Profiles of soldiers who settled in Tasmania

Profiles of some British Soldiers who came to Tasmania and settled after their Regiments returned home.

                                                                                                  (c) Irene Schaffer

The first British Regiments arrived in New South Wales in 1788 with the First Fleet.  (Four Companies of the Marine Corps) Some of these soldiers were sent to Norfolk Island and later came to Van Diemen's Land as free settlers between 1807 and 1813.


The first soldiers to arrive in VDL came with Lt. Bowen to settle Risdon Cove in 1803 on the Lady Nelson and the Albion. There is not a great deal of information on these intervidual soldiers and when Lt. Col. Collins arrived in 1804, they returned to NSW.


Some of the marines that arrived with Lt. Col. Collins on the Calcutta and the Ocean to Port Phillip in 1803 returned to England on the Calcutta. In early 1804 a small amount of the remaining Marines (about 43) transferred to the River Derwent on the Ocean and the Lady Nelson with Lt. Gov. Collins.


From 1804 till 1870 many regiments arrived in Tasmania, firstly to guard the convicts on board the many vessels and later to administer law and order on the island.


A number of these soldiers were permitted to bring their wives and families with them (about one in ten). Many of these transferred out of their Regiments and stayed when the regiment returned to England, as did many who married here.


Searching for ancestors who were soldiers can be time consuming. If the Regiment  is known then he can be found under that regiment in the War Office records in the "Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook" part 4.


Many of cause came as guards on convict ships; these are a lot harder to locate, as they did not come with their regiments. These men were discharged soldiers (called Military Pensioners) who were offered jobs and land if they would volunteer to guard the convicts. These ex soldiers on any one ship could have belonged to a wide range of known regiments. Unless they are recorded as receiving land or assigned as a policeman or to any other Government Department it is almost impossible to find any army records for them.  Some names were recorded and can be found on cards in the General section at the Tasmanian Archives.


Soldiers and especially their wives and children of the lower ranks were amongst the most unrecorded group of people during the early Australia period. Free settlers convicts, and even the Irish orphans have more data then do soldiers. Very little has been written about them, and their descendants are left to dig for obscure records to find some information about them.




List of Soldiers whose profiles have been forwarded to me by their descendants, or who I have researched myself. New names and profiles will be added as received.


















North Briton

Sarah Tubby






Ann Murphy















R. Marines



Grace Morrisby






Joanna Tynan   










Private George Fowler (1868)

George Fowler was born 17 January 1822 at Tottenham in Middlexex. His occupation on the 1841 census was a tailor.

George joined the 99th Regiment on 17 August 1842 aged 18.  (WO 12/9814)


With other members of the 99th he embarked with the First Attachment on the North Briton, which left Dublin on 20 December 1842 and arrived in Hobart on 4 April 1843.  From there the regiment went on to Sydney.


In Sydney he married Sarah Tubby on 30 October 1847. Their first child was born there before the Regiment moved to Hobart in 1849. There were 9 children to the marriage.


George bought his discharge on the 16 November for £15. The CSO 50/27 records show him as a writer on Maria Island in 1851. In 1852 he applied for a job as Office Keeper and Messenger with the Lands Department. (CSO50/29)


George joined the Independent Order of the Oddfellows on 6 March 1855 (NS691) and remained a member until his death.


His duties at the Survey Office ceased on 31 March 1890. He was paid a pension from 1 April 1890 for £112/18/1 per annum. (CSD16/44/1097)  He had worked for the Lands Department for 38 years.  He died at Werona, 381 Argyle Street Hobart on the 14 August 1910.

Rod Hill (contributor)




Private James French

James French was born in Paisley Scotland about 1820. He joined the 99th Regiment in Glasgow in 1837. He later received a bounty of £2/10/- and left with other recruits for Ireland where he served until 1841. The Regiment then embarked for England where they were stationed at Chatham. While there he married Ann Murphy at the Ebenezer Chapel in 1841. Their first child Eliza was born the hulk where James was stationed guarding the convicts.


