After double-crossing the rebel administration, William Bligh escapes Sydney on a naval warship, determined to take back the colony.
As Bligh sails off to his rendezvous with destiny, feuding with everyone he meets on the way, Macarthur and Johnston arrive in England to find a country headed by a tottering monarchy and engulfed in a continent-wide war.
In our closing episode on the Rum Rebellion we detail the final showdown between Bligh, Johnston and Macarthur in a London courtroom as the British government struggles to get to the bottom of “Captain Bligh’s extraordinary business.”
As news of the overthrow and arrest of William Bligh trickles back to England, Sir Joseph Banks mounts a PR offensive against the military junta now running New South Wales. Meanwhile, tensions simmer in the colony as pro-Bligh loyalists start to organise in the countryside and Macarthur and his supporters find themselves marooned amidst a hostile population.
Imprisoned inside government house, Bligh watches on and bides his time as the rebel leadership starts fighting amongst themselves, before making an audacious bid for freedom on the high seas.
“And who that is just has anything to dread?” — John MacArthur,
January 25, 1808.
Over the course of 18 months, William Bligh systematically and
relentlessly hammered the colony of New South Wales into a society
that better fit his vision for Australia — a vision that did not
include John MacArthur or the Rum Corps. MacArthur, though richer than
ever, refused to be cut out of the picture so easily.
When a legal case brought on by Bligh and the colony’s Judge Advocate threatens
to destroy everything he’s built, MacArthur retaliates by
orchestrating what would later become known as the Rum Rebellion: a
military coup that places MacArthur in power and Bligh in prison.
Governor William Bligh arrives in Sydney in 1806 with instructions from the English government to crack down on John MacArthur and the NSW Corps. Using a combination of insults, tantrums and home demolitions, Bligh harnesses his volcanic temper to take on the Rum Corps in earnest, and it’s not long before the colony is turned into a battlefield and Macarthur is trapped inside a ‘perfect hell.
After shooting his commanding officer in a duel, John MacArthur is shipped off back to London to face disciplinary action. Landing in an England wracked by Napoleonic war fervour, Macarthur gambles everything on an audacious business proposal to the British government.
In 1790, the rotting prison hulks of the disastrous second fleet limp into Sydney Harbour. Among the new arrivals is penniless British army officer John Macarthur, a lieutenant in the Rum Corps who duelled the captain of his ship before it even left the British Isles.
In this episode we track Macarthur’s meteoric ascent in NSW as he manipulates, intimidates and duels a succession of dumbfounded Governors and commanding officers. Back in England, Joseph Banks watches with horror as this “Australian Cromwell” rises up to dominate NSW, and hovers his hand above the Bligh Button.
In the same year that the First Fleet arrived in New South Wales, the French Revolution erupted and a series of increasingly bloodthirsty regimes took power in Paris, culminating in the rise of Napoleon. Disturbed by the unpredictability of their longtime enemy, the British feared that an invasion of Australia was only a matter of time.
Enter the intrepid men of the NSW Corps: a regiment of drunks, bankrupts, and military prisoners scraped together from the dregs of the British Army. Sent out to safeguard the colony against a French invasion that never comes, the men of the ‘Rum Corps’ quickly turned from protectors to predators.
British naval officer William Bligh was used to mutinies at sea, his most famous one happening aboard the HMS Bounty in 1789. But on Australia Day 1808, 20 years after the first fleet made landfall in Sydney, he experienced his first mutiny on land. A force of armed soldiers stormed government house in Sydney and dragged him out from under his bed, toppling him from his position as Governor of the colony.
Later known as the Rum Rebellion, the overthrow of Governor William Bligh marked Australia’s first and only military coup. After Bligh’s forced banishment, the colony would be run as a dictatorship by a junta of military officers and plutocrats for two years.
In part one of our series on the Rum Rebellion, we follow the early career of the cantankerous and emotionally volatile William Bligh, which culminates with his appointment as governor of NSW, setting him on a collision course with the entrenched interests of John MacArthur and the NSW Rum Corps.
In 1942, the supposedly unconquerable island Singapore falls to the Imperial Japanese Army and 80,000 allied soldiers are taken prisoner. One of the POWs is Australian 2GB presenter Charles Cousens, the host of popular radio shows including “Reflections in a Wineglass,” “Feminine Charm from a Masculine Viewpoint” and “Slumber Music.” Taken from a camp in Burma to Radio Tokyo headquarters, Cousens is forced to use his talents for radio to broadcast Japanese propaganda at allied troops.
As white settlement spreads beyond Port Jackson, Aboriginal tribes band together under the leadership of Pemulwuy, who was said to have been at the head of every raiding party to hit the colony until his death in 1802. Meanwhile, Bennelong becomes the first Aboriginal to travel to to England, where he lives for two years. By the time he returns, the colony has descended into an endless series of Aboriginal guerrilla attacks and retaliatory military campaigns.