Voyage to Australia

The Barracks at Chatham

Lynn was initially posted to the Barracks at Chatham, where it is likely that his wife Elizabeth and their children were also provided with accommodation while they waited for the ship to carry them to Australia.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society in December 1982, R H Montague traced the history of the New South Wales Veteran Company:

… Although there were many applicants it seems there was a lack of discipline and order to be found, and in many attributed to frequent attendances at the taverns of Chatham where the old Army depot was a gathering point for volunteers.”

Montague considered that “a high percentage of the veterans had served through the Peninsular War and again at Waterloo and they seemed to regard their new assignment as some kind of army reunion. Their pay at the rate of one shilling and three pence a day was considered good for a private soldier in 1826 and in addition to this was the daily spirit ration of two and a half fluid ounces of rum, brandy or arrak.”

"Chatham" engraved by E. Finden after a picture by Warren, published in Finden's Ports and Harbours..., 1842. Image courtesy of Ancestry Images

“Chatham” engraved by E. Finden. 1842. Image courtesy of Ancestry Images


On the “Orpheus”

On 5 May 1826 Lynn, Elizabeth, pregnant with their sixth child, and their children sailed for Sydney Cove on the “Orpheus” to begin their new life. There were 213 men, women and children on board. The ship followed the same indirect route as the First Fleet in order to take advantage of the prevailing winds. Leaving Spithead (England) they sailed in a slow sweep down the coast of North Africa, to pick up the favourable trade winds, then crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Rio de Janeiro .

Between Decks. Illustrated London News, May 10, 1851

Between Decks. Illustrated London News, May 10, 1851

While it could well be imagined that living conditions below deck would have been very cramped and primitive  a letter written on 20 March 1827 by William Hunt a private in the Royal Veteran Company, for New South Wales who sailed to Sydney two months prior to the “Orpheus” reports that they “… had a very fine passage from Spithead to New South Wales.  We had a very fresh breeze of wind through the English Channel, which made my daughter very sea-sick for the first fortnight, but she never was sick afterwards; my wife never was sick at all, and it is needless to say I never was sick.  I wrote to you before we arrived at Portsmouth and stated the particulars of our situation on board which was very comfortable, as we had a large birth to ourselves; we had room enough in it to put one of our boxes which we slept in, in the birth, all the passage, and the other box we kept in the sick-bay, so that we had all our stores under our eyes. ”

Montague also considered that the veterans would have had a comfortable journey,  “…shipboard life was taken lightly with little inclination to take orders or carry out such duties as guarding the convicts. Officers, whether their own or those with the infantry regiments of the garrison, all found it very difficult to maintain any kind of order and discipline among the Royal Veterans”.

Entrance into the harbour of Rio de Janeiro - Richard Parkes Bonington, c.1828

Entrance into the harbour of Rio de Janeiro – Richard Parkes Bonington, c.1828

As the ship sailed south the heat and humidity would have been oppressive, and the clothing worn from England would have proved unsuitable for the conditions. Docking in Rio de Janeiro, in South America, the ship took on a variety of goods that would be needed in the new colony such as  sugar, wine, candles, clothing, soap and tobacco and it is hoped gave the passengers a chance to purchase more suitable clothing for the hot weather. From Rio, the ship drifted back across the South Atlantic Ocean, with lower temperatures but gale force winds. Confined in cramped quarters the rough conditions and seasickness would undoubtedly have been a problem, the misery of a long sea voyage taking hold. Reaching the Dutch settlement at Cape Town (the tip of South Africa)it is likely that it docked for several days to allow the sick to recover and to take on provisions.

This would have been their last sight of land for several weeks as the ship covered 5,000 miles across the Indian Ocean being buffeted once again by strong westerlies and possible gales. It was in the Indian Ocean nearing the coast of West Australia that Elizabeth gave birth to her son John. Conditions would have been anything but ideal for childbirth.

It must have been a relief when they finally sailed into Sydney Cove on 19 September 1826 after almost five months at sea and a journey of at least 16,000 miles.

Click here to read more about their new life in Australia

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