With his wife Ann and daughter Eliza, he embarked on the Henrietta in 1843 for NSW. Their son John was born in Sydney in 1844.


From December 1843 to June 1845 James and his family were stationed at Parramatta, before embarking on board the British Sovereign under the command of Col. Despard for New Zealand to fight in the Maori War


In 1845 he was with a detachment at Port Nicholson in the Cook Strait. James was killed in action on 24 June 1846.


In 1847 Ann married James Murray one of 99th Regiment soldiers that had served with James. (this often happened, if a soldier died then his widow was destitute and a fellow soldier in the same regiment often married the widow)


Ann had three children to James Murray in Hobart. She had arrived with him when the 99th did a tour of duty in Tasmania about 1848. They lived for sometime at Port Arthur.


There is a monument in the grounds of the Army Barracks in Hobart. It was erected in memory of the men of the 99th who died in the Cape Colony, and St. Helena 1867-9. There are also names of some of the men who were killed in New Zealand. Private James French's name is on this monument.

Margaret Jones (Contributor)

For more information see Tasmanian Ancestry 1989 Vol. 10 No 1. pp 9-10.


Private William Holmes

William Holmes was born on 15 July 1801 in Osbaldeston, Blackburn, Lancashire, England.  William joined the 40th Regiment of Foot on the 4 August 1820 aged 19 years.  He sailed to VDL on the Phoenix and arrived in Hobart on 21 July 1824 with his wife Jane and son James (another son William was born on board).


The 40th Regiment was sent to Macquarie Harbour in 1825 to guard the Penal Colony on Sarah Island. He later served at Port Dalrymple, Ross Bridge and Norfolk Plains.  A son John was born in Hobart in 1827. Four more children were born after they returned to England, two in Ireland and the last two in Bermunda.


In early 1828 he was sent home to England on the Limited Service Plan. He entered Chatham as an invalid between May and June 1828 and was discharged on 14 June 1828 at Port Pitt. Re-enlisted in the 49th on 27 June 1828 and later transferred to 30th of Foot on 25 December 1828. He was promoted to Corporal on 25 August 1829 and Sergeant on 8 October 1831.


William serves in Ireland in 1831 and in Bermuda in 1834 and later in Nova Scotia in 1841.  In all, he served 21 years and 349 days.  He later became a Colonial Pensioner in Halifax in 1842 and was recorded as a Barrack Sergeant at the age of 50. Jane died 29 May 1847 aged 42 years.


In 1854 he married Elizabeth Blackmore at Bury in England. William added Phoenix to his name, most likely after the ship he sailed to Australia on in 1824.


In 1861 he was recorded at the Wellington Barracks with Elizabeth Holmes. He was a Barrack Sergeant Chelsea Pensioner.


William was still alive in 1871. No further details.

Don Holmes (contributor)



Private Edward Murphy

Edward Murphy was born in Wicklow Ireland in 1828. He was the son of a cloth merchant. At the age of 17 he joined the 99th Regiment of Foot. After serving for six years his Regiment was ordered to go to N.S.W. Edward seemed to dislike his roll as a soldier in the Colony and almost from his arrival he was in trouble, and spending time in gaol.


In 1846 he deserted and was sentenced to nine months in prison and lost his pension. After this period in gaol he spent a month in hospital.  On release from hospital he was again in trouble and this time sent to Cockatoo and Goat Island in Sydney Harbour.


On returning to his Regiment in Sydney he met and married a young Irish nursemaid Matilda Finch, who had arrived on the Elizabeth in 1843. They married in Scots Church Sydney on 25 July 1848.


The 99th was then sent on to Hobart Town and Matilda went with Edward to begin their new life.

