on their way to another trouble spot. ::)

The Melville, Warspite and Gloucester, sailed for Portugal, but due to heavy weather conditions, the three ships were separated in a gale, leaving the 63rd to arrive in the Tagus alone, disembarking on the 1st January 1827. During their stay in Portugal the regiment found they were not needed for action, and their mere presence there was sufficient to quell the rebels  ;).  The only casualties incurred during this time were due to poor accommodation and un-sanitary conditions at the Convent de Cristo where the regiment was billeted.

Once again the 63rd found them-selves on the move, sailing on the 3rd of April 1828 bound for England, where they disembarked at Deal, and on the 9th of May a communication was at last received, ordering the 63rd Regiment of foot to proceed by detachments to New South Wales, as guards on board the Convict Ships.

Each detachment sailed as and when needed, over a period of eighteen months, the last arriving at Sydney Cove on the 18th February 1830.  Having disembarked the convicts, the headquarters of the 63rd was carried on to Van Diemen’s Land, finally arriving on 22nd March at Hobart Town, where the rest of the regiment were waiting.

Despite the regiment being scattered throughout the island on garrison duty, during the year, there had been considerable trouble with the Aborigines, and the Lieutenant-Governor, Colonel Sir George Arthur, issued an order proclaiming Martial Law.

In the month of September, practically the whole of the 63rd Regiment was sent into the interior of the island, (between the wildlife and the Aborigines I’m surprised they were ever seen again! ;D). An organised “Drive” began in the month of October, by means of a human line being formed from the East Coast, to the South West.  The sole purpose of this line was to drive the Aborigines into a small peninsula, but owing to the difficulties encountered out in the natural environment, the results were not particularly successful, and the remainder of the regiments stay in Tasmania was used in keeping the settlers safe and apart from the Aboriginal Community.
Tasmania was proved to be a good billet for the 63rd, with the men displaying a healthy appearance.  They had good food, clean water, and clean accommodation, (by the standards of the day).

The 63rd Foot remained in Tasmania until it sailed for India in 1833, but that’s another story for someone else to tell.

I have found myself wondering how many men of the 63rd actually left Tasmania, and how many absconded.  Nearly all our towns and villages have English names, usually given by the family first to settle into that area, such as Devonport, Torquay, Sheffield, and Richmond, just to name a few.

Until I found the plaque on the wall at Westbury, I didn’t even know the 63rd Foot had been here, let alone taken such an active part in Tasmanian history.  We are just a little Island on the other side of the world, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised, after all, nothing really changes, those “Manchester Lads” get everywhere! :D

By the way, the 4th Foot (King’s Own) were here too, but they’re the rowdy and rough mob. ;) We don’t talk about them!  :-X(Sorry Cliff).

Ref:  “The Manchester Regiment” by Willy.   Vol. 1.  1758 – 1883.

Post by: george.theshed197 on June 30, 2012, 10:01:29 AM
Great stuff Wombat,
There must be similar items of historical interest in various other parts of the world where those 'Manchester Lads' eventually made their 'marks'.( ;D ;D ;D ;D).
By the way go easy on the comments about the 4th (Kings Own) - they are - don't forget - the current " Duke of Lancaster's Own Regiment (also including all of the old Lancashire Regiments.!!) and the Colonel in Chief is Her Majesty!!
'Off to the Tower for a short back and sides.' :o :o :o
 ;D ;D George.
Post by: wombat on June 30, 2012, 01:05:08 PM
I'm already in Tasmania, how much further do you think HM could send me ;D ;D ;D

Post by: Bob.NB on June 30, 2012, 04:05:56 PM
The websites listed below will give you a lot of information which will keep you occupied during your winter nights down there:    - Give quite a lot of detail on the 63rd In Australia.    - Lists ships that transported the 63rd to Australia.    - Lists ships that transported the 96th to Australia.   - Lists surnames of those members of the 96th who remained in Australia.

Best wishes.
Bob B
Post by: wombat on July 01, 2012, 06:18:27 AM
Thanks Bob, I will certainly have a look.

Post by: themonsstar on July 02, 2012, 07:15:00 AM
Good bit of research James

Now you have to keep it up ;D

Cheers Roy