During my first visit to Australia in 1980, I learned of the existence of a young marine from South Wales, who, together with his wife and only son, accompanied the First Fleet of convicts in 1787 to the land that became Australia. That young marine was a distant relative, and although very little is known of him before or subsequent to his joining Major Ross’s detachment to New Holland, thankfully a good deal more is known of many of those marines, sailors and convicts who landed on ‘The Fatal Shore’ in January 1788.
That discovery triggered an interest in the history of early British settlement of New South Wales, the convicts of course, but also the Marines who made up the garrison of guards for the wretched people who Britain despatched to the other side of the known world. I became obsessed to learn more, and consequently obtained copies of all the extant journals of the ‘First Fleeters’ and spent years researching individual stories, and the many books and articles that have subsequently described and documented this extraordinary feat. Like a few others, I came to understand that Arthur Phillip is one of the forgotten men of history, who deserved more from his remarkable achievement.
Because I elected to retell the story through the life of a marine officer, rather than a convict or naval officer, I created, I very much hope, a new military hero in Jack Vizzard. Many of the incidents and scenes in which I have placed this character did indeed take place, though sadly history has not recorded the individual(s) most directly involved. Jack has therefore ‘borrowed’ those little known footnotes and made them his. He will do so again, and I make no apology for that.
It is customary to acknowledge the contribution made to a novel by the many academics whose painstaking research brings the detail of history to the writer’s keyboard. There are so many that I decline to name more than two: Robert Hughes, whose seminal work has done more than most to add to our knowledge and John Moore whose contribution to the knowledge base and reputation of the corps during those early years should be mandatory for every Australian and British school, in my humble opinion. I am greatly indebted to those officers, of the Royal Navy and the Marines who made the original First Fleet possible and who recorded in exquisite detail their experiences.
My deepest thanks go to those friends and family members who have, occasionally unwittingly, encouraged and supported this project. I owe a particular debt of gratitude to those friends on www.authonomy.com who contributed insight into the writer’s world and provided words of comfort and encouragement.
You know who you are.