Edward was stationed at a number of places in Tasmania, Hobart Barracks, Cascade, and Port Arthur.  Edward seemed to have settled down for a while after his marriage but soon he was in trouble and again and spent time in gaol and in hospital at Port Arthur.  During his time as a soldier Edward did a number of drawings and some of these have survived.


In 1856 after ten years of service in the Colony the 99th was ordered home and Edward transferred to the 12th Regiment and remained in Hobart.  Between 1856-7 he obtained his discharge and after a short time in Launceston he moved with his family to Emerald Hill near Melbourne.  Once settled there he became a sign writer. He died there in December 1871 aged 49. Matilda lived until 1900 when she died aged 76. 

For more about Edward and his family see Private Edward Murphy Soldier, Artist. 99th Regiment. 1828-1871.



Private George Smith Royal Marine

George Smith was born in Solihull England about 1778.  He arrived in Hobart Town after the Port Phillip settlement was aborted in 1803 and came with other marines to the River Derwent with Lt. Col. David Collins in 1804.


Shortly after he arrived he was taken into custody by the military for being disrespectful to his Commanding Officer and sent to Sydney for trial. After waiting in Sydney for three years he was returned for Gov. Collins to deal with his case. No record of the final conclusion was ever recorded and George obtained his discharge in 1810. He married Grace Morrisby, the daughter of James Morrisby who arrived with the First Fleet as a convict in 1788, and Mary his wife who came with him (they were married in England in 1782). James and his family lived on Norfolk Island before leaving on the Porpoise to settle at Hobart Town in 1808.


George and Grace Smith had seven children and lived at Clarence Plains. One of their sons James became a well known seafaring whaling captain. George died on the 7 August 1843, Grace having died earlier in 1827.


 A full account of story can be found in Private George Smith of His Majesty's Royal Marines.


Sergeant William Williams

William Williams was born in Maidstone in Kent in 1808 and joined the 57th Regiment of Foot on 16 May 1825.


In 1828 William embarked on the convict ship Morley and joined his regiment in NSW. He left with his Regiment in 1831 for service in India.


William married Joanna Tynan a widow on the Contonment at Tiruchirappalli in Southern India. Joanna was the widow of William's comrades, also of the 57th.


William was promoted to corporal in October 1840 with a further promotion to Sergeant in August 1844.  Joanna and William sailed for England where William was discharged from the 57th as "unfit for service" after spending twenty one years and three months with that Regiment. He was 40 years of age.


In November 1848 their only child Charles was born. They were then living back in Maidstone in Kent.


July 24, 1850 saw the family embarking per the Blenheim and on their way to VDL where William had applied for a land grant as a Military Pensioner, his pension being £26/4/- per annum.

The Blenheim being a  convict ship, William was guarding the convicts on board on the voyage out. Records held at the Tasmanian Archives and dated Hobart Town 6 December 1850, describe William as "Located on his land at Campbell Town and in the Police.


Jonanna and William built a little house and farmed their land. (the house stood in Forest St Campbell Town, and was still in the family in 1987) 


A letter was written to William by his brother and appears with this story in the Tasmanian Ancestry 1987, Vol. 8 No 1. pp 9-10.

Joan O'Brien (contributor)



Books available to help research soldiers in Tasmania.


Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook

The Army in Australia by M. Austin


The 1787/1788 First Fleet Marines at Port Jackson, on Norfolk Island and in VDL.  John Given.


The Royal Marines at Port Phillip. NSW and at Hobart Town VDL 1803-1812.

 John Given


Land Musters and Stock Lists 1803-1822. Irene Schaffer.


Exiles Three Times Over. I. Schaffer & T McKay.


Private George Smith of His Majesty's Royal Marines. I. Schaffer


Private Edward Murphy Soldier Artist 99th Lanarkshire Regiment 1823-1871. I. Schaffer.


Military Pensioners who arrived on the Eliza 1850. I. Schaffer.


The Dictionary of Australian Artists. Joan Kerr.


There are many very good sites on the internet. Try Google under "The British Army in Australia 1788-1870".